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Simon Baron-Cohen, in his book, The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain, hypothesizes that "the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems." Baron-Cohen and a team of scientists and researchers at the University of Cambridge, England developed psychological tests that provide some insight into what they refer to as your empathizing quotient (EQ) and systemizing quotient (SQ).
Empathizers and Systemizers
Baron-Cohen divides people into two groups:
- Empathizers who are able to identify and appropriately respond to the emotions and thoughts of others. Empathizers tend to be adept at reading non-verbal communication and judging character.
- Systemizers who are comfortable analyzing how systems work and behave, with a final goal of predicting and controlling system behavior or building a new system.
EQ SQ Brain Type
Baron-Cohen postulates that there are three basic brain types:
- E-type – a predominantly female brain (empathizing is stronger than systemizing)
- S-type – a predominantly male brain (systemizing is stronger than empathizing)
- B-type – a balanced brain (equally strong in both traits)
The EQ SQ Test that Baron-Cohen et al have developed provides an EQ score, which can be used in conjunction with an SQ score, to determine the EQ SQ brain type. An individual's sex does not necessarily determine brain type; not all men have the S-type brain and not all females have the E-type brain but, on average, this theory holds true. Baron-Cohen has also made a preliminary connection between EQ SQ brain types and the amount and timing of in-utero testosterone a fetus receives.
Autism and EQ SQ Theory
Baron-Cohen, in his capacity as Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge, developed the EQ SQ paradigm as a consequence of his research into the causality of autism. Baron-Cohen argues that an individual with autism, viewed in the construct of the EQ SQ Theory, may have an extreme S-type brain, with good systemizing and poor empathizing behaviors. The fact that most autistics are male, by a factor of 4 to 1, seems to support the EQ SQ Theory about the possible origins of autism.
The AQ Test
As an adjunct to the EQ SQ Test, Baron-Cohen et al have also developed a test that measures autistic traits in adults. In one study, the average Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) was between 16 and 17. Although the AQ test is not a diagnostic tool, a high percentage of diagnosed autistics have AQ scores over 32. Many individuals with 32+ AQ scores, however, indicate no day-to-day functional problems.
- EQ SQ website
- 'They just can't help it', Simon Baron-Cohen, The Guardian (April 17, 2003)
- 'Autism: What's Sex got to do With it?', Robert Kunzig, Psychology Today (January/February 2004)
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