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Identifying ‘hyper-systemisers’ and the ‘hyper-vigilant’ within particular academic disciplines

Nisbet, Carly (2012) Identifying ‘hyper-systemisers’ and the ‘hyper-vigilant’ within particular academic disciplines. Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)


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Baron-Cohen (2003) has popularised the theory that autistic traits may be better understood as abilities in ‘systemising’ over ‘empathising’, leading Silberman (2001) to claim that ‘hyper-systemisers’ are more frequently found in high-tech environments. Jensen et al. (2007) has also redefines ADHD ‘disordered’ children as ‘hyper-vigilant’, with the propensity for heightened creativity (Hartmann, 2001). The current study aimed to investigate these theories by distributing the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and the Adult Self-Report Scale for ADHD (ASRS V1.1) to a minimum of 100 students of maths, computing, English and drama to see how academic discipline would inform their scores on these measures. One-way independent ANOVAs determined that only the AQ had a significant main effect across the four programmes, F(3,90)= 4.07, p= .009. Within this, only differences between AQ scores of computing and drama students were found to be significant, p= .021 at the 0.05 level. Ultimately, rather than identifying extremely high traits of systemising in computing and maths students, the AQ more significantly identified extremely low systemising traits in drama students, and subsequently drama students represent a low end of the continuum of autistic traits more significantly than computing students represent an extreme end.

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