Autism-spectrum quotient

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Autism Quotient for Adults
Autism Quotient, Adolescent Version

The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ) is a questionnaire published in 2001 by Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, UK. Consisting of fifty questions, it aims to investigate whether adults of average intelligence have symptoms of autism spectrum conditions.[1] More recently, versions of the AQ for children[2] and adolescents[3] have also been published.

The test was popularised by Wired in December 2001 when published alongside their article, "The Geek Syndrome".[4] It is commonly used for self diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, although it is not intended to be a diagnostic test.[5] The PhenX Toolkit uses age-specific versions of AQ as its adult and adolescent screening protocols for Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders.[6][7]


The test consists of 50 statements, each of which is in a forced choice format. Each question allows the subject to indicate "definitely agree", "slightly agree", "slightly disagree" or "definitely disagree". Approximately half the questions are worded to elicit an "agree" response from neurotypical individuals, and half to elicit a "disagree" response. The subject scores one point for each question which is answered "autistically" either slightly or definitely.[1][8]

The questions cover five different domains associated with the autism spectrum: social skills; communication skills; imagination; attention to detail; and attention switching/tolerance of change. Factor analysis of sample results have been inconsistent, with various studies finding two, three or four factors instead of five.[9]

Use as a diagnostic tool[edit]

In the initial trials of the test,[10] the average score in the control group was 16.4, with men scoring slightly higher than women (about 17 versus about 15). 80% of adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders scored 32 or more, compared with only 2% of the control group.

The authors cited a score of 32 or more as indicating "clinically significant levels of autistic traits". However, although the test is popularly used for self-diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, the authors caution that it is not intended to be diagnostic, and advise that anyone who obtains a high score and is suffering some distress should seek professional medical advice and not jump to any conclusions.

A further research paper indicated that the questionnaire could be used for screening in clinical practice, with scores less than 26 indicating that a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome can effectively be ruled out.[1]

It is also often used to assess milder variants of autistic-like traits in neurotypical individuals.[11][12][13]

Mathematicians, scientists and engineers[edit]

Although most students with an autism spectrum disorder have average mathematical ability and test slightly worse in mathematics than in general intelligence, some are gifted in mathematics[14] and autism spectrum disorder has not prevented adults from major accomplishments.[15]

The questionnaire was tried on Cambridge University students and a group of 16 winners of the British Mathematical Olympiad to determine whether there was a link between a talent for mathematical and scientific disciplines and traits associated with the autism spectrum. Mathematics, physical sciences, and engineering students were found to score significantly higher, e.g., 21.8 on average for mathematicians and 21.4 for computer scientists. The average score for the British Mathematical Olympiad winners was 24.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Woodbury-Smith MR, Robinson J, Wheelwright S, Baron-Cohen S (2005). "Screening adults for Asperger Syndrome using the AQ: a preliminary study of its diagnostic validity in clinical practice" (PDF). J Autism Dev Disord. 35 (3): 331–5. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s10803-005-3300-7. PMID 16119474. S2CID 13013701. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  2. ^ Auyeung B, Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Allison C (2008). "The Autism Spectrum Quotient: Children's Version (AQ-Child)" (PDF). J Autism Dev Disord. 38 (7): 1230–40. doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0504-z. PMID 18064550. S2CID 12682486. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  3. ^ Baron-Cohen S, Hoekstra RA, Knickmeyer R, Wheelwright S (2006). "The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ)—adolescent version" (PDF). J Autism Dev Disord. 36 (3): 343–50. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s10803-006-0073-6. PMID 16552625. S2CID 12934864. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  4. ^ The Geek Syndrome Archived February 15, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Take the AQ Test Archived March 28, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Embarrassing Bodies website, Channel 4, 2011. Accessed 2011-09-16.
  6. ^ "Protocol Overview: Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders - Adult". PhenX Toolkit, Ver 20.0. RTI International. 31 January 2017. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017.
  7. ^ "Protocol Overview: Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders - Adolescent". PhenX Toolkit, Ver 20.0. RTI International. 31 January 2017. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Each item scores one point if the respondent records the abnormal behaviour either mildly or strongly"
  9. ^ Hoekstra RA, Bartels M, Cath DC, Boomsma DI (September 2008). "Factor structure, reliability and criterion validity of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): A study in Dutch population and patient groups". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 38 (8): 1555–66. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0538-x. PMC 2516538. PMID 18302013.
  10. ^ a b Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Skinner R, Martin J, Clubley E (2001). "The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians" (PDF). J Autism Dev Disord. 31 (1): 5–17. doi:10.1023/A:1005653411471. PMID 11439754. S2CID 24451473. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  11. ^ Wakabayashi A, Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S (October 2006). "Are autistic traits an independent personality dimension? A study of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and the NEO-PI-R". Personality and Individual Differences. 41 (5): 873–883. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2006.04.003.
  12. ^ Austin EJ (January 2005). "Personality correlates of the broader autism phenotype as assessed by the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ)". Personality and Individual Differences. 38 (2): 451–460. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2004.04.022.
  13. ^ Hoekstra RA, Bartels M, Verweij CJ, Boomsma DI (April 2007). "Heritability of Autistic Traits in the General Population". Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 161 (4): 372–377. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.4.372. PMID 17404134.
  14. ^ Chiang HM, Lin YH (2007). "Mathematical ability of students with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism". Autism. 11 (6): 547–56. doi:10.1177/1362361307083259. PMID 17947290. S2CID 37125753.
  15. ^ Herera S (2005-02-25). "Mild autism has 'selective advantages'". CNBC. Retrieved 2007-11-14.

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