Talk:Empathizing–systemizing theory

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I think this theory is over-generalizing. That said, I think women in general are definitely more emotional than men. While men are more objective, and practical. I believe this is due to the apparent gender roles of men and women, regarding their roles in relationships, in the family, and in society.

I'd like to see this article labeled "Cult / Propaganda". It's being cited as "science". /*zounds!*/ --BenTremblay (talk) 03:04, 6 April 2013 (UTC)

It is interesting to note that much of the information in the media seems to attempt to suggest that it is men who are in fact more emotional than women today, as opposed to the reverse being the case.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 19:00, 24 June 2008

as a point of order, the theory speaks to empathy, not emotion. how emotional a person is, or how a given person experiences emotion, is not directly relevant to how well they empathize.pauli133 (talk) 20:35, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

I agree with you. I think of systemizing and empathy as perceiving two types of data from the world (the reality and others' thoughts respectively), while I think of subjectivity and objectivity as whether or not we modify/reprocess the data that we already have stored in our brain with our biasness. The analogy to the difference that I would propose would be the difference between a movie producer filming a movie and editing it respectively. However, I see how we can mistakenly think of them as being the same in this case because women are (as many suppose) more emotional and perceive others thoughts better than men, while men are less emotional (and are consequently less bias) and take in data from the real world better than women. I'm not a pschologist, so I might not know what I'm talking about!:) But that's how I see it.Senantiasa (talk) 16:11, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

Hate to not concur, gentlemen, but this is a professor who's devoted his life to these subjects. Who are you? More importantly: what does this cozy little fireside chitchat have to do with managing the article in question? This isn't Facebook. This is Wikipedia and this talk page is supposed to be about conferring on ways to improve the article - not about how you know more than the professor himself with no ostensible credentials. For we all know that if you really did have the credentials to discuss this, you'd hardly be here on a Wikipedia talk page to do it. So try to get back on track. Oh gee thanks.

Yeah, this sure looks like a solid article. Leadwind (talk) 19:59, 12 October 2013 (UTC)

One-dimensional or Two-dimensional ?[edit]

The existence of two separate tests for EQ and SQ would imply that they are independent, orthogonal factors, so each person could be represented by a point on a 2-D cartesian plane with perpendicular EQ and SQ axes.

However the analysis into 5 groups lumps together three groups as 'balanced' : normal-E+normal-S ; low-E+low-S ; high-E+high-S !

So really the analysis is just one-dimensional, from Extreme-high-E to Extreme-high-S. Are there very few people towards the high-both and low-both extremes ? Or are they not of interest ? Or already adequately classified by High or Low IQ ?

Enough sytematizing - the reason I ask is that I suspect I am high-both, yet 'I suck at life' !

-- (talk) 01:37, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

"One-day-old babies"[edit]

I read the cited article at the end of this paragraph but could find no reference to a study of day-old infants. If the study exists could we please link to it directly? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:50, 1 September 2013 (UTC)

'Extreme' could be high or low ![edit]

The nomenclature is confusing

... extreme S-type brain, with intact or strong systemizing alongside below-average empathy ...

So someone with normal systematizing could be be classified as Extreme-S, because they have extremely low Empathizing !

... if you see what I mean !

-- (talk) 01:43, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Correction - Fig 3 of shows the Wikipedia article should include 40% S-type as well as 47% Extreme-S in the Autism/Aspergers group. Article amended. -- (talk) 02:41, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Is the E-S axis similar to the thinking-feeling axis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? (talk) 06:49, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

Table in Cognitive versus affective empathy[edit]

There is a table in the section "Cognitive versus affective empathy" that has no source. The text above the table is about Baron-Cohen's theory on the difference between autistic persons and psychopaths. The table however, compares autistic persons with Personality disorders Cluster B (dramatic). A very big one of these is Borderline personality disorder. In the whole article on Borderline, there is no mention of lack of affective empathy. So I would like to be really sure that this table is properly sourced. And unless a source comes up, I would like to remove this table. Lova Falk talk 08:38, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

Hey,thank you for the note, I extracted the information from a powerpoint Cohen made. It's ok you remove it as there's no source to copy from. --RexRowanTalk 09:09, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
Thank you! I'll remove the table. Lova Falk talk 09:16, 2 December 2012 (UTC)


By the way, this is the video I got the information from: [1] --RexRowanTalk 10:07, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
I found the text for the autistic part of the table on 16:54 but I couldn't find the one on personality disorders. Lova Falk talk 10:48, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
It's in another video he did, can't find it now, sorry. --RexRowanTalk 16:57, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

The extreme male brain theory of autism[edit]

This section is tagged with a template saying that "This section may stray from the topic of the article". I don't agree. It is all about empathizing and systemizing, and in that context, the engineer discussion is relevant. Could you User:Humorideas please explain what you think is straying too much and why? Others are of course also welcome to butt in. Thank you! Lova Falk talk 15:13, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

The engineer discussion seems relevant. Leadwind (talk) 19:56, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
Re-reading it, most of it seems relevant, but I believe that the section could be more cohesive. For example, the quality of various fields as catering to or characterized by "systemizing" thinking could be clearly explained in-line and referenced. --Humorideas (talk) 08:52, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Criticism section[edit]

This section is still full of OR, which should be removed. Then we can remove the tag at the top of the article. Leadwind (talk) 15:04, 19 October 2013 (UTC)

The one referenced criticism comes from the Journal of Interdisciplinary Feminist Thought, and it's written by two psychologists. Not the best source for a medical theory, but it will do. Leadwind (talk) 17:03, 19 October 2013 (UTC)

Article deterioration, revert needed[edit]

Glancing through history, this article has significantly deteriorated since this version at the end of 2011; I suggest a revert to that version, and then an examination from that point of what new text (that is, text added since that version) can be retained. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:52, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Other than the OR in the criticism section, what's the problem with the current page? It seems to have more information than the version from 2 years ago. I'd be happy to clear out the OR in the criticism section for us. Leadwind (talk) 13:50, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

"wrong side" of scientific debate, per Time magazine[edit]

I don't personally like EQ mumbo-jumbo that some people are reading from Baron-Cohen's theory; nevertheless it's quite enlightening to know that according to mainstream media there is such a thing as "wrong side" in a scientific debate. Not the side with more or less evidence for its position, but just a "wrong" one. The relevant quote RE Warner Judith, 2011-08-29 "Autism's lone wolf": (talk) 18:28, 3 December 2014 (UTC)

Time magazine said Baron-Cohen "most dramatically wandered into fraught territory in 2003, when he published the book The Essential Difference, which called autism a manifestation of an extreme 'male brain'--one that's 'predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems,' as opposed to a 'female brain,' one that's 'predominantly hard-wired for empathy'--and ended up on the wrong side of the debate on science and sex differences."

Inappropriate COI tags[edit]

Most of the sources co-authored by Simon Baron-Cohen have been inappropriately tagged with {{COI source}}. Baron-Cohen does not have a conflict-of-interest just because he originated the theory. Otherwise, you might as well say that any paper that confirms its own hypothesis has a conflict-of-interest. All of these sources were peer-reviewed and most have multiple authors. There's nothing questionable about them. KateWishing (talk) 04:09, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

Please review WP:V, WP:RS and WP:MEDRS; the sources are a) primary and b) associated with the developer of the theory. Generally, the only parts of the article that are correctly sourced are critical of the theory. All of the primary-sourced, non-independent claims and statements should be replaced by independent, third-party, secondary reviews ... being published in "peer-reviewed" journals does not make this article correctly written or sourced. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:48, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
Primary sourcing has nothing to do with conflict-of-interest; that's an entirely separate complaint. None of the policies you mentioned state that we can't use sources "associated with the developer of the theory." A scientific theory is not a product. The article should certainly use more secondary sources, but secondary sources co-authored by Baron-Cohen are fine. KateWishing (talk) 00:58, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
Please review WP:V on independent, third-party sources; pretty much every claim in the article is made by the originator of the theory, in primary sources. I encourage you to produce a secondary review by independent, third-party sources that is not critical of the theories ... it has been some time since I last did a journal search, and I found no such thing. The article is poorly sourced and written from the bias of the originator of the theory. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:03, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
WP:V states that sources must be independent from described persons, organizations, or events. It makes no sense to apply the third-party guideline to ideas, since everyone has opinions. The closest guideline for ideas would be WP:BIASED, which states that "reliable sources are not required to be neutral, unbiased, or objective." Baron-Cohen is probably biased, but it does not rise to a conflict-of-interest by any conventional standard.
The article should use more secondary sources, but again, whether Baron-Cohen contributed to a paper is irrelevant. In most cases he's not even the primary author. KateWishing (talk) 01:28, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
The template which you removed ({{COI source}}) linked to the relevant policy; we always apply WP:V to every article, and even more so when we have secondary independent sources that are almost universally critical of the theory. Since you removed those templates, well ... better, actually. The article is written almost entirely from primary sources from the originator of the theory, and all independent, third-party commentary is confined to a "Criticism" section, when in fact, most independent sources are critical of the theory. A neutral article would be based on independent sources, and would not demote the legitimate independent secondary review commentary to a "criticism" section. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:34, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
As I explained, the relevant policies do not support applying a COI tag. Your assertion that "secondary independent sources are almost universally critical" is also inaccurate. For instance, here are two recent systematic reviews, independent of Baron-Cohen (although that is not necessary at all), both providing tentative support:
  • Teatero, M. L., & Netley, C. (2013). "A critical review of the research on the extreme male brain theory and digit ratio (2D: 4D)", Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders", 43(11), 2664-2676.
    "This paper critically and quantitatively reviews the research on the relationship between 2D:4D and ASD as well as autism spectrum, empathizing, and systemizing measures in neurotypical populations. Overall, there is some support for the EMB theory in all four areas, particularly the 2D:4D–ASD relationship."
  • Liu, Erin Y.; Konkle, Anne T. M. (2010). "Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism", Interdisciplinary Journal of Health Sciences, 2(1).
    "The studies present herein using direct measurements of fT yielded consistent correlations between higher fT levels and increased ASC characteristics, with effects being more prominent in males, thus supporting the EMB theory. While recognizing that most studies were conducted by a single group as part of the Cambridge Foetal Testosterone Project and that the psychometric properties of the evaluation instruments have been a point of contention for some researchers in this field (Skuse, 2009), these studies are nonetheless an important first step in exploring how biology can affect cognition."
Baron-Cohen has published reliable secondary reviews like this and this. Although his primary sources should be removed, he should not be barred entirely just because he supports the idea. That's not a conflict of interest. KateWishing (talk) 03:10, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
Here is a 2014 narrative review by William H. James. He concludes: "The evidence is overwhelming for Baron-Cohen's hypothesis that one cause of autism is exposure to high levels of intrauterine testosterone." Judging by my brief review of the literature, the current consensus seems to be that there is a weak evidence in favor of the theory -- insufficient to fully confirm it, but a start. Even the source you placed in the lead as criticism states: "Despite the criticisms of Baron-Cohen's experiments, most of his colleagues commend him for putting his theories forward, and many are open to the possibility that parts of them could prove correct." I will try to replace the primary sources with secondary sources soon. There are also some good critical sources to add like this, better than the dubious ones currently in the article. KateWishing (talk) 04:30, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
Baron-Cohen is not an independent, third-party source on a hypothesis advanced by him. The COI source tag remains appropriate, but highlighting the overall dubious and unbalanced character of the current article because of poor sourcing is probably best after all. If you believer there is evidence in favor of the theory, it appears that your review of the literature was indeed quite brief ... have you read all of the reviews and sources already listed in the article? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:19, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
Science works by advancing hypotheses. That has never been considered a "conflict of interest" anywhere outside this Wikipedia page. Baron-Cohen's 2009 review of the theory even states: "The author declares no conflicts of interest." Perhaps you should contact the journal's editors to point out this oversight.
By the "reviews and sources already listed in the article," you are apparently referring to a few book reviews, news articles, an "unpublished doctoral dissertation," and primary studies. Apart from those, I count exactly two high-quality critical secondary sources -- a narrative review and a commentary on one of Baron-Cohen's studies. The commentary is hardly even critical of the theory: it just proposes an alternative explanation for one experiment, preferring neither. (There is also a paper in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Feminist Thought, not exactly authoritative for medical claims.) I can certainly find better negative sources than those, but now that I've performed a more comprehensive search, there seems to be only three systematic reviews or meta-analyses evaluating this theory. Two are positive (listed above), and one negative. When the theory is summarized in more general papers on autism, the evidence is usually presented as mixed (e.g., p. 570-571), not wholly negative as you contend.
Even though there are few high-quality reviews, research on the topic is very active, and the vast majority of primary sources are positive -- including those "independent" of Baron-Cohen. I do not intend to add any primary sources to the article (in fact, I'll remove them), but since you challenged my summary of the literature above, here are a few studies published since 2010 without Baron-Cohen that support E-S theory:
"Independent" primary sources
These aren't cherry-picked; I only found one wholly negative primary source since 2010 (this) and a few mixed ones (such as this). KateWishing (talk) 17:55, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
I am not following why you are listing primary sources, for any reason; they aren't useful. For a more helpful approach, I suggest locating recent (five years old at most, two to three better) secondary reviews of the general topic (autism spectrum disorders) and noticing what they have to say about Baron-Cohen's theories ... the absence of commentary is indicative. If you can locate a recent secondary independent review of autism that discusses Baron-Cohen's theories and their relevance to current thinking, then we will have a better indication of due weight to accord the hypotheses. I am unaware of any recent high-quality review that gives importance to his theories, but would like to read it if you can locate one. Looking for mention of Baron-Cohen's theories (eg cherry picking) is a less effective research method than is reviewing the best literature on autism in general and noting what those sources say about his theories ... do you have a recent, broad overview of autism that gives credence to the hypotheses ?? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 21:53, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
I'm not saying that EMB theory is generally accepted as the cause of autism. It's a tentative hypothesis. That's why we don't give it undue coverage on the Cause of autism page. However, since this page is specifically about E-S theory, we need to use sources that mention it. It hasn't received enough attention to appear in most general reviews of autism, but that does not mean the theory has been rejected or that critical views are accepted. Among secondary sources that bother to evaluate it at this tentative stage, there seems to be an even split. Apart from the reviews I mentioned above, here is how Ami Klin describes it in a commentary, while cautioning that replication is needed: "The EMB hypothesis is now supported by a large series of neuropsychological, brain structure and function, and now, prospective neurobiological studies. They strengthen the hypothesis and place its etiologic origins in exposure of the fetal brain to excessive amounts of testosterone, which masculinise body, mind and brain. To date, no theory of autism has provided such a connecting thread linking etiology, neuropsychology and neural bases of autism." This isn't homeopathy.
Some broad reviews do describe EMB theory. This 2014 review paper on the neurobiology of autism gives a neutral description of evidence for the theory and states that further studies are ongoing (p. 15). KateWishing (talk) 00:08, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
I am still not following why you continue to refer to dated sources-- this theory has been around a long time, and recent secondary reviews will have mentioned it. Yet, you cite a six-year-old commentary by Klin. I will get hold of PMID 24275633 in spite of it being a "curious" source. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:04, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
"Continue to refer to dated sources?" So far, I've provided two reviews from 2014, one from 2013, and one from 2010. The Klin commentary was published in 2009, which is more recent than every critical paper in our article, and barely past WP:MEDRS's recommendation that sources be "published in the last five years or so." There is no basis to your aspersion that Parellada et al. (2014) is "curious", and it can easily be read by following my link.
If you're still not convinced that E-S theory has a mixed reception, consider fully reading the critical sources already in our article. The ones that dismiss it completely tend to be published in philosophical, rather than scientific, journals. Compare the very negative assessment of bioethicist Neil Levy in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences to the mostly positive review in Nature by Joyce Benenson, a psychologist who specializes in sex differences. She questions the empathizing aspect, but not to deny the entire theory: "Perhaps Baron-Cohen will find that individuals with Asperger’s syndrome engage in the types of social skill displayed more by males than by females. If not, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome might represent only one form of the extreme male brain. Another form would include males who score highly on systemizing skills and who are also highly sociable." Nobody would expect all details of a fairly new hypothesis to be perfect in their original form. KateWishing (talk) 16:47, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
Actually, it's not all that "curious" that the only recent review (found so far) that mentions these theories is in a journal with an impact factor of 3. It would be most helpful to find a single high-quality recent secondary review that gives credence to SBC theories, rather than cherry picked primary sources and low impact reviews. It is not that new of a hypothesis, and the weight it has been given on Wikipedia is probably a direct consequence of the past COI or paid editing that occurred in the SBC topics. I will be interested to know if you locate any recent high quality secondary review of autism that mentions SBC theories; as of now, we haven't got anything (that I'm aware of), and the article is based pretty much on his own words (hence COI sources, in addition to the past COI editing on these topics). I'm trying to get a copy of the review you mentioned above, but I'm not sure why we'd include a review from an obscure journal with an impact factor of 3, when no higher quality reviews seem to give credence to SBC ... but I'm open to persuasion if you come up with anything.

You are aware, I hope, of the past COI editing in this suite of articles? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:22, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

We do not require journals to have a specific impact factor -- for good reason, if you read the linked article. On that note, one of Baron-Cohen's reviews on the theory was published in the very high impact Science and has been cited 682 times. By checking the articles that cite it, it's trivially easy to find mention in other broader reviews, such as this (2011) or this (2012). Nor do we have a guideline requiring the use of broad reviews for specific subjects. The vast majority of preliminary autism research will be neglected in any broad review due to space constraints. That does not mean we cannot cover such research in specific articles, provided we still use reliable, secondary sources. Lastly, relying solely on Baron-Cohen is a WP:DUE issue, not a WP:COI. Having an opinion is not a conflict of interest. The article should indeed give more weight to other viewpoints in accordance with the generally mixed reception of the theory.
No, I am not aware of past COI editing. KateWishing (talk) 20:24, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── holy cats. Sandy has this dead on correct. We should always be sourcing things to independent, secondary sources. This is what OR/NPOV/VERIFY/RS/MEDRS all say. MEDRS makes that even stronger. Primary sources should be used rarely with ever. And if a WP editor is citing his or her own work that pops a COI question, and that question gets sharper if the source is primary. Heck yes. Jytdog (talk) 23:46, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

I said that I intend to remove primary sources, not include them. We definitely need secondary, peer-reviewed papers -- and I've provided several. But there are no sources at all that satisfy Sandy's novel interpretation of policy. Certainly none of the critical sources already in the article meet such exacting standards: very high impact factor, published in the last 5 years, general rather than specific review, not touched by the originator of the theory... these just aren't appropriate sourcing requirements for an article about a minor theory of autism; it's likely not possible to write a single sentence about E-S theory under such rules. Fortunately, WP:MEDRS does not actually impose them. As for the comment about "a WP editor citing his or her own work," are you seriously implying that I'm Simon Baron-Cohen? I don't even live on the same continent, nor do I support (or oppose) this theory. KateWishing (talk) 00:16, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
On second thought, since I care little about this subject and it's being subjected to such bizarre policy interpretation, I'll let someone else clean up the article and fix the primary sourcing. I hope the secondary sources I provided above are helpful to whoever does it. KateWishing (talk) 00:31, 8 April 2015 (UTC)


KateWishing, nowhere in the above discussion did I suggest or imply that you are SBC. Since you started a topic alleging inappropriate COI tags, I asked if you were aware of the documented COI issues that occurred for at least five years (probably more) on the SBC info throughout Wikipedia, resulting in biased, undue, poorly sourced content. If you aren't aware of that, it would be difficult for you to understand how the sorry state of these articles came to be, or why they were tagged.[2][3] I don't object to your removal of those COI tags, because actually, stronger tags about the dubious quality of the information we have are warranted.

Neither did I state anywhere that Wikipedia requires high impact factor journals. You queried my use of the word "curious" for a source you supplied; I explained my use of that word (a very low impact journal), and wondered if you had anything better. You then provided broader reviews of SBC work (helpful!!!), and on checking the first, I note that it says "Much debate has ensued surrounding this theory and how to evaluate it". That would be a good starting place for beginning to address the undue/bias/neutrality problems we find in the SBC content throughout Wikipedia, since COI editing was involved. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:28, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

Potential source: a 2014, broad secondary overview[edit]

Some excerpts discussing SBC theories from:

  • Schaafsma SM, Pfaff DW (2014). "Etiologies underlying sex differences in Autism Spectrum Disorders". Front Neuroendocrinol. 35 (3): 255–71. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2014.03.006. PMID 24705124.  SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:13, 9 April 2015 (UTC)

    Although these results are intriguing, the samples used may be biased as amniocentesis is conducted only when the risk for a fetal anomaly is increased. In a more random sample (using blood originating from umbilical cord), no effect of prenatal testosterone was found on autistic behaviors in healthy individuals (Whitehouse et al., 2012). This difference, between a correlation of autistic traits with prenatal amniotic testosterone and no correlation between autistic traits and perinatal umbilical cord testosterone, might possibly be attributable to differences in sampling methods.

    Additionally, the tests used to diagnose an individual may be biased towards the male specific pathophenotype, and may not include the aspects necessary to diagnose a girl with a mild form of ASD. Moreover, because of the awareness of the sex bias in ASD incidence, ASD is interpreted as a male disorder (Baron-Cohen, 2002), making it more likely for clinicians to diagnose boys with the disorder, as they are a risk group, than girls.

    In conclusion. Studies investigating the effect of prenatal androgens on (sex-specific) risk of ASD using either a correlational approach in healthy subjects, or clinical data of patients who were exposed to atypical levels of hormones prenatally, find that these hormones have activating, masculinizing, effects on brain and behavior. Individuals diagnosed with ASD show deficits in behaviors that has been interpreted as having an ‘extreme male brain’ (Baron-Cohen, 2002). High levels of prenatal testosterone seem to masculinize behavior of both boys and girls, and seem, therefore, to cause a shift on the ASD scale. However, this shift on the ASD scale does not seem to cause individuals to cross the boundary, and meet the criteria for ASD. Therefore, although individual differences within the normal range of behaviors that differ in extent between the sexes can at least be partially explained by prenatal testosterone; prenatal testosterone does not, by itself, seem to be able to explain the occurrence of ASD, as even the children who were exposed to the highest levels of testosterone did not meet criteria for ASD. As ASD is a complex disorder of highly variable severity with many (genetic and environmental) factors playing an etiologic role, prenatal testosterone may be a contributing factor, along with other (genetic or environmental) factors that will be reviewed below, increasing the risk of developing an ASD.

    SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:13, 9 April 2015 (UTC)

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Half of Women Do Not Have "Female Brains"[edit]

I have added a source and rephrased a sentence to note that some representations of the book are misleading: «Baron-Cohen is careful to say in The Essential Difference, “The central claim of this book is only that more males than females have a brain of type S, and more females than males have a brain of type E” (p. 8)». The whole article may need some revision, from a cursory reading. --Nemo 18:18, 15 August 2017 (UTC)