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PLoS One. 2015 Oct 21;10(10):e0141229. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141229. eCollection 2015.

Sex and STEM Occupation Predict Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) Scores in Half a Million People.

Author information

1
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; Cambridge Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
2
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; NIHR CLAHRC-EoE for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
3
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom.
4
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
5
Cambridge Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; NIHR CLAHRC-EoE for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
6
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; NIHR CLAHRC-EoE for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom; CLASS Clinic, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Abstract

This study assesses Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) scores in a 'big data' sample collected through the UK Channel 4 television website, following the broadcasting of a medical education program. We examine correlations between the AQ and age, sex, occupation, and UK geographic region in 450,394 individuals. We predicted that age and geography would not be correlated with AQ, whilst sex and occupation would have a correlation. Mean AQ for the total sample score was m = 19.83 (SD = 8.71), slightly higher than a previous systematic review of 6,900 individuals in a non-clinical sample (mean of means = 16.94) This likely reflects that this big-data sample includes individuals with autism who in the systematic review score much higher (mean of means = 35.19). As predicted, sex and occupation differences were observed: on average, males (m = 21.55, SD = 8.82) scored higher than females (m = 18.95; SD = 8.52), and individuals working in a STEM career (m = 21.92, SD = 8.92) scored higher than individuals non-STEM careers (m = 18.92, SD = 8.48). Also as predicted, age and geographic region were not meaningfully correlated with AQ. These results support previous findings relating to sex and STEM careers in the largest set of individuals for which AQ scores have been reported and suggest the AQ is a useful self-report measure of autistic traits.

PMID:
26488477
PMCID:
PMC4619566
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0141229
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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