How math skills and a love of patterns are linked to autism

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Image credit: Sasha Long

[O]ur brain uses two modules to try to make sense of the world. One systemizes: it looks for patterns and order and uses them to explain and predict the world. The second system is empathetic: it tries to predict and understand the world by walking in its shoes. One characteristic of autism spectrum disorder is the desire for order and patterns.

If the two are really linked, it should also be true in the general population. That’s what Paolo Bressan wanted to test: does being a systemizer make you a better mathematician?

Bressan grabbed a bunch of students studying psychology, engineering, biology, and a couple of a humanities students.

Related article:  Exploring the maleness of autism and how it shapes the empathy of autistic people

He subjected them to a battery of tests. A math ability test, a non-math intelligence test, and a test that quantified how much each person liked to systemize information. Out came a set of startling and not-so-startling correlations. First, math and systemization were strongly correlated with study choice: engineers and physicists love to systemize, while psychology students do not. The math scores followed the same trend.

The study therefore supports the original hypothesis: we all love systemization to a different degree. And that love of systemization shines through when it comes to solving math problems.

Read full, original post: Love of patterns, order may explain mad math skills—and autism link

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