IQ and autism

There is an interesting video about IQ by Edward Dutton below. Ignore his manic introduction. I have noted his work before. His interest in IQ has, regrettably, made him something of an outcast in academe. Last I heard he was teaching at a university in sub-arctic Finland, which is a long way from his origins in Northern England.

In the video below he presents the Baron-Cohen theory of an association between autism and a very high IQ. He does not define the high IQ group precisely but he includes Mensa members in his coverage so he is apparently discussing people in the top 2% of IQ and perhaps some a bit lower than that. Since I am a former Mensa member and organizer, I am inclined to see him as talking inter alia about me.

And I do fit his major claim about high IQ: That high IQ is associated with autism. I am clearly a high-functioning autistic. I have outlined the evidence for that elsewhere. And many of the things that he says of high IQ people are indeed recognizable in me and by me. So I think there is considerable truth in his generalizations.

There are however some problems with his presentation. The largest problem is that there are a wide range of autistic behaviours, Some people are severely disabled by it and some, like myself, suffer only mild limitations. And not all autistics are highly intelligent, though they do often have some unusual "gift" in some way. My gift is to do even the hardest adademic tasks at lightning speed. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation in 6 weeks, among other things.

Another problem is of the chicken and egg variety. Does autism cause high IQ or does high IQ cause autism? Dutton seems to think that what makes you highly intelligent also makes you autistic. Maybe -- but there are surely SOME high IQ people who are not autistic. That is obviously a testable proposition but I am not aware of anyone who has tested it

There is some obvious truth in it however. A high IQ person does see the world very differently from Joe Average and that must create social difficulties. And social difficulties are the hallmark of autism. My own social skills are certainly not the best but I have had a rather nice time with the ladies over the years so they cannot be too bad. Many good memories.

So I think Dutton is right in seeing autism as the characteristic ailment of high IQ people but I strongly doubt that all highly intelligent people are autistic. Dutton does tend to overgeneralize.

There is however a research literature in support of his ideas

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