Simon Baron-Cohen

… there are in fact two spectra, two dimensions on which we can place each person: empathizing and systemizing. Empathizing is “the drive to identify another person’s emotions and thoughts, and to respond to these with an appropriate emotion.” If you prefer fiction to nonfiction, or if you often enjoy conversations about people you don’t know, you are probably above average on empathizing. Systemizing is “the drive to analyse the variables in a system, to derive the underlying rules that govern the behaviour of the system.” If you are good at reading maps and instruction manuals, or if you enjoy figuring out how machines work, you are probably above average on systemizing.
AutismIf we cross these two traits, we get a two-dimensional space, and each person can be placed at a particular spot in that space. Baron-Cohen has shown that autism is what you get when genes and prenatal factors combine to produce a brain that is exceptionally low on empathizing and exceptionally high on systemizing. Autism, including Asperger’s syndrome (a subtype of highfunctioning autism), is better thought of as a region of personalityspace—the lower right cornerof thelower right quadrant—than as a discrete disease. The two leading ethical theories in Western philosophy were founded by men who were as high as could be on systemizing, and were rather low on empathizing.

1 thought on “Simon Baron-Cohen

  1. shinichi Post author

    Simon Baron-Cohen’s Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism

    by Rebecca Bligh

    In a high-functioning individual on the autistic spectrum, such pattern seeking can reveal scientific truths about the nature of reality, since their systemizing can help the individual understand how things work. These may be mechanical systems (like computers or car engines), abstract systems (like mathematics or syntax), natural systems (like a biological organ, or the weather), collectible systems (like a library or a lexicon), or even social systems (like a legal code or a historical chronology). What was previously dismissed as an “obsession” can be viewed more positively as a “strong, narrow interest” in a topic that, when harnessed, can lead the person with autism or Aspergers Syndrome to excel in a highly specific field.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.