The challenge has been to explain all of the features of autism, across all individuals on the autistic spectrum. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 32, 1081–1106.
After 25 years of careful testing, Simon Baron-Cohen concludes that 'mindblindness'or difficulties with empathy can explain the social-communication difficulties in autism, whilst the newer concept of 'hyper-systemising' can explain the areas of strength in autism: excellent attention to detail, and unusually narrow interests. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27, 719–730.
In the general population, males score slightly (but statistically significantly) higher than females.
Since autism spectrum conditions are far more common in males than in females (classic autism occurs in four males for every one female, and Asperger’s syndrome occurs in nine males for every one female), this may suggest that the number of autistic traits a person has is connected to a sex-linked biological factor – genetic or hormonal, or both (Baron-Cohen et al., 2005; Baron-Cohen et al., 2004).
To understand this theory we need to turn to this second factor, the concept of systemising – the drive to analyse or construct any kind of system.
What defines a system is that it follows rules, and when we systemise we are trying to identify the rules that govern the system, in order to predict how that system will behave (Baron-Cohen, 2006).
When we mindread or mentalise, we not only make sense of another person’s behaviour (why did their head swivel on their neck? ), but we also imagine a whole set of mental states (they have seen something of interest, they know something or want something) and we can predict what they might do next. A test of central coherence theory: Can adults with high functioning autism or Asperger syndrome integrate fragments of an object.
The mindblindness theory proposes that children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome are delayed in the development of their To M, leaving them with degrees of mindblindness. Are people with autism or Asperger's syndrome faster than normal on the Embedded Figures Task?
As a consequence, they find other people’s behaviour confusing and unpredictable, even frightening. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 527–534.
Evidence for this comes from difficulties they show at each point in the development of the capacity to mindread: A strength of the mindblindness theory is that it can make sense of the social and communication difficulties in autism and Asperger’s syndrome, and that it is universal in applying to all individuals on the autistic spectrum.