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April 17, 2003

Brain gender
Posted by Teresa at 12:18 PM *

The Guardian reports yet another theory about the characteristic differences between men’s and women’s minds. This one comes with a pair of moderately sophisticated little tests for empathy and systematization. But I don’t know how much validity there is to the whole thing, because according to the test results I’m almost certainly a man.

Comments on Brain gender:
#1 ::: Xhenxhefil ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 01:02 PM:

Well, there's no sense in arguing with the test.

I (male) am apparently one EQ point away from having Asperger's syndrome. Basically I empathize with people all the time and can tell when they're unhappy or uncomfortable or confused, but I never know what to do to remedy their discomfort.

#2 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 01:05 PM:

Is it just me, or did the author of the article spend several paragraphs making entirely unsupported generalizations about the play characterisitcs of little boys and little girls? I'm sure studies about all of these things exist, but a citation or two would not go amiss. I'm also interested by the fact that most of the differences he cites are of the "girls=good, boys=bad" variety, and then he goes on to spend a couple of paragraphs trying to assuage fears that he's making some sort of judgement about the value of the sexes.
The quizes seem rather bizarre. Most of the questions were statements that were true for everybody to a greater or lesser degree, so you're mostly dealing with people comparing themselves to whatever they think is normal, which seems a very dangerous thing, guaranteed to introduce a whole new level of potential error. They also seemed to be trying to measure two separate aptitudes with two separate tests, but each test contained questions that were clearly aimed at the other aptitude, presumably to penalize you for showing the other aptitude.

I guess I'm not really disagreeing with the theory, there does seem to be some intriguing evidence, especially in regards to hormones, but I can't help but think that the presentation and execution of the theory is at best confused and scatter-brained.

#3 ::: sigrid ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 01:19 PM:

Hmm. According to this, I have scores consistent with the scores of people with Asperger's Syndrome. Which, to the best of my knowledge, I do not have. I took both tests twice . . .

#4 ::: Gretchen ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 01:31 PM:

I just took both tests and found out that I'm not only male, but autistic! Does that mean I should say, 'You folks' (Kidding! Kidding!)

A lot of the questions, by the way, seemed quite stereotypical and culturally weighted. But that just might be my systemizing brain ticking away. Or perhaps the test is not well-calibrated for geeks.

#5 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 01:42 PM:

I like the Meyers-Briggs way of looking at things as percentages, eg +/- 75% of males validate information via logic vs an equal percentage of females validate information via "gut feeling."

Framing it in terms of percentages shows that, yes, women can test as T (Thinking). This doesn't mean that they're men in disguise; it just means that, statistically speaking, they're in a minority when compared to others of their gender.

And, as with any attempted dyadic separation, I believe there are far more differences among women (or men) than there are blanket differences between the genders.

#6 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 01:46 PM:

according to this, with a score of 36/58, I am not much of a woman, nor terribly good as a man, and possibly suffering silently lo these many long years from asperger's.

I shall now peruse my handy list of Proper Emotional Responses....






(as Gretchen noted, not terribly well calibrated for geeks.)

#7 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 02:15 PM:

I had above-average EQ but enough SQ that I was in the "lots of Asperger's people" range. I found myself a lot more involved with my SQ answers, i.e. "Well, yes, I care when people cry" vs. "Of course I could fix the wiring, what do you take me for???" I wonder if people with girlybrains would react in the opposite way.

I don't think the test is poorly calibrated for geeks. I think it demonstrates a very real skew within the geek population, and those of us who choose to interact mostly with those subcultures are better off recognizing it.

#8 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 02:19 PM:

Well, first of all, the EQ test doesn't measure your capacity for empathy, it measures your _evaluation_ of your capacity for empathy. Likewise, the SQ test measures your _interest_ in systematizing (in the areas covered by the test), not your ability to think systematically.

I know serveral people who would claim to have an easy time empathizing with other people, even though many observers would strongly disagree!

It's like an IQ test asking you to rank your agreement with statements like "I have an easy time solving puzzles" and "I'm often smarter than the people around me". There may be some correlation between people's self-evaluations and their actually capacities, but the test isn't directly measuring the capacity.

(Originally posted to the wrong thread, then edited and re-posted here)

#9 ::: --k. ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 02:56 PM:

Dead even, me; bloody average on both counts, with a 34/28, which probably toasts whatever geek cred I might have left. But yes: baldly slanted and dreadfully subjective. What to my mind was the most interesting phrase was this squib at the end of the "This is your brain on this theory" chart:

A key feature of the theory is that your sex cannot tell you which type of brain you have. Not all men have the male brain, and not all women have the female brain.

So why on earth drag sex (or gender) into it at all? Rather milk-in-first, to my mind.

#10 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 03:39 PM:

Hm. I also am female but scored nearly-Aspergers on empathy and well in the top quartile on systemization. Not that I'm all that bad at being nice to people, having been taught how by my systematic parents.

Gosh, I'm suspicious that this is related to a book for sale and a move to treat hte "male mind" better in school. They may say that they know some girls will have these traits, but that's going to vanish in unskilled diagnoses of "boys will have Asperger's".

Annoying Thing Number Two: when considering the different methods of joining a group, how did they correct for the social assumption that boys are in charge and girls ought to be nice? How do play-joining behaviors change with race as the test variable, or in a culture with different rules, or between cultures?

#11 ::: Cassandra Phillips-Sears ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 04:23 PM:

I got a 36 EQ and 38 SQ. This puts me on the low end of "normal" for emotion and the high end of "normal" for systematic thinking. About where I thought I'd be--I make decisions based on emotions which stem from the product of intervening systems (memories, goals, thoughts, moral and ethical views).

A few of the questions on the SQ test, fascinatingly, reflected a number of areas I am specifically interested in: astronomy, geology, and music--however, the fact that I think about the way a certain mountain is folded doesn't mean, to me, that I have a more systematezing brain. It means that I'm interested in rocks and have taken the time to learn about them; the structural stuff I just picked up along the way.
Similarly, when one plays a musical intstrument, one learns about musical structure firsthand, and is therefore better able to appreciate hearing and analyzing it during performances.

A thought: why are emotions always thought to be unsystematic? Why can't they be a system that is analyzed like anything else, albeit one that may not have the same cues as music or come with an instruction manual?

#12 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 04:40 PM:

Jeremy: It's like an IQ test asking you to rank your agreement with statements like "I have an easy time solving puzzles" and "I'm often smarter than the people around me".

Never taken a MENSA admissions test, have you? ;-)

I tested out as E50, S35. My S score turns out low because I know bloody well that there's more to doing household electrical work that's up to code than just knowing something about electricity.

My opinion is that a survey of this nature would be more likely to say something useful about gender differences if the administrators were told that they were looking for, say, economic differences (complete with "theory" to point out what they are supposed to be looking for) with reminders to have a well balanced sample population. That is to say, give something immaterial for the test-givers' biases to skew so that the real answers don't get mucked with.

#13 ::: Castiron ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 04:46 PM:

I scored 28 EQ, 38 SQ. I wouldn't be surprised if I turned out to be in the fuzzy zone between "neurotypical" and the autism spectrum, but.... My ex got a higher EQ score than I did, and anyone who knows both of us, including he himself, will say that my social skills and people-handling are much better than his. (Self-reporting probably has a lot to do with it; there may be categories that I marked myself as bad in that others would rate me as good in, and vice versa.) (Not to mention that if all the SQ questions had been about topics I'm interested in, my score would've gone through the roof. No, I don't routinely wonder how mountains go together, but give me a piece of needlework or a book of Frederick Maryland church records, and I'll be too interested in studying them to care what else is going on around me.)

A friend of mine scored even lower on the EQ, but she pointed out that those questions are biased against people with hearing problems -- it's a lot harder to pick up the cues in someone's words when you can't hear them clearly!

Cassandra, that's a damn good question.

#14 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 06:25 PM:

E22, S50. Definitely an Asperger's candidate. No surprise to those few who actually know me.

#15 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 06:39 PM:

Cassandra - Emotion isn't always seen as unsystematic, as such. For me the problem that you're reacting to is one of word choice...empathy versus systematical-ness (not a word either, but hey), as opposed to empathy versus, say, objectivism. Emotions themselves may be objective, but how we each react to them is, necessarily, subjective and intuitive. The study of emotion has really blossomed in recent years, and it's really fascinating (a great primer is Randolph Cornelius' "The Science of Emotion" for those asking for citations).

The whole gender-difference thing is great fun. Every week, it seems, if you read the psychology and neuroscience literature, someone comes up with a new gender difference theory, or attempts (often successfully) to discredit last week's New Theory.

This is where the whole nature-nurture thing (as with virtually everything, it's clearly a combination of the two, but that's another discussion entirely) comes in. There's lots of good data (although I don't have citations on hand) that, across cultures, boys tend towards more aggressive, dominance-oriented play and girls towards more empathetic, interpersonal play. However, it's not as easy to tease out the 'nurture' side from any studies. Look-times at birth are probably the only information we can get, and to go beyond the very superficial, interpretations have to get a bit sketchy.

It's pretty well established that women tend to have denser corpus callossi than men, and are less lateralized in brain function (especially pertaining to language....which may support E-S theory), but many other physiological differences (hypothalamus, etc.) have failed to hold up under scrutiny. And all the anatomical studies have been done, as far as I know, in adults, by which point environmental factors (read: NURTURE) have left their mark on the brain. Yes, these things do very much affect brain morphology.

That's pretty much my $0.02 on the topic, except
an interesting aside on the data about prenatal testosterone levels:
There was a study (as far as I know unreplicated, but well enough done that it may yet be) linking higher prenatal testosterone to homosexuality in males. Gay men being known, anecdotally, for acting much more in the 'E' brain type. Whether or not any of these data pan out is an interesting dilemma...but it wouldn't be the first time a hormone had contradictory simultaneous effects (Estrogen, for instance).

For reference, I got EQ = 49/SQ = 47, which fits into about what I'd have predicted.

#16 ::: JS ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 08:49 PM:

I'm yet another woman with a boy brain and potentially Asperger's syndrome. I think Wired ran a "do you have Asperger's" test awhile ago, and noted that it wasn't just a numerical score that meant you had it or not, but the idea that your social functioning was really that impaired, really caused that many problems in your life that meant you had it.

In other words, you have Asperger's, or you are just an introvert, or you are just a geek.

#17 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 08:58 PM:

Whoever wrote the test, or at least the results page, seems to have trouble distinguishing "ability" from "interest".

Anyway, I'd say only about half the questions actually have anything to do with either empathy or systematization. (And it's not as though all the empathy questions are on the empathy test, or all the systematization questions on the systematization test.) That could be an intentional part of the test design, of course, but it doesn't lend confidence to the results.

I'll stick to my Voight-Kampff, thanks.

(E46, S38)

#18 ::: Al von Ruff ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 09:06 PM:

(EQ21, SQ60)

I'd stay and chat, but I need to rearrange my bottlecap collection again.

#19 ::: andrew b. ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 10:56 PM:

Can I play?

Admittedly, an imperfect test...but I think there is something to it. I tried to forget what was being measured, and just answered instinctively. Or, for the emotional questions like, "I easily know how others are feeling" - I tried to think how a broad group of my friends would describe me, as compared to an average.
So, I'm balanced, about what I thought.
And this is a guy who: cries while watching the news, is really scared of a giant bug in my apartment right now, can barely operate a computer, has never read science fiction (sorry!) but has rebuilt a car engine and has a mind for statistics. A little of this, a little of that.
But save your pity for this girly-man...I've heard that girls like the sensitive type. Right?
Although if this test is correct, dating the females here would drive me to the relationship therapist saying, "She just doesn't listen to me." :)

#20 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2003, 11:41 PM:

I am female and test E 10, S 24, which would tend to describe me as having Asperger's Syndrome, but I feel that the S questions were unfairly weighted towards scientific and technica, especially spatial, systematizing skills. There are language systematizing skills as well: syntax, morphology and so on. I have two degrees in classics and classical history, Latin, Greek, and various modern European languages. I also copy edit; this is my career right now, unfortunately, because the low E has led to my not being hired for long-term teaching jobs. In another universe I probably learned computer languages and became a programmer. Plus not all stereotypically "female" activities are non-systematizing: dressmaking for instance requires systematizing and spatial skills.

#21 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 12:20 AM:

andrew b. wrote:

Can I play?

I should hope so. It was that kind of test.

Admittedly, an imperfect test...but I think there is something to it. I tried to forget what was being measured, and just answered instinctively. Or, for the emotional questions like, "I easily know how others are feeling" - I tried to think how a broad group of my friends would describe me, as compared to an average.
So, I'm balanced, about what I thought.

Smart you. I, not being as sensible, thought instead upon my ideal of decent behaviour, and then upon how far short I fell from that ideal, and marked my Flashpaper accordingly. A dismal result.


And this is a guy who: cries while watching the news, is really scared of a giant bug in my apartment right now, can barely operate a

yikes! no giant bugs! Get a cat, now.

computer, has never read science fiction (sorry!) but has rebuilt a car engine and has a mind for statistics. A little of this, a little of that. But save your pity for this girly-man...I've heard that girls like the sensitive type. Right? Although if this test is correct, dating the females here would drive me to the relationship therapist saying, "She just doesn't listen to me." :)

I'm sorry, were you saying something? [squint] The nice thing about 'puter communication is that one can scroll up to reread bits one has missed. If I could only do that in real life, I would no doubt offend fewer people.

#22 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 12:31 AM:

EQ 16, SQ 61. I suppose I should march over to those responsible for this gorf [definition -- male who sniff's girls' bicycle seats. Person who invented the term: Civil War naval historian William "Mouth" Roberts, USN Lt Cmdr, retired...] idea and shower them with used tampons, since obviously by their view of the universe I can't possibly exist, being female and having those scores, and since anyone with that low an EQ score is excusably socially dysfunctional....

#23 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 12:36 AM:

We had a long thrash-out on the Asperger's test on a mail list I read (for those who know, GT. For those who don't, it'd take to long to really explain. Combine Geek, SF, Explosives, and Bowling Balls.)

My response?

"First, I got a 19. Then, I got a 27. Then, I got a 42. What?"

#24 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 01:44 AM:

My scores were 45 (average, between the "average woman" and "average man" scores) and 48 (above average), which puts me in the light green "Type S" just above the "systemizing" axis.

I guess this makes me a guy, huh? Or, given that it's British, do I get to be a bloke?

The weird thing is that these scores are better than the ones I got this afternoon when I took the tests at work. Those were in the 30s, and still in the "S" range, though still "average".

Paula, "gorf" sounds about right.

#25 ::: Fred Boness ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 02:01 AM:

I would read EQ56 and SQ52 as touchy feely autistic. What a horrible test.

#26 ::: Janice Morningstar ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 02:34 AM:

I scored E20, right down there in the Asperger's range. Now, I've been learning a LOT about Asperger's lately (ever since Cameron was diagnosed with AS last year, at age 14), and I KNOW I don't have AS, even though I have the genetics for it (I also have an autistic sister). Even though I am convinced that SF fandom is a hotbed of AS in per capita terms, I know how a real AS person interacts, and my responses to the questions posed on the test were not reflective of that. (I was debating having Cameron take the test, but I don't want him to feel worse about himself than he already does; he'd probably take the results personally.)

Surprisingly, I also scored pretty low on the SQ test; only a 27. My theory is that both low scores are an artifact of the test structure, and probably the scoring. Whenever I take surveys, my answer is almost NEVER "yes" or "no", but almost always, "It depends". I can usually think of aspects of the question with which I agree and some with which I disagree, and as a result my choices on a test like this are almost always in the "Slightly" columns. If the test scorers, for example, threw out all the "Slightly" answers and only kept the more definite ones, I could see how I'd come out way below average on both scales, even though I'd personally guess that I'm slightly above average in empathy, and way above average in systematization. (BTW, Cameron really doesn't have much of a problem with empathy either, at least not with others in pain; he just doesn't have any natural sense of how he should react to his feelings in social situations. He also takes things very literally and tends to think that everyone dislikes him, even when the evidence to me is to the contrary.)

I also agree with those above who believe that the pattern of results we fen seem to be producing is a manifestation of geekdom more than of gender or neural differences, at least within the faanish population.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 02:38 AM:

A key feature of this theory is that your sex cannot tell you which type of brain you have. Not all men have the male brain, and not all women have the female brain.

In other words, the fellow might as well have called his scores "blue" and "green."

Nor do I think this is all the way up to being a theory. Hypothesis, maybe. More like a speculation.

Oh, and my scores? EQ=74, SQ=75.

#28 ::: Cheem ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 03:05 AM:

E13 S61

Higher functioning autistic indeed.

#29 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 03:48 AM:

I don't think we should confuse the test with the theory behind it. Baron Cohen book is much more subtle and interesting (I reviewed it for a truly crappy NYC magazine called "Seed") than the test would show. Also, the editor of that section of the _Guardian_ is not enthusiastic about what she calles "Speccy stuff", meaning geek things, and personality tests are at the far end of jounalism from geekery.

I think the distinciton between systematic and empathetic thought holds up pretty well, even though I dont understand or have forgotten what exactly he means by empathetic analysis. It's a quality one detects most easily by its absence. But systematic thought is almost exactly what Colin McGinn calls the "CALM" model of understanding the world, which stands for something like "combinatorial atomiocs with lawlike mappings", but is much less hostile when he explains it at length: it's a matter of breaking processes and things into their consituent parts and seeing how they fit together.

#30 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 04:16 AM:

Oh, all right. EQ32, SQ 57, and most of my time spent wondering how the hell you can make sense of an answer of the form "slightly agree/disagree" to a question of the form "Do you never/always". That really offends my inner autist.

#31 ::: Dave H ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 04:36 AM:

Man, I am so glad that there are people here with EQ scores lower than my 16. Given my lower-than-average SQ also (25), I was beginning to feel somewhat down.

And that's also a point; this test, and others like it, tend to have a negative connotation for everyone who doesn't fall within the norm. But who wants to be in the norm anyway?

#32 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 07:08 AM:

EQ: 37, SQ:42.

I feel positively insulted by my own apparent mediocre normality.

#33 ::: Brian Ledford ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 08:14 AM:

I liked the sex test over at better. That one started with the premise that men and women think differently so therefore any set of questions if sufficiently large should start to show differences. Calibrate it and away you go. The questions tend to be of the "blue or green", "true or false" sort. Not true or false questions - one of the questions was simply "pick one of the following: true or false." The distribution curve at the end is interesting - men were concentrated on one end of the graph predominently, while women were fairly evenly distributed.


#34 ::: brian ledford ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 08:45 AM:

oops, the test mentioned above should be the "gender test." sorry.

#35 ::: Steven ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 11:02 AM:

I scored a perfect Douglas Adams on both tests. 42/42.

#36 ::: felix ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 11:38 AM:

Don't waste your time with this. Simon Baron-Cohen is supposed to be an expert on autism but his - and others' - expertise is strictly descriptive. I know one (undiagnosed) Asperger's and have spoken with several others and their experiences are miles apart from what we non-autistics experience.

The failure to figure out autism is a black mark on neuroscience.

#37 ::: j ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 11:55 AM:

i think the biggest problem with such tests would be a type of self grade inflation. it happens in every test where people are asked how much they drink, how often do they have sex, and how often they go to church.

nearly everyone considers him/herself to be more virtuous, considerate, intelligent, open-minded, charitable, etc. etc. ad nauseum than most people.

and for those who don't? well there's always this little (paraphrsed) gem from nietzsche (mr. social skills):

Even self-despiser admire themselves for their despising.

#38 ::: Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 12:07 PM:

Yeah, many correctly point out that the tests are flawed in many ways, if their intent is really to try to measure your empathy or systemizing quotient.

Personally, I found questions like the one of the empathy test asking if I'd lie to someone about their haircut patently stupid. I assume that if I lie and tell them their hatchet job looks great then I get a point in the EQ column, while if I'm honest I get docked points...dunno, though. Which is more empathetic, falsely propping up someone's self-perception or worrying about the perceptions of those who will see your friend with a dreadful do and laugh behind their backs?

#39 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 02:47 PM:

hmm well I had an eq17 sq13, now most people I know would probably agree with the eq, I have some reservations. However for the sq I couldn't help but notice that the most salient questions were of a different nature than the salient ones of the eq. The sq questions seemed more focused on finding out if you knew how to fix electrical wiring problems, or cared about hi-fi/computer tech, knew lots about geography and so forth, easier to evaluate and answer than a bunch of questions about how well you notice what other people are feeling.

#40 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 04:41 PM:

As a previous poster noted, my honest answers to those kinds of questions are almost never "strongly agree" or "strongly disagree," as I can always come up with some special case that would preclude strong agreement or disagreement.

As a result, my first pass through the EQ test had maybe two "strongly agree" answers, and scored a 26, down toward the Asperger's range. Going through it a second time, I changed a half-dozen answers from "slightly" to "strongly," keeping the general agree/disagree trend the same, and came in with a 50, definitely above average. I didn't repeat the experiment with the SQ test, but I suspect it probably sufferes from the same problem.

Not that I really needed it, but this just confirms the idiocy of this kind of test. If nothing else, there should've been a "Don't know/ Not applicable" option for questions like the "when I travel by train.." one, which is probably hard for many Americans to answer sensibly...

I also can't quite see how you're supposed to put things like "Other people tell me I'm an insensitive clod with the empathy of anthracite" onto a strongly/slightly scale. Either they do, or they don't. Or maybe that's excessive systemization...

#41 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 06:12 PM:

Felix said: "The failure to figure out autism is a black mark on neuroscience."

If failing to 'figure out' (what does that mean anyways?) autism is a black mark, then all of neuroscience and most of biology is just black marks. The brain is so magnificently, unimaginably complex it's all we can do to get the little pieces of the puzzle we have. And progress has been stunning...a basic intro neuro class now covers stuff PhD candidates as little as 10-15 years ago never imagined discovering. Or even had any clue they were there to be discovered.

There are about 10 billion neurons in the human brain. Each one can connect to thousands of others, often more than once. All must be perfectly synchronized and coordinated for even the simplest tasks to be possible. And then there's the glia. These are cells that surround neurons and outnumber them by a couple orders of magnitude. Used to be we thought they were just 'stuff.' Now we realize they're doing things....many, important, complicated things.

It's a tragedy that we can't get more practical solutions, cures and preventions and whatnot, but really, compared to biology and especially compared to the magnitude of the system, what we've got is amazing.

Just a reminder that failure is relative. We can at least help people with hundreds of disorders *a little* and hope to help *more.*

#42 ::: Betsy Devine ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2003, 10:13 PM:

Hmm, EQ 33, SQ 45.

I notice there are two different ways to get a high score on EQ. One is to be sensitive to other people's feelings and to know this about yourself. The other way is to be so insensitive to other people's feelings that you imagine your crude attempts to manipulate them always meet with success. Of course, I avoided getting a high score by either method....

#43 ::: Lynn Gazis-Sax ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2003, 01:17 AM:

E43, S47. The test looks pretty subjective, but I suppose it's an appropriate score for an engineer who has spent a lot of time in tech support (hey, I can't be bad at communication if I did well at tech support). And of course, like most of the other women in this thread, I turn out to have a male brain.

Practically all the EQ questions seemed to merit either a slightly agree or a slightly disagree - after all, isn't anyone going to pick up on other people's feelings some of the time and not others? I can't imagine strongly agreeing or disagreeing to a question about something like whether I can tell when someone is bored.

And I think j is right about the likelihood of self grade inflation. I mean, I know I'm an engineer, so I'm sure not likely to be biasing my answers to ones that would give me a lousy SQ and make me look like a stupid engineer, will I?

#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2003, 10:10 AM:

Amen, amen. We've got a set of supposedly gender-linked differences that don't track on gender, and test results that show an improbably high incidence of borderline Aspberger's.

#45 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2003, 02:59 PM:

Well... we don't absolutely know that the incidence is improbably high, do we? this is an awfully self-selected group.

It does *seem* high.

#46 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2003, 01:56 AM:

Michael wrote,

"There are about 10 billion neurons in the human brain. Each one can connect to thousands of others, often more than once. All must be perfectly synchronized and coordinated for even the simplest tasks to be possible. And then there's the glia. These are cells that surround neurons and outnumber them by a couple orders of magnitude. Used to be we thought they were just 'stuff.' Now we realize they're doing things....many, important, complicated things."

The brain's a self-organizing network, which means that literally the connections that one person has, another doesn't necessarily have, and vice versa. The ways that 10 billion neurons can be connected, I forget the math formula for -- uh, not, I just remembered it. it's 10**10 factorial.... which is an ENORMOUS number.

#47 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2003, 01:21 PM:

Paula -
It's enormous, all reminded me of a different formula I once read: the number of theoretically possible distinct interneural connections in the human CNS: (10,000,000,000^10,000)^3. Which is 10 billion neurons, connected to ten thousand neurons, in a manner which can vary in terms of duration, neurotransmitter, and potentiation. That's a fun number to show physicists.

#48 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2003, 03:06 PM:

The number of synaptic connections (note: actual connections, not potential ones) in the brain, I read a while back, drops by 80% between the ages of ~18 and ~25. We think that's personality specialization etc.

This is why I think people shouldn't make lifetime-binding decisions (notably marriage) before 25. Their brains haven't settled down yet, and the person they'll wind up being isn't really established.

#49 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2003, 10:51 PM:

Foo. The test showed me as close to Aspberger's. But all along I kept thinking "this test isn't asking what it thinks it'sasking." I'm actually pretty good at empathy -- I have to be, in my work -- but I'm always anxious about it,and worried that I'm getting it wrong, and nothing comes easily to me. But part of my empathy is a little humility about knowing what the other person thinks. And this survey only allows you to be empathetic if you're an overconfident braggart.

#50 ::: Jon h ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2003, 11:07 PM:

EQ: 19
SQ: 35

But I hate these things cause I often want to answer "Well, see, it depends...".

#51 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2003, 11:10 PM:

What I want to know is, is this Baron Cohen related to Sasha Baron Cohen, aka Ali G?

#52 ::: yon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2003, 11:17 PM:

I did wonder about the absence of all the questions like:

When you buy a new pair of shoes, do you know exactly which outfits in your wardrobe they will match?


When I look at an item of clothing, I am curious about the precise way it was constructed.


If there was a broken zipper in a garment I owned, I'd be able to mend it myself.

and why one has a CD/coin/stamp collection, but not a shoe/nail varnish/china collection.

yon, female, 55 EQ, 60 SQ, and resorts to descriptions like "it has those...uh, flaps near the neck" when asked about a new jacket, and thinks that anyone who actually understands terms like bias-cut/double-breasted/purling is way ahead of me on the systematizing front.

#53 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2003, 03:39 AM:

Okay, I score higher on empathy than is average for either men or women. But my systematizing score puts me in the Aspergers range. I often feel schizoid, but I really think this indicates a flaw somewhere...


#54 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2003, 04:41 AM:

test results that show an improbably high incidence of borderline Aspberger's

People with Asperger's score about 20; it does not by any means follow that people who score about 20 have Asperger's. I scored 19 (although I suspect that if I changed some of my "slightlys" to "stronglys" that it'd be different) and I know darn well I don't have Asperger's.

#55 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2003, 11:00 PM:

Like JimMcD, I pretty much pegged out on the high end, on both EQ and SQ. Didn't write them down, but they were both in the low 70s, iirc.

I agree with those who find this test is standing on wobbly foundations, but heck, self-assessment is just _fun_.


#56 ::: Niall ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2003, 05:50 AM:

E35, S65, but I think the sixth, twelfth, thirteenth and fifty-second questions on the E test and the fourth, twenty-second and twenty eighth questions on the S test were a bit ambiguous, and I couldn't make out what the author of the test was getting at.

#57 ::: Adam ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 09:13 PM:

By this account Great Physicists have Aspergers. Now, it's well established that all Great Physicists are male, therefore, many female readers of "Making Light" are actually men and have missed out on their ideal work. With this kind of gender confusion ravaging the scientific community, is it any wonder we still haven't got a grand unified theory of everything that will allow me to locate myself in that other slice of Hilbert space where I have lots more cash and a villa in the south of France?

#58 ::: Isabeau ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2003, 10:38 PM:

Most everybody here seems to have scored too low on empathy & too high on systemization, but then we have me: I'm a woman, E40 & S28 (within "average range" for both traits), whose parents saw a television program on Asperger's & said to each other, "My God! That's HER!"

I have to say I trust them more than the Guardian, but my therapist thinks it's ADD . . .

#59 ::: Dave Douglass ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2003, 08:45 AM:

Together since birth?

However many citations you'll find for Simon Baron-Cohen, and for Sasha Baron-Cohen, not one have I seen where they appear together. Coincidence? Or is this the Clark Kent effect at work?

I think Jon may have it nailed. Try this hypothesis: "This is one more face of Borat."

After all, hoaxes constitute a well-established tradition in popularized psychology, at least since the otherwise-useful Bruno Bettelheim first blamed this devastating disorder on mean mommies. Remember 'transactional analysis?'

#60 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2003, 08:57 AM:

Say what? I'm not following you here.

#61 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2003, 12:00 PM:

Transactional Analysis was a hoax? And here I thought it was just an example of Freudian Revisionism....

I scored lowish on empathy (34), highish on systemics (58, I think; it was that or 48, and I was not paying much attention by that point), almost undoubtedly because I spend a great deal of time qualifying almost everything I say. The low empathy score is because I've learned through bitter experience that being honest generally works better at making people feel better in the long run than polite lies. I tend to be somewhat blunt to minimize pain, when I can (and I'm nowhere near as good at this as I'd like to be).

I think I've gathered enough evidence that indicates I'm on the high end of knowing what people feel, and caring about it, and not necessarily changing what I do to fit their prejudices, so that I won't worry about what this test thinks of my "empathic" abilities.


#62 ::: Amy ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2003, 07:07 AM:

The scarey thing about all this is for me, knowing that professional shrinks may or may not make a diagnosis of others based on what I see is a black and white test.
I know that as a male to female transexual, I have both points of view, and when i made my decision ( in a typical male analitical fashion)to go ahead with surgery, I did so by analising my male and female traits and deciding which one was the stronger part of me. I had spent all my working life with men, and whilst I could empathise with their lot, I secretly didnt identify with their thoughts and outlook on life
But, worryingly , I have scored an extreem male brain. 38 E and 60 S
Yes I am very analitical, but I atribute that more to the expectations of a male upbringing than not having a female brain. As a man, i lived the life in public, all the outward signs were male, but in my head I was female, which is why i suffered so much with gender dysphoria. Trying to be two people did my head in
SO, this test doesnt mean a lot in my opinion

#63 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2003, 08:28 AM:

Er. I'm not sure I'd even give credence to systems that classify "analytical thinking" as an inherently male characteristic. If you feel like you're somehow female, go with it. It's your call. But ignore that test. It's a crock.

#64 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2003, 09:02 AM:

Amy, what Teresa said. I'm a heterosexual always-been-female, and I scored really high on systemics, too.

You are who you are, and you know better than anyone the right gender for you. I'm delighted to welcome an analytical sister to the fold.


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