Two key ways to revise this theory have been to explain the non-social areas of strength by reference to a second factor, and to broaden the concept of To M to include an emotional reactivity dimension.
Both of these revisions were behind the development of the next theory.
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.
The evidence for intact or even unusually strong systemising in autism and Asperger’s syndrome is that, in one study, such children performed above the level that one would expect on a physics test (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright et al., 2001).
Children with Asperger’s syndrome as young as 8–11 years old scored higher than a comparison group who were older (typical teenagers). According to the empathising-systemising (E-S) theory, autism and Asperger’s syndrome are best explained not just with reference to empathy (below average) but also with reference to a second psychological factor (systemising), which is either average or even above average. So it is the discrepancy between E and S that determines whether you are likely to develop an autism spectrum condition. Systemising empathy: Teaching adults with Asperger syndrome to recognise complex emotions using interactive multi-media. The empathising-systemising (E-S) theory This newer theory explains the social and communication difficulties in autism and Asperger’s syndrome by reference to delays and deficits in empathy, whilst explaining the areas of strength by reference to intact or even superior skill in systemising (Baron-Cohen, 2002). The second component of empathy is the response element: having an appropriate emotional reaction to another person’s thoughts and feelings. This is referred to affective empathy (Davis, 1994). A second piece of evidence comes from studies using the Systemising Quotient (SQ). The higher your score, the stronger your drive to systemise. On tolerating mental states: Theory of mind in borderline personality. Its shortcoming is that it cannot account for the non-social features. A second shortcoming of this theory is that whilst mindreading is one component of empathy, true empathy also requires an emotional response to another person’s state of mind (Davis, 1994). Of those with an autistic spectrum condition, 80 per cent score above 32, and 99 per cent above 26. So the AQ neatly separates the groups – 93 per cent of the general population fall in the average range of the AQ, and 99 per cent of the autistic population fall in the extreme (high-end) of the scale.