Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shiny happy mums

The post after this is about library mashups, so if you're not interested in crackpot ideas, stop here and move on to some serious library reading.

The last Librarians' Internet Index has an entry about Secrets of the Sexes, a BBC TV series looking at whether men's and women's brains are wired differently. Having a spare half hour, and being a curious puppy, I took the online test, Sex ID. Find out how your mind works.
The average woman scores -50% , the average male scores +50%. My score - 0% - my brain is balanced exactly between male and female.

What's inside my head?

Now, maybe it's because the test was co-designed by Simon Baron-Cohen who is a foremost autism researcher, but suddenly - "ping" - one of the mysteries of my universe fell into place.

I know a whole bunch of mums with kids on the autism spectrum. What has impressed me is that D, J, K, C, S, S, D, C, R, A and J aren't just normal people. They are unusually articulate, bright, shining women.The dads who I know are primarily scientist/engineer types.
There's something going on there. Mum (bright and articulate) + dad (engineer) = some kids with ASD.

Now I think I have a bit of the answer....
Asperger's Syndrome is often described as extreme maleness (see, for example, Baron-Cohen's
The Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the Truth About Autism).

Let's call whatever causes autism the M factor and do a "what if".

What if......
  1. You're already male and you get a dose of M factor? You present as extremely male, with characteristics of autism.Your already male brain gets a double dose of male thinking style.
  2. What if you are female and you get a dose of the M factor? Your female brain counters the maleness of the M factor and you get a very well balanced woman, able to use both styles of thinking.
Further ideas around this:
  1. Women with the M factor end up with engineer/scientist types because the man finally finds a rare woman who relates to his very male thinking style. (logically, he does all he can to keep this relationship going :) )
  2. Maybe when women present with autism symptoms, it isn't due to the M factor at all. Maybe it's because they are lacking whatever causes a female thinking style. Or maybe they get the M factor without a female thinking style to counter it. Would that explain why they only represent 25% of the population with autism?
It seemed all so much clearer when my newly outed androgynous brain thought it up yesterday.

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