Aspie Children Have Superior Fluid Intelligence

Asperger’s disorder is one of autistic spectrum disorders; sharing clinical features with autism, but without developmental delay in language acquisition. [...] [W]e investigated abstract reasoning ability, whose form of intelligence has been labeled fluid intelligence in the theory of Cattell [Cattell, R. B. (1963). Theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence: A critical experiment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 54, 1–22.], in children with Asperger’s disorder. [...] The results showed that children with Asperger’s disorder outperformed on the test of fluid reasoning than typically developing children. We suggest that individuals with Asperger’s disorder have higher fluid reasoning ability than normal individuals, highlighting superior fluid intelligence.


General fluid intelligence (gF) is a major dimension of individual differences and refers to reasoning and novel problem-solving ability (Cattell, 1963; Gray & Thompson, 2004). Empirically, fluid intelligence is strongly associated with frontal executive function (Duncan, Burgess, & Emslie, 1995), attentional control and working memory (Conway, Cowan, Bunting, Therriault, & Minkoff, 2002; Gray, Chabris, & Braver, 2003; Kane & Engle, 2002), and the core function of fluid intelligence is the abstract reasoning ability, which has been a component of most formal theories of intelligence (Sternberg, 1985; Thurstone, 1938). On the other hand, general crystallized intelligence is distinct from gF, referring to overlearned skills and static knowledge such as vocabulary, and there is empirical evidence for a distinction between the psychological processes and the neural substrates that subserve fluid reasoning and crystallized knowledge (Cattell, 1963; Duncan et al., 1995).


It is possible to assume that individuals with Asperger’s disorder would show low fluid intelligence, as in the case of autistics who showed poor fluid reasoning (Blair, 2006; Pennington & Ozonoff, 1996) and poor performance on the tests of high-level integration or abstraction (Courchesne & Pierce, 2005; Just, Cherkassky, Keller, & Minshew, 2004). However, a recent study by Dawson and colleagues (2007) provided us with empirical evidence that autistic children showed high scores on the test of fluid intelligence using the RSPM. Such an empirical study has never been documented in Asperger’s disorder or high-functioning autism. Here, we aimed to examine fluid intelligence in children with Asperger’s disorder [...]


Seventeen participants with Asperger’s disorder (10 boys and 7 girls, ages 6 to 12 years) were recruited from the out-patient’s clinic of one children’s hospital and took part in this study.


Mean numbers of correct responses on the RSPM in the Asperger’s disorder (AD) and normal controls (NC) groups are shown in Fig. 1. The number of matrices correctly solved in both groups were analyzed as a dependent variable, and two-tailed t tests revealed that the AD group (41.1 ± 9.3) made significantly more correct responses than the NC group (30.7 ± 10.3) [t(32) = À3.08, p < .01, Cohen’s ds = 1.05].

Fig. 1. Mean numbers of correct responses on the RSPM for control (NC)and Asperger’s disorder (AD) groups. Open (left) and filled (right) columns represent numbers of correct responses in NC and AD groups, respectively. Vertical bars represent the standard error of the mean.


The present study demonstrates that participants with Asperger’s disorder made more correct responses on the RSPM than did normal controls. The results of this study suggest that Asperger’s disorder involves superior abstract reasoning ability or higher general fluid intelligence. [...] In order to solve the problems on the RSPM, it is necessary to induce rules from the relationship between elements in matrices, and to generate and maintain goals in working memory until a target satisfies a theorem as a whole. As compared to normally developing children, the performance on the RSPM in children with Asperger’s disorder was critically different and was significantly better, implying the superiority in fluid intelligence in Asperger’s disorder.

Moreover, from clinical case records of children with Asperger’s disorder diagnosed by Hans Asperger and his team, it was revealed that some individuals with Asperger’s disorder had a special gift for abstract thinking and logical reasoning (Hippler & Klicpera, 2003). Hans Asperger contended, in his original paper, that the traits of this disorder were in fact necessary for high achievement in the arts and sciences (Wing, 2005). Logical reasoning ability is a premise for conducting scientific research, and in fact there have been some outstanding scientists who were the cases of Asperger’s disorder (Asperger, 1944; Frith, 2004). Such clinical characteristics could be in correspondence to the superior performance on abstract reasoning problems of the RSPM in the present study.


Although we demonstrated new cognitive characteristics in Asperger’s disorder, there are some limitations in our study. The major one is the small number of participants with Asperger’s disorder. [...] Another limitation is the lack of multiple measures of general fluid intelligence in this study. Although we suppose that the RSPM would be a good and convincing enough measure, it would be hard to clearly articulate the types of cognitive processes that the RSPM taps into.

-- Mika Hayashi , Motoichiro Kato , Kazue Igarashi , Haruo Kashima

from "Superior fluid intelligence in children with Asperger’s disorder"

Quoted on Sun Oct 16th, 2011