This post is in the Surveys and Interviews category

An additional data collection process was be utilised to establish a cognitive profile of the participants in the study. These are the Autism Quotient (Baron-Cohen, Wheelright, Martin, Skinner, & Clubley, 2001; Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner, Martin, & Clubley, 2001)and Empathy Quotient (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004), two self-administered tests devised by researchers at the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University. These surveys have been referenced previously in this document in the ASD section of the Context Category, as they have made an important contribution to the understanding of the “autistic phenotype.”  They  have been developed and tested over a period of years, so methodological issues with the surveys themselves and the interpretation of the data collected by the instruments, have already been minimised by those authors. While the tests have been used successfully in a number of differing studies (Bishop et al., 2004; Kunihira, Senju, Dairoku, Wakabayashi, & Hasegawa, 2006; Wakabayashi, Tojo, Baron-Cohen, & Wheelwright, 2004), there has been some criticism (Kurita & Koyama, 2006) that they have the potential to “flag” individuals with mental health problems (specifically depression and anxiety disorders) other than autism and caution is urged by both the test developers and clinicians that they are not diagnostic in isolation. The tests yield data that places the individuals on a continuum from “extreme S” or systematising brain type through B (balanced) to E (empathising) and “extreme E” (Wheelwright et al., 2006) and also quantify traits against the five assessed areas of the diagnostic criteria; social skill, attention switching, attention to detail, communication and imagination (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Robinson, & Woodbury-Smith, 2005; Woodbury-Smith, Robinson, Wheelwright, & Baron-Cohen, 2005). It is important to note that

…in the general population there may be a percentage of individuals who have many autistic traits but who do not require any clinical support (and are not seeking this) because of a good cognitive match between their cognitive style or personality, and their family or occupational or social context.

In this sense, whether a high AQ score becomes disabling may depend on environmental factors (tolerance by significant others, or being valued for contribution at work, or a place in a social network, protecting against the risks of secondary depression) rather than solely on factors within the individual. This impression warrants systematic research. (Woodbury-Smith et al., 2005, p. 4)

The main value to this study of the data generated was in drawing attention to the range of cognitive styles in the sample, which was statistically small, but also the difference between my own position on the scale and that of my collaborators. The data is presented in graphical form in the discussion around empathy. This information has been useful in analysis of interactions with individuals, and also in compiling a viable profile of my own cognitive traits that allows direct correlation to the musical experiences.

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