For the many challenges imposed by autism spectrum disorder (ASD), those same brain differences can also make some tasks a little easier.
New research by an Italian psychologist provides evidence linking systematic thinking with mathematical ability, helping explain why individuals who have autism also tend to have a head for numbers.
Broadly speaking, our brains tend to have two different approaches to finding solutions to a dilemma – we identify impersonal relationships between categories and predict an outcome, or we use a variety of social functions to weigh in on a conclusion.
Systematic versus empathic tendencies each has their pros and cons, and we rarely apply them in isolation from the other. We often mix and match processes as we go through our day, reasoning and empathising to get by.
But individuals also have their preferences, both as a result of learned responses and thanks to distinct neurological pathways. Which implies some of us are better at solving certain kinds of problems than others.