Schizotypal personality and autism spectrum (ASD) have many similarities. In childhood, Asperger’s, which is part of the autism spectrum, is manifested by unusual communication, cognitive rigidity, and eccentric behavior. Schizotypal personality in childhood also presents with similar symptoms. Although there has been some research into the differences and similarities of these two psychological issues, little research has looked specifically at the overlap and independence of symptoms in schizotypal personality issues and ASD.
To extend the existing literature in this area, Natalie L. Dinsdale of the Simon Fraser University in Canada recently conducted a study involving 605 college students. The study looked at mental rotation, communication, and social functioning as measures of cognitive ability and depletion. Dinsdale found that the participants with ASD features had many traits common in schizotypal issues.
The largest overlap was found in communication and social traits. In particular, negative interpersonal skills and disorganized thinking were common in the two conditions. Additionally, participants with ASD and schizotypal traits exhibited social anxiety, eccentric behavior, limited affect, and weaknesses in social skills, cognitive reference, and general communication. One area trait that seemed to be independent was that of attention bias to detail, which was more prevalent in the participants with ASD. Dinsdale believes this supports existing reports of people with Asperger’s being highly sensitive to sounds that people without Asperger’s or ASD might not otherwise notice.
Other findings of interest include the attention switching ability, which was found to be reduced in participants with ASD and schizotypal features. However, this was only evident in male participants. In sum, although this research explores unique aspects of these psychological conditions and substantially extends existing research in this area, it does not examine the gender nuances related to symptomology in detail. Dinsdale added, “Links between altered social skills and enhanced visual-spatial ability warrant further investigation, especially with respect to sex-specific effects.”
Dinsdale, N.L., Hurd, P.L., Wakabayashi, A., Elliot, M., Crespi, B.J. (2013). How Are Autism and Schizotypy Related? Evidence from a Non-Clinical Population. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63316. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063316
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