Is there a link between engineering and autism?


Autism is a severe childhood neuropsychiatric condition with a substantial genetic component. At the cognitive level children with autism are impaired in the development of their folk psychology, while they are normal or even superior in the development of their folk physics. We predicted that if their parent shared this cognitive phenotype, then they should be over-represented in engineering as an occupation. This prediction was confirmed. Both fathers and grandfathers of children with autism were found more than twice as often in the field of engineering, compared with fathers and grandfathers of other children. This link between autism and engineering may throw light not only on autism itself, but ultimately on the genetic basis of two essential human abilities: folk psychology and folk physics. © 1997 SAGE Publications.