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Assortative mating, autistic traits, empathizing, and systemizing

By Gareth Richards, Simon Baron-Cohen, Holly Stokes, Varun Warrier, Ben Mellor, Ellie Winspear, Jessica Davies, Laura Gee, John Galvin

Posted 28 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.28.358895

It has been suggested that the children of parents with particular interests and aptitude for understanding systems via input-operation-output rules (i.e. systemizing) are at increased likelihood of developing autism. Furthermore, assortative mating (i.e. a non-random pattern in which individuals are more likely to pair with others who are similar to themselves) is hypothesised to occur in relation to systemizing, and so romantic couples may be more similar on this variable than chance would dictate. However, no published study has yet tested this hypothesis. We therefore examined intra-couple correlations for a measure of autistic traits (Autism Spectrum Quotient [AQ]), self-report measures of empathizing (Empathy Quotient [EQ]), and systemizing (Systemizing Quotient-Revised [SQ-R]), as well as the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) and Embedded Figures Task (EFT). We observed positive intra-couple correlations of small-to-medium magnitude for all measures except EQ. Further analyses suggest that these effects are attributable to people pairing with those who are more similar to themselves than chance (initial assortment) rather than becoming more alike over the course of a relationship (convergence), and to seeking out self-resembling partners (active assortment) rather than pairing in this manner due to social stratification increasing the likelihood of similar people meeting in the first place (social homogamy). Additionally, we found that the difference in scores for the AQ, SQ-R, RMET and EFT of actual couples were smaller (i.e. more similar) than the average difference scores calculated from all other possible male-female pairings within the dataset. The current findings therefore provide clear evidence in support of the assortative mating theory of autism. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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