We are in the process of launching a new project – the full title is Neurodiverse Intelligence? An examination of culturally-specific social intelligence among people on the autism spectrum or ND-IQ for short.
Intelligence is often boiled down to a simple test score, representing core learning skills such as pattern detection and verbal fluency. However other forms of intelligence are essential for human behaviour. One such form is social intelligence – the repertoire of skills needed to engage effectively with others, in a way which is appropriate to the context. These skills are often referred to in psychology by the umbrella term “social cognition”. This encompasses abilities such as emotion recognition, effective interpersonal communication and theory of mind. The second aspect of social intelligence is appreciation of the social context. Examples of social contexts include the cultural context (e.g. Japan vs. the UK), the relationship context (e.g. friend vs. stranger) and the environmental context (e.g. school versus home).
This proposal presents a bold re-conceptualisation of intelligence within a neurodiversity framework, challenging the notion that there is only one legitimate form of human intelligence. Specifically, we will explore social intelligence in autism, drawing together diverse findings to build a hypothesis that autistic social skills may be enhanced in an autism-specific cultural context: i.e. when interacting with other people on the autism spectrum. This hypothesis will be rigorously tested with experimental, quantitative descriptive and qualitative methods. In particular we will adapt a cultural learning paradigm to explore transmission of information between autistic/autistic pairs compared with mixed and comparison pairs. The project will contribute key scientific evidence to a radical socio-political shift in conceptualisation of autism, and other states of neurodiversity, as difference, rather than disability. Outputs will include recommendations to policy makers and public communications as well as high-impact journal papers. We expect this innovative line of enquiry to inspire further academic investigation of neurodiverse intelligences.
The first research phase involves exploring the differences in how autistic and neurotypical people complete tasks when they are paired with autistic and neurotypical people. Participants will be invited to attend a research day in groups of six people. We will use a technique called a “diffusion chain”. This involves one person learning how to do a particular puzzle or task, and then teaching this to the second participant. The second person then teaches this to the third participant, who teaches it to the fourth participant and so on. This will allow us to see whether autistic and neurotypical people learn how to do certain tasks and transfer information in a certain way when they are interacting with autistic and neurotypical partners.
The second research phase involves interviewing autistic people about their social experiences and relationships with other people on the autism spectrum and those without autism. These interviews will take place at the participants home, via skype, using online chat, or in person at the DART lab.
The third research phase involves asking autistic and neurotypical people to watch videos of autistic and neurotypical pairs having a conversation, and rating the quality of their social interaction.
Best practice in autism research features equal partnerships between academics and autistic community representatives. This is reflected in our research approach. The grant proposal was guided by autistic mentors, our research team includes an autistic consultant, and we work with local volunteer mentors to provide wider representation. Autistic people have, and will continue to be, involved at every stage of the design and implementation of this research.
If you would like to be involved in the project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any further questions about the project please contact email@example.com