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Episode 90 | Autism: The Big Picture – With Sir Simon Baron-Cohen

“The INS neither promotes nor recommends any commercial products discussed in this episode”


This is a big picture conversation about autism with Sir Simon Baren-Cohen. We cover the concepts of neurodiversity, systemizing and empathy (including their relationships to autism), sex and gender issues, cognitive strengths and weaknesses in autism, and clinical applications.

apa-logo_white_screenThe International Neuropsychological Society is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Neuropsychological Society maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Simon Baren-Cohen
Instructor Credentials

Simon Baron-Cohen is a Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry University of Cambridge and Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is Director of the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, which he set up in 1997. He is author of 5 books: Mindblindness, The Essential Difference, Prenatal Testosterone in Mind, Zero Degrees of Empathy, and The Pattern Seekers. He has edited scholarly anthologies including Understanding Other Minds. He has also written books for parents and teachers including Autism and Asperger Syndrome: The Facts. He is author of Mind Reading and The Transporters, digital educational resources to help children with autism learn emotion recognition, and both nominated for BAFTA awards.

He has published over 650 peer reviewed scientific articles, which have made contributions to many aspects of autism research, to typical cognitive sex differences, and synaesthesia research. Three influential theories he formulated were the ‘mindblindness’ theory of autism (1985), the ‘prenatal sex steroid’ theory of autism (1997), and the ‘E-S’ theory of typical sex differences (2002). Among his scientific discoveries are “mindblindness” in autism (1995), that autism can be diagnosed at 18 months of age (1996), the role of the amygdala in autism (1999), genetic links between systemizing and autism (2018), and the causal role of prenatal sex steroids in autism (2019). See

Educational Objectives
  • Define neurodiversity and discuss its role in the understanding of autism.
  • Describe the systemizing mechanism and empathy circuit, as well as their relationship to autism and the capacity for generative invention.
  • Apply broad knowledge of autism, including strengths, in clinical work (e.g. feedback sessions) with people who may have autism spectrum disorder.
Target Audience
  • Introductory
  • Date Available: 2022-03-01
  • You may obtain CE for this podcast at any time.
Offered for CE
  • Yes
  • Members $20
  • Non-Members $25
Refund Policy
  • This podcast is not eligible for refunds
CE Credits
  • 1.0 Credit(s)
  • The author has nothing to disclose
  • Bordes Edgar, V., Meneses, V., Shaw, D., Romero, R. A., Salinas, C. M., & Kissel, A. (2021). Clinical utility of the ECLECTIC framework in providing culturally-informed autism spectrum disorder evaluations: a pediatric case-based approach. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 1-24.
  • Duvall, S., Armstrong, K., Shahabuddin, A., Grantz, C., Fein, D., & Lord, C. (2021). A road map for identifying autism spectrum disorder: recognizing and evaluating characteristics that should raise red or “pink” flags to guide accurate differential diagnosis. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 1-36.
  • Fennell, L. C., & Johnson, S. A. (2021). Examination of professional biases about autism: how can we do better? The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 1-22.
  • Abu-Akel, A., Allison, C., Baron-Cohen, S., & Heinke, D. (2019). The distribution of autistic traits across the autism spectrum: evidence for discontinuous dimensional subpopulations underlying the autism continuum. Molecular Autism, 10, 24.
  • Auyeung, B., Lombardo, M. V., Heinrichs, M., Chakrabarti, B., Sule, A., Deakin, J. B., Bethlehem, R. A. I., Dickens, L., Mooney, N., Sipple, J. A. N., Thiemann, P., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2015, 2015/02/01). Oxytocin increases eye contact during a real-time, naturalistic social interaction in males with and without autism. Translational Psychiatry, 5(2), e507-e507.
  • Baron-Cohen, S. (2009, Mar). Autism: the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 1156, 68-80.
  • Baron-Cohen, S. (2009, Mar). Autism: the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 1156, 68-80.
  • Baron-Cohen, S. (2017). Editorial Perspective: Neurodiversity – a revolutionary concept for autism and psychiatry. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(6), 744-747.
  • Baron-Cohen, S., Auyeung, B., Ashwin, E., Knickmeyer, R., Lombardo, M., & Chakrabarti, B. (2011). The Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism: The Role of Fetal Androgens. In (pp. 991-998).
  • Baron-Cohen, S., Knickmeyer, R. C., & Belmonte, M. K. (2005, Nov 4). Sex differences in the brain: implications for explaining autism. Science, 310(5749), 819-823.
  • Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., & Frith, U. (1985, 1985/10/01/). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind” ? Cognition, 21(1), 37-46.
  • Baron-Cohen, S., & Lombardo, M. V. (2017). Autism and talent: the cognitive and neural basis of systemizing. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 19(4), 345-353.
  • Baron-Cohen, S., Tsompanidis, A., Auyeung, B., Nørgaard-Pedersen, B., Hougaard, D. M., Abdallah, M., Cohen, A., & Pohl, A. (2020, 2020/11/01). Foetal oestrogens and autism. Molecular Psychiatry, 25(11), 2970-2978.
  • Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001, Feb). The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. J Autism Dev Disord, 31(1), 5-17.
  • Baron-Cohen, S. R., H. A.; Bullmore, E. T.; Wheelwright, S.; Ashwin, C.; Williams, S. C. R. (2000). The amygdala theory of autism. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 24(3), 355–364.
  • Bono, V., Narzisi, A., Jouen, A.-L., Tilmont, E., Hommel, S., Jamal, W., Xavier, J., Billeci, L., Maharatna, K., Wald, M., Chetouani, M., Cohen, D., Muratori, F., & Group, M. S. (2016). GOLIAH: A Gaming Platform for Home-Based Intervention in Autism – Principles and Design. Frontiers in psychiatry, 7, 70-70.
  • Charman, T., Loth, E., Tillmann, J., Crawley, D., Wooldridge, C., Goyard, D., Ahmad, J., Auyeung, B., Ambrosino, S., Banaschewski, T., Baron-Cohen, S., Baumeister, S., Beckmann, C., Bölte, S., Bourgeron, T., Bours, C., Brammer, M., Brandeis, D., Brogna, C., de Bruijn, Y., … Buitelaar, J. K. (2017). The EU-AIMS Longitudinal European Autism Project (LEAP): clinical characterisation. Mol Autism, 8, 27.
  • Feliciano, P., Daniels, A. M., Green Snyder, L., Beaumont, A., Camba, A., Esler, A., Gulsrud, A. G., Mason, A., Gutierrez, A., Nicholson, A., Paolicelli, A. M., McKenzie, A. P., Rachubinski, A. L., Stephens, A. N., Simon, A. R., Stedman, A., Shocklee, A. D., Swanson, A., Finucane, B., … Chung, W. K. (2018). SPARK: A US Cohort of 50,000 Families to Accelerate Autism Research. Neuron, 97(3), 488-493.
  • Floris, D. L., Wolfers, T., Zabihi, M., Holz, N. E., Zwiers, M. P., Charman, T., Tillmann, J., Ecker, C., Dell’Acqua, F., Banaschewski, T., Moessnang, C., Baron-Cohen, S., Holt, R., Durston, S., Loth, E., Murphy, D. G. M., Marquand, A., Buitelaar, J. K., & Beckmann, C. F. (2021, Aug). Atypical Brain Asymmetry in Autism-A Candidate for Clinically Meaningful Stratification. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging, 6(8), 802-812.
  • Green, J., Pickles, A., Pasco, G., Bedford, R., Wan, M. W., Elsabbagh, M., Slonims, V., Gliga, T., Jones, E., Cheung, C., Charman, T., & Johnson, M. (2017, Dec). Randomised trial of a parent-mediated intervention for infants at high risk for autism: longitudinal outcomes to age 3 years. J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 58(12), 1330-1340.
  • Greenberg, D., Rentfrow, P., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2015, 04/08). Can Music Increase Empathy? Interpreting Musical Experience Through The Empathizing–Systemizing (E-S) Theory: Implications For Autism. Empirical Musicology Review, 10, 80-95.
  • Greenberg, D. M., Warrier, V., Allison, C., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2018). Testing the Empathizing–Systemizing theory of sex differences and the Extreme Male Brain theory of autism in half a million people. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(48), 12152-12157.
  • Grossard, C., Grynszpan, O., Serret, S., Jouen, A.-L., Bailly, K., & Cohen, D. (2017, 2017). Serious games to teach social interactions and emotions to individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Computers and Education, 113, 195–211.
  • Hull, L., Petrides, K. V., Allison, C., Smith, P., Baron-Cohen, S., Lai, M.-C., & Mandy, W. (2017, 2017/08/01). “Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(8), 2519-2534.
  • Lai, M. C., Lerch, J. P., Floris, D. L., Ruigrok, A. N., Pohl, A., Lombardo, M. V., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2017, Jan 2). Imaging sex/gender and autism in the brain: Etiological implications. J Neurosci Res, 95(1-2), 380-397.
  • Lai, M.-C., Baron-Cohen, S., & Buxbaum, J. D. (2015, 2015/05/13). Understanding autism in the light of sex/gender. Molecular Autism, 6(1), 24.
  • Lai, M.-C., Lombardo, M. V., Auyeung, B., Chakrabarti, B., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2015). Sex/gender differences and autism: setting the scene for future research. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 54(1), 11-24.
  • Loth, E., Spooren, W., Ham, L. M., Isaac, M. B., Auriche-Benichou, C., Banaschewski, T., Baron-Cohen, S., Broich, K., Bölte, S., Bourgeron, T., Charman, T., Collier, D., de Andres-Trelles, F., Durston, S., Ecker, C., Elferink, A., Haberkamp, M., Hemmings, R., Johnson, … Murphy, D. G. (2016, Jan). Identification and validation of biomarkers for autism spectrum disorders. Nat Rev Drug Discov, 15(1), 70-73.
  • Montgomery, C. B., Allison, C., Lai, M. C., Cassidy, S., Langdon, P. E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2016, Jun). Do Adults with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome Differ in Empathy and Emotion Recognition? J Autism Dev Disord, 46(6), 1931-1940.
  • Murray, A. L., Allison, C., Smith, P. L., Baron-Cohen, S., Booth, T., & Auyeung, B. (2017, May). Investigating diagnostic bias in autism spectrum conditions: An item response theory analysis of sex bias in the AQ-10. Autism Res, 10(5), 790-800.
  • Nollace, L., Cravero, C., Abbou, A., Mazda-Walter, B., Bleibtreu, A., Pereirra, N., Sainte-Marie, M., Cohen, D., & Giannitelli, M. (2020, Sep 11). Autism and COVID-19: A Case Series in a Neurodevelopmental Unit. J Clin Med, 9(9).
  • Robertson, C. E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2017, Nov). Sensory perception in autism. Nat Rev Neurosci, 18(11), 671-684.
  • Ruzich, E., Allison, C., Smith, P., Ring, H., Auyeung, B., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2017). The Autism-Spectrum Quotient in Siblings of People With Autism. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research, 10(2), 289-297.
  • Ruzich, E., Allison, C., Smith, P., Watson, P., Auyeung, B., Ring, H., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2015). Measuring autistic traits in the general population: a systematic review of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) in a nonclinical population sample of 6,900 typical adult males and females. Mol Autism, 6, 2.
  • Ruzich, E., Allison, C., Smith, P., Watson, P., Auyeung, B., Ring, H., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2016). Subgrouping siblings of people with autism: Identifying the broader autism phenotype. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research, 9(6), 658-665.
  • Sun, X., Allison, C., Wei, L., Matthews, F. E., Auyeung, B., Wu, Y. Y., Griffiths, S., Zhang, J., Baron-Cohen, S., & Brayne, C. (2019). Autism prevalence in China is comparable to Western prevalence. Mol Autism, 10, 7.
  • Warrier, V., Chee, V., Smith, P., Chakrabarti, B., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2015). A comprehensive meta-analysis of common genetic variants in autism spectrum conditions. Mol Autism, 6, 49.
  • Warrier, V., Greenberg, D. M., Weir, E., Buckingham, C., Smith, P., Lai, M.-C., Allison, C., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2020, 2020/08/07). Elevated rates of autism, other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric diagnoses, and autistic traits in transgender and gender-diverse individuals. Nature Communications, 11(1), 3959.