In an earlier post I discussed models for autism, ending with the Quirky Personality (or Extreme Maleness) model:
One interesting thing about this model is that it suggests a tradeoff between deficits and strengths: Emphathizers tend not to be Systematizers, and vice versa. Some evidence for such a tradeoff between social and analytical skills comes from a study that recently showed up in my gmail account, entitled "Mathematically Gifted Adolescents Have Deficiencies in Social Valuation and Mentalization:"Popularized by Simon Baron-Cohen (The Essential Difference), this model holds that autism is caused by excess exposure to testosterone in the womb, and/or by "assortative mating" in which highly unsocial, analytical people are more likely to find one other in today's interconnected world, to intermarry, and to produce even more extremely unsocial, analytical offspring (concentrated in areas like Silicon Valley).
This model best explains those children whose primary deficits are social, and who excel in things like engineering and computer programming: the Temple Grandins of the world.
Many mathematically gifted adolescents are characterized as being indolent, underachieving and unsuccessful despite their high cognitive ability. This is often due to difficulties with social and emotional development. However, research on social and emotional interactions in gifted adolescents has been limited. The purpose of this study was to observe differences in complex social strategic behaviors between gifted and average adolescents of the same age using the repeated Ultimatum Game. Twenty-two gifted adolescents and 24 average adolescents participated in the Ultimatum Game. Two adolescents participate in the game, one as a proposer and the other as a responder. Because of its simplicity, the Ultimatum Game is an apt tool for investigating complex human emotional and cognitive decision-making in an empirical setting. We observed strategic but socially impaired offers from gifted proposers and lower acceptance rates from gifted responders, resulting in lower total earnings in the Ultimatum Game. Thus, our results indicate that mathematically gifted adolescents have deficiencies in social valuation and mentalization.While this may not come as any great surprise to those familiar with the math world, the notion of a tradeoff between math skills and social skills raises the possibility of a more general tradeoff between autistic traits and intellectual skills. Even this, however, may already be part of our collective unconscious, underlying, for instance, the common notion that being a genius entails being highly eccentric.
Less obvious is why so many mathematically gifted students are characterized as "indolent, underachieving and unsuccessful despite their high cognitive ability." The article blames their "poor social valuation and mentalization" skills. While it's easy to imagine how this impedes "success" (at least as popularly defined), it's less obvious how it leads to indolence and underachievement...
Except, of course, if you consider what's happening to K12 math.