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Biligton, Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright -

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Bilington, Baron-Cohen, and Wheelright: Systemizing and


The empathizing-systemizing theory classifies people by their scores on an empathizing test and a
systemizing test to determine a person's empathy and interest in systems. The tests' results can
determine how likely someone is to go into the sciences or the humanities.

The aim of the study was to determine whether there was an appreciable difference between the scores
of men and women who were enrolled in courses in the sciences and the humanities.

The participants took the tests and their scores were analyzed to determine whether they were
systemizing or empathizing prone. The participants were all university students enrolled in technical
courses or the humanities.

The results determined that people who were more systemizing were more likely to go into the sciences,
empathizers were more likely to go into the humanities, and that men were more likely to by
systematizers and women more likely to be empathizers.

Those who were more empathic would be more likely to follow career paths that required practitioners to
interact with others and systematizers were more likely to follow careers that required high levels of
organization and little contact with other people.

The study's strength lay in its thorough tests and ecological validity, but its main weakness was that the
participants of the study were already enrolled in the sciences or humanities and it was already fairly clear
wether they were systemizing or empathizing.
Bilington, Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright -
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Aim: To find the disparities between the number of men and women represented in scientific/technical

Year: 2007


415 students

o Classified as either physical science or humanities

o 203 Males

o 212 Females

o Recruited via email

o Excluded if they had a psychiatric illness

Procedure :

Completed 2 questionnaires

& 2 tasks on a secure university website


o Scores on SQ-R can range from 0-150

o Scores on EG can range from 0-80

o Scores gave the individuals a "brain type"


Forced choice version of the embedded figures task

Selecting one of two answers

Participants told they would see a series of 12 pairs of diagrams

Eyes test was also given - empathy


For performance tasks 1 point per correct answer and 1 bonus point if they were in the top 25%
fastest time of correct answers


Sex difference between 2 academic disciplines

o 59.1% of physical science were male

o 70.1% of humanities female

Overall there is evidence for E > S in female and S > E in males

By Degree:

o 56.3% PS / 29.9% H - Type S

o 14.2% PS / 41.5% H - Type E

Overall evidence for E > S in humanities and S > E in physical sciences


Way in which participants were gotten

Allowed to leave and come back



What are some of the strengths & weaknesses of the study

Once Billington's participants had completed their EQ and SQ questionnaires, they could be sorted into 'cognitive
styles' using this graph...

Big Issue - Psychometrics

We have already met psychometric testing in Thigpen and Cleckley's study. In Billington et al's study,
psychometric tests are used to quantitatively measure 'cognitive style' through the scores on the
empathizing and systemizing questionnaires.

Links to other evaluation issues

The evaluations of psychometric tests are a good way of showing the links between different areas of
psychology, which you should already know. For example:

They are reductionist, because they are reducing complex personality styles to simple scores on
a single questionnaire. This means that they may not properly reflect the individual.
They produce quantitative data, which is easy to collate and analyse. Quantitative data is likely
to be objective and unbiased, as it there is less room for interpretation with numerical values.

However, quantitative data may not give as much depth of information as qualitative data. This
means that they may not bevalid for showing small differences between people

Alternative study - Billington et al. as a quasi-experiment?

Billington et al used questionnaires to discover students' cognitive styles and then compared these to
their choice of degree subject. An alternative way to investigate the effect of cognitive styles on
preference for subjects would be to use a quasi experiment.

1. Describe the quasi-experiment as a research method in Psychology. (5)

2. How could they have performed a study with similar aims, but as a quasi-experiment?

Write a description of the study, including the who, what, where and how. (10)