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Title: Systemising : a cognitive and neural perspective
Author: Billington, J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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Systemising is defined as the drive to analyse the rules underlying a system, and subsequently predict its behaviour. Recent research suggests that there may be sex differences in systemising, with males showing stronger drive to systemise than females. It has also been used in explaining the autistic cognitive style within the Extreme Male Brain framework. In Chapters 1 and 2 the systemising theory is reviewed and evidence from populations who display heightened systemising abilities is discussed in order to derive a behavioural and neural empirical framework of investigation aimed at broadening our understanding of the processes associated with systemising. Chapter 3 summarizes the methodological issues related to behavioural experiments in Chapters 4 – 7. Chapter 4 reports an assessment of systemising drive (measured using the systemising Quotient-Revised, or SQ-R) and ability (measured with a mental rotation task, or MRT and a matrix task) in high vs. low systemising groups (scientists and humanities students respectively). Chapter 5 focuses on a new test of systemising, the Intuitive Physics Assessment (IPA), and its association with established measures of systemising (MRT and matrix tasks). Together these chapters suggest that systemising is a better predictor than sex in distinguishing group membership and, whilst performance measures of systemising are highly correlated, there is a dissociation between performance and SQ-R scores of systemising. Chapter 6 addresses field independence (measured using the FC-EFT) and local/global processing style (measured using the Navon Task) in those who have a high drive and ability to systemise. Results suggest that systemising is associated with an ability to ignore perceptual distractors, yet a tendency to focus on the global or gestalt aspects of stimuli. Chapter 7 addresses whether systemising is associated with differential working memory capacity (measured using the Tower of London test and digit span tasks). Planning ability and inhibitory mechanisms were found to be marginally higher in those who were more proficient on the MRT and matrix task, indicating the importance of domain specificity in understanding systemising. Chapter 8 gives a general background to fMRI methodology and analysis in relation to Chapters 9 and 10. Chapter 9 explores the neural correlates of systemising ability using a matrix task. Activation was correlated with SQ-R scores in analogical but not gestalt reasoning items.  Chapter 10 draws together the main findings from the six empirical chapters included in this thesis. A revised model of systemising is put forward and directions for future research outlined. The implications of this thesis for both researchers in the areas of sex differences and autism spectrum conditions are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available