There's a lately-somewhat-widely held belief that there's a strong correlation (and to a certain extent, a fairly obvious causation) between Asperger's syndrome (or Autism spectrum disorders in general) and being a "geek".

Since defining a "geek" precisely is not easy, I will ask a somewhat related question:

Is there any large scale study analyzing correlation and/or causation between higher levels of IQ and diagnosed Aspergers (or Autism spectrum in general)?

I am interested in broad averages, NOT edge cases like idiot savants. I'll take any study, but if possible I would be more interested in ones covering people with high-functioning autism and especially high-functioning Aspergers.

  • 1
    I would argue that the salient common feature between the classic geek and someone with Aspergers is their general inability to socialize. The word "geek" up until fairly recently has always been negative and a higher IQ was not really implied.
    – horatio
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 18:56
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    @horatio - you're mistaking "nerd" and "geek". The negative connotation you are thinking of is pretty old.
    – user5341
    Commented Jul 15, 2011 at 11:57
  • no, you've got it reversed. Geek is an unliked person, and is actually derived from carnival freakshows and IQ has nothing to do with it. A nerd is an intelligent person.
    – horatio
    Commented Jul 15, 2011 at 13:48
  • everyone poses as a geek nowadays, even Shaquille O'Neal, so I'm not sure about the negative connotation - it's pretty much mainstream. Maybe sometime in the distant past... Commented Jul 15, 2011 at 16:10
  • @horatio - as I said, get out of the time machine. That connotation for geek stopped occuring around 10 years ago.
    – user5341
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 2:25

2 Answers 2


Some reading material if you'd like.

Scheuffgen et al. argue for a different view on intelligence based on the peculiar patterns with autistic children.

Currently DSM-IV defines Asperger's as autism without language delay and cognitive impairments. However, at the moment it looks like Asperger's will be collapsed into autism as a diagnosis in the upcoming DSM-5. The discussion is interesting and also addresses group differences in IQ.

Your question probably isn't that interesting after all, since Asperger's is by definition not impaired cognition but it's a mainstream idea in research, that there is no clean cutoff to be found between Kanner-Autism and Asperger's. So the correlation between Asperger's and intelligence probably wouldn't mean very much.

A correlation of intelligence with autism spectrum disorder would be negative, I guess.

(Sorry, this was a comment that turned out to be too long, don't have much time now)


I think that this is a diagnostic misconception...

A great many individuals with autism are also intellectually disabled. 1 Those with Asperger's syndrome, in contrast, must by definition have suffered no cognitive delay during their first 3 years of life. 2 This means that they will usually have at least a “normal” IQ.


Basically people on the spectrum with normal to above normal IQ scores tended to be diagnosed/labeled with Asperger's while those with lower IQ's tended to receive other Autism spectrum diagnoses.

Now with that bit out of the way...

The "geek" portion is, as mentioned, fairly obvious:

Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger's, is a developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. As a milder autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it differs from other ASDs by relatively normal language and intelligence. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and unusual use of language are common. Signs usually begin before two years old and typically last for a person's entire life.


Ok, so lets break that down:

  1. significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication
    • This seems pretty classically "geek", probably doesn't require explanation.
  2. restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests
    • I suspect that this is where a lot of the "genius" claims come from. Even someone with an average IQ can become an expert in a field, if it's their only interest.
  3. relatively normal language and intelligence
    • As in not significantly impaired, though it's worth noting the comorbid learning disabilities are not uncommon.
  4. physical clumsiness and unusual use of language are common
    • Probably not an athlete, combined with unusual inflections and voice patterns, further evidence of classic "geek"

As far as a "large scale study" it seems that sources indicate that people on the spectrum are difficult to test and that individual's scores vary wildly from test to test and that testing conditions have a much more significant impact.

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