ISSN 2079-6617
eISSN 2309-9828
Profile of intellectual abilities and personality traits in adults with high-functioning autism

Profile of intellectual abilities and personality traits in adults with high-functioning autism

PDF (Rus)

Recieved: 08/30/2022

Accepted: 12/11/2022

Published: 03/16/2023

Keywords: autism spectrum disorders; fluid and crystallized intelligence; verbal fluency; behavioral approach and behavioral inhibition systems; openness to experience

p.: 18-31

DOI: 10.11621/npj.2023.0102

Available online: 16.03.2023

To cite this article:

Galina L. Kozunova, Artem Y. Novikov, Boris V. Chernyshev. Profile of intellectual abilities and personality traits in adults with high-functioning autism. // National Psychological Journal 2023. 1. p.18-31. doi: 10.11621/npj.2023.0102

Copied to Clipboard

Issue 1, 2023

Galina L. Kozunova Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

Artem Y. Novikov Центр лечебной педагогики

Boris V. Chernyshev Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Lomonosov Moscow State University


Background. Autism is a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder caused by disruption of the prenatal brain development. In mild forms of autism, children may camouflage their symptoms, which may cause their mental disorder to stay undiagnosed into adulthood. Studies of personality and intelligence characteristics in adult patients with autism will reduce the difficulties of diagnosing mild forms of this disorder in a population of high-functioning socially adapted individuals. 

Objective. The study aims to describe the profile of intellectual abilities in adults with high-functioning autism and its relationship with the severity of clinical symptoms and personal traits. 

Sample. 30 participants with high-functioning autism (9 males and 21 females) aged between 18 and 20 years and 30 neurotypical controls took part in the research. 

Methods. The subjects underwent a short version of the Wechsler test (WAIS-III) and completed the Carver and White questionnaire “Behavioral Activation and Inhibition Systems”. Patients with autism also completed the Autism Quotient questionnaire designed by Baron-Cohen to assess severity of their symptoms, and their diagnosis was verified by an experienced psychiatrist. We analyzed intergroup differences using analysis of variance, as well as nonparametric correlational analysis between IQ, clinical symptoms, and personal traits. 

Results. Patients with autism did not differ fr om the control group in general intelligence, but they showed significantly lower verbal abilities (F(1, 42) = 8.4; p = 0.006). Reduction of verbal abilities in patients with autism directly correlated with severity of their clinical symptoms (R = –0.59; p = 0.001). We also found a decrease in the sensitivity of the behavior approach system in the clinical group (F(1.52) = 4.9; p = 0.03), manifested mostly in a low level of spontaneous fun seeking. In contrast to the neurotypical controls, wh ere a higher sensitivity of the behavior activation system positively correlated with verbal abilities (R = 0.52; p = 0.02), in patients with autism, motivational traits were not associated with any intellectual abilities. 

Conclusion. The results demonstrate that adult persons with autism spectrum disorders have a relative reduction in verbal fluency. It can be assumed that this profile of intellectual abilities may be a long-term result of a delay in speech development at an early age.


Acar, S., Runco, M.A. (2012). Psychoticism and creativity: A meta-analytic review. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 6 (4), 341–350. 

Ackerman, P.L., Heggestad, E.D. (1997). Intelligence, personality, and interests: evidence for overlapping traits. Psychological bulletin, 121 (2), 219–245. 

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). (2013). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. 

Ankenman, K., Elgin, J., Sullivan, K., Vincent, L., Bernier, R. (2014). Nonverbal and verbal cognitive discrepancy profiles in autism spectrum disorders: Influence of age and gender. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 119 (1), 84–99. 

Barneveld, P.S., Pieterse, J., de Sonneville, L., van Rijn, S., Lahuis, B., van Engeland, H., Swaab, H. (2011). Overlap of autistic and schizotypal traits in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Schizophrenia research, 126 (1–3), 231–236. 

Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., Clubley, E. (2001). The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): Evidence from asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, malesand females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 31 (1), 5–17. 

Billeiter, K.B., Froiland, J.M., Allen, J.P., Hajovsky, D.B. (2022). Neurodiversity and Intelligence: evaluating the flynn effect in children with autism spectrum disorder. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 53 (5), 919–927. 

Blain, S.D., Grazioplene, R.G., Ma, Y., DeYoung, C.G. (2020). Toward a neural model of the Openness-Psychoticism dimension: Functional connectivity in the default and frontoparietal control networks. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 46 (3), 540–551. 

Blain, S.D., Longenecker, J.M., Grazioplene, R.G., Klimes-Dougan, B., DeYoung, C.G. (2020). Apophenia as the disposition to false positives: A unifying framework for openness and psychoticism. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 129 (3), 279–292. 

Carver, C.S., White, T.L. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: the BIS/BAS scales. Journal of personality and social psychology, 67 (2), 319–333. 

Chmielewski, M., Bagby, R.M., Markon, K., Ring, A.J., & Ryder, A.G. (2014). Openness to experience, intellect, schizotypal personality disorder, and psychoticism: Resolving the controversy. Journal of personality disorders, 28 (4), 483–499. 

Christensen, A.P., Kenett, Y.N., Cotter, K.N., Beaty, R.E., & Silvia, P.J. (2018). Remotely close associations: Openness to experience and semantic memory structure. European Journal of Personality, 32 (4), 480–492. 

DeYoung, C.G., Peterson, J.B., Higgins, D.M. (2002). Higher-order factors of the Big Five predict conformity: Are there neuroses of health? Personality and Individual differences, 33 (4), 533–552. 

DeYoung, C.G., Peterson, J.B., & Higgins, D.M. (2005). Sources of openness/intellect: Cognitive and neuropsychological corre- lates of the fifth factor of personality. Journal of personality, 73 (4), 825–858. 

DeYoung, C.G., Grazioplene, R.G., Peterson, J.B. (2012). From madness to genius: The Openness/Intellect trait domain as a paradoxical simplex. Journal of Research in Personality, 46 (1), 63–78. 

Ehlen, F., Roepke, S., Klostermann, F., Baskow, I., Geise, P., Belica, C., Behnia, B. (2020). Small semantic networks in individuals with autism spectrum disorder without intellectual impairment: a verbal fluency approach. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50 (11), 3967–3987. 

Fayn, K., Silvia, P.J., MacCann, C., & Tiliopoulos, N. (2017). Interested in different things or in different ways? Exploring the engagement distinction between openness and intellect. Journal of Individual Differences, 38 (4), 265–273. 

Fujiwara, M., Numano, S., Tanaka, T., Nakamura, M., Kato, N., & Haruno, M. (2022). Subgroups of people with high Autism-Spectrum Quotient scores identified from a large set of personality traits and attributes. medRxiv. (Retrieved from 

Grondhuis, S.N., Lecavalier, L., Arnold, L.E., Handen, B.L., Scahill, L., McDougle, C.J., & Aman, M.G. (2018). Differences in verbal and nonverbal IQ test scores in children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 49, 47–55. 

Hodgson, A.R., Freeston, M.H., Honey, E., Rodgers, J. (2017). Facing the unknown: Intolerance of uncertainty in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of applied research in intellectual disabilities, 30 (2), 336–344. 

Hollocks, M.J., Lerh, J.W., Magiati, I., Meiser-Stedman, R., Brugha, T.S. (2019). Anxiety and depression in adults with autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological medicine, 49 (4), 559–572. 

Jenkinson, R., Milne, E., & Thompson, A. (2020). The relationship between intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety in autism: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Autism, 24 (8), 1933–1944. 

Keenan, E.G., Gotham, K., Lerner, M.D. (2018). Hooked on a feeling: Repetitive cognition and internalizing symptomatology in relation to autism spectrum symptomatology. Autism, 22 (7), 814–824. 

Kretzschmar, A., Spengler, M., Schubert, A.L., Steinmayr, R., Ziegler, M. (2018). The relation of personality and intelligence — What can the Brunswik symmetry principle tell us? Journal of Intelligence, 6 (3), 30. 

Lehnhardt, F.G., Gawronski, A., Volpert, K., Schilbach, L., Tepest, R., & Vogeley, K. (2011). Psychosocial functioning of adults with late diagnosed autism spectrum disorders — a retrospective study. Fortschritte der Neurologie-Psychiatrie, 80 (2), 88–97. 

Lodi-Smith, J., Rodgers, J.D., Cunningham, S.A., Lopata, C., Thomeer, M.L. (2019). Meta-analysis of Big Five personality traits in autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 23 (3), 556–565. 

Ma-Kellams, C., Wu, M.S. (2020). Gender, behavioral inhibition/activation, and emotional reactions to negative natural and social events. Personality and Individual Differences, 157, 109809. 

Markon, K.E., Krueger, R.F., Watson, D. (2005). Delineating the structure of normal and abnormal personality: an integrative hierarchical approach. Journal of personality and social psychology, 88 (1), 139–157. 

Mayes, S.D., Calhoun, S.L. (2008). WISC–IV and WIAT-II profiles in children with high-functioning autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 38 (3), 428–439. 

McCrae, R.R., Costa, P.T.Jr. (1997). Conceptions and correlates of Openness to Experience. In R. Hogan, J.A. Johnson, & S.R. Briggs (Eds.), Handbook of personality psychology (pp. 269–290). Orlando, FL: Academic Press. 

Mishara, A.L. (2010). Klaus Conrad (1905–1961): Delusional mood, psychosis, and beginning schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 36 (1), 9–13. 

Mundy, P.C., Henderson, H.A., Inge, A.P., Coman, D.C. (2007). The modifier model of autism and social development in higher functioning children. Research and practice for persons with severe disabilities: the journal of TASH, 32 (2), 124–139. 

Must, O., Must, A., & Raudik, V. (2003). The secular rise in IQs: In Estonia, the Flynn effect is not a Jensen effect. Intelligence, 31 (5), 461–471. 

Pavăl, D. (2017). A dopamine hypothesis of autism spectrum disorder. Developmental neuroscience, 39 (5), 355–360. 

Schriber, R.A., Robins, R.W., & Solomon, M. (2014). Personality and self-insight in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of personality and social psychology, 106 (1), 112–130. 

Schwartzman, B.C., Wood, J.J., Kapp, S.K. (2016). Can the five factor model of personality account for the variability of autism symptom expression? Multivariate approaches to behavioral phenotyping in adult autism spectrum disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 46 (1), 253–272. 

Shenk, D. (2017). What is the Flynn Effect, and how does it change our understanding of IQ? Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Cognitive Science, 8 (1), e1366. 

Smits, D.J., Boeck, P.D. (2006). From BIS/BAS to the big five. European journal of personality, 20 (4), 255–270. 

Takayanagi, M., Kawasaki, Y., Shinomiya, M., Hiroshi, H., Okada, S., Ino, T., Niwa, S.I. (2022). Review of cognitive characteristics of autism spectrum disorder using performance on six subtests on four versions of the Wechsler intelligence scale for children. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 52 (1), 240–253. 

Tarasi, L., Trajkovic, J., Diciotti, S., di Pellegrino, G., Ferri, F., Ursino, M., Romei, V. (2022). Predictive waves in the autism-schizophrenia continuum: a novel biobehavioral model. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 132, 1–22. 

Tubío-Fungueiriño, M., Cruz, S., Sampaio, A., Carracedo, A., Fernández-Prieto, M. (2021). Social camouflaging in females with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 51 (7), 2190–2199. 

Van de Cruys, S., Evers, K., Van der Hallen, R., Van Eylen, L., Boets, B., De-Wit, L., Wagemans, J. (2014). Precise minds in uncertain worlds: predictive coding in autism. Psychological review, 121 (4), 649–675. 

Wechsler, D. (1955). Manual for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. New York: Psychological Corporation. 

Williams, D.M., Bowler, D.M., Jarrold, C. (2012). Inner speech is used to mediate short-term memory, but not planning, among intellectually high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder. Developmental Psychopathology, 24, 225–239. 

Zener, D. (2019). Journey to diagnosis for women with autism. Advances in Autism, 5 (1), 2–13.

To cite this article:

Galina L. Kozunova, Artem Y. Novikov, Boris V. Chernyshev. Profile of intellectual abilities and personality traits in adults with high-functioning autism. // National Psychological Journal 2023. 1. p.18-31. doi: 10.11621/npj.2023.0102

Copied to Clipboard