Autism, thy name is man: Exploring implicit and explicit gender bias in autism perceptions


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Males are around three times more likely to possess an autism diagnosis than females. For years this was explained by accounts that considered the male gender more compatible with the autistic phenotype. However, new research suggests that a lack of understanding and recognition of the female autistic phenotype, and a predisposition to associate males with autistic traits, could lead to structural inequalities that hinder the identification of autistic females. To explore how autism and gender are more widely perceived, the present study tested implicit and explicit associations between autism and binary gender using the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and the Autism Quotient (AQ) presented alongside a male or female vignette. A significant association was found on the IAT, identifying an implicit bias towards males and autistic traits. The vignette AQ pairing also revealed some specific items perceived as explicitly male traits, while only reverse-scored items were perceived as female. These findings suggest that current perceptions and even metrics of autism are skewed towards males, which may hinder the identification and understanding of the female autistic phenotype.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Early online date23 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2023


  • autism
  • autism quotient
  • attitudes
  • gender
  • implicit bias
  • implicit association task


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