Can an ‘Extreme Female Brain’ be characterised in terms of psychosis?

Mark Brosnan, Chris Ashwin, Ian Walker, Joseph Donaghue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (SciVal)


The empathising–systemising (E–S) theory proposes that many sex differences can be explained by females typically demonstrating greater empathising abilities (understanding of the social world) and males typically demonstrating greater systemising abilities (understanding of the non-social world). Autism is argued to represent an ‘Extreme Male Brain’, with impaired empathising alongside preserved or enhanced systemising producing a hypo-empathising profile. A recent account hypothesised that a hyper-empathising ‘Extreme Female Brain’ would be characterised in terms of psychosis. The present study tests this hypothesis by investigating the relationship between levels of empathising and systemising, as well as self-report measures of psychosis, depression and anxiety, in 70 healthy female undergraduates. Results showed a hyper-empathising profile was related to psychosis, and specifically paranoia and mania (positive symptoms). No relationship was found between hyper-empathising and either depression or anxiety, consistent with the idea that an ‘Extreme Female Brain’ is specifically associated with psychosis. In addition, empathising and systemising were found to negatively correlate with each other, suggesting they are separate but related components.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-743
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


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