Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access

Publication Date


Faculty Mentor

Jennifer Stevenson


Despite separate phenotypes, autism spectrum disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are difficult to distinguish from one another and frequently co-occur. The effect of co-occurrence on individuals’ cognition is not well characterized. Abstract spatial reasoning has been indicated as a relative strength in autistic individuals, and a relative weakness in individuals with ADHD. To elucidate the effect of ADHD traits on spatial reasoning in the presence and absence of autistic traits, college students (N = 89) completed a cognitive battery consisting of an abstract spatial reasoning task, a concrete spatial reasoning task, a measure of attention, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), and the Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale (BDEFS). Contrary to many previous studies, there was no association between AQ score and abstract spatial reasoning performance (p > 0.1). Score on the AQ and score on the BDEFS had a strong positive correlation (p < 0.01). There was a nonsignificant trend for better abstract spatial reasoning performance among participants with a low AQ score and high BDEFS score (p = 0.06), opposite to the hypothesis. The failure of this study to capture frequently-replicated effects may be a result of relatively mild autistic and ADHD traits in the sample.


Presented as part of the Ursinus College Celebration of Student Achievement (CoSA) held April 23 – April 30, 2020.

The downloadable file is a poster with research findings.


Available to Ursinus community only.