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Innovation through neurodiversity: Diversity is beneficial

Autism 2023, Vol. 27(7) 2193–2198

Innovation through neurodiversity: Diversity is beneficial


Harriet Axbey 1 , Nadin Beckmann 1 , Sue Fletcher-Watson 2 , Alisdair Tullo 2 and Catherine J Crompton 2
1 Durham University, UK
2 University of Edinburgh, UK


Those experiencing high rapport or strong social connection are more likely to copy each other, or emulate each other’s ideas, either consciously or sub-consciously. In this study, we use this phenomenon to examine whether neurotype match or mismatch impacts degree of imitation in a creative task. We asked 71 participants in neurodiverse pairs (including both autistic and non-autistic participants) and single-neurotype pairs (both autistic or both non-autistic), where one participant builds and one observes, to build the tallest possible tower from dried spaghetti and plasticine. We measured the height of each tower and photographed them to create a stimulus set. We then asked independent raters (n = 351, 62 autistic) to rate towers for degree of similarity. We hypothesised that lower similarity scores would be generated for towers created by people in neurodiverse pairs, showing positive innovation. Results showed towers built in the neurodiverse condition had least similarity, whereas towers built in the autistic and non-autistic conditions were significantly more similar. There was no difference in performance (height of tower) based on condition. Our results are the first to examine creativity within single-neurotype and neurodiverse pairs; they indicate that neurological diversity may be beneficial within a group setting. Subsequent research is required to examine how this interacts with divergent communication styles.