There’s research to support the connection between autism and logical thinking.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference that affects the way people think and communicate with others. A preference for logical thinking is a characteristic of autism in many people.

Not all autistic people lean on logic to guide their thinking, though. Like any group of people, there are variations in preferences and thinking styles.

Enhanced logic is only one of several valuable cognitive variations that autistic people contribute to humanity.

If you’re autistic and feel like logical thinking is one of your strengths, there’s research to support this.

Autistic people tend to have enhanced logic and deliberation skills, which may help to offset a reduced drive toward intuition and spontaneous decision-making.

Types of reasoning

The dual-process theory is a cognitive psychology model for human reasoning. It describes two ways that people arrive at decisions:

Type 1Type 2
intuitivedeliberative
rapidslower
effortlesseffortful
parallelsequential
non-consciousconscious
experience-basedrule-based

Many allistic (non-autistic) people lean toward the type 1 reasoning style. Autistics are often more skilled at type 2, as shown in a 2016 study involving young male adults.

The framing effect

Autistic people may be less vulnerable to the framing effect, which is the way that context can influence choices. Advertisers use this concept to sway consumer purchase decisions.

For example, potential buyers are more likely to select toothpaste that’s recommended by “9 out of 10” dentists. However, if the box reads “only 10% of dentists don’t recommend this product,” it loses its appeal.

Because autistic people tend to be more logical and less emotional about making decisions, the framing effect may not have as much impact on the choices they make.

Alexithymia and body awareness

Other research from 2016 suggests that this decreased emotional decision-making may be a part of alexithymia, which is a reduced ability to understand or recognize emotions. Only about half of autistic people have alexithymia.

Alexithymia is connected to interoception, or internal body awareness, which can also affect a person’s decision-making. If you’ve ever noticed your heart rate increase or felt butterflies in your stomach, you’ve experienced interoception.

Interoceptive accuracy (IA) is associated with emotion-based reasoning. People with alexithymia have less IA, but not all autistic experience this. Research shows that autistic people without alexithymia have intact IA and can make intuitive decisions.

Much like allistic people, autistic people have a range of thinking styles. You might have alexithymia and consider logical ability to be your superpower. You could have IA and be more intuitive. Or you might be somewhere in between.

Variation in logic use is just one of several cognitive differences you might experience as an autistic person:

Focused interests

Also referred to as “restricted interests,” this common autistic talent for detail means that you might be a topic specialist.

It may mean you sometimes overwhelm your friends with information about your favorite pastime, but it also can be a vocational advantage if you find a career in your chosen field.

Literal language interpretation

The allistic world is full of metaphors, like “it’s raining cats and dogs.” While it’s highly unlikely to see pets falling from the sky, some figures of speech are more subtle, like “hold on,” which can mean either “wait” or “don’t let go” depending on the context. The upside of being literal with language is that people with this tendency may also be grammar and vocabulary experts.

Pattern perception

You may have heard the term “autistic savant” (maybe you are one). Researchers believe that enhanced talent for pattern recognition is what gives some autistics savant ability, like calendar calculating.

Theory of mind

Research from 2019 revisits and calls into question the long-held belief that autistic people have theory of mind deficits. Theory of mind is a person’s ability to recognize that other people have different perspectives and experiences.

While some autistic people may experience theory of mind differences, many have intact theory of mind ability.

Bottom-up thinking

Non-autistic people tend to assess concepts before details, also known as top-down thinking. Autistic people take the opposite approach with bottom-up thinking and use details to build concepts. It may take longer to filter out sensory details with this approach, but you’re less likely to miss important information.

Autistic and allistic people have some differences in thinking styles. There are strengths and weaknesses in both ways of thinking.

Recognizing the differences can be the first step to optimizing communication.

For example, if you know you tend to take word meanings literally, you can explain this to the allistic people in your life and ask for clarification when needed.

On the other hand, you may find yourself being a valued source of objectivity for a friend who’s challenged by an emotion-based decision.

Regardless of how often you’re able to use your strengths, it can be tiring and anxiety-provoking to be a minority in a society mostly comprised of allistic people. If you’re looking for support, there are resources available, some of which include: