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High-functioning autism, informally known as Asperger’s, involves diminished social skills considered important for university instruction. In an experiment, 370 freshmen and sophomores mostly Caucasian students from a western U. S. university responded to a survey to investigate whether male or female instructors might equally benefit from higher initial student impressions of their teaching ability. Role Congruity Theory suggests that individuals will be supported when their characteristics align with their group’s social roles. The theory implies that women should follow female stereotypes involving more empathy and social skills and less systemization. Examples of social skills include smooth back-and-forth conversations, appropriate eye contact, and interest in students. An example of systemization includes having a specific order in how things are done in a classroom. In contrast, men should follow male stereotypes involving more systemization and less empathy and social skills. As autism is more associated with male characteristics, female university instructors who reveal their male-oriented high-functioning autism might receive lower initial impressions. In contrast, men who reveal their high-functioning autism would receive higher impressions. Results showed that student impressions of female instructors were not significantly different when autism was revealed (p < .26). In contrast, the results show that male instructors had higher student impressions if they reveal their autistic characteristics (p < .01). This research is unique in its focus on the relationship between instructor gender, autism revelations, and student impressions of the instructors. Implications for future research and practice are provided.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Current Psychology, published by Springer Nature Ltd. Copyright restrictions may apply.

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