Prevalence of bias against neurodivergence-related terms in artificial intelligence language models

Autism Res. 2024 Feb;17(2):234-248. doi: 10.1002/aur.3094. Epub 2024 Jan 29.


Given the increasing role of artificial intelligence (AI) in many decision-making processes, we investigate the presence of AI bias towards terms related to a range of neurodivergent conditions, including autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We use 11 different language model encoders to test the degree to which words related to neurodiversity are associated with groups of words related to danger, disease, badness, and other negative concepts. For each group of words tested, we report the mean strength of association (Word Embedding Association Test [WEAT] score) averaged over all encoders and find generally high levels of bias. Additionally, we show that bias occurs even when testing words associated with autistic or neurodivergent strengths. For example, embedders had a negative average association between words related to autism and words related to honesty, despite honesty being considered a common strength of autistic individuals. Finally, we introduce a sentence similarity ratio test and demonstrate that many sentences describing types of disabilities, for example, "I have autism" or "I have epilepsy," have even stronger negative associations than control sentences such as "I am a bank robber."

Keywords: artificial intelligence; autism; fairness and bias; neurodiversity; word embeddings.

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Prevalence