There can be little doubt that the cause of poor scientific literacy in the United States is due to an irrational promotion of FACT PHOBIA. Indeed, what non-science-literate people call ‘black and white thinking” is fact-based thinking.
The nonscientific term ‘black and white thinking’ pops up like a rash all over on the internet, especially in popular pseudioscience ‘help’ websites about autism and Asperger people. It also appears in articles written by psychologists, and has many synonyms: concrete, literal, all-or-nothing, dichotomous, polarized, and primitive thinking.
When I first encountered the claim that Asberger individuals are limited to black and white thinking I was shocked, since I use several thinking processes in order to navigate and understand the world. Each type of processing has its function; one or more processes may be appropriate or useful in any particular situation.
Let’s start with some examples:
From – Asperger for Dummies
Concrete “black-and-white” thinking. Many people with Asperger Syndrome don’t understand unspoken rules, due to difficulties with interpreting figures of speech and nonverbal communication. They tend to rely solely on the words themselves. Difficulty with perceiving nonverbal communication causes significant challenges during social interaction. The same characteristic holds true for people with more classic autism. However, this trait tends to be more startling in those with Asperger Syndrome, due to their often superior verbal skills. Despite the fact that many persons suffering with Asperger Syndrome have high IQs, due to challenges in understanding the unspoken rules of employment, they’re greatly challenged in being successful at a typical job.
I think many non-Aspergers have problems understanding their job requirements: business people are often VERY POOR communicators, are inconsistent in their directions, and don’t bother to interact with “the peasants.” Overall the paragraph leaves the impression that reading body language is the most important qualification for employment, not talent, skills and hard work. As an Asperger individual who has worked in the business sector, “rules of employment” is code for kissing the boss’s ass and spending many hours of each day evading hostile interactions, gossip and telling lies, large and small.
If “mind / body reading” is so valuable and reliable, why do businesses and individuals rely on written contracts?
If one must be in the physical presence of another human in order to communicate, how did the telephone ever get off the ground? Email? Written letters? Faxes?
From the prospectus for – Orion Academy: California, a school for children with Neurocognitive disabilities. “…are very concrete thinkers, viewing everything dualistically—black and white, all or nothing, good or bad; keep in mind that everything you say to them will be taken literally.”
This statement is breathtaking in its black and white characterization of Asperger people. The use of “everything” and “everything you say” is indicative of black and white thinking. The writer sounds quite angry; the real point of the mini-tirade is that children are expected to be obedient, but that Asperger children are egalitarian, operate on facts, and arrive with a terrific instinct for lies.