This post relates a minor encounter with the social culture (interaction with the environment) of typical humans, but demonstrates quite clearly why Asperger people (at least this one) have difficulty communicating with typical humans.
SIGNAGE: No one can deny the importance of signage in modern culture; it’s everywhere. An important function of signage is to communicate directions and instructions without the necessity of having human beings available to give verbal directions and instructions to whomever happens along. Billions of dollars are invested in signage; pictographs have been designed, researched and disseminated so that people, no matter what language they speak, can “read” signs wherever they travel. There exist individuals whose job is to design signage that is effective, but much signage is ordered from stock manufactures that may or may not be customized for a particular location and purpose.
Our town dump opens at 10 A.M. Last night I loaded the truck with the usual type of “dump” stuff and pulled up at the dump entrance at exactly 10 A.M. No, I hadn’t planned to be punctual, it just turned out that way. I noticed that a vehicle was parked at the scale house; good, the woman who runs the scale was not late.
A sign is posted as one drives in. It says: STOP before proceeding. I stopped. I waited. In my mind I was being polite, giving the woman time to do whatever it is she does to be ready to weigh vehicles. This town is easy-going; one does not honk, yell or otherwise hurry another person. We wait. Vehicles stop for pedestrians even when there is no other traffic. I waited.
After a few minutes the woman opened the scale house door and walked up to my to my truck.
“You don’t have to stop. Drive onto the scale,” she said.
“The sign says ‘stop’ so I stopped,” I said.
“The sign means that if there is a vehicle ahead of you on the scale, you have to stop,” she said.
It was a true Asperger moment:
What planet am I on? Within the privacy of my mind I asked, “What human being would think that if a garbage truck or other vehicle is occupying the scale, directly in front of your vehicle, and blocking forward progress, that the next action to take is to attempt to drive onto the scale?”
The important subject that this brings up is the “Social Brain Theory” and in particular “Theory of Mind,” which insists that all normal people can “read each other’s minds.” Laughable, but people take this seriously. Human beings do make assumptions about what other people are thinking, but mostly they are wrong.
Let’s assume that social typical people believe that everyone else can read their minds. Narcissistic yes, but apparently they do believe this, based on the amount of mutually incomprehensible “communication” going on between normal people.
What then, is a sign, but a convenient stand-in for the social mind? The sign at the dump reads, STOP before proceeding. What I was supposed to read was, Stop when the scale is occupied; if unoccupied, drive onto the scale.
What this boils down to is that NO SIGN is NEEDED.
What we see is an overkill of signage and explanations – apparently normal people have no confidence in the “magical telepathy” pushed by psychologists, or their communication skills, and deliver agonizingly repetitive instructions for mind-bogglingly simple actions.