(My comments in olive Green) A common difficulty in communication between Asperger’s and social typicals is that specific words and word concepts (such as emotions, empathy) do not have common or shared “meanings”
This is not superficial. It reflects differences in the act of communication itself; in the (expected) intent, utility, and outcomes of communication. Social use of language often seems “Nebulous” “self referencing” “vague” and “pointless” to a Concrete visual thinker, whose brain is set to problem-solving mode against a background of logical “natural” structures.
Social typical language is About human relationships that define status on a social hierarchy – A system driven by rigid rules and yet perpetually “under negotiation” at personal, group and class boundaries.
In essence, Asperger types and social types are not talking to each other at all, but about distinct mental “universes” that arise from very different perceptions of the environment – “reality”
Trying to establish “contact” with Asperger’s individuals by forcing them to “reveal social-emotional states” is counterproductive; in fact it is outside our experience of reality. Trying to establish contact with social typicals by “sharing” the fascinating facts of physics, steam locomotion, forest growth cycles or geologic processes is equally hopeless.
No, I don’t have a solution. (Perhaps a sense of humor of the “absurd” kind aids tolerance, at least LOL)
Numbers / Empathy / Emotion
An Asperger chat line exchange:
MOMBOY: My mom mentioned I don’t have much empathy. I told her it was a useless emotion. (Empathy: Is it an emotion, a behavior, a brain function, a concept, or science fiction?) I said that I do help people sometimes to make up for it, minus the emotional baggage. I told her that I usually have an empathy of 2/100. I said it peaks at 20/100. Then she laughed that I use numbers to describe it. She implied that I pull these numbers out of thin air. I feel like these numbers are ways to express approximations. Does anyone else use numbers to describe feelings? Is this funny to you?
MR FORMAL: What works for you, works for you, but when communicating with others you should consider trying to stick with known contexts (words). Otherwise you get weird looks. The point is, there is an amount of conformism that should be observed in order to cleanly operate within soceity. Humans need a consensus in many different areas in order to get along with each other. Communication is one of the most basic consensus items we use to attain this. If you are communicating in another language (foreign, numerical, or invented) then you will be misunderstood by the majority around you. Predict your future if you stick with describing yourself in unconventional ways while in the company of others. The case for social conformity, at least in public.
MOMBOY: You make a good point. However, this is my mother so I can get away with it. And saying “I don’t possess empathy for other humans and you’re not smart enough to understand why” would not score me any more social points than my fractions would. The use of numbers to disguise true feelings and thoughts?
MS LOGIC: It depends on how you think. Being left brained I always use numbers to describe things, but most people don’t. Being a person of math most things are approximations, only theorems are absolute after all. Approximations = shades of emotion.
MOMBOY: When I think of something that has a quantitative value (amount of empathy or something), I see a glass of liquid and I guage how full it is. Numeric is then the most logical way. Visual conversion of quantity.
MS LOGIC: I don’t see a glass of liquid, but I agree that numbers tend to be the most logical representation. That way you can organize things based on situation. Just to clarify, my give-a-shit meter works on a percentage scale. Your fraction based system is very similar though. (Fractions are percentages!) Visualizing quantities – numbers.
MR FORMAL: A perfect example of communication building based on associating language with context. Keep this up and you guys will be speaking half in numbers and half in words.
MOMBOY: I don’t use the numbers in speech unless someone asks me how much empathy I feel for a certain situation. That has yet to happen, so for now my mind just uses the numbers as markers. The numbers gauge things comparatively against what you think about other events, not comparing what you think to what others think.
MR FORMAL: You misunderstand me, however, I was thinking along the lines of you both developing a new way of expressing something through a hybridization of an old language and a new element. And I was running a social simulation in my head where human language used numbers instead of words to describe feelings. Creative compromise.
NEWBOY: The numbers are useless without context. 1/100 could be referencing happiness, grief, or relief. I don’t think a language based entirely off of numbers is practical. Unless of course you change certain numbers to be words. As in when I say “5” it holds the same meaning as the word empathy. That would be rather clumsy though. There are languages based on numbers – they’re called CODES.
MOMBOY: There is little difference between how we use numbers and how other people use terms such as a lot, somewhat, strongly, very etc…
NEWGIRL: We just use the numbers because they are more concise and pleasing to us. In reality there is almost no difference between these two “I strongly empathize with XXX” and “I empathize 90% with XXX” Even though to some it may sound foreign to some people.
MOMBOY: Exactly. Numbers allow thoughts to be clarified in ways that are often notable. By supporting someone’s actions 85 percent (instead of saying support them greatly), the 15 percent left speaks volumes. It leaves room for a lecture, (fudging between saying what you think and limiting the social blowback?) yet still conveys that you are not in terrible opposition to the person’s actions; thus they needn’t be too troubled by your critique. Numbers (in the right context of course) can say a lot to people.
MS. DAISY: Makes perfect sense to me. I usually either feel an emotion or I don’t, so I don’t think that quantifying them would help me very much. With that in mind, though, I think it’s a very useful concept, at least for introspection. I doubt most people would appreciate the numeric representation of emotions, as it probably comes off as being a bit cold.
MOMBOY: The touchy feely types may not appreciate such a mathematical approach to detecting emotion.
JOINER: To me, emotion is like a smoke or a fog that moves a bit like liquid. Emotion is very ethereal. Feeling emotion is like a mystical treasure. But deciding how important it is? That must done with the most precise logic. Very visual experience – of a physical state.
MR MATH: I describe feelings with numbers most of the time as well because it’s easier for me to explain feelings this way. I suppose it just depends on whom you’re talking to whether they’ll appreciate it or not. Most of the people in my life have gotten used to it. I can explain my interest in someone in terms of “Its 10% friendship, 20% …” Having to translate physical feeling (emotion) into numbers in order to describe it.
MR FORMAL: I have a couple of published papers on quantification of soft cognition: beliefs, hunches, biases, assumptions, uncertainty, emotional mood, etc. This is for research related to applications in artificial intelligence. Some of my recent research is based upon a “calculus” I have developed – Bias-Based Reasoning, which mathematizes mental percepts.
MS Daisy: Sometimes I do quantify a feeling in terms of how much i would spend on something. (Me) This I can relate to: if I want to limit calories to 1200 / day, the calories automatically convert to dollars and I “spend them” on food. It’s very different to think of a 400 calorie chocolate bar costing $4.00 out of a $12.00 budget, which shows that it’s not a “bargain.”
MR MATH: My natural tendency is to use numbers. I think in terms of a horizontal line with 100% at one side and 0% at the other. I have learned to edit out the % with most people as I feel I come across very nerdy and I know most people don’t relate to it. Visual conversion of numbers. This is familiar to me as a visual thinker.
NEW GIRL: I would say my empathy can get to 8/10 at extreme conditions, usually falls around a steady 0.37/10.00 and coasts up to 3/10 sometimes. A bit wacky, but perhaps charming. LOL!