Question / Is Common Sense even better than Empathy?

My posting has slowed to almost nothing since last Saturday:

Summer at last; warm winds, blue skies, puffy clouds. The dog and I are both delirious over the ability to “get out of” quasi imprisonment indoors.

Into the truck; a short drive to the south, up and over the canyon edge into the wide open space of the plateau. Out into “the world again” striding easily along a two-rut track that goes nowhere; the type that is established by the driver of a first vehicle, turning off the road, through the brush, and headed nowhere. Humans cannot resist such a “lure” – Who drove off the road and why? Maybe the track does go somewhere. And so, the tracks grow, simply by repetition of the “nowhere” pattern. Years pass; ruts widen, deepen, grow and are bypassed, smoothed out, and grow again, becoming as permanent and indestructible as the Appian Way.

This particular set of ruts is a habitual dog-walking path for me: the view, the wind, the light, the sky whipped into a frenzy of lovely clouds… and then, agony. Gravel underfoot has turned my foot, twisting my ankle and plunging me into a deep rut and onto the rough ground. Pain; not Whoops, I tripped pain, but OMG! I’m screwed pain. I make a habit of glancing a few feet ahead to check where my feet are going, but my head was in the clouds.

This isn’t the first time in 23 years that I’ve taken a fall out in the boonies: a banged up shin or knee, a quick trip to the gravel; scraped hands, even a bonk on the head, but now… can I walk back to the truck, or even stand up? One, two, three… up.

Wow! Real pain; there’s no choice. Get to the truck, which appears to be very, very far away, at this point. Hobble, hobble, hobble; stop. Don’t stop! Keep going. Glance up at the truck to check periodically to see if it’s “growing bigger” – reachable. I always tell myself the same (true) mantra in circumstances like this: shut out time, let it pass, and suddenly, there you will be, pulling open the truck door and pulling yourself inside.

There is always some dumb luck in these matters: it’s my left ankle. I don’t need my left foot to drive home. Then the impossible journey from the truck to the house, the steps, the keys, wrangling the dog and her leash, trying not to get tangled and fall again – falling through the doorway, grabbing something and landing on the couch. Now what?

That was five days ago. Five days of rolling around with my knee planted in the seat of a wheeled office chair, pushing with the right foot as far as I can go, then hopping like a  one-legged kangaroo the rest of the way. Dwindling food supplies; unable to stand to cook; zapping anything eligible in the microwave. No milk in my coffee. Restless nights. Any bump to my bandaged foot wakes me up. This is ridiculous! My life utterly disrupted by a (badly) sprained ankle. I think I’m descending into depression.

Bipedalism, of course, begins to takeover my thoughts. But first, I try to locate hope on the internet, googling “treatment for sprained ankle.” You’re screwed, the pages of entries say. One begins to doubt “evolution” as the master process that produces elegant and sturdy design. Ankles are a nightmare of tiny bones and connecting ligaments, with little blood supply to heal the damage, and once damaged, a human can expect a long recovery, intermittent swelling and inevitable reinjury, for as long as you live.

It seems that for our “wild ancestors” a simple sprain could trigger the expiration date for any individual unlucky enough to be injured: the hyenas, big cats, bears and other local predators circle in, and then the vultures. Just like any other animal grazing the savannah or born into the forest, vulnerability = death. It’s as true today as it ever was. Unless someone is there with you when you are injured, you can be royally screwed: people die in their own homes due to accidents. People die in solo car wrecks. People go for a day hike in a state park and within an hour or two, require rescue, hospitalization and difficult recovery, from one slip in awareness and focus. And, being in the company of one or more humans, hardly guarantees survival. Success may depend on their common sense.

So: the question arises around this whole business of Homo sapiens, The Social Species. There are many social species, and it is claimed that some “non-human” social species “survive and reproduce successfully” because they “travel together” in the dozens, thousands or millions and “empathize” with others of their kind. Really? How many of these individual organisms even notice that another is in peril, other than to sound the alarm and get the hell out of the danger zone or predator’s path? How one human mind gets from reproduction in massive numbers, that is, playing the “numbers game” (1/ 100, 1/100, 1, 100,000 new creatures survive in a generation), and the congregation of vast numbers in schools, flocks and the odds for “not being one of the few that gets caught and eaten” – how one gets from there to “pan-social wonderfulness” is one of the mysteries of the social human mind.

There are occasions when a herd may challenge a predator, or a predatory group; parents (usually the female), will defend offspring in varying manner and degree, but what one notices in encounters (fortuitously caught on camera, posted on the internet or included in documentaries) that solitary instances are declared to represent “universal behavior” and proof of the existence of (the current fad of) empathy in “lesser animals”. What is ignored (inattentional blindness) and not posted, is the usual behavior; some type of distraction or defensive behavior is invested in, but the attempt is abandoned, at some “common sense point” in the interaction; the parents give up, or the offspring or herd member is abandoned.

What one notices is that the eggs and the young of all species supply an immense amount of food for other species.

Skittles evolved solely as a food source for Homo sapiens children. It has no future as a species. LOL

I’ve been watching a lot of “nature documentaries” to pass the time. This is, in its way, an extraordinary “fact of nature”. Our orientation to extreme Darwinian evolution (reductionist survival of the fittest) is stunningly myopic. We create narratives from “wildlife video clips” edited and narrated to confirm our imaginary interpretation of natural processes; the baby “whatever” – bird, seal, monkey, or cute cub; scrambling, helpless, clueless, “magically” escapes death (dramatic soundtrack, breathless narration) due to Mom’s miraculous, just-in-the-nick-of-time return. The scoundrel predator is foiled once again; little penguin hero “Achilles” (they must have names) has triumphantly upheld our notion that “survival is no accident” – which in great measure is exactly what it is.

One thing about how evolution “works” (at least as presented) has always bothered me no end: that insistence that the individual creatures which survive to reproduce are “the fittest”. How can we know that? What if among the hundreds, thousands, millions of “young” produced, but almost immediately destroyed or consumed by chance, by random events, by the natural changes and disasters that occur again and again, the genetic potential “to be most fit” had been eliminated, depriving the species of potential even “better” adaptations than what those we see? We have to ask, which individuals are “fittest” for UNKNOWN challenges that have not yet occurred? Where is the variation that may be acted upon by the changing environment?

This is a problem of human perception; of anthropomorphic projection, of the unfailing insistence of belief in an intentional universe. Whatever “happens” is the fulfilment of a plan; evolution is distorted to “fit” the human conceit, that by one’s own superior DNA, survival and reproduction necessarily become fact. 

Human ankles (and many other details) of human physiology are not “great feats of evolutionary engineering.”

Like those two-rut roads that are ubiquitous where I live, chance predicts that most of evolution’s organisms “go nowhere” but do constitute quick and easy energy sources for a multitude of other organisms.

 

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Big 5 Personality Traits / cont., The Evolution of Personality Variation in Humans

I would submit that these personality factors are not scientifically valid, but socially invented and constructed; not objective, but subjective. This “theory without proof” lies outside the scientific method of proof – but these “speculations” are the basis for Psychology; the socio-cultural Western religion.   

Note the highly “socially judgmental” descriptions of “low scorers” and “high scorers”. A polarized view of human personality, in which “socially approved” characteristics (outgoing, empathetic, warm, helpful) are given “high scores” The  trait categories are also skewed: extraversion, agreeableness, openness – conscientiousness, neuroticism! How do these highly subjective ideas drive the relentless push toward conformity to social prescriptions for “normal, typical, or idealized” behavior, which is determined by culture? What they “measure” is the opinion of the measurer – and his or her socio-cultural agenda. As the author points out, “However, it is important not to conflate social desirability with positive effects on fitness.” 

continued from: The Evolution of Personality Variation in Humans and animals by Daniel Nettle, Newcastle University in American Psychologist, 2006  Evolution and Behaviour Research Group, Division of Psychology, Henry Wellcome Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle NE2 4HH, United Kingdom.

Human Personality Traits

The rest of this article follows the structure of the five factor model of personality (Costa & McCrae, 1985, 1992; Digman, 1990). Though the five broad factors, or domains, are decomposable into finer facets (Costa & McCrae, 1985) and certainly do not capture all the variation in human personality (Paunonen & Jackson, 2000), there is broad consensus that they are useful representations of the major axes of variation in human disposition (Digman, 1990). Following the considerations outlined in the previous section, I briefly examine the nature of each domain and consider the kinds of costs and benefits that increasing the level of the domain might have with respect to biological fitness. The reviews here are speculative, but they are offered in the hope of stimulating empirical work and of drawing psychologists’ attention to the idea that changing the level of a trait is associated with fitness costs as well as fitness benefits.

Extraversion

Note that many of the “negative risk factors” are actually admired and rewarded in American males: I would go so far as to say, that ‘extraversion’ is tailor-made permission for “boys to be boys” as defined culturally. In females, these same behaviors are viewed negatively. Also, my comments refer to the BIG 5 model, not to the author’s concepts. 

A dimension related to positive emotion, exploratory activity, and reward is a feature common to all personality frameworks and theories. Its most common label is extraversion, and its proximate basis is thought to involve variation in dopamine-mediated reward circuits in the brain (Depue & Collins, 1999). I have outlined a trade-offs-based evolutionary model for the maintenance of polymorphism in extraversion (Nettle, 2005). Extraversion is strongly and positively related to number of sexual partners (Heaven, Fitzpatrick, Craig, Kelly, & Sebar, 2000; Nettle, 2005), which, for men in particular, can increase fitness. High scorers are also more likely to engage in extrapair copulations or to terminate a relationship for another. This may lead to their securing mates of higher quality than those secured by individuals who are more constant in their choice of partners. The benefits of extraversion are not limited to mating, as extraverts, or those high on the closely correlated trait of sensation seeking, initiate more social behavior (Buchanan, Johnson, & Goldberg, 2005) and have more social support (Franken, Gibson, & Mohan, 1990) than others. Moreover, they are more physically active and undertake more exploration of their environment (Chen et al., 1999; Kircaldy, 1982). However, in pursuing high sexual diversity, and high levels of exploration and activity in general, extraverts also expose themselves to risk. Those who are hospitalized due to accident or illness are higher in extraversion than those who are not (Nettle, 2005), and those who suffer traumatic injury have been found to be high in sensation seeking (Field & O’Keefe, 2004). High extraversion or sensation seeking scorers also have elevated probabilities of migrating (Chen et al., 1999), becoming involved in criminal or antisocial behavior (Ellis, 1987), and being arrested (Samuels et al., 2004). All of these are sources of risk, risk that in the ancestral environment might have meant social ostracism or death. Moreover, because of their turnover of relationships, extraverts have an elevated probability of
exposing their offspring to step-parenting, which is a known risk factor for child well-being. One can thus conceive of extraversion as leading to benefits in terms of mating opportunities and exploration of novel aspects of the environment but carrying costs in terms of personal survival and possibly offspring welfare. It is unlikely that there will be a universal optimal position on this trade-off curve. Instead, local conditions, including the density and behavioral strategies of surrounding individuals, could lead to a constant fluctuation in the optimal value, and hence genetic polymorphism would be retained.

Neuroticism (Traditionally in psych / psych dogma, Neuroticism is by default the normal “female” condition.)

The neuroticism personality axis is associated with variation in the activity levels of negative emotion systems such as fear, sadness, anxiety, and guilt. The negative effects of neuroticism are well-known in the psychological literature. High neuroticism is a strong predictor of psychiatric disorder in general (Claridge & Davis, 2001), particularly depression and anxiety. Neuroticism is also associated with impaired physical health, presumably through chronic activation of stress mechanisms (Neeleman et al., 2002). Neuroticism is a predictor of relationship failure and social isolation (Kelly & Conley, 1987). A much more challenging issue, then, is finding any compensatory benefit to neuroticism. However, given the normal distribution observed in the human population, and the persistence of lineages demonstrably high in the trait, such a benefit seems likely. Studies in nonhuman animals, such as guppies (see the Evolution of Variation section), suggest that vigilance and wariness are both highly beneficial in avoiding predation and highly costly because they are quickly lost when predation pressure is absent. In ancestral environments, a level of neuroticism may have been necessary for avoidance of acute dangers. Anxiety, of which neuroticism can be considered a trait measure, enhances detection of threatening stimuli by speeding up the reaction to them, interpreting ambiguous stimuli as negative, and locking attention onto them (Mathews, Mackintosh, & Fulcher, 1997).

Because actual physical threats are generally attenuated in contemporary situations, (this is highly dependent on gender, race, socio-economic and class status and geographical location) the safety benefits of neuroticism may be hard to detect empirically. However, certain groups who take extreme risks, such as alpinists (mostly male?) (Goma-i-Freixanet, 1991) and Mount Everest climbers (Egan & Stelmack, 2003), have been found to be unusually low in neuroticism. Given the high mortality involved in such endeavors (around 300 people have died in attempting Everest), this finding suggests that neuroticism can be protective. There may also be other kinds of benefits to neuroticism. Neuroticism is positively correlated with competitiveness (Ross, Stewart, Mugge, & Fultz, 2001). McKenzie has shown that, among university students, academic success is strongly positively correlated with neuroticism among those who are resilient enough to cope with its effects (McKenzie, 1989; McKenzie, Taghavi-Knosary, & Tindell, 2000). Thus negative affect can be channeled into striving to better one’s position. However, here neuroticism certainly interacts with other factors. When intelligence or conscientiousness is high, for example, the outcomes of neuroticism may be significantly different than when such factors are low. Thus it is quite possible that very low neuroticism has fitness disadvantages in terms of lack of striving or hazard avoidance. Although very high neuroticism has evident drawbacks, it may also serve as a motivator to achievement in competitive fields among those equipped to succeed. Thus the optimal value of neuroticism would plausibly depend on precise local conditions and other attributes of the person, leading to the maintenance of polymorphism.

Openness

The trait of openness to experience again seems, at first blush, to be an unalloyed good. Openness is positively related to artistic creativity (McCrae, 1987). According to Miller’s (1999; 2000a) cultural courtship model, creative production in artistic domains serves to attract mates, and there is evidence that women find creativity attractive, (Again, we have the problem of just who is defining and judging what qualifies as “creative production”, a highly subjective culturally-dependent matter, often attributed in the U.S. to whatever/whomever makes a profit…) creative especially during the most fertile phase of the menstrual cycle (Haselton & Miller, 2006), and that poets and visual artists have higher numbers of sexual partners than controls (Nettle & Clegg, 2006). The core of openness seems to be a divergent cognitive style that seeks novelty and complexity and makes associations or mappings between apparently disparate domains (McCrae, 1987). Though such a cognitive style might appear purely beneficial, it is conceptually very similar to components of schizotypy, or proneness to psychosis (of course; creative types are “dangerous” in a rigid, impoverished culture of social conformity) (Green & Williams, 1999; Woody & Claridge, 1977). Indeed, five-factor Openness correlates positively with the Unusual Experiences scale of the Oxford–Liverpool Inventory for Feelings and Experiences schizotypy inventory (Mason, Claridge, & Jackson, 1995; Rawlings & Freeman, 1997). The Unusual Experiences scale is also correlated with measures of creativity (Nettle, in press-b; Schuldberg, 2000). Individuals scoring high in Unusual Experiences and on measures of creativity have increased levels of paranormal belief (McCreery & Claridge, 2002; Thalbourne, 2000; Thalbourne & Delin, 1994), and five-factor Openness itself is positively correlated with beliefs in the paranormal (Charlton, 2005). The Unusual Experiences trait is elevated in schizophrenia patients (Nettle, in press), and an extremely similar scale predicted the onset of schizophrenia in a longitudinal study (Chapman, Chapman, Kwapil, Eckblad,&Zinser,1994).Thus, openness and its covariates are associated with damaging psychotic and delusional phenomena as well as high function. Openness itself has been found to be associated with depression (Nowakowska, Strong, Santosa, Wang, & Ketter, 2005), as has a high score on the Unusual Experiences scale (Nettle, in press-b). Thus, the unusual thinking style characteristic of openness can lead to nonveridical ideas about the world, from supernatural or paranormal belief systems to the frank break with reality that is psychosis. What determines whether the outcome of openness is benign or pathological is not fully understood. It may be a simple matter of degree, or there may be interactions with developmental events. Poets, for example, differ from schizophrenia patients not in their Unusual Experiences scores, which are in the same range, but in the absence of negative symptoms such as anhedonia and social withdrawal (Nettle, in press-b).

And yet, we relentlessly promote creativity and “out of the box” thinking in American schools as social positives; are we actually promoting sexual promiscuity, schizophrenia, “Ancient Alien” “UFO” “Paranormal” delusion and psychotic behavior?

The Unusual Experiences trait is positively correlated with mating success in nonclinical populations, at least partly because it leads to creativity (Nettle & Clegg, 2006). However, when it leads to schizophrenia, reproductive success is much reduced (Avila et al., 2001; Bassett et al., 1996). Thus the fitness payoffs to openness appear to be very context or condition dependent, leading to the retention of variation.

Conscientiousness

The remaining two personality domains, conscientiousness and agreeableness, are often thought of as being unalloyed in their benefits, because they are generally negatively related to measures of delinquency and antisocial behavior (e.g. Heaven, 1996). However, it is important not to conflate social desirability with positive effects on fitness. Natural selection favors traits that increase reproductive success, including many cases in which this success comes at the expense of other individuals. It is likely that fitness can be enhanced by a capacity to demand a free ride, break rules, and cheat on others under certain circumstances. Conscientiousness involves orderliness and self-control in the pursuit of goals. A by-product of conscientiousness is that immediate gratification is often delayed in favor of a longer term plan. This leads, for example, to a positive association of conscientiousness with life expectancy (Friedman et al., 1995), which works through adoption of healthy behaviors and avoidance of unhygienic risks. Very high levels of traits related to conscientiousness —moral principle, perfectionism, and self-control—are found in patients with eating disorders and with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (Austin & Deary, 2000; Claridge & Davis, 2003).

Though some obsessional individuals can be very high achievers in the modern context, it is not evident that their fitness would always have been maximal in a variable and unpredictable ancestral environment. Their extreme self control not only may be damaging, as their routines become pathological, but may lead to the missing of spontaneous opportunities to enhance reproductive success. Highly conscientious individuals have fewer short-term mating episodes (Schmidt, 2004) and will forgo opportunities to take an immediate return that may be to their advantage. Adaptations that orient the organism toward working for long-term payoffs will tend to have the effect of reducing the opportunistic taking of immediate ones. This can have fitness costs and benefits, which will vary with local conditions.

Agreeableness

Agreeableness, with its correlates of empathy and trust, is also generally seen as beneficial by personality psychologists, and its absence is associated with antisocial personality disorder (Austin & Deary, 2000). Agreeableness is strongly correlated with Baron-Cohen’s empathizing scale (Nettle, in press-a), which is in turn argued to measure theory of mind abilities and the awareness of others’ mental states (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004). Several evolutionary psychologists have argued plausibly that as a highly social species, humans have been under strong selection to attend to and track the mental states of others (Byrne & Whiten, 1988; Dunbar, 1996; Humphrey, 1976). Others have noted that we seem to be unique among mammals in the extent of our cooperation with unrelated conspecifics. Inasmuch as agreeableness facilitates these interactions, it would be highly advantageous. Agreeable individuals have harmonious interpersonal interactions and avoid violence and interpersonal hostility (Caprara, Barbaranelli, & Zimbardo, 1996; Heaven, 1996; Suls, Martin, & David, 1998). They are much valued as friends and coalition partners. Although this may be true, a vast literature in theoretical biology has been devoted to demonstrating that unconditional trust of others is almost never an adaptive strategy. Across a wide variety of conditions, unconditional trusters are invariably outcompeted by defectors or by those whose trust is conditional or selective (see, e.g., Axelrod & Hamilton, 1981; Maynard-Smith, 1982; Trivers, 1971). Levels of aggression can often be selected for (Maynard-Smith, 1982). Very high agreeableness, if it led to an excessive attention to the needs and interests of others, or excessive trusting, would be detrimental to fitness. Among modern executives, agreeableness is negatively related to achieved remuneration and status (Boudreau, Boswell, & Judge, 2001), and creative accomplishment (as distinct from creative potential) is negatively related to agreeableness (King, Walker, & Broyles, 1996). Though it is an uncomfortable truth to recognize, it is unlikely that fitness is unconditionally maximized by investing energy in positive attention to others. Instead, though an empathic cognitive style may be useful in the whirl of social life, it may have costs in terms of exploitation or inattention to personal fitness gains.

Moreover, sociopaths, who are low in agreeableness, may at least sometimes do very well in terms of fitness, especially when they are rare in a population (Mealey, 1995). The balance of advantages between being agreeable and looking after personal interests will obviously vary enormously according to context. For example, in a small isolated group with a limited number of people to interact with and a need for common actions, high agreeableness may be selected for. Larger, looser social formations, or situations in which the environment allows solitary foraging, may select agreeableness downward.

Conclusions

This article has had several purposes. The first has been to stress that heritable variation is ubiquitous in wild populations and therefore should be expected as the normal outcome of evolutionary processes acting on human behavioral tendencies. Thus, personality variation can be understood in the context of a large literature, both theoretical and empirical, on variation in other species.

Second, I have suggested that a fruitful way of looking at variation is in terms of trade-offs of different fitness benefits and costs (summarized in Table 1 for the Big Five personality factors). Theories based on trade-offs have been very successful in providing an understanding of evolution in other species. Moreover, the idea of trade-offs can be usefully married to the notion of fluctuating selection to explain the persistence of diversity. Such accounts are not speculative. Studies such as those on great tits, guppies, finches, and sunfish (see the section on Evolution of Variation) have demonstrated how fluctuations in environmental context change the fitness outcomes associated with particular phenotypes, which in turn affects the future shape of the population through natural selection. Thus, researchers examining nonhuman variation have been able to go well beyond post hoc explanations and actually observe evolution in action. The current trade-off account builds on the ideas of MacDonald (1995), who argued that the observed range of variation represents the range of viable human behavioral strategies and who stressed that there are fitness disadvantages at the extremes. Thus, he stressed stabilizing selection. The present argument is that selection can fluctuate, such that it may sometimes be directional for increasing a trait and sometimes be directional for decreasing it. Among the great tits, for example, selection on exploration is clearly directional in any given year (Dingemanse et al., 2004). The retention of a normal distribution is a consequence of the inconsistency of the direction of selection, not its stabilizing form. That said, I agree with MacDonald that there could be quite general disadvantages at the extremes of some personality dimensions, such as chronic depression with high neuroticism, or obsessive–compulsive personality disorder with high conscientiousness. It is not a necessary feature of the current approach that there always be stabilizing effects. The other major difference between the current approach and that of MacDonald (1995) is that he did not fully develop the notion of trade-offs across the middle range of a continuum, and in particular, he did not develop empirical predictions for the nature of trade-offs for all the different five-factor dimensions. It is important to stress that trade-offs and fluctuating selection are not the only possible approaches to the maintenance of heritable variation. Biologists have also observed that there are a number of traits that are unidirectionally correlated with fitness and yet in which substantial heritable variation is maintained (Rowe & Houle, 1996). An example would be physical symmetry. In general, the more symmetrical an individual, the higher its fitness, and yet heritable variation in symmetry persists. The maintenance of variation in such cases appears paradoxical, because directional selection might be expected to home in on perfect symmetry and winnow out all variation. The solution to the paradox appears to be that such global traits as symmetry are affected by mutations to many, if not most, genes. Most mutations that arise are to some extent deleterious, so deviation from physical symmetry becomes an index of the load of mutations an individual is carrying.

Selection, particularly that operating via mate choice, favors symmetry, and thus individual deleterious mutations are winnowed from the population. However, so many genes are involved that there is a constant stream of new mutations maintaining population diversity. Thus, symmetry is a fitness indicator trait in that it is a reliable signal of genetic quality. Some heritable human traits may be better explained by fitness indicator theory than by trade-off theory. Miller (2000b), for example, has applied such reasoning to intelligence. Intelligence is correlated with physical symmetry, (reallsuggesting that it taps overall quality (Prokosch, Yeo, & Miller, 2005). Thus, a fitness indicator approach seems likely to be fruitful in such a case. For personality, however, I suggest that an evolutionary trade-off account is likely to be useful. This does not mean that all personality differences are to be explained by the same mechanism. There are likely to be developmental calibration effects, too, as indicated by behavior genetics data showing a role for the unique environment and also as suggested by recent studies on early life stress and adult behavior (Figueredo et al., 2005). However, for the heritable basis of personality, the combination of trade-off and genetic polymorphism seems a fruitful avenue to pursue. It might be objected that the particular costs and benefits put forward here are speculative and as such amount to just-so stories about how personality variation has arisen. The former is true; as for the latter, such a charge misunderstands the utility of adaptive explanation in psychology. The evolutionary framework used here is hypothesis generating. That is, an article such as this one, which draws on evolutionary biology, is not an end in itself but rather an engine for generating testable empirical ideas.

The particular costs and benefits listed here may not turn out to be the correct ones. However, the framework makes testable predictions that would not have been arrived at inductively. For extraversion, the hypothesis that high scorers will have greater numbers of sexual partners but more serious injuries has already been confirmed (Nettle, 2005). For neuroticism, the current framework makes the prediction that performance on certain types of perceptual monitoring tasks, such as detecting an artificial predator, will actually be improved by neuroticism. Because neuroticism impairs performance on many kinds of tasks, this is a novel prediction.

For openness, the model predicts that high scorers will either be socially successful through creative activity or be socially and culturally marginalized through bizarre beliefs, (who decides which beliefs are “bizarre beliefs? This is highly culturally and individually determined) and the determinants of which outcome prevails may depend on overall condition. This is a hypothesis that certainly merits further investigation (see Nettle & Clegg, 2006).

For conscientiousness, the model predicts that high scoring individuals might perform badly on tasks in which they have to respond spontaneously to changes in the affordances of the local environment, because they will be rigidly attached to previously defined goals. Finally, for agreeableness, the theory predicts that high scorers will avoid being victims of interpersonal conflict but may often emerge as suckers in games such as the public goods game and the iterated prisoner’s dilemma game, which are well studied by psychologists and in which the usual equilibrium is a mixture of cooperation and exploitation. Thus, the current framework should be seen not as a post hoc explanation of the past but as an engine of predictions about the consequences of dispositional variation in the present. Such consequences are a central explanatory concern of personality psychology, and as such, the evolutionary framework, with its emphasis on costs, benefits, and trade-offs, could be of great utility.

Musings on THE SELF /

 

Excerpts various posts: 

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/co-consciousness-social-typical-dependence-on-word-thinking/

A child is told who it is, where it belongs, and how to behave, day in and day out, from birth throughout childhood (and indeed, throughout life.) In this way culturally-approved patterns of thought and behavior are imparted, organized and strengthened in the child’s brain. Setting tasks that require following directions (obedience) and asking children to ‘correctly’ answer questions along the way, helps parents and society to discover if the preferred responses are in place.

I don’t remember blurting out “Cogito ergo sum!” in school one day. Achieving awareness of my existence was a misty process, a journey taken before I “knew” of an existence of a “self”. Identity (which is not the same as personality) does not pre-exist; it is constructed. Long before a baby is conceived and born, family and society have composed an identity and a comprehensive world picture for it. The majority of those who belong to a religion or a social class are members by accident of birth, not by choice. We are born into cultures and belief systems; into versions of reality invented by humans long departed.

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2018/05/20/self-awareness-omg-what-a-hornets-nest/

Self awareness comes as we live our lives: true self-esteem is connected to that process, not as a “before” thing, but an “after” thing: a result of meeting life as it really is, not as a social fantasy. Self awareness is built from the expression of talents and strengths that we didn’t know we possessed. It also arises as we see the “world” as its pretentions crumble before us. Being able to see one’s existence cast against the immensity of reality, and yet to feel secure, is the measure of finally giving birth to a “self”. 

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/express-yourself-or-express-oneself-social-vs-hyposocial/

As a “hyposocial” individual, tattooing is somewhat of a mystery: tattoos are a social “sign of commitment” to a group or belief system, whether or not that group is large or consists of one other person. My reaction is: But what if you change your mind? What if your “self” changes? The notion of a “static” self is difficult to grasp.

Me, me, me, me, me! The social typical orientation. This is how NTs “look” to me. 

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/what-is-the-asperger-blank-stare-all-about/

One of the big mistakes that social typicals make is to attribute intent to Asperger behavior. This is because social typicals are “self-oriented” – everything is about THEM; any behavior on the part of a human, dog, cat, plant or lifeform in a distant galaxy, must be directed at THEM. Example: God, or Jesus, or whomever, is believed to be paying attention 24/7 to the most excruciatingly trivial moments in the lives of social typicals. We’re not as patient as God or Jesus.

The Asperger default mental state is a type of reverie, day-dreaming, trance or other “reflective” brain process; that is, we do “intuitive” thinking. The “blank face” is because we do not use our faces to do this type of thinking. 

Sorry – we’re just busy elsewhere! When you ask a question, it can take a few moments to “come out of” our “reverie” and reorient our attention. If you are asking a “general question” that is meant to elicit a “feeling” (social) response, it will land like a dead fish in front of us. Hence the continued “blankness”. 

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/to-see-with-the-minds-eye-what-does-it-mean/

The self is “imported” from a socio-cultural menu.

It is a very common assumption that all people “think and act” exactly alike. (Thus the insistence that “underneath it all, everyone is the same” – often said by white people to end discussions of racism) When I was a child I also thought that everyone had “the same brain” as if they roll off an assembly line into our skulls, and it created no end of problems! How could people “come up with” bizarre conclusions and irrational explanations for perfectly logical occurrences? And then one day, I realized that my brain “worked” differently than just about everyone I had ever met. This was a giant leap toward self awareness of the good news / bad news type.   

It is exactly this human self-centeredness that makes the “Theory of Mind” and “mind-reading” so laughable.

Neurotypicals assume that the other person thinks and feels as they do: this is a good “guess” when social people account for 99% of the population and the self is “imported” from an extremely limited socio-cultural menu. And, social people are taught to automatically agree with what others say, in order to be considered a “nice person”. 

Who am I?

The answer for me turned out to be simple: I am everything I have ever seen. Meep! Meep!

especially when young, asks,

 

 

 

 

 

Personal thoughts on anxiety in ASD / Asperger Types

My quest is to “untangle” the bizarre mess that “researchers” have created around ASD / Asperger’s symptoms and the “co-morbidity” of anxiety.

How difficult a question is this?

Is anxiety a “big problem” for individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s? If yes, then is it commonly “debilitating” in that it prevents the person from engaging in successful employment, satisfying relationships, and “freedom” to engage the environment by participating in activities that are important to their “happiness”?

And yet, what I encounter are articles, papers, and studies that focus on the argument over whether or not anxiety is part of ASD Asperger’s, the diagnosis, or a co-morbid condition. Anxiety, for “experts” has taken on the “power” of the Gordian knot! Honestly? This is the typical “point” at which an Asperger “looses it” and wants to simply declare that neurotypicals are idiots… but, I’m on a mission to help myself and my co-Aspergerg types to survive in social reality. We’re not going to find logical reality-based “answers” in psychology or even in neuroscience…we are on our own. 

So let’s look at anxiety, another of those words whose meaning and utility have been destroyed by neurotypical addiction to “over-generalization” and fear of specificity!

Over the past few months, I have experienced an increase in “sudden onset” panic attacks: it’s not as if I can’t assign a probable cause. The facts of my existence (age, health, financial problems) are enough to fill up and overflow whatever limit of tolerance that I can summon up each day. Severe (and sometimes debilitating) anxiety has been integral to my existence since at least age 3, which is the time of my first “remembered” meltdown. I can honestly say, that if it were not for “anxiety” manifesting as sudden meltdowns, panic attacks, “background radiation” and other physical  reactions, (who cares what they are labeled?), my life would have been far easier, with much more of my time and energy being available to “invest” in activities of choice, rather than surviving the unpredictable disruptions that I’ve had to work around. The fact that I’ve had an interesting, rich and “novel” existence, is thanks to maximizing the stable intervals between anxiety, distress, and exhaustion – and avoiding alien neurotypical social expectations and toxic environments as much as possible.

Here is a simple formula that I have followed:

Life among NTs is HELL. I deserve to “reserve” as much time as possible for my intrinsically satisfying interests; for pursuit of knowledge, experiences and activities that enable me to become as “authentic” to “whoever and whatever I am” as possible.

This realization came long, long before diagnosis, and I had to accept that a distinct possibility was that there was no “authentic me” and if there was, it might be a scary discovery. But, ever-present Asperger curiosity and dogged persistence would accept no other journey. It is important to realize, that Asperger or not, this type of “classic quest” has been going on in human lives for thousands of years, and for the most part has been in defiance of social disapproval (often regarded as a serious threat) by societies world-wide, which impose on individuals the carefully constructed catalogue of roles and biographies handed down from “on high”.

The point is that the choice to “go my own way” was “asking for it” – IT being endless shit (and the accompanying anxiety) dumped on human beings existing on all levels of the Social Pyramid, but especially directed toward any group or individual who is judged to be “antisocial” or inferior. I have encountered conflicts large and small, and was exposed to “human behavior” in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

What I have confronted in “normdom” is the strange orientation of “experts” who ignore the contribution of environmental sources to hyperarousal, a physiological reaction to conditions in the environment. (Note: Fear, anxiety, and all the “emotion-words”  are merely the conscious verbal expression that infants and children ARE TAUGHT to utilize in social communication, and for social purposes) These words are not the physiological experience.

A feedback “loop” exists between the environment and the human sensory system.   The physiology of fear and anxiety is an ancient “alarm system” that promotes survival, but in the human behavior industry, anxiety has been “segregated” and  classified as a pathology – an utterly bizarre, irrational, and dangerous idea. The result is that “normal” human reactions and behavior, provided by millions of years of evolutionary processes, and which  PROTECT the individual, are now “forbidden” as “defects” in the organism itself. Social involvement and culpability are “denied” – responsibility for abuse of humans and animals by social activity is erased!

Social indoctrination: the use of media, advertising, marketing, political BS and constant “messaging” that presents “protective evolutionary alerts and reactions” (awareness of danger; physiological discomfort, stress and illness) are YOUR FAULT. You have a defective brain. It’s a lie.

Due to an entrenched system of social hierarchy (inequality), social humans continue to be determined to “wipe out” the human animal that evolved in nature, and replace it with a domesticated / manufactured / altered Homo sapiens that just like domesticated animals, will survive and reproduce in the most extreme and abusive conditions.

This “domestic” hypersocial human is today represented as the pinnacle of evolution.

Human predators (the 1 %  who occupy “power positions” at the top of the pyramid)merely want to ensure that the status quo is maintained, that is, the continued  exploitation of the  “observation” that domesticated humans will adapt to any abuse – and still serve the hierarchy. This “idea” also allows for the unconscionable torture and abuse of animals.

The “expert” assumption is that a normal, typical, socially desirable human, as defined by the “human behavior” priesthood, can endure any type and degree of torture, stress, abuse, both chronic or episodic, and come out of the experience UNCHANGED; undamaged and exploitable. Any variation from this behavioral prescription is proof of a person’s deviance, inferiority and weakness.

The most blatant example of this “attitude” is the epidemic of PTSD and suicide in soldiers returning from HELL in combat. Not that many wars ago, militaries literally “executed”  soldiers suffering from this “weakness, cowardice and treason” on the battlefield, or “exiled” them to asylums as subhuman and defective ‘mistakes”. Now we ship soldiers home who have suffered extreme trauma and “treat them” so badly, that suicide has become the only relief for many. Having the afflicted remove him or herself, rather than “murdering” them is considered to be compassionate progress.  

And my point is about relief: I concluded long ago that chronic and episodic “hyperarousal” must be treated immediately with whatever works; in my experience, that means medication. Despite limiting one’s “exposure” to toxic social environments, one cannot escape the damage done to human health and sanity.

Some relief can be had by employing activities and adjustments in thinking patterns, that often (usually by trial and error) can mitigate physical damage. But what we must remember is that anxiety, fear, distress and the “urge to flee” are healthy responses to horrible human environments. How many mass migrations of “refugees” are there at any time, with thousands, and even millions of people, seeking “new places” to live a life that is proper to a healthy human?

 

 

 

ANXIETY / Not adequately addressed in ASD / Asperger’s

 

Anxiety is a subject , like sensory issues, that I find critical to understanding ASD / Asperger’s, but for which there is little functional research! The emphasis is on “diagnostic symptoms” with facile reference to co-morbid conditions, which evades the important question: What exactly is Asperger’s? What are the symptoms SPECIFIC TO ASPERGER’S (not just a jumble of general behaviors, which in fact, are manifested at times by most children); and how does the specific Asperger brain-nervous system react to the environment, notably the social environment? To what extent are “Asperger symptoms” the result of interaction with the social environment, and not intrinsic to the individual’s “make up”?

I think severe chronic anxiety is fundamental to Asperger experience and behavior, but in psychology and psychiatry it is not even listed as a symptom, but regarded as a separate disorder, such as social anxiety disorder. (Remember, Asperger’s no longer “exists” in the DSM – 5) This situation strikes me as bizarre; as if a patient who arrives in an emergency room, presenting a broken leg were told, “You have auto accident disorder. Your broken leg is another matter, however. We’ll test you for a diagnosis of that separate condition later.”

What do articles like this actually tell us about states of anxiety in ASD / Asperger children and adults… Nothing! 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

What Triggers Anxiety for an Individual with ASD?

https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/What-Triggers-Anxiety-for-an-Individual-with-ASD

Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Indiana University 

Most people can experience frustration, stress, or anxiety in everyday life situations.  There are people who learn how to cope so well that stress or anxiety has little impact on them.  But for others, including individuals with ASD, stress and anxiety can cripple them to varying degrees.  Remember, situations that create anxiety in one individual may not for another.  What are some common stressors that individuals with ASD might experience?  The following examples of common stressors at home and at school are suggested by Dr. Chuck Edington (2010) in his presentation, Emotional Regulation and Anxiety Management in Autism, and from the brochure, “Anxiety Disorders in Children” from the Anxiety Disorder Association of America (ADAA).

Note – why do people make these lists? Why not save the effort and say: Any situation that “normal humans” simply ignore, can cause behavior problems in ASD children. Crazy, isn’t it? LOL

These lists are silly; the assumption is made that the reader is an idiot; if this is the case, how is the content of any use?

The lists are a jumble of highly generalized “everything that pops into my mind, NT “thingies”

Unstructured Time: has no specific rules or activity which creates boundaries or limits can be very challenging. Examples of unstructured time are:
•    Waiting for and/or riding the school bus
•    Before and after school time
•    Transitions throughout the day (place to place, person to person, topic to topic)
•    Lunch/cafeteria
•    Recess
•    Physical education

Academic Situations:
•    Understanding what to do and how to do it
•    Breaking down tasks
•    Writing
•    Reading
•    Organization
•    Grades
•    Presentations in class
•    Answering aloud in class
•    Tests

Sensory issues can be triggered almost any time or anywhere on a daily basis.

The above is a sufficient statement about the ASD / Asperger experience. The lists below are a ridiculous attempt at “hierarchical thought” and being “thorough”, but they are not; these are merely sloppy NT inclusions of “anything we can think of” redundant phrases. Example; use the adjective “novel” and then define novel;  “Novel events — unplanned and unannounced”. If you truly believe that your reader does not know the meaning of “novel” in this context, why use it? Is “crowds” not  sufficiently obvious? 

Whether the individual is experiencing an anxious moment or not, sensory integration challenges can overpower a person’s ability to control him or herself. Sensory situations that may provoke anxiety can include:
•    Crowds—school assemblies, concerts, field trips, grocery store, etc.
•    Space—too large, too crowded, too bright, too loud, too smelly, etc.
•    Sounds/noise
•    Natural disasters 
•    Smells-cafeteria, restrooms, cleaning materials, markers, paints, colognes,
•    Food—sight, texture, taste, smell, sound when eating
•    Haircuts
•    Dental or medical issues
•    Showers, bathing (some individuals have shared that showers ‘hurt’ their bodies)
•    Clothing—too tight, scratchy
•    Brushing teeth

Social situations are already challenging for individuals with ASD and can increase anxiety in the moment or even in anticipation of an upcoming event. Some examples include:
•    Novel events—unplanned and unannounced
•    Changes in plans—daily school routine interrupted or family plans changed
•    Adjusting personal interests with class or family plans
•    Outdoor activities—concerts, picnics, recess
•    Large gatherings—school assemblies, family gatherings
•    Young children (who are unpredictable in many ways)
•    Initiating a conversation with a peer

Routines: After a day at school where the child was able to maintain body control, listen, complete activities, and appear composed, going home and having even more expectations including typical routines, can increase anxiety and agitation. Routines such as
•    Doing homework
•    Chores
•    Meal, bath, bed time routines
•    Getting ready for school

For all of us, there are many other seemingly harmless and safe situations that occur in daily living, but to an individual with ASD,  that same situation could be totally frightening and create great anxiety or panic.

Educator Dave Nelson (Nelson, 2008) director of The Community School in Decatur, Georgia, a junior high and high school for adolescents with autism, said,

“Every single one of my students has anxiety almost every day. What is so interesting, however, is how different the manifestations of that condition can be. Some students begin asking constant questions; some interrupt constantly; some retreat or run away; and some get rude or provoking. Everyone (adults included) has their own special way of showing when they’re anxious, from biting fingernails to getting headaches to talking a lot.” (Again the over- generalized “trash can” summary of factoids: how does he know that all these behaviors “reveal anxiety” in each case and in every child? Because the behaviors ANNOY HIM)

Louise Page (2009), an autism therapist and mother of an individual with an autism spectrum disorder adds:

You may observe them, for example, looking down at their feet, or wringing their hands or their hands may be set flat against their thighs, looking fearful or frozen to the spot, or outwardly distressed (e.g. behavior outburst) and so on. Also, their fight or flight response may be exaggerated and efforts to return their state to a relative calm may be very difficult”. (Okay – why are they in a state of “fight or flight” and what evidence is there that they were ever calm?)

Other indicators of a person experiencing anxiety an include, when the individual feels incredibly self-conscious and overloaded and ‘speaks’ through ‘characters’ or phrases from TV shows; jingles; objects; as another person, or retreats to a corner, drawing up the knees to their chest; mumbling; etc. Each person’s response to anxiety can be as individual as they are. (Sorry, but anxiety is the response to conditions in the environment. Anxiety is not a “thingy”) “What makes the experience of helping students with their anxiety so interesting and challenging is that many times, they don’t even know how they’re feeling, so they have no foundation for trying to manage the feeling (Page, 2009)”. Because they don’t respond with the “socially correct” emotion words, they are judged by the formula, “not under our control = disobedience to authority = defective” The point is to “regulate” the child’s “feeling reactions” out of existence. 

An NT “authority figure” is privileged with “special mind-reading magic” and automatically ASSUMES the meaning of the child’s behavior, based on how that behavior is judged by the prescriptive “socio-religious” rule book. The experience of the child is irrelevant.  

The activity identified as “helping children” is PC for “controlling” children. In the U.S., children are expected to quickly achieve self-control, but, the current American population is “out of control” – I wonder why? 

BUT! An NT “outsider” is privileged with “special mind-reading magic” and automatically ASSUMES the meaning of the child’s behavior, based on how that behavior is judged by the social “police”. This is NT projection of his or her own social reaction (It’s annoying and breaks rigid rules) to the child’s behavior – which never goes beyond the “social prescription” of what it is to be an acceptable human.

Psychology of Pro Hockey Players / Useful Tips for Asperger Types

From Sports Psychology Today 

It’s that time of year: I’m a huge hockey fan, having grown up with the Chicago Blackhawks on black and white TV. No helmets. Scarred faces, missing teeth. Much less padding. But were there more fights than today? I honestly can’t say.

Today it’s (my friend’s) vast screen TV and obnoxious pregame “shows” (what else can be expected from Las Vegas, that great faux-gold turd in the desert). But I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone from experiencing the “joy of” the Stanley Cup Final. My friend has never been a fan of hockey (or any sport), but enforced viewing through some of the playoff games, and she’s “hooked” already – unfortunately, by the Las Vegas Knights. My guess concerning my friend’s rapid “seduction” by hockey? Well it is a fantastic sport, after all! And a chance for female Homo sapiens to observe and enjoy “men being men” without any collateral damage, like in war. They can punch each other all they want; no one else gets hurt. 

I have also observed that the “mental qualities” manifested by players may be a guide to help nervous Asperger types approach our confrontations with “hostile” neurotypicals. No kidding!  

Performance Anxiety and Pregame Jitters

http://www.sportpsychologytoday.com/youth-sports-psychology/performance-anxiety-and-pregame-jitters/

Written by

Many athletes feel performance anxiety in the opening minutes of the game. You may feel butterflies in your stomach or your heart pounding. Some athletes like to feel pregame jitters before competition. These athletes think of pregame jitters as a sign of readiness and energy. Other athletes think of pregame jitters as a sign of nervousness.

I would say that “pregame jitters” are a fact of life for Asperger types: every social interaction, everyday – along with a strong tendency to “rehearse” upcoming events – but aren’t daily practice and visualization vital to athletic excellence? Can we change our “attitude” toward this anticipatory physical phenomenon, and perhaps take a “neutral” view? I know, it seems a difficult task! LOL

Pre-game jitters are a natural part of competing and a sign you are ready to embrace competition. Even the best athletes in the world get the jitters.   Michael Leighton, goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers, admitted to feeling nervous before his first NHL playoff game.”My legs were shaking a little bit, I was nervous,” Leighton said. “Once I made a few saves, you kind of forget about that and just get focused. It kind of goes away.”

This seems applicable to Asperger types; often, once I get to the “performance” part of social interaction, something automatic takes over and I jabber away – 

The mistake many athletes make is interpreting pre-game jitters as there is something wrong or a problem.  Pregame jitters can be harmful when they don’t go away in the opening minutes of the game. They can cause you to lose confidence and focus. When you’re focused on how nervous you feel, you lose focus on the present task.

Athletes need to embrace the pregame jitters as a sign they are ready to play.  Your mental game tip is to stay calm when you experience pregame jitters in the opening minutes. (Yes, but how???) Stay focused on your strategy and what’s important to execute.  Pregame jitters are important to help you prepare for the game and they will help you focus your best if you embrace them! Think of it this way: the best athletes get worried if they don’t experience pregame jitters!

Maybe our tendency to rehearse is an asset, if we use that energy to devise a strategy! Is rehearsal another “asset” that NT psychologists misinterpret as a defect?

Listed below are some mental game tips to help you perform your best under pressure and in the big game.

What seem like minor everyday social interactions for NTs can be extremely “big game” status for us! 

1. Develop a consistent pregame routine. (Yes, psychologists judge preference for establishing routines in ASD / Asperger individuals a “developmental defect”. Screw them! We need to use our traits as assets…)  A pregame routine can help transition you into the right mindset before competition. While you’re warming up your body, you also want to mentally prepare for the upcoming game. A pregame routine will help you focus your mind, prepare to feel confident, and to trust in your practice. During your pregame routine, remind yourself to trust in the practice you have done leading up to the game.

2. Focus on your game not your competitors. Many athletes tend to make comparisons to their competitors and thus psych themselves out. When you do this, you typically make negative comparisons, which can cause you to lose confidence in your game. Instead of gawking at your competitors, you want to focus on your pregame preparation. You should focus on your strengths and abilities, for example.

3. Focus on the process, not results. Focusing on results causes you to think too far ahead and sets too many expectations for competition. When you focus on the results, you lose focus on the current play, point or shot and you can’t perform your best. Remind yourself that focusing on results doesn’t help you execute. Then, refocus quickly on what’s important, such as the target or your strategy for the current play.

4. Have trust in yourself. Some athletes lose trust and tighten up in the big game. This can cause you to over control your performance and not play freely. You want your performance to just happen, without thinking too much about “how to” execute your skills. For example, a batter needs to react to the ball instead of think about how to make a good swing. Simplify your thoughts such as thinking about one thought or image to help you execute (feeling balanced). Avoid thinking too much about how to or technique.

Overall, you want to treat the big game as any other game. You don’t want to place too much importance on one game, which can lead to added pressure, a lack of focus, and trust in your game. Focus on what you do best. Follow your usual pregame routine and mentally prepare for the big game just like you would any other game.

What does all this point to for Asperger types? We must free ourselves from the poisonous messages we have received all our lives from neurotypicals who “judge” our traits and behaviors as “defective and subhuman” And USE our cognitive skills and superior sensory abilities to our advantage! This is very different than submitting to being “trained monkeys” as social humans demand of us. 

 

Attractive qualities of a person with Asperger’s syndrome / LOL

Romantic Relationships for Young Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism

Tony Attwood, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Consultant
Minds & Hearts Brisbane, Australia

For what it’s worth: This is the famous “autism expert” who failed to diagnose his own son, who is Asperger. 

Excerpt: Attractive qualities…

Men with Asperger’s syndrome have many qualities that can be attractive to a prospective partner. 6 When conducting relationship counselling with one or both partners having the characteristics or diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, I often ask the typical partner, ‘What were the qualities that made your partner attractive when you first met him/her?’ Many women describe their first impressions of their partner with Asperger’s syndrome as being someone who is kind, attentive, and socially or emotionally immature. The term “silent, handsome stranger” can be used to describe someone who seems relatively quiet and good looking. Physical characteristics and attentiveness can be important, especially if the woman has doubts regarding her own self-esteem and physical attractiveness. The man’s lack of social and conversational skills can lead to his being perceived as the “silent stranger” whose social naivety and immaturity can be transformed by a partner who is a natural expert on empathy, socializing, and conversation. (Beware the insecure woman who seeks to change you; the mothering may turn into smothering and then, rage.)

I have noted that many of the partners of men, and sometimes of women, with Asperger’s syndrome have been at the other end of the social and empathy continuum. They are intuitive experts in Theory of Mind, namely understanding and empathizing with someone else’s perspective. (Why do I doubt this? If he / she is so empathetic, why can’t this “magic person” understand the Asperger “interior experience”?) They are naturally gifted in the ability to understand the world as experienced by the person with Asperger’s syndrome, much more so than a person of average Theory of Mind abilities. (This is ridiculous…)

Wow! Disaster! From my experience, this “magical empath” may honestly “believe” that he or she understands the Asperger way of being, and can change them into a “suitable for social life” partner (or possession). This widespread NT delusion dooms so many interactions between AS and NT. When the “Magical Empath” inevitably discovers that he / she CANNOT CHANGE THE ASPERGER, rage and outlandish attacks will follow. 

They (magic empath) are understanding and sympathetic, (the last thing I want is sympathy) and they provide guidance for their partner in social situations. Indeed, these are the characteristics that an adult with Asperger’s syndrome recognizes that he or she needs and would find desirable in a partner. (My opinion? This is absolutely not what I find attractive. Who needs or wants a “zoo keeper”? How insulting! A spouse who serves as a “guide dog”!) He or she will actively seek a partner with intuitive social knowledge who can be a social interpreter, is naturally nurturing, is socially able, and is maternal. (OMG! We’re perpetual children who need “nannies” – ) However, while a socially insightful and empathic partner may understand the perspective of the person with Asperger’s syndrome, the person with Asperger’s syndrome has considerable difficulty understanding the perspective of his or her typical partner. (It’s our problem;  after all, we’re defective) 

This is BS. The deeper my understanding of the Asperger way of being has become, the clearer the “rift” between NT and AS perception of reality, and therefore experience, is revealed. The inability of the NT to comprehend the degree of “differentness” that actually exists between neotenic social humans and AS individuals, all but precludes understanding of “who we are”. In terms of sensory experience, sensory processing and perception and what we “do with” our brains, my assessment is that Asperger types are, in the practical sense, a different species.

As long as NTs regard us as “broken” versions of themselves, there can be little rapprochement.

The attractiveness of a person with Asperger’s syndrome in a prospective relationship can be enhanced by intellectual ability, career prospects, and degree of attentiveness during courtship. (The Labrador retriever appeal) Sometimes, however, this attentiveness could be perceived by others as almost obsessive, and the words and actions appear to have been learned from watching Hollywood romantic movies. The person can be admired for speaking his mind, even if the comments may be perceived as offensive by others, due to his strong sense of social justice and clear moral beliefs. The fact that he may not be “macho” or wish to spend time with other men at sporting events or drinking alcohol also can be appealing for some women. The person with Asperger’s syndrome can be a late developer in terms of relationship experiences, which also can be an attractive feature. There may be no previous relationship “baggage.” I also have had many women describe to me how their partner with Asperger’s syndrome resembled their father. (My father was Asperger, and although, or likely because, we were great friends, and I knew him well, I would NEVER choose a partner like him) Having a parent with the signs of Asperger’s syndrome may have contributed to their choice of partner as an adult.

Oh please, do tell us! LOL

What are the characteristics that men find attractive in a woman with Asperger’s syndrome? The attributes can be similar to the characteristics women find appealing in a man with Asperger’s syndrome, especially the degree of attentiveness. (Our “male brains” of course – we’re both inadequate copies of males, and perverse females.) The woman’s social immaturity may be appealing to those men who have natural paternal and compassionate qualities. (The zoo keeper, guide dog, nanny again) There can be an appreciation of her physical attractiveness and admiration for her talents and abilities. Unfortunately, women (and sometimes men) with Asperger’s syndrome are not very good at making character judgments or identifying relationship predators. Women with Asperger’s syndrome often have low self-esteem, which can affect their choice of partner in a relationship. They can be the victim of various forms of abuse. As one woman with Asperger’s explained to me, ‘I set my expectations very low and as a result gravitated toward abusive people.’

So, this is what is “attractive” about AS women: Male predators find us to be “easy targets” because we’re desperate idiots. Thanks a lot!

For more insulting nonsense: https://iancommunity.org/cs/articles/relationships

A Decisive Moment for an Asperger Child / Re-Post

imagesLUQ8KKG2My cousin Bette hated her hair because it was so curly that she shrieked and whimpered whenever my aunt yanked a comb through it. My mother loved Bette’s red hair, but regretted my fence-straight bob. The tone of voice she used when referring to my straight hair was an accusation – I made it grow that way.

The hair situation had nothing to do with an important event that happened during a visit to my mother’s sister in Pennsylvania, which happened to coincide with Vacation Bible School. I don’t recall the denomination my relatives supported (there are so many), but the audience didn’t stand, kneel, or sing much. Instead of real wine, grape juice was passed around in paper cups with a tray of white bread croutons.

This scandalized my mother. How could materials available at any grocery store be expected to turn into the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ? Before marrying, my mother had sung professionally in churches: based on those experiences, she had chosen to align our family with the Episcopalians, because not only the priests and acolytes got dressed up, so did the audience, and she still got to sing beautiful songs.

My mother (and the other Episcopalian women) took advantage of God’s demand that women wear hats to church to amass vast collections of seasonal head gear. Judging by the extravagant and expensive hats bobbing about in church, I suspected that it was mortal women who had actually made up the rule, not God.

“Wear the Donald Duck hat,” I would tell my mother whenever we were late for church and she couldn’t decide which hat to wear. The Donald Duck hat was woven from white straw with a blue bill that jutted out above her forehead.

Vacation Bible School had nothing to do with hats, and my attendance could not be prevented by a plea for exemption. Even humor failed. My mother had noticed a reluctant streak in her daughter whenever it came time to cooperate with formal institutions and she insisted that I join my cousin in one more attempt at forced religious indoctrination.

My red-haired cousin and I were dropped off outside the church, where we were seated at a picnic table with kids our age. Adults handed each of us a board covered with blue felt, plus pictures of Jesus and a few loose sheep. Paper cut-out Jesus had typical Sunday school eyes, the kind that look nowhere and everywhere, but which have the power to pry into the shallow secrets of the boring human brain. The sheep were suitably adorable and adoring.

The adults directed us to stick the paper figures to the felt board. No reason was given as to why we should do this. I looked to my cousin and the others, expecting one of them to ask the adults why we were doing this, but the rest were busy deciding whether Jesus should float above the flock near heaven, or to have the sheep crowd around his temporarily earth-bound feet.

I tilted my board for a better look and a breeze caught the pictures. Jesus floated onto the grass. Cousin Bette screamed: “Look what you did! You let Jesus touch the ground!”

Another girl shrieked, “Pick him up. Quick!” as if the three second rule applied to religious pictures as well as to gum.

“Stop shouting,” I told my cousin. “It’s just a piece of paper.”

“No-it-is-not! It’s Jesus, and you let him touch the ground: You are in big trouble!”

“God is gonna punish you,” the other girl gasped.

A feeling passed through me, as if I been removed to a foreign universe, where simple pieces of paper are possessed by invisible beings and small girls are punished by tyrants for trifles.

Of course, at that age, I didn’t think this out, but I surely sensed what had just happened, and it had nothing to do with standing and kneeling; with the squabble over wafers and Wonder Bread, real wine or Welch’s grape juice, or with a rule that said women’s hair had to be covered with shame. Bette and the other children had been taught to fear imaginary entities and to believe that pieces of paper have supernatural power. Did adults lie to children, or did they really believe such things? The unease that had pestered me when adults spoke about ‘God things’ was sharpened into Ah-ha! focus.

My father hedged when I asked him for an explanation. His avoidance told me that his mind was not united in his approach to the world; the engineer wanted to confirm my suspicions of sheer puffery, but deep inside a superstitious and primal fear haunts all people. Collusion in these matters is required by society regardless of personal belief.

A custom developed between us. “Well you know and I know, but keep it quiet around your mother.”

Cousin Bette was correct about being in big trouble, but not in the way she had imagined. Never again would I feel comfortable with people who let crazy ideas rule their minds. Although my questioning nature was sometimes rewarded in school, skepticism in matters of religion would need to be stifled in public, a Herculean task for an Asperger child. A tiny raft of reason and cunning that lay hidden in my brain would ever after have to support me on a journey that led away from my own kind.

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We don’t really know children as individual expressions of the human experiment, because we do our best as a society to never let that person emerge.

 

Why do Neurotypicals have children? / Total Insanity

Since it’s Memorial Day, I thought I’d check out Asperger’s and Military participation: confusing, boring, highly subjective… but I came across a discussion about sending an Asperger to military school because he doesn’t turn in his homework…. edited to protect identity. 

Here we go!

My wife just brought up the idea of sending our 12 year old son who has Asperger’s to a military academy.

His grades could be better; his reading and comprehension scores are at college level but we have a strange situation. 50% of his English assignments have not been turned in so far this year. My wife and I check to make sure he’s done the homework, but he  does not turn it in. We have told him that routine is going to be a fact of life, so get used to it. We’ve told him to always put his homework in the same place in his backpack. That way he will always know where it is, and can turn it in.

Okay! As an Asperger, I see “problems” brewing from the get go: This kid is 12. He’s smart. He resents being treated like a ROBOT; telling him that he will live have to live out his life as a ROBOT is a disaster! His NT parents / therapist think he’s “dumb” – that is, he can’t remember to hand in homework. Really? Who is being dumb in this scenario? 

For some reason, everything we try, or his therapist and social skills teacher try, dies a flaming death within a week. His classwork is not the problem. He read his American history textbook in two days and he has not needed to read it since then. His test scores are excellent but his class participation grade is below average (as expected) but the problem is homework. He either does not do it or he does it, but doesn’t turn it in – which is 1/3 off his grade! If he were still in elementary school, I would probably be turning in his assignments for him, but a 12 year old in the 6th grade needs to step up and be responsible.

Wow! Describe how intelligent the boy is, but then, instead of being happy about that, focus on “obedience to routine.” Push, shove, manipulate; create a power struggle over a “trivial behavior”. Let him know that conformity to routine rules is what you value, not his abilities. This is exactly what not to do with an intelligent child…especially an Asperger type. Insistence on blind social obedience will simply drive him resist, and he will ponder why it is you are so unappreciative toward him.  

His therapist recently sat down with my son and laid out a strict schedule for completing homework and chores, as well as making time for personal hygiene and play. It looked like a military schedule and so my wife asked, via email, what the therapist thought of a military school about an hour’s drive from home.

The therapist said there would be benefits and there would be challenges. The shock of changing his living situation would be a major detractor. But the rigid schedule and not having a thousand distractions within arm’s reach could really help him focus. You also have to think of the “bully” mentality that seems to thrive in these places, and my son is a target of bullying at school. 

How stupid! It’s unbelievable: This is typical of people who think that shoving their child’s nose into a plate of food that he or she fervently dislikes, will “prove” that “the parent is the boss!” Is anyone concerned about him being bullied (not only by kids, but his parents and therapist / teacher!) Could it be that “the homework thing” is his way of reacting to the lack of attention by adults to the “real” problems – including their uncaring behavior? 

There are a number of other pros and cons to this discussion. No girls at the school  could go either way. A lack of human contact would probably be good with him but bad for his social skills in the long run. The money that we would have to pay is a major concern for us; we could not afford for him to fail. 

But my very simple question to the chat room is this: in your opinion, how would someone with Asperger’s fare in a military academy?

Aye, yai, yai! Why do NTs have children?

The following is the father’s response to various suggestions by “chat” participants… his initial “concern” is that some respondents are calling him a bad parent, even though that’s not the case.

Please don’t think we haven’t tried. We have…. over and over with anything we can think of. And it’s not actually not the homework thing, (then why 4 paragraphs that claim that it is?) but the lying and half truths that upset and disappoint me. Until 2 years ago, he did not know how to lie. Now, the lies are almost automatic. And there are the endless excuses. He sometimes tries to blame me or my wife, as if our constant reminders somehow made him not do his homework. (What happened two years ago?)

One day last week, I went into his room to ask if he’d done his homework, and he said yes. I asked him to show it to me. (I get daily emails from his teachers with all assignments and he knows this; however, I don’t always check his work. I always figured that his knowing that I know would be enough to keep him in line.) He actually spent a half hour emptying  his book bag. pretending to looking for homework that he hadn’t done. It was  pathological! I finally said, I can’t prove you didn’t do your homework, but you still have to turn it in tomorrow… So get working! He had a total Asperger’s meltdown. He thought it was going to be game night, and I ruined it by making him do his homework. 20 minutes later, he was yelling that it wasn’t fair. I finally told him that he was right… it wasn’t fair that the whole house had to listen to him yell for 20 minutes and it wasn’t fair that I had to sit outside his door reading a book instead of enjoying time with my family. (Apparently, this boy isn’t family; probably long ago he became labeled as the outsider-disobedient-problem child. Now the father is his “prison guard”)  He told me I was making fun of him…. I told him he was a spoiled brat and behaving like an asshole.

Well! Pretty revealing…if your “tactics” fail over and over again, model “being an asshole” for your child: it’s effective “social training.” 

This is not an isolated incident. He knows I’m going to check on him at least one night per week, but that is not enough motivation for him. I hate having to sit up until midnight to make sure he finishes. His therapist says that making my son stay up until midnight is a predictable consequence; that he will learn from having consequences.  My question is, why am I having to also suffer his consequences? (Because you are his parent. He doesn’t exist in isolation; this is a two-way street, and as the ADULT, you must take responsibility for creating the situation.)

OMG! Such an irrational mess! 

We don’t want to send him to military school, but where else to will he get the structure and discipline to live up to his full abilities? He is not an only child. We try to give him as much one on one time as possible (as remote and narcissistic antagonists), but right now we have him and his brother, age 2, plus 3 foster children, ages 5, 8, and 13, and the 13 year old is pregnant, so we have doctor visits to do. (A concerned citizen might ask, “Are these people qualified to be foster parents?” And, “How much are they being paid per foster child, per month?” That is, is there a profitable exchange for “taking in foster children” vs. “kicking out” your own child? 

Could this picture be any more clear?

No one made these people stretch their family size from TWO to FIVE children. The oldest “birth child” is 12 and an Asperger. He’s been abandoned in favor of 3 “strangers”. He’s expected to “shut up and obey” and to not expect any parental kindness or affection. 

Let’s see “who” is not taking responsibility for the consequences of his actions. It’s not the 12 year old.

I am more than willing to give my son the time he needs, but I cannot give him time I don’t have. As it is, I only get about 2 hours of “me” time at night, but that’s because I don’t go to bed until 1 or 2 a.m. I make breakfast at 5:30 a,m. My wife says I’m burning the candle at both ends; I think that’s why she mentioned military school as a solution to our issue with the 12 year old.

Again, it’s not really the homework thing, it’s the lying and deceit. He loves to correct my incorrect English, and he hates it when I catch his mistakes and quote his words back to him verbatim. It’s a skill he taught me. I have even recorded conversations on my phone when he’s upset, then replay them for him later so he can hear where he went wrong. He misses social cues, so I’m trying to help him by doing that. He gets mad and says I’m making fun of himif I wanted to do that, I’d play the recording back for the whole family to hear. 

He had a meltdown at a store a few months ago… had a kicking and screaming tantrum in public. I pulled out my phone and turned on the camera and got a 4 minute video which showed him taking off his shoes and throwing them at me. The store manager had called the police because he thought I’d hit my son. Luckily I replayed the video that showed it was the boy’s fault, or who knows what would have happened. One of the officers took him aside and warned him that he could be arrested for assault since he threw his shoes at me. They asked me if I wanted to press charges, and sorry, but I had to think about it. In the end, we just left without any groceries and he got a “timeout” when we got home. I wanted to take away his shoes for a day since he threw them at me, but the school would not allow him to attend barefoot. (Now there is a “logical” response. Gee whiz! NTs are so f&^%*d up.) The punishment for us was that we had to eat mac & cheese for dinner. He likes mac & cheese, so it was okay for him. (This was before we took in 3 foster children, so he didn’t have that as an excuse) Sorry for going on so long. I just want everyone on chat to know that sending him away to military school would be a last ditch effort.

Of course; if you are a social typical parent, bullying, abandonment, total lack of empathy and idiotic punishments are the complete “repertoire” for “dealing with” children you don’t like or want.   


What Will You Get “Paid” Monthly per child for Foster Parenting? 

  • Alabama: $490
  • Alaska: $720
  • Arizona: $828
  • Arkansas; $480
  • California: $657
  • Colorado: $475
  • Connecticut: $835
  • Delaware: $580
  • D.C.: $880
  • Florida: $484
  • Georgia: $479
  • Hawaii: $590
  • Idaho: $382
  • Illinois: $424
  • Indiana: Each county sets an individual scale; there is no statewide rate. Foster parents can negotiate with their county director.
  • Iowa: $585
  • Kansas: $640
  • Kentucky: $618
  • Louisiana: $620
  • Maine: $598
  • Maryland: $760
  • Massachusetts: $595
  • Michigan: $474
  • Minnesota: $640
  • Mississippi: $418
  • Missouri: $321
  • Montana: $485
  • Nebraska: $345
  • Nevada: $620
  • New Hampshire: $483
  • New Jersey: $518
  • New Mexico: $495
  • New York: Each of 58 local districts is allowed to set its own rates. The state only determines the maximum amounts it will reimburse to the local districts; there is no minimum. Maximum state aid rates for Metro/Upstate are $560 (average).
  • North Carolina: $432
  • North Dakota: $390
  • Ohio: Each county sets its own minimum and maximum per diem (day) rates, which range from $10.00 to $118.00 per day.
  • Oklahoma; $540
  • Oregon: $415
  • Pennsylvania: Varies for all areas.
  • Rhode Island: $510
  • South Carolina: $420
  • South Dakota: $489
  • Tennessee: $660
  • Texas: $690
  • Utah: $495
  • Vermont: $610
  • Virginia: $430
  • Washington: $470
  • West Virginia: $505

Exciting Paper / Enhanced Perception (Autism)

Royal Society Publishing
Note: I think this “pattern-structure perception” applies also to Asperger individuals who are visual sensory thinkers, but proficient in verbal language. That is, it’s not an “either or” situation in actual brains. (This “either or” insistence is NT projection of their black and white, oppositional, competitive obsession). Specific brains can and do process and sensory info and utilize verbal language; these are not “matter-antimatter” interactions as NTs imagine.  

Enhanced perception in savant syndrome: patterns, structure and creativity

Laurent Mottron, Michelle Dawson, Isabelle Soulières / .

Full paper: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1522/1385.long

5. Savant creativity: a different relationship to structure

Savant performance cannot be reduced to uniquely efficient rote memory skills (see Miller 1999, for a review), and encompasses not only the ability for strict recall, requiring pattern completion, but also the ability to produce creative, new material within the constraints of a previously integrated structure, i.e. the process of pattern generation. This creative, flexible, albeit structure-guided, aspect of savant productions has been clearly described (e.g. Pring 2008). It is analogous to what Miller (1999, p. 33) reported on error analyses in musical memory: ‘savants were more likely to impose structure in their renditions of musical fragments when it was absent in the original, producing renditions that, if anything, were less ‘literal’ than those of the comparison participants’. Pattern generation is also intrinsic to the account provided by Waterhouse (1988).

The question of how to produce creative results using perceptual mechanisms, including those considered low-level in non-autistics, is at the very centre of the debate on the relationship between the nature of the human factor referred to as intelligence and the specific cognitive and physiological mechanisms of savant syndrome (maths or memory, O’Connor & Hermelin 1984; rules or regularities, Hermelin & O’Connor 1986; implicit or explicit, O’Connor 1989; rhyme or reason, Nettlebeck 1999). It also echoes the questions raised by recent evidence of major discrepancies in the measurement of autistic intelligence according to the instruments used (Dawson et al. 2007).

A combination of multiple pattern completions at various scales could explain how a perceptual mechanism, apparently unable to produce novelty and abstraction in non-autistics, contributes in a unique way to autistic creativity. The atypically independent cognitive processes characteristic of autism allow for the parallel, non-strategic integration of patterns across multiple levels and scales, without information being lost owing to the automatic hierarchies governing information processing and limiting the role of perception in non-autistics. (Remember; in visual perception and memory the image is the content; therefore it is dense with detail and connections – “patterns”. NTs “fill-in” the gaps in their perception with “magical / supernatural” explanations for phenomena)

An interest in internal structure may also explain a specific, and new, interest for domains never before encountered. For example, a savant artist newly presented with the structure of visual tones learned this technique more rapidly and proficiently than typical students (Pring et al. 1997). In addition, the initial choice of domain of so-called restricted interest demonstrates the versatility of the autistic brain, in the sense that it represents spontaneous orientation towards, and mastering of, a new domain without external prompts or instruction. How many such domains are chosen would then depend on the free availability of the kinds, amounts and arrangements of information which define the structure of the domain, according to aspects of information that autistics process well. Generalization also occurs under these circumstances, for example, to materials that share with the initial material similar formal properties, i.e. those that allow ‘veridical mapping’ with the existing ability. In Pring & Hermelin (2002), a savant calendar calculator with absolute pitch displayed initial facility with basic number–letter associations, and was able to quickly learn new associations and provide novel manipulations of these letter–number correspondences.

The apparently ‘restricted’ aspects of restricted interests are at least partly related to pattern detection, in that there are positive emotions in the presence of material presenting a high level of internal structure, and a seeking out of material related in form and structure to what has already been encountered and memorized. Limitation of generalization may also be explained by the constraints inherent in the role of similarity in pattern detection, which would prevent an extension of isomorphisms to classes of elements that are excessively dissimilar to those composing the initial form. In any case, there is no reason why autistic perceptual experts would be any less firm, diligent or enthusiastic in their specific preferences for materials and domains than their non-autistic expert counterparts. However, it must also be acknowledged that the information autistics require in order to choose and generalize any given interest is likely to be atypical in many respects (in that this may not be the information that non-autistics would require), and may not be freely or at all available. In addition, the atypical ways in which autistics and savants learn well have attracted little interest and are as yet poorly studied and understood, such that we remain ignorant as to the best ways in which to teach these individuals (Dawson et al. 2008). Therefore, a failure to provide autistics or savants with the kinds of information and opportunities from which they can learn well must also be considered as explaining apparent limitations in the interests and abilities of savant and non-savant autistics (see also Heaton 2009).

6. Structure, emotion and expertise

While reliable information about the earliest development or manifestations of savant abilities in an individual is very sparse, biographies of some savants suggest a sequence starting with uninstructed, sometimes apparently passive, but intent and attentive (e.g. Horwitz et al. 1965; Selfe 1977; Sacks 1995) orientation to and study of their materials of interest. In keeping with our proposal about how savants perceive and integrate patterns, materials that spontaneously attract interest may be at any scale or level within a structure, including those that appear unsuitable for the individual’s apparent developmental level. For example, Paul, a 4-year-old autistic boy (with a presumed mental age of 17 months), who was found to have outstanding literacy, exceeding that of typical 9-year olds, intently studied newspapers starting before his second birthday (Atkin & Lorch 2006). It should not be surprising that in savants, the consistent or reliable availability of structured or formatted information and materials can influence the extent of the resulting ability. For example, the types of words easily memorized by NM, proper names, in addition to being redundant in Quebec, share a highly similar structural presentation in the context where NM learned them, including phone books, obituaries and grave markers (Mottron et al. 1996, 1998). However, a fuller account of why there is the initial attraction to and preference for materials with a high degree of intrinsic organization, and for specific kinds of such structured materials in any particular individual, is necessary.

Positive emotions are reported in connection with the performance of savant abilities (e.g. Selfe 1977; Sloboda et al. 1985; Miller 1989). Therefore, it is possible that a chance encounter with structured material gives birth to an autistic special interest, which then serves as the emotional anchor of the codes involved in savant abilities, associated with both positive emotions and a growing behavioural orientation towards similar patterns (Mercier et al. 2000). Brain structures involved in the processing of emotional content can be activated during attention to objects of special interest in autistics (Grelotti et al. 2005). So-called repetitive play in autism, associated with positive emotions, consists of grouping objects or information encompassing, as in the codes described above, series of similar or equivalent attributes. In addition, in our clinical experience, we observe that repetitive autistic movements are often associated with positive emotions.

One possibility worth further investigation would be that patterns in structured materials, in themselves, may trigger positive emotions in autism and that arbitrary alterations to these patterns may produce negative emotions (Yes! Stop f—ing with our interests!)—a cognitive account of the insistence on sameness with which autistics have been characterized from the outset (Kanner 1943). Individuals who excel in detecting, integrating and completing patterns at multiple levels and scales, as we propose is the case with savants, would have a commensurate sensitivity to anomalies within the full array of perceived similarities and regularities (e.g. O’Connell 1974). In Hermelin & O’Connor (1990), an autistic savant (with apparently very limited language skills) known for his numerical abilities, including factorization, but who had never been asked to identify prime numbers, instantly expressed—without words—his perfect understanding of this concept when first presented with a prime number. The superior ability of autistics to detect anomalies—departures from pattern or similarity—has accordingly been reported (e.g. Plaisted et al. 1998; Baron-Cohen 2005).

Overexposure to material highly loaded with internal structure plausibly favours implicit learning and storage of information units based on their perceptual similarity, and more generally, of expertise effects. Savants benefit from expertise effects to the same extent as non-autistic experts (Miller 1999). Among expertise effects is the recognition of units at a more specific level compared with non-experts and the suppression of negative interference effects among members of the same category. Reduced interference has been demonstrated between lists of proper names in a savant memorizer (Mottron et al. 1998). Another expertise effect is the ‘frequency effect’, the relative ease with which memorization and manipulation of units, to which an individual has been massively exposed, can be accomplished (Segui et al. 1982). For example, Heavey et al. (1999) found that calendar calculators recalled more calendar-related items than controls matched for age, verbal IQ and diagnosis, but exhibited unremarkable short- or long-term recall of more general material unrelated to calendars. These two aspects of expertise would favour the emergence and the stabilization of macrounits (e.g. written code in a specific language, or set of pitches arranged by harmonic rules), which are perceptually the spatio-temporal conjunctions of recognizable patterns related by isomorphisms. Conversely, pattern detection may be unremarkable or even diminished in the case of arbitrarily presented unfamiliar material (Frith 1970).

Identifying savant syndrome as aptitude, material availability and expertise, combined with an autistic brain characterized by EPF, is also informative on the relationship between savant syndrome and peaks of ability in non-savant autistics. Perceptual peaks are largely measured using materials with which the participant has not been trained, whereas savant syndrome encompasses the effects of a life spent pursuing the processing of specific information and materials. We therefore forward the possibility that the range and extent of autistic abilities may be revealed only following access to specific kinds, quantities and arrangements of information. However, we do not expect savant abilities to differ from non-savant autistic peaks of ability in their basic mechanisms. According to this understanding of differences between savant and non-savant autistics, the fact that not all autistics are savants is no more surprising than the fact that not all non-autistics are experts.

NTs fill-in the gaps in their perception of the environment with magical beliefs; magical thinking is a developmental stage in young children.  

What psychologists say: Stage by Stage, age 3 – 4

  • Threes and fours often use magical thinking to explain causes of events.
  • Preschoolers sometimes assign their own thinking as a reason for occurrences that are actually out of their control.
  • Three- and 4-year-olds believe, with their powers of magical thinking, that they can change reality into anything they wish.