Monday, July 8, 2024

How is it possible that someone with Aspergers can occasionally be perceptive?

 How is it possible that someone with Aspergers can occasionally be perceptive?

You don’t say perceptive of what. However, since it is kind of a trope that Aspies/Auties tend to be very good at discerning non-social things and bad at social stuff, I’ll assume you mean perceptive of people.

Occasionally perceptive? Let’s examine the proposition that NTs (neurotypical individuals) have a great theory of mind and are highly empathic, and that Aspies/Auties have a weak theory of mind and weak or no empathy, shall we?

Recent studies have indicated that while NT brains tend to be very similar, people on the Autism spectrum tend to have brains very different from NTs and each other.

Wiring of Autistic Brains Shown To Be Highly Individualized

As far as general wiring goes, the brains of neurotypical individuals is fairly standardized. This is not the case for those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some studies have found that ASD brains have higher connectivity, while conflicting studies have concluded that they have fewer connections. A new study might be able to reconcile those opposing results, as it has found that ASD brains are not only wired differently from neurotypical brains, but have a number of idiosyncrasies when compared to one another as well. This could help explain behaviors at different points on the autism spectrum. Avital Hahamy of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel is lead author of the paper, which was published in Nature Neuroscience.

I put to you that NTs think they have a great theory of mind and are empathic because they judge this against other NTs. But just how hard is it to put yourself in someone else’s place when they think and react very much like you do?

Why, then, are NTs so spectacularly bad at this when it comes to anyone neurodiverse? In other words, anyone who doesn’t think just like they do? It seems like a Dunning-Kruger effect, if you’ll excuse the misuse of the effect.

I grew up surrounded by people who don’t think like me. I had to work at reading them, observing them, figuring them out. As a result, I think I’ve gotten quite good at it.

It really isn’t correct to say “put yourself in their shoes”. It really should be “imagine what it is like to be that other person in that situation”. Imagine what it is like to have grown up differently, be of a different intelligence, have different likes and dislikes. I have practiced this all my life. It is quite a bit more challenging than just “imagine that were me in that situation”.

In fact, I have come to realize that part of the challenge I have with responding to people is that I can see the emotions they are not putting up for public viewing. I have had many times where I’ve asked a coworker if another is OK, they’ll say they haven’t noticed anything wrong, then later find out the person in question has had some upsetting upheaval.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to discern the intended public face versus the intended to be hidden feelings. So someone says “good morning” but seems angry, I can’t tell if they are angry at me, or if it was something else. I have also found that people very often resent having their nonpublic emotions pointed out by my asking if they are OK. I’ve had people get defensive and angry just because they could see by the way I was looking at them that I was worried, and therefore had noticed, and were afraid of having their pain exposed.

It causes me pain that they are in pain, and pain to know that they are afraid that I will embarrass them. It is part of why I find direct eye contact too intimate outside of people I feel very close to. I find that NTs are overwhelmingly prone to misread what I am feeling/thinking during direct eye contact.

As a result, I try not to look to closely at people unless I am close to them. I try not to take notice of anything they are trying to conceal. I have practiced a long time to be able to focus 2 to 4 inches in front of their face so I appear to be making eye contact, but am not.

TL; DR I disagree with your supposition that Aspies/Auties are only occasionally perceptive.

Edit: I’d like to add a link to Pavel Mencl’s answer to another question that delves more deeply into NTs and Theory of Mind.

Pavel Mencl's answer to Do adults with Asperger's/ ASD compute theory of mind differently than neurotypical people do?

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