little think

there was a study published in current biology the other day showing that, unlike “neurotypical” kids, autistic kids don’t overimitate after being shown how to do something. from a popular report @livescience:

“Kids with Autism Don’t Copy ‘Silly’ Actions”

“When imitating the behavior of an adult, children with the developmental disorder autism tend to skip ‘silly,’ unnecessary actions, while those without autism tend to copy everything they see, silly or not, a new study suggests.

“The study involved 31 children with an autism spectrum disorder, and 30 typically developing kids without autism. All the children were asked to watch as an adult showed how to remove a toy (a rubber duck) from a closed Tupperware container. Some of the steps performed were necessary, such as unclipping the lid of the box and taking the lid off, while some were unnecessary, such as tapping the lid twice. The children were then given the container, and asked to get the toy out as fast as they could.

“Kids without autism were much more likely to copy the unnecessary steps, even though the children were not specifically instructed to copy everything the adult did. About 43 to 57 percent of kids without autism copied the unnecessary steps, compared with 22 percent of kids with autism….”

the researcher who conducted the study suggests that: “children with autism do things efficiently rather than socially, whereas typical children do things socially rather than efficiently” [my emphasis].

humans are social creatures. in an extreme sort of way (see: the great civilizations). and our sociality has enabled us to do some fantastic things. but it also makes too many humans thick as planks because most humans really, really, really want to follow and belong to the group. whatever the cost (i.e. even if it means being dumber than a chimp).

and woe to those who don’t play along:

“The End of a Bold Experiment: Big Think and Satoshi Kanazawa”

“Over the past few months, across various social media platforms, and also from the mouths of some of our own bloggers, I have listened to a sustained critique of Kanazawa’s presence on Big Think….

“What I hope results from this experience is what educators call a ‘teachable moment.’ We certainly believe in the value of free speech at Big Think, and give voice to controversial thinkers whose opinions tend to span the political spectrum and often challenge the sacred cows of their respective fields…. However, in providing a platform for dangerous ideas, we also run the risk of overreaching and losing the goodwill of our most dedicated readers. Our commitment is first, and always, to you, and to maintaining your trust…”

…’cause we wouldn’t want you to stop LIKING us and exclude us from the in crowd! heavens, no.

what a bunch of … little thinkers! but that’s all most people are capable of, because most people are social, and social belonging trumps all. like i said over here, it really is us contrarians who require explaining because we are the exceptions to the rule!

jared taylor (quoted by john derbyshire) said recently: “Most people are incapable of holding an unfashionable opinion.”

yup.
_____

(btw, i’m not saying that all contrarians are on the autistic spectrum … but i think a h*ckuva lot of them probably are!)

(note: comments do not require an email. neurotypical personality disorder [<<joke alert!].)

53 Comments

  1. Regarding the Social vs the Efficient…what an insightful stroke of genius! In the same vein, “if he jumped off a cliff, would you?” It’s not unreasonable to guess that most people would jump off that cliff.

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  2. Doing things efficiently makes one unpopular, it seems.
    Guess it’s a good thing I don’t care much for popularity… ;-)

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  3. Yes. My people try to keep culture as consistent as possible from generation to generation, and we start early.

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  4. Anecdotal evidence: when I was in kindergarten, the parents once staged a silly play for the children. When I saw my mother on stage in that most ridiculous costume and make-up, I stormed away crying, full of bitter shame.
    Now I browse HBD blogs.

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  5. From what I know of kids with autism, I’m surprised they didn’t just sit there doing some other irrelevant stereotypical actions, or run away or something. Also possibly this is another study on the dubious “high functioning autism” phenotype.

    I think people will do things efficiently when there is a social norm to do so. And self control and understanding of norms takes time to develop. This setup was probably too like play to tap it.

    I’m not hugely convinced autistics are these socially blithe types. If you think about how they behave, a lot of their behavior is driven by fear or anxiety over the expectations of others. So its socially driven, wanting to please other minds, etc.

    They just do not have the attention and focus abilities to sift what is relevant from irrelevant in terms of social information and actually understand how people think – they’re not necessarily less socially sensitive in the sense of having less of a social concern, but in the sense of missing how people really think and jumping at shadows. If you give them explicit social rules, I bet they conform to the letter.

    As the authors state – “It is also not driven by superior causal reasoning, because the children with ASC also performed worse on the rationality discrimination task.”

    Not really better understanding of rational or efficient actions, or necessarily more performing of rational or efficient actions, but less copying of irrational and inefficient actions.

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  6. It’s a good thing someone can voice a different opinion but Big Think can’t be blamed for wanting to keep their readers. Perhaps he should have been more diplomatic, like Steven Pinker.

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  7. @Staffan:

    “Perhaps he should have been more diplomatic, like Steven Pinker.”

    I don’t think that’s Kanazawa’s style… ;)

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    1. @Soxy:

      “Kanazawa is a poor researcher.Remember his claim african man are more attractive”

      Really? For your information, that finding was replicated elsewhere.

      Everyone who I’ve seen criticize Kanazawa on that point misses the connection he was making. Since there is a link between IQ and attractiveness, he was positing that if you “correct” for IQ, the average attractiveness of Black men in the Add Health data (which he was using) becomes highest of all races. Now, I’m not sure if it’s kosher to make that particular “correction”, but jumping on Kanazawa for making that conclusion is acting no different than the people who criticized him for pointing one that his data showed that Black women were rated less attractive than other women…

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  8. This experiment shows that autistic kids are retards and behave like monkeys.
    Aping adults is how children learn.
    6 year old children taught reading or basic math do not know if what they are told is important or silly.
    Yet they ape the adults. And later learn silly algebra or silly calculus or silly etc. And finally when they become adults they work and earn money.

    Repeating exact behavior of adults is a sign of intelligence as it means that the kid will learn more from adults.

    Some youtubs:

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  9. @heinz – “This experiment shows that autistic kids are retards and behave like monkeys.”

    (apes. chimps are apes, not monkeys.)

    and, no. it shows that autistic kids are superior than neurotypical kids at “folk physics” — which probably explains why autists are over-represented in fields like physics, engineering, and … wow! … mathematics [both links are to pdfs].

    as one fellow in the first video said: “What this study shows is that apes don’t just mindlessly ape, they also understand something more about cause and effect.” — andrew whiten – univ. of st. andrews. same with the autistic kids.

    overimitation is a characteristic of neurotypicals, god luv ’em! they are the sheeple of the world who feel like they’re so “modern” and advanced using their tablets to poke all their friends on facebook, when really it’s guys like this who don’t overimitate who move the world forward (although they may never move out of their basements (~_^) ) ’cause they’re NOT just copying their neighbor.

    what the super-social, neurotypical overimitation learning style enables are things like religious belief (a particular religious belief in a certain god or gods or whatever) and political correctness. neurotypicals are, i’ll admit, the sort of people you need around in large numbers to have a civilization of any sort. you need someone to build the pyramids, after all. (~_^) (until we have enough robots, that is….)

    thanks for the links to those videos! (^_^)

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  10. @staffan – “It’s a good thing someone can voice a different opinion but Big Think can’t be blamed for wanting to keep their readers.”

    no, they can’t be blamed for wanting to keep their readers, but i think they can be blamed for going on and on about what Big Thinkers they are when really they are not much different from most people — i.e. when it comes down to it, they don’t want to be associated with certain, unpopular ideas.

    and that’s ok, too. but i wish they wouldn’t pretend otherwise.

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  11. @matt – “As the authors state – ‘It is also not driven by superior causal reasoning, because the children with ASC also performed worse on the rationality discrimination task.’

    “Not really better understanding of rational or efficient actions, or necessarily more performing of rational or efficient actions, but less copying of irrational and inefficient actions.”

    the rationality discrimination task [pdf] was silly!:

    “Following the five experimental trials, participants were then given a rationality discrimination task. The major motivation for including this task was to test for the possibility that children with autism have better causal reasoning than typical children, and to test if better casual reasoning might drive lower overimitation. In this task, children were asked to rate one necessary and one unnecessary action from each sequence. They were first shown a scale with the numbers from one to five along the bottom with a picture of a man in a suit above the number one and a picture of a clown above the number five. The scale was explained to them as ranging from ‘very sensible’ (E points at the suited man) to ‘very silly’ (E points at the clown) or somewhere in between (E points at the numbers two to four). D then came and demonstrated the actions one at a time and the participant was asked to rate it as sensible or silly by pointing at the scale.”

    sensible or silly? why didn’t they just ask the kids if the actions were necessary or unnecessary to complete the task? referring to the tasks as silly — and drawing a clown there — would, of course, just throw off the autistic kids — who take things literally (speaking from personal experience).

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  12. jared taylor (quoted by john derbyshire) said recently: “Most people are incapable of holding an unfashionable opinion.”

    Of course, the problem can be solved with education. The nations top universities should create a course in the “unfashionable” HBD and it will become a general education requirement for all graduates. The prerequisite will be statistics. After all, the purpose of general education is to broaden perspective.

    Oh, I forgot! The purpose of many GE classes is to deny HBD (i.e. Cultural Anthropology, History, Ethnic Studies, and etc.). And, most students don’t like and struggle with Statistics.

    Never-mind

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  13. About 43 to 57 percent of kids without autism copied the unnecessary steps, compared with 22 percent of kids with autism….”

    the researcher who conducted the study suggests that: “children with autism do things efficiently rather than socially, whereas typical children do things socially rather than efficiently” [my emphasis].

    My take on what you said hdb would be that more non-“autistic’s” behave in a histrionic manner. They overemote as a means of attempting to seek recognition for their actions. This is a behavior I associate with “douche bags, and their female counterpart. They have no real individuality and must behave in a manner they perceive as correct for impressing the person they are trying to impress. And if not receiving attention must act in a manner in order to gain attention from the one they seek to impress. Of course if they gain the attention of one they are not seeking to impress, it immediately offends them (unless that person is black, because nearly all histrionics/liberals and are afraid of offending black people). This is all based on my observations of life in Chicago.

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  14. the rationality discrimination task [pdf] was silly!

    Good point. But, well, I’d have thought the autistic children would have the ability to ignore the irrational part of that stimulus, and concentrate on the scale element, rather than getting “confused”…

    like, political correctness

    I wonder how much political correctness vs hard headed common sense you would find if you polled a group of autistics? They seem more pro-diversity than the average, when I’ve checked out their internet forums. For instance, they often seem opposed to the idea of g, and espouse beliefs in Gardner’s evidence-free model.

    So long as the groupthink is nice and explicit, and doesn’t put them in any confusing social situations that require intuition, they seem to do as they’re told and think what they’re told to think, performing their own idiosyncratic (but usually depressingly generic) irrational actions alongside. Authority challenging psychoticism plus hardheadedness a la Greg Cochran (and one that cares about other minds being wrong) does not seem like a particularly frequent “autistic” trait. (It’s not like autism rates are lower in the least conformist societies such as East Asian ones – the opposite in fact).

    Not that autistic people cannot be good scientific thinkers and maybe the rate, adjusted for overall IQ, is a little higher, but to me it does not seem like the salient variable of interest at all in that direction.

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  15. @Heinz Dummdeutschkopf

    you wrote:
    6 year old children taught reading or basic math do not know if what they are told is important or silly.
    Yet they ape the adults. And later learn silly algebra or silly calculus or silly etc. And finally when they become adults they work and earn money.

    This method of learning may allow you to function in typical work environment, and even get you the grades in math….but it will make you absolutely stink at math (which, agreed, is no big deal for your work-value afterward, for 95% of the jobs).

    Only the kids not aping adults (and remembering math operations as some kind of ritual) will be able to use maths for anything meaningful. You need to understand it to get anything useful out of it, and aping will not help for this – even as an intermediary step.

    For math, aping is a complete waste of time, that would be better spend learning something else (like ballroom dancing for example, that would be more useful that math without understanding).

    Now how many children would be able to understand is another question. high level is probably out of reach for the majority, but I hope most could grasp rule of three. Realistic expectation regarding math skills and moving away for math aping is a worthy goal, better to have most people math-illiterate and math-indifferent than math-illiterate and math-disgusted (while having lost a lot of time learning to hate)

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  16. autistics usually reect popular beliefs for even more unrealistic ones, like libertarianism. they may not care about being judged by popular opinion, but without at least understanding why people have drive to conformity they also have no hope of really understanding society. most autistics are not interested in HBD either, probably because they don’t contact enough people to find it relevant.

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  17. hbd chick – “humans are social creatures. in an extreme sort of way (see: the great civilizations). and our sociality has enabled us to do some fantastic things. but it also makes too many humans thick as planks because most humans really, really, really want to follow and belong to the group. whatever the cost (i.e. even if it means being dumber than a chimp).”

    Someone, I think Chinese, remarked that when taken one, two, or three at a time, the Chinese are unusually smart, but that when taken a thousand at a time they can do some really stupid things. I guess that suggests they are even more conformist than the average, slightly less smart, person in the West.

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  18. “Kanazawa is a poor researcher.Remember his claim african man are more attractive”

    I can’t judge him as a researcher. But he is a poor explainer. Maybe this is one of those things where really smart people can’t communicate with average people.

    Jayman pretty much covered this. African men are clearly more attractive than other men, if you control for IQ, which Kanazawa did. It’s not even controversial. Think about a white guy with 70 IQ (a retarded person) v.s. a guy from Ghana with 70 IQ (an average Ghanian). The white guy will be funny looking but the Ghanian will probably be average looking.

    He didn’t explain this very well though, so most people missed it and started freaking out.

    “autistics usually reect popular beliefs for even more unrealistic ones, like libertarianism. they may not care about being judged by popular opinion, but without at least understanding why people have drive to conformity they also have no hope of really understanding society.”

    Libertarianism makes sense if you’re autistic and you assume that everyone else thinks similarly. We need to spread the dark enlightenment to high functioning autists, so they start to understand the grim reality of how regular people think. Once that hopes, you’d hope that they’d be on board with something more realistic than libertarianism.

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  19. On “folk physics”: I got an 800 on the Physics Achievement test of the SAT back in ’67, without doing even one calculation. Heinz, the NTs are more monkey-like than we auties. You know, “Monkey see, monkey do.”

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  20. re: the claim that african men are more attractive

    I would chalk that up to sexual selection. Depending on the socio-cultural realities of our evolutionary past, some groups have selected for good looks in women, others in men, and still others didn’t care much about looks in either sex, but selected for other qualities instead (smarts for example).

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  21. Correction: I meant to write the socio-economic realities of our evolutionary past not socio-cultural. In other words how they made their livings.

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  22. re: “Most people are incapable of holding an unfashionable opinion.”

    Isn’t that what intellectual leaders are for? Which is not to say that unfashionable ideas are good ideas necessarily. Think Marx and Freud, for example, or Hitler and Mussolini. For democracy the problem is how to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones. And don’t forget there are a lot of good fashionable ideas out there too.

    Part of the answer is a well-educated elite, something we happen not to have at the moment because the liberal arts curriculum in our universities has gone to hell. Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!

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  23. By way of illustration, if America’s governing elites had been better versed in the history, literature, and philosophy of the West it would have known Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and, in consequence, would have been more likely to see the good sense contained in this neglected masterpiece:

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDUQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fjtl.org%2Fauster%2FPNS.pdf&ei=nW9oUZ20OoPc9QSEuYH4Cg&usg=AFQjCNECViZc6_tWimUvZNXSJRAvjb-ewQ&sig2=4LD9EULN-aqIT6YdIvq3_w

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  24. Von Bock said:

    Libertarianism makes sense if you’re autistic and you assume that everyone else thinks similarly.

    That is probably the best statement I have ever read regarding Libertarianism.

    Jayman pretty much covered this. African men are clearly more attractive than other men, if you control for IQ, which Kanazawa did. It’s not even controversial. Think about a white guy with 70 IQ (a retarded person) v.s. a guy from Ghana with 70 IQ (an average Ghanian).

    Now the question is who would be considered the more attractive man if the black vs. white comparison used US males one statistical deviation below the race average instead of individuals of equal IQ?

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  25. Jayman pretty much covered this. African men are clearly more attractive than other men, if you control for IQ, which Kanazawa did. It’s not even controversial. Think about a white guy with 70 IQ (a retarded person) v.s. a guy from Ghana with 70 IQ (an average Ghanian).

    Under this logic you’d expect this to be the case for Black women also….

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  26. “They seem more pro-diversity than the average, when I’ve checked out their internet forums. For instance, they often seem opposed to the idea of g, and espouse beliefs in Gardner’s evidence-free model.”

    I agree but as far as anecdotal evidence goes I also have the distinct impression that they are much more willing to listen to rational arguments than the neurotypical liberals. And they don’t wallow in indignation and feelings of moral superiority when faced with a politically incorrect argument, not in my experience anyway.

    And experts seem to agree that they are characterized by a truth-over-harmony attitude.

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  27. “Under this logic you’d expect this to be the case for Black women also….”

    You might expect it, but that was not what Kanazawa’s data showed.

    To quote:
    >>>>>>>>>
    What accounts for the markedly lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women? Black women are on average much heavier than nonblack women. The mean body-mass index (BMI) at Wave III is 28.5 among black women and 26.1 among nonblack women. (Black and nonblack men do not differ in BMI: 27.0 vs. 26.9) However, this is not the reason black women are less physically attractive than nonblack women. Black women have lower average level of physical attractiveness net of BMI.

    Nor can the race difference in intelligence (and the positive association between intelligence and physical attractiveness) account for the race difference in physical attractiveness among women. Black women are still less physically attractive than nonblack women net of BMI and intelligence.

    Net of intelligence, black men are significantly more physically attractive than nonblack men.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    So his findings were sort of remarkable. And he remarked on them, without massaging people's egos. And that was the first time he got fired from blogging.

    If West Africa was truly a female provisioning society there might have been more pressure on male attractiveness, but less pressure on female attractiveness.

    Males will probably impregnate almost any women who will let them, if they don't have a major obligation to provide for her and their kids. They may be more selective when they're going to be stuck with provisioning her and her kids for a significant amount of time. But even in a female provisioning society, women would still only allow certain males to mate with them, in the situations where they had a choice. One of the characteristics they might look for might be male attractiveness.

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  28. “Adalwolf

    Anecdotal evidence: when I was in kindergarten, the parents once staged a silly play for the children. When I saw my mother on stage in that most ridiculous costume and make-up, I stormed away crying, full of bitter shame.
    Now I browse HBD blogs.”

    I’ve got my own version of that:

    Is it any wonder…? | JayMan’s Blog

    ;)

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  29. Matt
    “Under this logic you’d expect this to be the case for Black women also….”

    In a female provisioning environment the selective pressure is on men to compete for attention

    http://thosewhocansee.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/moralityor-biology.html

    Violence is one way of achieving this, either using force directly on the women or through attacking male rivals. A second method is display – bright clothes, loudness, music, dancing, showing off etc.

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  30. “Libertarianism makes sense if you’re autistic and you assume that everyone else thinks similarly.”

    Yup, I am still registered with the Clerk of Elections as a Libertarian, but am coming around to the Reactionary point of view about how most humans actually behave. NTs need to be policed.

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  31. @ Matt@1:21: Yup, indeed. I used to correspond with mostly Auties/Aspies on the ‘net, and it’s amazing how many of us swallow the PC thing hook, line, and sinker. Well, we may be smart at some things (not social things), but we are also famously gullible.

    I mind an hilarious post on Sociopathworld a while back in which Aspies were discussed, and at least one Aspie showed up in the comments. Y’all can prolly find it with the search function there.

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  32. @matt – “But, well, I’d have thought the autistic children would have the ability to ignore the irrational part of that stimulus, and concentrate on the scale element, rather than getting ‘confused’…”

    no. we auties tend to take everything literally (i think justthisguy mentions this above), until we learn that other people don’t (some never learn this). then if you ask these kids if an action was “silly” — well, they might have their own interpretation of what is silly, because (believe me) a LOT of what neurotypicals do seem silly to us! and throwing a clown in there … i mean … wtf?? that will simply not make ANY sense at all to an autistic kid. they’ll be wondering where on earth the clown entered into it. don’t remember any clown during the experiment…?

    trust me. they should’ve just asked something along the lines of “was such-and-such an action necessary or unecessary?”

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  33. @matt – “Authority challenging psychoticism plus hardheadedness a la Greg Cochran (and one that cares about other minds being wrong) does not seem like a particularly frequent ‘autistic’ trait.”

    hardheadedness, stubbornness, angry at the world for being so annoyingly stupid — yes, all very autistic traits.

    authority challenging? i’d have to agree with you on that. not typically autistic, at least in my experience. but being contraran? again, yes. i think a lot of contrarians are autists (but there are probably other a-neurotypicals who are contrarians: schizos, psychopaths, adhd — esp. adhd i would think), but definitely not all autists are contrarians.

    these are all my impressions. i could be totally wrong, of course!

    @matt – “Not that autistic people cannot be good scientific thinkers and maybe the rate, adjusted for overall IQ, is a little higher, but to me it does not seem like the salient variable of interest at all in that direction.”

    again, though — autists overrepresented in physics, engineering, and math (see link above). above average iq autists, i’m sure. systemizers.

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  34. @bleach – “autistics usually reect popular beliefs for even more unrealistic ones, like libertarianism. they may not care about being judged by popular opinion, but without at least understanding why people have drive to conformity they also have no hope of really understanding society.”

    yes. this is a problem with/for autistists — really not understanding how the majority of people function and feel about the world AT ALL! and, like you say, they wind up following nutty ideas like libertarianism.

    on the flip side, though, neurotypicals have NO grasp of how autists and other a-neurotypicals function/feel about the world either. this is a problem for humans — trying to understand other people — people unlike oneself. truth to be told, most people don’t even bother to try — they just work under the assumption that other people are like themselves.

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  35. @justthisguy – “On ‘folk physics’: I got an 800 on the Physics Achievement test of the SAT back in ’67, without doing even one calculation.”

    heh. (^_^)

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  36. @staffan – “And experts seem to agree that they are characterized by a truth-over-harmony attitude.”

    @justthisguy – ” I used to correspond with mostly Auties/Aspies on the ‘net, and it’s amazing how many of us swallow the PC thing hook, line, and sinker. Well, we may be smart at some things (not social things), but we are also famously gullible.”

    yes. the thing with (us) austists/aspergians is that they’re logical and rational BUT, as justthisguy says, gullible. they/we don’t expect people to lie about the facts. i mean, why would you? (i know, i know — it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true!) you want to know how something works? well, why would you lie about any aspect of it then?

    i still struggle with this, believe me. on an almost daily basis. like, for example, with putnam’s diversity research. i was truly shocked that he sat on his results for five years before publishing it, ’cause why would anyone … oh, yeah, i forgot. people have other motivations in life besides just finding out the truth (i.e. systemizing).

    otoh, we have (had) people like rushton who didn’t hesitate to publish his findings re. iq and the microcephalin genesbecause he was just interested in finding out the truth of the matter (<<aspie alert!).

    so, we're gullible, and if we're not aware that other people lie/make sh*t up, we can be fooled. we can reason logically about things, but starting from false premises (like with libertarianism), and not realize what a HUGE mistake we’re making since we didn’t realize that other people from whom we got our information might not be very reliable.

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  37. hbdchick, appreciate your patience and good humor on this touch, which could be touchy to a person who identifies (either self or diagnosed) as autistic.

    again, though — autists overrepresented in physics, engineering, and math (see link above). above average iq autists, i’m sure. systemizers.

    Good point re:systematising. That does show a similarity in autistic profiles and scientist profiles, but I’m not sure about how much of the variance it explains anyway (vs the other kinds of traits I think might be relevant).

    One facet, to try and explain my view a little more, is when I see autism in discussions like this is that when I talk to or read about successful people in the sciences or even technology, I get the impression that they understand humans emotions better, not worse, than the average person (not sure about the IQ matched people, but the average, average IQ person). They don’t seem to have a low interest in establishing a normal social life or low capability to do so (if not particularly outside their circle of technical people!).

    Seems odd to describe such people (scientists) as autistic – or autistic deficiencies as responsible for their strengths – just because they are relatively better at systematizing abilities (or their relatives have a slightly increased, but still absolutely very low propensity to be diagnosed with autism compared with humanities students). The profile may be similar in a sense, if we think of the relative balance of systematic and empathizing abilities, of verbal and spatial abilities, but the phenotype is very dissimilar (particularly beyond this simple scale). There’s a qualitative difference in not actually having the deficits.

    Not to get too broad here, but I’m pretty skeptical (and concerned) about a rather (it seems to me PC linked) trend to explain autism as some kind of adaptive strategy, which I find pretty unlikely, rather than a ceteris paribus less effective strategy, which is due to mutational load (and constant de novo mutations) which disproportionately affects social abilities and which is not as effectively purged in cultures (all else equal) with relatively rudimentary socializing and lots of niches for technical experts.

    E.g. Simon Baron-Cohen’s work (I’m not too familiar, but I think the guy tries to explain tics as a systematizing behavior ffs) or Michelle Dawson’s seems intent in trying to explain this stuff in terms of an adaptive strategy and balancing selection (using a highly selected sub-population of autistic people compared against the general population), and I think it just ain’t so. (To be clear, I think some people with autism are great at stuff and should be proud of that, but that autism itself is a necessary strength that we wouldn’t be better off just engineering out, I think that is a bit of a fantasy).

    (Full disclosure: I tested fairly high on one of those autism spectrum questionnaires, when I tried it, but can’t say as I get read that way too often, as opposed to introverted).

    you want to know how something works? well, why would you lie about any aspect of it then?

    Related, but I wonder if the special interest angle is relevant to autism and HBD, in that autistic people may not really have too much of an issue with bullshit when it’s not within their “special interests”. Autistic folk tend to develop focal interests because they’re not so interested in being able to talk about a wide range of topics with a bunch of people, or work with others to understand phenomena, which involves inevitable degrees of compromise (rather they prefer working solitary and not really caring if anyone else is interested).

    Might be overstepping the mark, but it seems kind of plausible that the perception of autistic commitment to truth comes from a cognitive style that tends towards becoming as much of an expert as possible on what interests them… but not everything is interesting, so there is not some general commitment to truth.

    Some guy who is obsessed with memorising every railway station isn’t really going to care too much if someone is bullshitting about physics (which probably makes his eyes glaze over). He really does not want to know how physics works.

    He might not bullshit on the topic himself though, as he might not be confident he can know if someone else will catch him out, and because other people seeing him as knowledgeable or imaginative doesn’t matter to him. Not out of any special commitment to the truth or understanding as such.

    Add to that that the special interest of autistic people is not likely to be in the realm of the human sciences….

    One other thing with autistic people is that I’m not convinced they have less of a self serving bias – it would be interesting to see what their superiority illusion is like for example.

    Empathizing and systematizing are not complete descriptors of all the range of interests – “self socialising” and building up an elaborate image of oneself for instance is another, to name one.

    Autistic people may not tailor their responses to what others think, because they may not really get what others think, but distorting the image of the world in order to have a positive image of it generally, I think that’s highly likely.

    otoh, we have (had) people like rushton who didn’t hesitate to publish his findings re. iq and the microcephalin genes — because he was just interested in finding out the truth of the matter (<<aspie alert!).

    Although, it’s kind of hard to see what rationale would have prompted him to have concealed a negative finding, rather than publicise it as soon as possible – for ex, a strong association of the MCPH variant would not have confirmed his thesis and for ASPM variant would also be disconfirmatory if anything (distribution peaks in the Middle East, similar frequencies in East Asia and Africa), and both would to recent selection rather than the ancient selection he pushes. He certainly would not have been in a position to gain any social kudos if he failed to publish as he did, or lose any from publishing.

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  38. @matt – “when I talk to or read about successful people in the sciences or even technology, I get the impression that they understand humans emotions better, not worse, than the average person….”

    when you say “successful” people in science/technology, what do you mean by that? or what sort of person do you mean?

    are you thinking of a bill hamilton/bill gates type person? or a richard dawkins/mark zuckerberg type person? ’cause i’d say the former two were actually successful at doing science/techie stuff, while the latter two are more successful at selling their science/techie stuff (although obviously gates is no slouch when it comes to making money).

    i’m not saying that any of these people are/were on the autistic spectrum — just wondering what you mean by successful — ’cause there are different sorts of success.

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  39. @matt – “Seems odd to describe such people (scientists) as autistic – or autistic deficiencies as responsible for their strengths – just because they are relatively better at systematizing abilities….”

    no, i don’t think of — or wasn’t suggesting to describe — scientists as on the austistic spectrum just because they are systemizers. a h*ckuva lot of the ones that i’ve known have also had other autistic spectrum traits like near total social ineptitude. mind you, i’ve never personally known any famous scientists like a richard dawkins or a steven pinker. i’ve known the ones toiling away at studying beetle wing structure or some applied physics thingie that i didn’t understand. and more often than not, their personalities were like, or closer to, jamie hyneman’s on mythbusters rather than adam savage’s. or even sheldon’s!

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  40. @matt – “Not to get too broad here, but I’m pretty skeptical (and concerned) about a rather (it seems to me PC linked) trend to explain autism as some kind of adaptive strategy…”

    no, i don’t want to go there automatically either. (and, yes, it probably is pc-linked — it’s part of the “everybody’s equal” school of thought.)

    @matt – “…which I find pretty unlikely, rather than a ceteris paribus less effective strategy, which is due to mutational load (and constant de novo mutations) which disproportionately affects social abilities and which is not as effectively purged in cultures (all else equal) with relatively rudimentary socializing and lots of niches for technical experts.”

    i haven’t followed the genetic research into autism spectrum disorders in a while (several years, actually). is this known to be the case now? that autism is due solely to mutational load?

    how about — and i’m just thinking out loud here…

    clearly it can’t be adaptive to sit in a corner all day flapping your hands and rocking back and forth, even if you can rattle off prime numbers into infinity. but being able to focus all day long, or for large parts of the day, every day, at chipping away at some rocks to make some nice solutrean hand axes might attract the ladies. so might being able to design and build some nifty aqueducts.

    so, couldn’t there be some “genes for systemizing” which have been selected for, but if you add to that phenotype too much mutational load like you suggest, you wind up with dysfunctional autists?

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  41. @matt – “Autistic folk tend to develop focal interests because they’re not so interested in being able to talk about a wide range of topics with a bunch of people, or work with others to understand phenomena, which involves inevitable degrees of compromise (rather they prefer working solitary and not really caring if anyone else is interested).”

    ehhhh, no, not really. autistic folk tend to develop a focal interest in something just because they have an interest in that something — and we tend to want to focus only on what we are interested. not because we don’t want to work with others.

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  42. @matt – “Might be overstepping the mark, but it seems kind of plausible that the perception of autistic commitment to truth comes from a cognitive style that tends towards becoming as much of an expert as possible on what interests them… but not everything is interesting, so there is not some general commitment to truth.”

    actually, i think there is, but it might be obscured by the fact that autists often tend to focus on a single topic.

    what you might not be aware of is that many autists, myself included, go through interest phases — you know, like “a blue period.” (mine seem to last for roughly five year periods, so everybody set your clocks accordingly!). and what happens when you shift to a new interest is that you get all annoyed all over again upon discovering that, d*mnit!, these people aren’t interested in the truth, either! (unless you stick to near 100% aspie/autistic interests like trainspotting.) so i think there is a general commitment to the truth, but like i said, i think we tend to be naive/gullible and can’t believe that the apparent lack of interest in the truth held by most people out there is so widespread. we tend to think that, well, strangely there’s some dishonesty here in this field that i happen to be interested in, but it’s surely not like this anywhere else … if the thought even occurs to us at all.

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  43. @matt – “Although, it’s kind of hard to see what rationale would have prompted him to have concealed a negative finding, rather than publicise it as soon as possible….”

    well, i was thinking of how a lot of researchers supposedly file away in their desk drawers any results that fail to confirm their theories.

    @matt – “hbdchick, appreciate your patience and good humor on this touch, which could be touchy to a person who identifies (either self or diagnosed) as autistic.”

    well, i’m one of the (presumably few) odd people who just finds biology to be SO COOL! (^_^) if it were confirmed tomorrow that autism was caused by an “autism germ,” i would just find that … SO COOOOOL! (~_^) (it helps to have left behind the notion that humans somehow have some free agency to shape ourselves and our personalities, etc. maybe a little … a very little … but it seems like wishful thinking to me.)

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  44. @matt – i forgot to mention “white lies.” a lot of high-functioning autists/aspies don’t get white lies, or even lying in general, and have a really hard time with telling a white lie (or a full lie). many don’t, but they still generally do not execute the lie very well.

    i think this ties into the autistic interest in finding the truth. maybe that’s not the right way to put it, though. what it is, perhaps, is not that autists are on a quest for truth, but rather that we just generally don’t get why you would lie (especially about train engine types or beetle wings … or maybe the reasons for human diversity (~_^) ).

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  45. I recently wrote an article on my blog addressing this very issue. I’ve been printing it out into little booklets and ‘accidentally’ leaving it in various places around my hometown. I’ve distributed thirteen copies thus far, mostly in coffee shops. I’d love to hear your thoughts. http://robjinman.com/article.jsp?id=61

    Reply

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