fight for truth: fight simon baron-cohen

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Woodpecker
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28 Dec 2010, 4:45 pm

I have read some of Simon Baron-Cohen's papers, and I am unable to find any serious flaw in them. The one I like the most is the one where he took undergrads from physical science, biological science, social science and the humanities and he then measured their SQ and EQ levels. He found that there is both a male / female difference and a difference between physical science students and the humanites. The people with ASDs on a 2D plot of SQ and EQ were clustered in a place where so called "super male" minds would be expected to be.

While some people might not like the "extreme male" term as they think it is sexist, I do not think it is being used in a nasty or discriminatory way by SBC. It is being used as a purely descriptive term in the same wayas a lump of chalk is white while a lump of coal is black. I think that SBC has stopped using the extreme male brain term and has moved onto the idea of SQ and EQ, but at the end of the day you have to admit that the average man has a higher SQ and a lower EQ score than the average woman. But bear in mind that the ESD for both SQ and EQ is very large. Many women have higher SQ score than many men (the same applies to EQ scores as well)

If people find SBC to be a bad researcher, then I suggest you go after other worse researchers. In terms of bad and nasty researchers I think that the AS community have much larger and nastier ones to deal with. Some "researchers" are very shabby, one claims that men with AS exert a carcinogenic effect on wifes and GFs. The researcher in question refuses to discuss the methods by which they came to this very contraversal and distasteful set of conclusions.

The problem is that the researcher bypassed the peer review process in accademic publishing by making their claims in books.

I am an accademic who is sometimes called on to review papers, I suspect that most reviewers do what I do. I do not mind if the paper goes against some hypothesis which I love. I only want to know if the paper is well written and contains evidence to support its conclusions.


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anbuend
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28 Dec 2010, 5:25 pm

It's not his statistics that are problematic, it's his methods of measuring them and his surety that performance on certain tests really reflects specific qualities called empathizing and systematizing. And of course that empathizing and systematizing are actual qualities that have... I don't know the word. He thinks they are real and not just force-fitted ideas. And then he thinks you can measure them a certain way. You can't just have statistics, you have to be sure what you're measuring are genuine and distinct qualities and that the way you measure them is itself a good way to measure them (if they even exist).

He is very caught up in a certain kind of abstraction so extreme that he takes these words he comes up with and thinks of them as concrete or nearly so the way something like muscle strength or nerve conductance is relatively concrete. Then he goes around measuring people in ways that make the world seem to meet his abstractions.

Just one among many critiques of his measuring techniques I've heard: His idea of systematizing doesn't include many traditionally "female" interests or activities and does include many traditionally "male" interests and activities.

Another thing I've noticed is that his measurements (as well as others measurements he supports in his writing) of "empathy" and "theory of mind" are similarly tailored to areas autistic people are bad at.

Restricting the reading of body language to photographs of actors (so likely to measure familiarity with stage conventions rather than genuine candid expressions) who are not autistic (it's possible that autistic people find autistic people easier to read just like nonautistic people find nonautistic people easier to read) restricted to the eyes (a body part many autistic people find stressful to look at) in black and white (an unnatural color) and still photos (also an unnatural situation that some evidence shows is harder for autistic people to read than moving people) with questions using language (difficult for many autistic people on its own, but difficult for most autistic people to combine language and nonverbal cues at the same time, additionally knowing something is not the same as knowing the word for it).

Thats a lot of different ways in just one of his tests that could potentially make it harder for autistic people, some of which are known to make things harder for us, yet many people don't question it at all.

Then there's the Sally Anne test. Already it contains some of the most complex language structures in the English language. Autistic people have trouble with language. If you give a picture based false belief test, autistic people do at least as well as nonautistic people if not slightly better at times. What happens when an autistic person manages to pass the Sally Anne verbal test? Do they get told they have theory of mind? No, they're given a more complex test using harder language and abstraction and multitasking, and given harder and harder tests until they trip up and then they lack theory of mind again.

Then there's the empathizing test. Lots of it is based on how nonautistic people respond to you, and being able to understand nonautistic people (since most people are nonautistic). So then there's the "nonautistic people think autistic people lack empathy therefore autistic people lack empathy" circularity. And then there's the "autistic people can't read nonautistic people very well so autistic people lack empathy" thing.

Let's look at that last thing with some information about the world:

Nonautistic people can barely read autistic people at all.

Autistic people can usually read nonautistic people to some degree, certainly better than the reverse, because we live in a world full of them and we pick up some of it to survive. Additionally some autistic people seem to read nonautistic people anywhere from fairly well to very well.

Nonautistic people can usually read nonautistic people well. Not perfectly but well.

Many autistic people can read other autistic people (or people of their subtype) at least as well as nonautistic people read other nonautistic people.

So, when we can't (or seem to not be able to but actually can in some cases) read them it's a defect in our empathy. When they can't read us it's not considered a defect in their empathy (we are just seen as innately mysterious, or lacking in expression -- one time an autistic woman read my emotions and motivations perfectly and a nonautistic woman exclaimed you can't possibly be reading her emotions, she doesn't have any body language!! !"... says a lot about bias, doesn't it?)

Or as I put it, I can't read you so I'm defective, you can't read me so I'm defective. It doesn't make sense.

Additionally all of these tests require verbal skills. It's just assumed that those of us without the verbal skills will just be more extreme forms of those who can take the tests. But that's not necessarily so. When I'm not actively using language I revert to the way I've always been -- language might as well exist, same as with many autistic people whose pattern matching skills didn't lead them to simulating language as well as I do. When I can't use or understand language, my ability to read nonverbal cues skyrockets. It's like many of us can have one or the other, and some shift like me (while possibly racially a side the way I favor non-language) while others do language without so many people reading skills, people reading skills without much language, and everywhere in between. Mind you I don't read the same nonverbal cues in the same way as nonautistic people, so I would also possibly fail a test tailored toward their specific skills. But it's been shown autistic people with the same severe receptive language delay I had, often look at people's bodies more than people with better language comprehension who usually focus on mouths or nothing at all.

When I say full of holes a mile wide I mean it. These issues have rarely been properly addressed. (And when they are they often get different results.) Statistics on tests this potentially messed up don't mean a lot. I could come up with a test tailored to my conclusions as well (whether consciously or otherwise) and come up with my own statistics and that wouldn't make me right any more than his statistics make him right.

(And while I'm not a traditional researcher, I am involved in some research and have tried to help researchers design around some of these problems. They seemed to take me quite seriously.)


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DandelionFireworks
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28 Dec 2010, 5:56 pm

That's a lot of issues. I'd only noticed, like, two or three of those on my own. Impressive. :D

Also, I didn't quite understand this part:

Quote:
When I'm not actively using language I revert to the way I've always been -- language might as well exist, same as with many autistic people whose pattern matching skills didn't lead them to simulating language as well as I do. When I can't use or understand language, my ability to read nonverbal cues skyrockets. It's like many of us can have one or the other, and some shift like me (while possibly racially a side the way I favor non-language) while others do language without so many people reading skills, people reading skills without much language, and everywhere in between.


I'm guessing you meant "language might as well not exist" (is this correct?) but I can't make sense of "while possibly racially a side the way I favor non-language." Can you or someone else clarify?


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anbuend
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28 Dec 2010, 6:41 pm

Oh good grief. I was posting with my iPod and the autocorrection completely sucks. I never typed "racially" but I can't remember what I did type.

I think "racially" is in place of something like "leaning towards", but I don't know what I actually typed. The problem is the iPod corrects words in really weird ways that can't always even be deciphered.


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ooOoOoOAnaOoOoOoo
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28 Dec 2010, 6:47 pm

Maybe you meant "radically"? It could possibly fit there...



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28 Dec 2010, 6:54 pm

anbuend wrote:
Oh good grief. I was posting with my iPod and the autocorrection completely sucks. I never typed "racially" but I can't remember what I did type.

I think "racially" is in place of something like "leaning towards", but I don't know what I actually typed. The problem is the iPod corrects words in really weird ways that can't always even be deciphered.


A friend of mine had "rejected" autocorrected to 'dent" the other day.

My sister had "Katie" autocorrected to "Mike."



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28 Dec 2010, 7:00 pm

nthach wrote:
I'm sorry, I can't take Simon Baron-Cohen seriously since his cousin Satcha is the same guy who plays Bruno, Borat and Ali G. And yes, Bruno did compare autism to chlamydia.


Really?! 8O How would you like to be judged by what your cousin is doing?

Sorry, but it sounds very illogical.


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28 Dec 2010, 8:16 pm

wavefreak58 wrote:
I simply pointed out a scenario where it COULD be a cause ...


Except that the research shows that this is NOT the case, and you are probably aware that human generations are 20 or 30 years apart, leaving little room for genetic mutations over this time period. Let me guess: you are a male. In my experience, your reaction is typical of some young men who I used to meet when I taught statistics at university, many years ago. If you wish to discuss logic with me, you are most welcome to try, but you have been warned ...



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28 Dec 2010, 8:53 pm

Kea wrote:
Let me guess: you are a male.


Let me guess. You think yourself to be without bias.


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28 Dec 2010, 9:04 pm

wavefreak58 wrote:
Let me guess. You think yourself to be without bias.


Incorrect. Everyone has biases.



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28 Dec 2010, 9:27 pm

Kea wrote:
wavefreak58 wrote:
Let me guess. You think yourself to be without bias.


Incorrect. Everyone has biases.


And yet you are willing to believe that my gender is relevant to the discussion.


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28 Dec 2010, 9:52 pm

wavefreak58 wrote:
Kea wrote:
And yet you are willing to believe that my gender is relevant to the discussion.


You made it so by reacting in what is most easily described as a typical NT sexist male fashion.



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29 Dec 2010, 3:19 am

anbuend wrote:
It's not his statistics that are problematic, it's his methods of measuring them and his surety that performance on certain tests really reflects specific qualities called empathizing and systematizing. And of course that empathizing and systematizing are actual qualities that have... I don't know the word. He thinks they are real and not just force-fitted ideas. And then he thinks you can measure them a certain way. You can't just have statistics, you have to be sure what you're measuring are genuine and distinct qualities and that the way you measure them is itself a good way to measure them (if they even exist).


The problem I see is that the AQ, EQ and SQ scales have several different purposes. These scales are used for the diagnosis of people as well as being used for research. SBC has claimed that a strong coorelation exists between autism and the AQ and SQ scales and that an inverse coorelation exists between autism and the EQ scale.

The great problem in science is that it is possible to take at least two routes through science. I am not sure what scientific method that SBC is using, he has formed a extensive set of hypotheses but I am not sure how well he has then tested them. I am a follower of some of the ideas of Karl Popper which makes me a falsificationist, I am not sure if SBC is an inductionist or a falsificationist.

I am sure that he has observed a difference between different populations in terms of his three scales, but how well has he tested the hypothesis ?

anbuend wrote:
He is very caught up in a certain kind of abstraction so extreme that he takes these words he comes up with and thinks of them as concrete or nearly so the way something like muscle strength or nerve conductance is relatively concrete. Then he goes around measuring people in ways that make the world seem to meet his abstractions.


Oh this is the idea of pathological science, where a person is tricked into false results by subjective effects, wishful thinking or threshold interactions. One of the problems I see in science is that it is possible (either by mistake or in bad faith) to choose experiments which favour one outcome. These experiments are poor experiments which are not a fair test of a hypothesis. I have not seen any evidence of SBC trying to design his experiments in such a way that he increases the likelyhood of a given outcome. If you want to read about how this type of rigging can be done then I would suggest you read the book "Bad Science" by Ben Goldacre.

anbuend wrote:
Just one among many critiques of his measuring techniques I've heard: His idea of systematizing doesn't include many traditionally "female" interests or activities and does include many traditionally "male" interests and activities.


Good point, I know in the past that ASDs seemed to be a "male" thing, as oftein men and boys with AS/HFA are identified while women and girls are not. The problem I see is that while the SQ test would be better in some ways if he added more questions to test things which are "female" interests (and some more "male" interests) the number of questions required for the test would increase greatly which would make fewer people willing to take the test. I think that a tradeoff needs to be made between the ideal test with infinite questions and the test which typical people will be willing to take. Also if the test is altered then will it be possible to continue to compare the existing data from the older version of test with the data from the newer version ?


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29 Dec 2010, 7:36 am

Kea wrote:
wavefreak58 wrote:
Kea wrote:
And yet you are willing to believe that my gender is relevant to the discussion.


You made it so by reacting in what is most easily described as a typical NT sexist male fashion.


Had you a lick of sense, you would realize that, in typical aspie fashion, I was fixating on the logical structure of the specific sentences in question. Structurally, what you said was illogical, even if your larger argument is valid and one that I tend to actually agree with.

So who is showing bias? You assumed a great deal about me when the OBVIOUS interpretation in a forum FILLED with people on the spectrum is that I was being very literal. Oh. Wait. People on the spectrum are never literal. What was I thinking?


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29 Dec 2010, 8:23 am

anbuend wrote:
Restricting the reading of body language to photographs of actors (so likely to measure familiarity with stage conventions rather than genuine candid expressions) who are not autistic (it's possible that autistic people find autistic people easier to read just like nonautistic people find nonautistic people easier to read) restricted to the eyes (a body part many autistic people find stressful to look at) in black and white (an unnatural color) and still photos (also an unnatural situation that some evidence shows is harder for autistic people to read than moving people) with questions using language (difficult for many autistic people on its own, but difficult for most autistic people to combine language and nonverbal cues at the same time, additionally knowing something is not the same as knowing the word for it).


I don't want to build a wall of text so I'll just pick out two things of interest. There's a thread with the eye photo test so I took it. I missed several and have many of the same problems with it that you point out. It is incredibly unnatural in all the ways you say. Real life is not in black and white (even if you are color blind), people move, and only in certain very limited situations can you only see somebody's eyes. Also these are actors and models so it's also a test of how well they have simulated a particular emotion.

One of them I think he even screwed up. Myself and another poster recognized one of the eye photos as belonging to Claudia Schiffer in a modeling shot from the late 80's/early 90's that was ubiquitous at that time. He had labeled the emotion "disgust" or something else that didn't match what we both knew was going on in the full shot...Claudia Schiffer stepping out of a plane and looking around at where she had landed. She had the look that models usually have of mild and remote interest. Models aren't supposed to be displaying identifiable emotions the way actors are. They are supposed to have an expression that can be interpreted in a variety of ways so that the buying public can project their own fantasies onto the model and thus be inspired to buy the clothes. But he had labeled it as "disgust" or something else equally silly.

.
Quote:
Let's look at that last thing with some information about the world:

Nonautistic people can barely read autistic people at all.

Autistic people can usually read nonautistic people to some degree, certainly better than the reverse, because we live in a world full of them and we pick up some of it to survive. Additionally some autistic people seem to read nonautistic people anywhere from fairly well to very well.

Nonautistic people can usually read nonautistic people well. Not perfectly but well.

Many autistic people can read other autistic people (or people of their subtype) at least as well as nonautistic people read other nonautistic people.

So, when we can't (or seem to not be able to but actually can in some cases) read them it's a defect in our empathy. When they can't read us it's not considered a defect in their empathy (we are just seen as innately mysterious, or lacking in expression -- one time an autistic woman read my emotions and motivations perfectly and a nonautistic woman exclaimed you can't possibly be reading her emotions, she doesn't have any body language!! !"... says a lot about bias, doesn't it?)

Or as I put it, I can't read you so I'm defective, you can't read me so I'm defective. It doesn't make sense.


.)[/quote]

Since I don't have autism myself and had barely even heard of it before my autistic daughter was born, I had the same assumption that Baron-Cohen has. This assumption is that there is only one body language and all humans use it. No diversity the way there is with verbal language. Just one monolithic language with some body language idioms that vary from culture to culture, like regional accents that don't impede understanding once you hear them a few times. When you are working within that assumption, it will seem like the autistic people who are actually using a wholly different body language are simply devoid of body language and also unable to read it

. What I have since learned is that there are actually two body languages (or maybe more, I wouldn't know) and that what we have here is not a lack of empathy but a plain old-fashioned language barrier. It's as though an English speaker and a Chinese speaker encountered each other but when the English speaker couldn't understand the Chinese speaker or make himself understood, he assumed that the Chinese speaker wasn't speaking at all but rather just making choking noises because he couldn't talk. Language barriers are pretty easy to overcome because we know that they are there. Having no awareness that there is a language barrier because you don't know there are multiple languages leads to the mistake that Baron-Cohen (and non-autistic people generally, including myself) have made.