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SineWave
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24 Dec 2004, 3:14 am

I was having a conversation with a psychology graduate friend of mine... and we were talking very indirectly about my condition. (I suspect it’s some flavour of AS, but I’ve never been tested)… We were also talking about the nature of consciousness, and how it develops, and… well, here’s a rant that’s roughly based on what we were talking about:

Among most people, at around the age of 10-12, you start to become truley self-conscious. This sounds like an easy idea: thinking about your own mind, your own identity… but it’s trickier than it sounds.

In order to be truly self-conscious, you also have to be truly conscious of others. It seems like that’s the very thing people with AS lack… they fail for form normal social bonds with people, because to them, other people are almost “alien”.

For me, personally… over the last year I have started to become very conscious of others... in other words, I started to really feel empathy for others, I was able to imagine being in their shoes. And when you can be in someone else’s shoes, you can look back onto yourself, and your own identity. In other words: self-conscious.

During this time I’ve developed a stutter. The problem with stuttering is no doctor can give you a reason WHY you got it. But I suspect this increase in self-consciousness triggered it.



hale_bopp
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24 Dec 2004, 5:48 am

hmm... I only stutter when i've been put in situations where i'm unsure what to think or say, or how to act.

To be honest I don't think about being in peoples shoes very often, I get annoyed with them easily and find it hard to find sympathy for them.

I observe others - to the extreme. I know about people that have probably never even heard of me.. like some sort of one way emotional attachment, it's weird.

All gained through observing people, the way they act, their actions and what their personality seems like, what they look like and Identifying them as someone I know, when I've never even talke dto them.

edit:

Sorry, I misunderstood what you said.

I know what you mean, and I feel like that too. I imagine all the time what I look like though others eyes right at that moment. I probably act tense and akward because I seem to think eveyone's looking at me.

I imagine myself as a pair of eyes looking at me, the way I act, how I do things, move ect.

It creates an uncomfortable feeling for me, but I do it all the time around people. I think this causes the stuttering, because you're thinking what other people are thinking and seeing of you all the time. I know I stutter in that situation you're talking about.



SineWave
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24 Dec 2004, 6:10 am

Yeah.. well, the stuttering thing is just a side-issue I have. No big deal, I suppose.

But, when you say that you imagine youself through other's eyes... hmmm... that's not the same as empathy, that's still being self-centered. And to imagine what others are thinking, that's still not *really* empathy, that's specualtion based on observation.

Hmm.. now I'm not sure what I mean by "empathy", it's something... else... .. hmmrm.. Here's a story:

About 2 years ago, I broke up with my girlfriend. She had cheated on me. I was obviously angry… though the anger almost felt artificial. Like I was angry because that’s what’s expected from me.

That caused my general “detachment” from reality to become even stronger than usual… Six months later, I was in a relationship with another girl. It lasted six weeks. I had serious, serious trust and communication issues. (ah, don’t we all?)

During this whole time, I tried to analyze what had happened, with the first girl. I got nowhere… just anger, regret, loss… the usual “poor me” feelings. Zero empathy for her, though.

But, after a while… I started to really imagine what her position was. And I realized I had made a lot of mistakes. And I thought about the more recent relationship… my god... I had put that girl through a lot of crap…

It’s like I was an emotional puppy, except 300 pounds, totally blind, and with extra sharp claws… totally unaware of the feelings I was trampling on.

After that, everything got even more wacky and I gained the studder.



Civet
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24 Dec 2004, 7:46 am

I recently wrote a paper on this topic.. about AS and the theory of mind. If you are interested, I can post it.

From my research, I gathered that the general consensus among psychologists studying the topic is that people with Autism lack a theory of mind, but some are able to develop one (more common in AS). The theory of mind which is developed by people with AS is not the same as with NTs- an NT's theory of mind comes intuitively and without effort. People with AS calculate others' thoughts with the same effort most people would put into math calculations or studying literature. People with AS also use a different part of the brain to understand other people than NT's do.

Also, they seem to think that the problem is the opposite of what you've suggested- that you have to understand your own mind before you can understand the minds of others. NTs reflect on their own mental states constantly, and apply those mental states to others without even thinking about it. This is where autistics have trouble.

I never thought I had any trouble with self-reflection, but while doing that paper, I realized that I do. I think I can recognize my thoughts just fine, for the most part. I do have trouble predicting how I will feel or what I would think about situations unless I am actually in them. But my emotions are utterly foreign to me. I can not recognize them without an analysis of my current bodily state (like a "systems check"). I also have trouble recognizing and understanding the emotions of others.



Last edited by Civet on 24 Dec 2004, 7:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

Mel
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24 Dec 2004, 7:50 am

Civet wrote:
I recently wrote a paper on this topic.. about AS and the theory of mind. If you are interested, I can post it.

.



I'd be really interested to see that too- you can email to me if you'd rather.



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24 Dec 2004, 1:58 pm

Civet wrote:
NTs reflect on their own mental states constantly, and apply those mental states to others without even thinking about it.


My impression is that the situation is quite the opposite. NTs do NOT appear to reflect on their own mentality at all -- and their "theory of mind" seems to be that "everyone else is like me" (i.e. themselves). It's just some sort of assumption they seem to have...or, perhaps, most of them are quite the same...I don't know.

On the other hand, people on the autistic spectrum seem to understand that there are different types of minds out there and we consciously try to understand these minds -- including our own.

Wikipedia has a nice little discussion about the ToM question with some thoughtful nuggets >>

"Autistic people who develop a workable theory of mind tend to be aware not only that other people have different knowledge from themselves but also that other people have a different way of thinking."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind#Theories_of_mind_attributable_to_individuals


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24 Dec 2004, 2:58 pm

Civet:

Interesting, interesting… yeah, post it. I'm vaguely familiar with the "theory of mind" thing. It sounds pretty much bang on.

Quote:
"NTs reflect on their own mental states constantly, and apply those mental states to others without even thinking about it. This is where autistics have trouble."


How do they know this, though? How can you have an empirical, unbiased view on how people reflect on their own mental states?
How do I know that I reflect less often than an NT reflects?

Quote:
I do have trouble predicting how I will feel or what I would think about situations unless I am actually in them


I think most people (NT or not) have that problem, though…


------


AspieGirl:

Quote:
On the other hand, people on the autistic spectrum seem to understand that there are different types of minds out there and we consciously try to understand these minds -- including our own.


I heard the same thing… (not sure where)… People with AS are consciously aware that people “think differently”… where most people assume that everyone “thinks” in the same way. (not that everyone IS the same, though).

I would have suspected that people with AS are more likely to think “everyone else is like me”, because they have a poorly developed “theory of mind”.



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24 Dec 2004, 3:09 pm

Quote:
My impression is that the situation is quite the opposite. NTs do NOT appear to reflect on their own mentality at all -- and their "theory of mind" seems to be that "everyone else is like me" (i.e. themselves).


You misunderstood what I was trying to say. I don't mean that they conciously reflect, but that they do so unconciously. And applying their own awareness of their thoughts to others is exactly what you say they're doing- that they think everyone else is like them. That is what I meant when I said they "apply those mental states to others without even thinking about it."

Quote:
On the other hand, people on the autistic spectrum seem to understand that there are different types of minds out there and we consciously try to understand these minds -- including our own.


I agree. That is also what I was trying to say. I guess I wasn't being clear, and I apologize.

Quote:
How do they know this, though? How can you have an empirical, unbiased view on how people reflect on their own mental states?


Well, they basically just compared NT thinking and autistic thinking. Studies were done in which people with Asperger's and NTs were both asked to reflect upon their mental states at certain times, and report them.

I agree that any assessment of someone's own descriptions of their mental states is going to be biased, but that is unavoidable in most experiments and studies, as it is. There are other factors to consider, that perhaps autistic descriptions of their mental states differ from NTs because many autistics have trouble expressing their thoughts, and that may be the issue, rather than actually having trouble reflecting on their thoughts.

Quote:
I think most people (NT or not) have that problem, though…


Well I suppose that's a comfort, then.

Quote:
I would have suspected that people with AS are more likely to think “everyone else is like me”, because they have a poorly developed “theory of mind”.


According to the studies done, people with AS who have developed a theory of mind go about understanding others in a different way from NTs. NTs do it intuitively. People with AS analyze the situation and the expressions and so on and so forth to come to a conclusion (atleast, that is what the researchers have found).

I will post the paper for you guys to read in a moment.



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24 Dec 2004, 3:15 pm

Asperger’s Syndrome and the Theory of Mind

Autism and Asperger’s syndrome are pervasive developmental disorders characterized by deficits in nonverbal communication and social interaction, a lack of or delayed pretend play, and a restricted pattern of interests. Associated issues often include difficulties with sensory integration, attention shifting, and repetitive motor movements. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there are different levels of autism. Individuals can range from extremely low-functioning to being so high-functioning that they are able to function in society with few problems. Most professionals consider Asperger’s syndrome to be a form of high-functioning autism due to the similarities in the diagnostic criteria as well as because of the high occurrence of Asperger’s syndrome in families with autism. The main difference between the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome and autism is that people with Asperger’s syndrome often have average to above average IQs and do not display any significant language delays. Those with Kanner’s type autism can have any IQ from the low range to above average, and do display significant delays in the onset of language.

The seemingly random nature of the symptoms of autism and Asperger’s has caused much speculation as to what the actual cause of these seemingly disconnected patterns of behaviors may be. Most recently, the focus of study has been on the developing brain, and the idea that autistics may lack essential mechanisms which help to form a person’s theory of mind.

According to developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, a child’s mind does not function in the same way as an adult’s mind does. Piaget proposed that children’s minds develop through stages, starting with the sensorimotor stage, moving to the preoperational stage, then to the concrete operational stage, and finally to the formal operational stage. Though there is some criticism in comtemporary psychology regarding the nature of Piaget’s steps, which are now considered to be more of a scale, it is agreed that Piaget’s sequence of cognitive developmental stages is correct.

The stage in Piaget’s theory that is most significant to the study of autism is the preoperational stage, in which normally functioning children begin to develop a theory of mind. A theory of mind is comprised of “people’s ideas about their own and others’ mental states” (Myers 143). Before children develop a theory of mind, they are, according to Piaget’s theory, egocentric. This means that they can only view things from their own perspective; they do not recognize other’s points of view. Children normally develop a fully working theory of mind around three or four years old. According to today’s theorists, theory of mind in people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome is either significantly delayed or completely absent.

Psychopathologist Simon Baron-Cohen proposes that the theory of mind is the most efficient way for humans to communicate with eachother. This “intentional stance,” as he calls it, gives people the “ability to attribute the full set of intentional states (beliefs, desires, thoughts, intentions, hopes, memories, fears, promises, ect.)” quickly and intuitively (Baron-Cohen 21). He outlines his theory on the development of a theory of mind as a four step process that all normally developing children go through.

The first step is the development of the “intentionality detector,” or the “ID” (Baron-Cohen 32). The ID is developed in infancy. It identifies “agents” with self-propelled motion or vocalization, and enables the attribution of intentions, such as a goal or desire to those agents (Baron-Cohen 32). An example of this would be that a child whos sees his mother reaching for a bottle of milk would know that it was the mother’s intent to grab the bottle.

The second step in Piaget’s theory is the development of the “eye-direction detector,” called the “EDD” (Baron-Cohen 34). It is developed by 9 months of age. Its function is to detect “the presence of eyes” and determine whether or not the eyes are directed toward the child itself or toward something else (Baron-Cohen 34). It also enables the child to infer that another organism sees what that organism’s eyes are directed at. The child knows this from his or her own experience of seeing. An example of this is simple; if a mother is looking at her child, as long as the child is also looking at the mother, the child will know the mother sees him.

The third step in normally developing children is the “shared attention mechanism,” or the “SAM” (Baron-Cohen 44). While the EDD in a child detects the direction of another organism’s eyes, it can only infer that the organism is looking at that object, but can not make any connection between the child’s own observations and the organism’s observations. This is the function of the shared attention mechanism. Baron-Cohen states that while the relationships understood in the EDD are strictly dyadic, the relationships interpreted by the SAM are triadic. SAM “receives information about another agent’s perceptual state. It then computes shared attention by comparing another agent’s perceptual state with the self’s current perceptual state” (Baron-Cohen 46). This is what enables people to have a conversation about a certain object which is sitting in front of them, for example, a student and a teacher critiquing a piece of the student’s artwork. Both are aware from the other’s gaze that they are attending to the same object. The shared attention mechanism “allows EDD to read eye direction in terms of an agent’s goals or desires,” thus relating the eye direction detector to the intentionality detector (Baron-Cohen 48).

Though the eye-direction detector is absent in children who are born blind, but the absence of this mechanism does not imply the absence of the shared attention mechanism. The lack of eye-direction detection can be compensated for through shared experiences of touch or sound.

The last mechanism in Baron-Cohen’s theory is the “theory-of-mind mechanism,” or the “ToMM” (Baron-Cohen 51). It is normally developed between the ages of 3 and 4, and corresponds to Piaget’s preoperational stage of development. According to Baron-Cohen, this is “a system for inferring the full range of mental states from behavior” (Baron-Cohen 51). Unlike the SAM, this system can be put into practice even without behavioral cues, as people with a fully functioning theory of mind can infer other people’s behavior by applying knowledge of their own mental states to others. An example of this would be a daughter who calls her mother because she hasn’t heard from her mother in a long time, and thinks it would please her mother if she called her. In this situation, there is no behavioral prompting from the mother to motivate the daughter, the daughter just reflects upon what her own feelings would be in such a situation, and applies them to her mother.

Though Baron-Cohen has outlined these steps so solidly, there is little evidence that mechanisms he describes actually exist in the human brain as he describes them. It is clear that most people have the capabilities Baron-Cohen describes, what is not so clear is if the steps are divided as he has outlined. There has not been enough study of the physical brain and brain activity regarding the tasks Baron-Cohen describes to physically support his theories. Despite this, much of his research has been useful in understanding many of the deficits displayed by those with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

Baron-Cohen suggests that people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome do not develop a normal theory of mind due to a failure or delay in the development in either the ToMM or both the ToMM and the SAM. Failure to develop a shared attention mechanism results in the failure to develop a theory of mind mechanism, and studies of many autistic children reveal that their behaviors are consistent with what would be expected from a lack of SAM. Many children with autism do not monitor other’s gazes, do not point out objects of interest, and do not show objects in consideration of another’s perspective. As an example of this, if an autistic child who lacked SAM were asked to show a drawing to his mother, that child would hold the drawing facing himself, rather than his mother, because he would be unable to take her perspective. In Piaget’s view, this would be considered “egocentrism” (Myers 143).

Other autistic children do develop a normally functioning shared attention mechanism, but fail to fully develop a theory of mind mechanism. They have great difficulty understanding mental states of both themselves and others. Because they do not recognize thoughts as mental states they can not understand the difference between belief and reality.

An indication of a child’s understanding that reality and beliefs are not the same is the child’s understanding that beliefs can be false. Based upon this idea, many theory of mind tests have been developed and tested on normally functioning children, children with Down’s syndrome, and children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
One such test is the Sally-Anne test. In this test, the child being tested is presented with two dolls, Sally, and Anne. Sally has a ball, and Anne does not. The researcher shows the Sally leaving her ball in a red cupboard, and then leaving the room. After Sally is gone, Anne is then shown moving the ball into a blue cupboard. Then, Sally returns, and the child is asked where Sally will look for her ball. Normally developing children and children with Down’s syndrome will be able to give the correct answer (the red cupboard) by around the ages of three or four. This is the age at which most children develop a working theory of mind, as suggested by both Baron-Cohen and Piaget. Children with autism in this age group, and even older, however, have difficulty with this problem. They reportedly ascribe their own knowledge of the facts of the situation to Sally, and in most cases say that Sally will look for the ball in the blue cupboard.

This test, however, does seem to make some assumptions. First, researchers assume that the autistic child understands that Sally and Anne are representations of people, and that, even though they are dolls, the child should ascribe mental states to them. This seems to be a major discrepancy, since many autistic children have a delayed onset of pretend play and may not understand this concept. Second, even if the autistic child does understand that Sally and Anne are representations of people, the interpretation of the answer of the blue cabinet seems fixed and does not consider other factors. The child seems to be reporting where the ball actually is. But it is possible that the child did ascribe a mental state to Sally, that of an omniscient one. While this is still incorrect, it would display evidence of mental state attribution. While this test is useful, it seems overgeneralized in its interpretations of its participants responses.

Another test, the Smarties task, is more straightforward. In this test, the child is shown a tube which would normally contain smarties candy. When asked what they think is in the tube, children with and without a developed theory of mind answered that they thought it would contain smarties. The researcher would then open the tube to reveal that it was not smarties, but a pencil inside. The researcher then asked the child what a friend standing outside the room would think was in the tube. Children with a developed theory of mind were able to answer “smarties,” but children without a developed theory of mind replied “a pencil,” and even replied that they had originally believed there was a pencil in the tube. This demonstrates that the child without a theory of mind, such as children younger than three years of age or children with autism, do not recognize the difference between thoughts and reality. This shows that they do not recognize mental states as mental states in either others or themselves, and often do not understand deciet.

There are, however, autistics and people with Asperger’s syndrome who pass these tests who can also pass more difficult tests which involve nested beliefs (tests like “she thinks that he thinks that I think,” ect). According to Uta Frith and Francesca Happé, “these individuals very probably did not have an intuitive ‘theory of mind’ during their early years. However, there is no doubt that, as adults, these individuals can reflect on their own and on other’s mental states” (Frith and Happé 2). These people often have an unusual understanding of the mental states of both themselves and others, and their theory of mind is not something that comes naturally and effortlessly, as it does for most people. Temple Grandin, a woman with high-functioning autism who has built a successful career for herself designing cattle chutes, is an example of one of these individuals who has been able to develop a working theory of mind despite her autism.

Though Grandin knows that others have mental states, in order to really understand them, she has to “’compute’ others’ feelings and intentions and states of minds” (qtd. in Baron-Cohen 141). This way of thinking seems to be consistent with the individuals with Asperger’s syndrome Frith and Happé have studied. Frith and Happé say “these individuals appear to arrive at an explicit theory of other minds by a slow and painstaking learning process, just as they appear to arrive at self-conciousness through a long and tortuous route” (Frith and Happé 2). Frith and Happé propose that people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome are unable to understand other people’s minds because they are unable to reflect on their own. This idea is congruent with Baron-Cohen’s proposal that autistics have trouble with or can not comprehend the existence of mental states. In order to reflect on their thoughts, one must first be able to recognize and understand mental states.

In order to study the methods of self-reflection in the people with Asperger’s syndrome who passed basic theory of mind tests, Frith and Happé designed a study in which participants were asked to record their thoughts at any given moment. At random intervals, a beep would sound signaling for them to self-reflect and record these reflections. In the control group of adults without Asperger’s syndrome, most participants reported “verbal inner experience, visual images, feelings (located in the body), and unsymbolized thinking (thoughts without words or pictures associated with them)” either individually or in some combination (Frith and Happé 12). All of the participants with Asperger’s syndrome, however, “described visual inner experience with content often very close to what they had actually experienced, rather than anything fictitious or imaginary” (Frith and Happé 14). Their abilities to self-reflect were also consistent with their levels of ability on the theory of mind tests.

These results suggest that even adults with high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome may have some impairment, either in the ability to self-reflect or in the ability to imagine events differently from how they are. It seems plausible that autistics’ deficits in understanding both their own and others behavior may be due to a deficit in imagination and the ability to understand casual relationships. However, Baron-Cohen describes tests of causal relations in which children with autism perform equally well as other children of the same age, as long as the subjects of the tests are related to physical relationships rather than mental ones. This suggests that the deficits are related to impairments in understanding of mental states and imagination, rather than a deficit in the understanding of causal relationships.

As Frith and Happé suggest, adults with Asperger’s syndrome can develop a working theory of mind, but that theory of mind is not the same as the theory of mind of most healthy adults. Evidence of this is enforced by the fact that the adults with Asperger’s syndrome have a higher verbal intelligence by the time they are able to pass the theory of mind tests than children of the standard age group, the fact that these same adults are “prone to making tell-tale slips in mental state attribution” such as mistaking sarcasm for seriousness, and that “their approach to social tasks has been said to resemble slow, conscious calculation” (Frith and Happé 7). So, it seems that those with Asperger’s who do develop a theory of mind develop a different method for understanding thoughts than most do. They are not actually displaying a delayed development in the theory of mind mechanism, as Baron-Cohen suggests, but are rather finding ways of compensating intellectually for what comes intuitively to most others.

This theory is supported by studies Happé has done using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to study the activity in the brains of both average, healthy adults and those with Asperger’s syndrome. People with and without Asperger’s were asked to perform tasks in which they had to work out the feelings and thoughts of another person. In the normally functioning adults, “the paracingulate cortex towards the front of the brain, parts of the temporal poles, and a region called the tempoparietal junction” all displayed an increase in activity (“Mind Theory” 1). In the adults with Asperger’s syndrome, different areas of the frontal lobes were activated during these same tasks. As Happé said, “these individuals use different brain areas to solve the problems- it seems that they are using sheer intelligence rather than an innate social intelligence” (“Mind Theory” 1).

Baron-Cohen also supports this theory through his own research, for he believes that people like Temple Grandin, who have overcome autism to form a theory of mind, do not use the intuitive “intentional stance” that most people use, but instead adopt a “contingency stance” (Baron-Cohen 21). This “contingency stance” “entails learning or innately recognizing the behavioral contingencies between another organism’s behavior and their effects” (Baron-Cohen 26). This approach, as described by Baron-Cohen, does not use the intuitive theory of mind mechanism that most people have, but is instead more scientific in nature. It is the result of learning from experience and observation and studying people in relation to their causes and effects. Through continued observation and study, some people with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism are eventually be able to make some universal connections that enable them to more easily interpret not just one person in one specific situation, but all people in similar situations. The accumulated knowledge of separate situations and individuals is able to eventually be universalized into an intellectual understanding of the working of others’ minds.

There have been other studies involving the workings of the autistic brain besides Happé’s, but their results are less conclusive. Recently, Vittorio Gallese and others at the University of Parma located a new type of neuron which they are calling “mirror neurons” (Motluk 1). These are “frontal lobe neurons that fire when performing certain actions or when observing another doing so” (Myers 333). Mirroring another’s actions helps people to empathize, for “unconsciously mimicking others’ expressions, postures, and voice tones helps us feel what they are feeling…. Such mimicry is part of empathy” (Myers 713-714). This type of mirroring is often absent in autistics and those with Asperger’s syndrome, who often display difficulties with the use of and comprehension of both body language and voice tone. These deficiencies may, then, be the cause of autistics’ lack of empathy, rather than a lack of theory of mind. If they are unable to understand what other people are saying or doing, it is unlikely that they will relate to those people and ascribe their own mental states to them. However, Frith and Happé’s studies of autistic adults’ self-reflection show that there is an inhibited, or at the very least, a very different way of reflecting upon themselves which is not accounted for through this theory involving mirror neurons. As Baron-Cohen writes, “the fact that evidence for an imitation deficit in autism is inconsistent means that the processes involved may be considerably more complex than simply ‘imitation causes theory of mind’” (Baron-Cohen 133).

While this theory and Baron-Cohen and Frith and Happé’s theories seek to explain the social deficits in people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, they seem to ignore the other features associated with the disorder, the sensory issues and the pervasive interests, as well as the preoccupation with objects. One theory which focuses more attention on these issues states that “a capacity for joint attention may itself rest on a capacity for shifting attention flexibly, both socially and non-socially” (Baron-Cohen 138). This theory suggests that the shared attention mechanism is inhibited due to autistics’ difficulty in shifting their attention, as many autistics and people with Asperger’s syndrome will focus on an object or subject to the exclusion of all else. This may be due to some of the sensory issues these people experience, oversensitivity to stimulation can cause an autistic person to try to focus on an object or engage in a repetitive motion in order to block out the overwhelming stimulation. However, there have not been enough studies done on the subject of attention shifting and the ability to interact socially to either confirm or disconfirm this theory.

Because autistic behaviors are so varied, and because it is a spectrum disorder, characterized by both low-functioning individuals and those with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome, it is difficult to pin down just one underlying cause of this disorder. As research stands today, the theory of mind theory is the theory which most evidence supports as being the cause behind autistic behaviors. The rare insight that adults with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism are able to give on this subject is invaluable to the study of autism, for all individuals on the spectrum. It also offers an interesting look inside the minds of normally functioning adults, who, if it were not for these individuals, would most likely never have even considered the ability to self-reflect and mind read to be anything unique. Even more important to these studies is the fact that adults with Asperger’s syndrome have proven that even with a deficit in one’s theory of mind mechanism, one can still come to understand people and function in society as others do. Though it is a much more arduous path, it offers hope for many perhaps lower-functioning individuals who have not yet been able to achieve this goal, and the possibilities for insight into teaching techniques and therapy for these individuals.


Works Cited


Baron-Cohen, Simon. Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1995

Frith, Uta and Francesca Happé. Theory of Mind and Self-Conciousness: What is it Like to Be Autistic? Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999.

“Mind Theory.” NewScientist.com. 29 March 2001. <http://www.newscientist.com/news/ news.jsp?id=ns9999567>

Motluk, Alison. “Read my Mind.” New Scientist. pg. 22. 27 January 2001. <http://www.newscientist.com>

Myers, David G. Psychology: Seventh Edition in Modules. New York: Worth Publishers, 2004.



Mel
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24 Dec 2004, 3:22 pm

Thanks Civet- I'll read it once I've got the kids in bed and I can concentrate better :)



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24 Dec 2004, 3:44 pm

nice!



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24 Dec 2004, 3:55 pm

I guess seeing social situations only on the “surface level” would relate to the theory of mind?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been having discussions with a friend, and he actually cited some of the same things you have in your paper.

And a few days ago, I engaged in a very, very NT-style conversation with two of my friends.

The conversation was about similar things in your paper, but we didn’t speak directly about it. That’s the thing I could never do before: indirect communication, innuendo, double-meanings. It was like they were testing me, to see if I could “see” the way they “see”.

On the literal level, the entire conversation was about the evolution of they human eyeball. (we often talk about scientific, social, psychological stuff). If we had that discussion a year ago, I’d see the conversation as nothing but that, I’d only see the literal, surface meaning about the conversation.

But… they (and I) we’re really talking about the evolution of the eyeball, they were talking about me and my AS-ness. It was exhausting to keep track of both the literal conversation, and the second-level meaning of what we were talking about.

Another odd thing… Another friend mentioned to me that I have ALWAYS been able to speak on this “second-level”. He thinks I was just doing it subconsciously. I’m not so sure about that, though… I think it was more likely he was looking for double meanings that didn’t exist.



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25 Dec 2004, 11:14 am

Civet wrote:
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My impression is that the situation is quite the opposite. NTs do NOT appear to reflect on their own mentality at all -- and their "theory of mind" seems to be that "everyone else is like me" (i.e. themselves).


You misunderstood what I was trying to say. I don't mean that they conciously reflect, but that they do so unconciously. And applying their own awareness of their thoughts to others is exactly what you say they're doing- that they think everyone else is like them. That is what I meant when I said they "apply those mental states to others without even thinking about it."

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On the other hand, people on the autistic spectrum seem to understand that there are different types of minds out there and we consciously try to understand these minds -- including our own.


I agree. That is also what I was trying to say. I guess I wasn't being clear, and I apologize.


No problem! -- no apologies necessary. I did misunderstand you. I completely agree with you that NTs do this whole ToM thing subconsciously.

Thanks for posting that article. I will have to take a closer look at it.

:)


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27 Dec 2004, 5:50 pm

Quote:
I guess seeing social situations only on the “surface level” would relate to the theory of mind?


Yes, that's true. If you can not infer another's mental states, you won't be able to see their hidden meanings because they exist only in their thoughts, and are not communicated directly.

Quote:
Another odd thing… Another friend mentioned to me that I have ALWAYS been able to speak on this “second-level”. He thinks I was just doing it subconsciously. I’m not so sure about that, though… I think it was more likely he was looking for double meanings that didn’t exist.


I find that people do that to me, as well. I realize more and more now that half the time, I have no idea what my thoughts or intentions are. I sometimes say things that people take as a joke, but that I did not realize were supposed to be funny. I think back on why I said the remark, and I find that I can not determine whether I meant it seriously or as a joke in the first place. People also seem to assume that there is more to my remarks than there really is.

Quote:
No problem! -- no apologies necessary. I did misunderstand you. I completely agree with you that NTs do this whole ToM thing subconsciously.

Thanks for posting that article. I will have to take a closer look at it.


I'm glad that that's cleared up :) .

It's not an article, by the way. It's a paper I wrote for my psychology final.



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27 Dec 2004, 8:51 pm

Wow civet, that was a head full, made me think, kewl.



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27 Dec 2004, 10:33 pm

Civet, that was a great paper. Really made me think tonight!
If I had any lingering doubts before, this self-diagnosed Aspie is convinced now.