Mind-Blindness, Theory of Mind, and Fiction

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Verdandi
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25 May 2011, 12:19 am

Sorry about taking so long to get to this, I haven't been able to write as much as I wanted today.

mori_pastel wrote:
Verdandi wrote:
That said, while I have had trouble understanding fictional characters' intentions, I didn't really notice because a) their actions often made sense in retrospect, and b) I didn't realize I was experiencing a deficit.


Do you mind if I ask you to give me a bit more detail about this? One of the tricky things I think there is about self-diagnosing Asperger's is it's hard to recognize when you have difficulties in areas like this. For instance, I didn't think I had trouble reading faces until I took a test with my sister and learned how differently we saw things. What you said about things making sense in retrospect resonates with me. When I pick up a book, the characters are to me like puzzles. There's usually some point in the book where I have an "Aha!" moment and all the pieces fall together. After that, everything is just crystal clear. And I love books for that. That "Aha!" moment is just amazing. And it's the same way for me with people. Does this sound similar to your experiences?


When I first read about autism from an autistic person's perspective, I realized that it was very, very familiar, and realized that I was very, very likely autistic myself. I then had a mild meltdown and went into denial for three years. Or rather, maybe not even denial, I just didn't think about it. But what I didn't realize is just how pervasive it is. So I am constantly finding things that I was oblivious to. Like, I didn't think I had trouble reading faces either, but when I describe what faces are like for me, other autistic people say "Yes, me too! It's a real problem." or some variation.

I really started looking into this last November, and every time I feel like I've found most everything, I'm reminded how little I know. Right now it's becoming more obvious how socially oblivious I am to some things (if not everything). I'm trying to nail this down but my therapist keeps brushing me off because to her perception, since I do okay with her and since I can analyze and deconstruct a social situation in retrospect, she says she doesn't think I have real social difficulties.

Was it you who talked about your sister generating these entire social stories about the reading the mind in the eyes test? Because I found that pretty incredible. I've taken it several times now - 19, 22, 25, 25, and 30 - and to me it's just looking at the eyes and the eyebrows and nothing else. The idea that other people might create stories to explain what they're seeing and assign personalities is just amazing to me.

And yes. That's something I really love in fiction, and I love stories where that's a deliberate goal (as long as they're written well). I love it when all the pieces are assembled and then the last thing puts it all into perspective.



quaker
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25 May 2011, 2:20 am

there are many poets and atrists with
AS who can create extradornary
expressiions of human joy and suffering,
they paint with their soul and
are strongly sensing. I would say
I fit into this catogry.

With re novels, I love reading about
the drama of the heart and the search
for meaning and tragity etc etc
but my brain cant process words very
well.

I think because because the human
condition has always been my special
interest, i keep trying to read novels
but often i feel like I trying to
catch the wind.



BriannaBee
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25 May 2011, 4:26 am

mori_pastel wrote:
So, here’s the TL;DR version:

1. Where do you think the rumor that Aspies hate reading stems from: difficulties tolerating as much socialization as NTs, are Aspies simply incapable of understanding fiction books because of a lack of empathy, or is this rumor simply the end result of Aspies being more “male-brained”/”left brain” than the average neurotypical? Why?

2. If you are a diagnosed Aspie, do you have difficulties understanding things like motivation in works of fiction? Where do you think this trouble stems from? What kind of things strike you as difficult or frustrating? (Note: A good example would NOT be something you read in your English class; those books are designed to be challenging reads. A good example would be something one of your friends/siblings/peers would pick up and read for fun.)

3. In general, what are your thoughts on empathy and Asperger’s? How would you define empathy? Do you think Aspies lack empathy? What do you think of the author’s opinion in the quote provided that NTs seem to lack empathy just as much as Aspies do, that we both have problems relating to one another, and that Aspies are only labeled empathetically challenged because we can’t relate to the majority of people (NTs)?

> Brianna: Feel bad for not reading the whole thing or any other posts.

I'll probably get around to reading the whole first post and only other posts after mine. Anywaaay.
1. There was a rumor about Aspergians hating reading? I understand fiction books mostly... I honestly don't know.

2. Nope. Motivation I understand. Or at least I think I understand. I don't really know. Ummm, well my sister and mother enjoyed a book called Magik but I didn't understand what was going on in it and didn't enjoy it.

3. Empathy: Feeling what others feel. Well, I think some of us lack some and others lack a lot and others are really good in that area. Ugh, I'm not doing good answering these questions.



peterd
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25 May 2011, 5:28 am

There may be those who are diagnosed as autistic who have difficulty with reading. I'm not one of them. I learned to read before I learned to talk.

Certainly there were books I didn't enjoy, and as I've grown older and learned more about the pieces of human interaction I don't get automatically, I've reread them with greater enjoyment. I've got a little better at reading slowly, at appreciating the weight and rhythm of the words.

As far as empathy goes, its application in the reading area is easier for aspies than its application in interpersonal relationships. The receipt of feelings works for me, and apparently for quite a lot of aspies. It's the re-transmission of those feelings that doesn't work.



bumble
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25 May 2011, 6:38 am

I am not diagnosed with Asperger's and am diagnosed with Social Anxiety and depression. However I do have many of the traits of Asperger's, and as I have never been assessed for it, I do find myself wondering if it is a possibility.

On saying that, if a person with Asperger's is left brain dominant then it would not apply to me as usually, when I do right or left brain tests, I come out as having a balanced brain lol. Meaning I use both my right and left sides equally. Neither side of my brain is dominant it seems and I do find that this can make for some fun in some ways...Ie I can switch from being super organised one week to being completely cluttered the next and the internal bickering I get between my emotions and my logic can often mean I am in two minds about things lol. It makes me appear...indecisive lol.

I also have empathy. In fact I seem to have more empathy than many NTs I meet so maybe I am an NT after all. I can read peoples feelings and moods not by reading their body language but more by sensing their energy. Negative energy for example feels very heavy so feelings like hate tend to create a very heavy atmosphere. Positive energy is much lighter and I can sense if someone is being genuinely friendly for example. However I turned this ability off some years ago and took to avoiding people as I was having a lot of problems emotionally myself and absorbing other peoples emotions was too tiring for me.

Oddly though, if I try to read body language I get confused and cannot always work out what someone is feeling. I need to be able to sense it...its weird I know but I am a very intuitive person and whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say I was psychic my intuition can be incredibly keen, even down to predicting when the washing machine is going to break down and various other upcoming events. I also know odd stuff like who is calling when the phone rings and who is knocking on the door without actually going out and looking even if no prior arrangement or appointment was made lol. I can't however predict things like plane crashes etc. My intuition is also not constant..sometimes I get no intuition at all and I can't force it so I would be no good at tarot reading or anything like that lol.

In regards to fiction I am not an avid reader of it but I have been known to read the odd novel if the mood takes me. I can't say as I have any problems understanding it as things tend to be clearly explained by the Author.

I am not sure as to why people think those with Aspergers would not understand fiction as it is vastly different to interacting with people in real life.



Tsukimi
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25 May 2011, 7:06 am

I've always loved reading, both fiction and non-fiction. I am not officially diagnosed (I say this since you were asking the diagnosed ones) but I know many other people on spectrum who love reading as well, so it's not really surprising.

I suppose that if you are too "deep" on the spectrum and especially have hard troubles at understanding people's motives, you might be not able to appreciate fiction because you can't get involved in the story so that would be the explanation; but not all people on spectrum are like that; if you have troubles with social cues but can understand another point of view once explained clearly in words, you can enjoy fiction since in books you don't have to "read eyes", the thoughts and emotions of a character being usually explained explicitely.

I think that SBC's theory on empathy and imagination is quite daft - I don't deny that some hints are good, but he seems not to see al the distinctions that are actually needed (cf. the 0 + theory - but that would be an entire other topic). SBC assumes Aspies have no interest in interactions and emotions, let alone understanding them. Now, being challanged on those sides does not mean having no interest at all. If you have an "active but odd" social motivation,
you can find novels enjoyable because they are easier to understand than real people - you cna take your time to think, read again etc. Then, one thing I love about novels is that they give me a sense of stability - I read a story and that story will stay that way forever - I don't know how to make it clearer.


mori_pastel wrote:

See, that's sort of touches on another idea I had. Maybe another reason this rumor exists is because the Aspies that lean more towards the language skills and do enjoy reading are that much harder to diagnose because they have picked up social skills from reading. Theoretically, it's learning from a low-stress environment just as you would in a group therapy session. It seems to me like it'd just be another mask, like Aspies who mimic.



Very interesting idea; I've read an article (not related to AS) on the fact that reading novels helps you improving your social skills; now it might be that those Aspies who dislike fiction (just as many NT dislike reading as well) are MORE awkward because they didn't have that kind of training; actually I can tell that a major part of my social understanding and ToM come from what I have been reading in novels, for the reasons explained above.

Then a friend of mine (diagnosed Aspie who loves novels) suggested me an interesting idea on this theory, that is to say that, when NTs like reading, they mainly read fiction, while even though some of us like fiction, we are more commonly attracted by non-fiction due to our interests. E.g., you can see I read a lot of novels, just as an NT might do, but also books on Japanese history that a NT will usually not read (of course I am stereotyping, some NTs read non-fiction but it is less common).



Franklin
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25 May 2011, 8:14 am

To me, non-fiction is boring. I generally don't read those types of books unless it's some type of mandatory reading.

In response to the TL;DR paragraph 2, I don't think I have trouble understanding the characters in books. When I was reading the Series of Unfortunate Events, I had trouble with some of the verbal expressions (like as the crow flies), but the author generally explained these right after using them.

Also, somewhere on this site I think, someone said something along the lines of - If you've met one person with Asperger's Syndrome, well then you've met one person with Asperger's Syndrome.



mori_pastel
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25 May 2011, 4:55 pm

OK, this is super long, but I really wanted to reply to everyone since they took the time to post. @[email protected] Thanks for your replies, everyone!

quaker wrote:
I love novels, but I get overwhelmed and confused. I have studied this, and have come to the conclusion that my brain focuses in on the details (strong AS trait) at the expense of containing the narrative (strong AS trait)

All the above is down to my Working memory problems which are severe. Executive function and working memory amongst folk with AS is very varied.

If you look at the works of people in the spectrum like Lewis Carol, Hans Christian Anderson, Emily Dickinson, they were unable to hold narrative and create it........

I am very right brained, strongly sensing and my natural language is one where metaphor and the use of figurative language is blossoming all over the place.......but my ability to hold a story together is crap, so sadly most novels frustrate not because I dont understand human nature, i do, I just can process a story line to save my life.


This is an interesting idea that I hadn't considered. I'm not 100% sure that I've grasped exactly what you mean, though. When you say holding a narrative together, do you mean something like that their stories aren't so much linear in plot (a leads to b leads to c) so much as events just seem to happen without there being a clear causal effect that is compounding with the purpose of reaching the final moment (a happens, then b happens, then c)? I am only passingly familiar with the works of those three, sadly.

alexi wrote:
My lack of visual imagination (I think in words). I could not imagine what a character, place or situation looked like. A lot of fiction is very descriptive to "paint a picture" for the reader. But for me it paints nothing and so I find much of it just boring. I can read an entire book without forming a single idea of what a character/place looks like. It makes it quite difficult to keep track of the characters.

Perhaps because of this I find it hard to connect with the characters and hard to feel anything about them.

My thirst for knowledge definitely influences what I read. I mostly can't see the point in reading something that doesn't teach me hard facts. I don't have the same need for my TV to be non-fiction though. Strange.


This is another interesting perspective as well, but I think it might connect more to the broader question of why some people don't like reading and not just Aspies. After all, some Aspies do have strong visual imaginations while some NT's are more verbal like you. This would probably be a really interesting subject for teachers to look into, especially those who work in early childhood education because this perspective gets into the different learning styles of people. Getting students to read is a constant struggle they face. (I know a lot of to-be teachers.)

That's another point that I think someone else brought up after you too. It might be interesting to look at the differences between what Aspies like in their book choices and what they like in TV/movie choices. Do the Aspies who like non-fiction books also typically pick non-fiction shows to watch, or do they like non-fiction books and fiction shows, etc. This rumor could simply be based on a difference in viewing the medium. Do some Aspies view books as something that should be non-fiction and therefor dislike fictional works on a fundamental level because it is different from their expectations? To explain in perhaps a better way, a car that blows multi-colored, edible bubbles from it's exhaust pipe, has massaging, heated seats, a short-order chef machine for an engine, and shoots laser beams instead of headlights might be the single most awesome thing ever invented, but if it can't drive no one would really want it as a car. If you see books as sources of information you won't want them as stories, but if you see movies/tv as entertainment you won't mind stories from them.

But maybe I'm getting far, far too lost in this shallow subject.

Ai Ling wrote:
I cant speak for other aspies but I hate reading fiction, any kind of fiction. I cant follow the storyline, I try to read it, I just cant get into the book and I get lost a lot. My mom tried really hard to get me into the habit of reading. The only kind of reading I ever do is non-fiction reading. Its the same thing with movies made for adults, I'll miss many subtleties and I dont know how one thing jumped to another. Childrens movies and teen movies are fine.


I think this connects back well to what quaker said about executive function and being detail-oriented. I wonder if that’s really all the difference there is between children’s/teen movies and adult movies, though. I mean, sure there are your incredibly complex adult movies like Inception where there’s a thousand different things going on and a lot of little details, but I think there’s an argument that children’s movies especially can have a lot going on in them too. Just for example, there’s a lot going on in Finding Nemo. You’ve basically got two different storylines going on in the same film: Marlin trying to find Nemo and Nemo trying to escape the aquarium. You’ve also got the subplots of Marlin getting over his fears for both himself and his son, Nemo learning to get past his physical disability, Marlin and Dory’s relationship, Nemo and the scar-fish’s relationship, along with the numerous conflicts that arise from the developments with the minor characters. There is a lot going on in that movie and it happens at a fairly fast pace.

If it were simply that you couldn’t form the details into a cohesive whole, I think that a movie like this, despite being a kid’s movie, would be equally difficult for you to understand. But if this isn’t the case, I’m curious as to what exactly makes it different. Is it that the goal is frequently stated? But I feel like adult movies state the goal frequently as well. Is it really that much less complex than an adult film and I’m just missing it? Or is it something else entirely that I haven’t thought of?

Trencher93 wrote:
The term "fiction" is too broad - it covers everything from YA emo-authors like Maureen Johnson to science fiction like Frank Herbert to traditional fiction like Thomas Hardy.

My guess is that autistic-spectrum people do not get much out of Thomas Hardy style fiction which is all about relationships and emotions. In fact, I look back at books I read in school now that I know what AS is and finally understand why I didn't understand them at the time. But I imagine that most would like some sort of fiction, particularly narratives in which something actually happens besides emo-relational stuff. "Return of the Native", for example, doesn't have a discernable narrative plot - people just go around having emo-trips and being melodramatic. To me, it's very hard to understand. "Dune" as a counter-example, has a narrative plot where something happens. Johnson, as another example, tends to construct budding narcissists in their teen years as characters and you want to tell them to get over themselves.


This sounds perfectly in line with my own understanding of people on the spectrum as well. In fact, it seems like a rather obvious conclusion to me. Which just leaves me with the question of why the hell people who study this stuff for a living (i.e. the test makers) would say something as blunt and erroneous as “all people on the spectrum dislike fiction.”

wavefreak58 wrote:
This is the important thing in all your words.There is no such thing a a perfect fit. Ironically, your obsession over this strikes me as another indication of Asperger's (perserveration).

There is not one criteria that is required to be present in ALL aspies. There are multiple criteria, of which you must have enough present. What you are doing is equivalent to insisting that all cars must be red convertibles with a 600 horsepower motor and ground effects. And your vehicle only has 599 horsepower. And is a burgundy. And a T-Top.

Go get a real car!


I know, I know. The thing just was for me, when I read a characteristic that doesn’t fit me I can generally link it back to the diagnostic criteria which it is supposed to come from. For instance, the equally horrible statement within that same test that “all Aspies would prefer to go to a museum instead of a theatre.” Well, it depends on a whole lot of things, doesn’t it? What’s the museum’s focus? If it’s astronomy that could completely be one Aspies cup of tea while the body museum might be completely agonizing. And what about the Aspies with a special interest in film? I think we’ve got a big Tim Burton fan lingering around here somewhere. Obviously they’d choose the theatre over the museum if a Burton film was playing.

But the thing is, I understand the flawed thinking where that criteria comes from. It’s supposed to be that all Aspies would prefer the information-gathering (museum) over the “social event” (theatre), or it could even be saying something about the noise and light levels of a theatre. With this one, I just didn’t understand where they were coming from. Mind-blindness didn’t make sense because there are no faces to read. Most of the things that cause Aspies social difficulties didn’t make sense because most of those are linked to the physical elements of interaction. That left the empathy question, which is in itself a very tricky and subjective question. And there were also my own doubts of “well, maybe I just don’t understand how an Aspie reads a book compared to how I do.”

I think Asperger’s may be my special interest. @[email protected] I’ve always been curious about special interests as well. I have a lot of intense or obsessive interests, but I’ve never been sure if my behavior is quite on par with “Aspie-level” special interests. I tend to form intense interests in subjects for periods of days of weeks (depending on how much information there is out there to “consume”) and then switch to something else. For instance, I recently read the entire archive of the webcomic Homestuck (roughly 4,000 pages which vary from having no text to having a couple thousand words per page) in less than a week, but now it’s just another webcomic in my folder for which I eagerly await updates. I tend to get really into specific authors, but that interest usually wanes when I’ve ran out of books by them to read. I don’t have much I can point to and say that I’ve been intensely interested in for years. But then, I’ve been researching Asperger’s for a good six months now. That’s probably not on par with a neurotypical interest.

hadrian f wrote:
Well, to be honest, I've never heard of this before. I am diagnosed, and read about a book a week, more if possible. Of course most of them fall within the sci-fi category. During the literature class I used to be the most vocal of my classmates (most of whom hadn't even read the books) and had relatively good analyses so, just like with NTs, reading in aspies must come from an interest in fiction.

I definitely have empathy for people, but am unsure on how to act on it if someone is for example sad. Because of this I often seem uncaring and thoughtless.


You sound a lot like me, except I’m more into fantasy/supernatural fiction. I was really vocal in English class too, but I frequently had different interpretations that other people found strange or hard to follow. I could get all of the direct questions right, but when asked to interpret I ended up with different views. Poetry was my kryptonite though. I would sit there wondering what was so interesting about a poem about a nice day and could never see the “deeper meaning” until my teacher explained it.

OJani wrote:
Usually I'm not good at estimating or foreseeing the motives of the characters, especially the villainous ones, so I get surprised frequently.


Again, though, I wonder how much of this is due to the intentions of the author and how much is due to AS. Obviously some authors intentionally try to confuse you, but where exactly do you draw the line between that and the additional difficulties from AS? This aspect is very confusing for me.

OJani wrote:
Perhaps, we can not realize the importance of the social interactions, thus, have no interest in them. At least, I imagine myself so.


I think this would depend on how you define social interaction. For instance, this kind of gets into the trouble Aspies have with small talk. From my understanding, Aspies don’t so much simply enjoy the company of other people. We don’t enjoy small talk about meaningless things like the weather because we’re not getting that same enjoyment NTs do from the presence of others. Yet many Aspies I think often feel lonely when they don’t have any other people at all in their lives and do seem to wish for the company of others. The difference seems to be that Aspies like smaller doses of interaction and typically enjoy structured socalization.

This, of course, is only my own interpretation of what I have read, and I have no wish to gainsay you.

OJani wrote:
I very much appreciate the work of Stanislaw Lem, the best sci-fi writer of all times IMHO. Lem expresses his doubts regarding black-and-white philosophical views, and also, in too optimistic, human-like (anthropomorphe) approaches of the contact with other worlds (not only civilizations). It is not surprising, that I don't like stories built around the concept of "good guys" and "bad guys". Something I seem to differ from others. His critically most acclaimed novel, Solaris, has so much layers I always notice something new when I re-read it, and it is a pure pleasure to read anyway.


You have made me want to read his books. Thanks for the inadvertent suggestion! I’ve been running out of things to read recently.

OJani wrote:
About empathy. This question still hits me with puzzled-mind. Though I had been thinking about it, I still lack comprehension. I'm sure I can feel empathy in some cases, when the situation is simple, e.g. a child cries in my presence. On cognitive levels, it is much more difficult to me. One example for a strange and appalling behaviour of mine I experienced in my life was "the lack of empathy" when my grandmother died after a series of suffering. I felt relieved when I was supposed to show pain...


This also sounds similar to my own experience with my great grandmother and empathy in general. But I wonder how much of this is just logical thinking vs. emotional thinking. In this example (or at least, this was true for me), I think it was logical to feel relief over pain. With my own great-grandmother, I actually hoped that she would die because her health had deteriorated so much in the last year of her life. Which sounds horrible, but as much as I loved her, I could also recognize that the only way she would escape her suffering was through death. It was more upsetting for me to watch my mother crying than it was to see the coffin.

katzefrau wrote:
makes sense to me too.
also i've heard no claims that people with asperger's don't like television, which is just fiction with all of the decisions (what characters and settings look like, etc) made for you. if we're comparing two fictions (books, television) books make more sense. they don't emit random flickers of light, seep ambient noise, bombard their audience with manipulative advertising, and can aid in isolating oneself from interaction in public.


See, this is exactly what I’m talking about. And what about video games? With a video game, especially the more story-heavy ones, you often have to think through the interactions in order to make decisions in the games. It’s much less passive than either a book or a movie.

Verdandi wrote:
I really started looking into this last November, and every time I feel like I've found most everything, I'm reminded how little I know. Right now it's becoming more obvious how socially oblivious I am to some things (if not everything). I'm trying to nail this down but my therapist keeps brushing me off because to her perception, since I do okay with her and since I can analyze and deconstruct a social situation in retrospect, she says she doesn't think I have real social difficulties.


I feel the same. I’ve been on this topic for almost as long as you, but there is just so much that you can’t be certain about due to the spectrum nature of AS. It really drives me nuts that I’ll never have any real certainty without getting a diagnosis.

I’m afraid of finding myself in a similar situation. For me, every day brings more certainty as I come to better understand the characteristics of AS and my own behavior. But at the same time, I don’t face catastrophic social difficulties. By the way, I read somewhere once that it’s typical for people with AS to be able to deconstruct social situations in retrospect like that. It said something like Aspies “show an understanding of social situations in a clinical setting, but often have difficulty in real-life situations.” I wish I could remember where I read that. : (

Just to go off on a mildly related tangent, I think one of the biggest barriers to my own diagnosis would be the fact that I’m currently in a fraternity. It’s an Honors fraternity, and practically the opposite of what you’d think when you imagine a college fraternity. Frankly, I think it’s the best choice I’ve made regarding my social difficulties. From early on, I was assigned a “big” who helped me through the whole process and basically acted as my social mentor. She’s a teaching major who accepts all my quirks (though I think it bothers her that I don’t really communicate through facebook), will stand up for me, and is basically the exact kind of friend someone like me needs. She even enjoys planning social events!

But the biggest thing about being in my fraternity is that there really aren’t that many “social” events. We go and build houses together for Habitat for Humanity, or we go white water rafting together, or make blankets for hospitalized children. It takes out the worst social elements for me. No one expects me to invite them for dinner randomly or anything like that. There’s a list of events and I know what time to show up at and what I’m expected to do at those events. My big is almost always around to give me an example to follow if I’m feeling lost and I can focus on the task at hand if I don’t know what to say or start getting overwhelmed. And once you’re in, you’re in. People will treat you like you belong without you having to prove yourself to them.

When I first got into college, I really stumbled. Without the structure public school provided (eating lunch with the same people, having free time in class with the same people, etc.) I really didn’t know how to go about making friend. The structure is just fundamentally different, especially because I’m a commuter student. You drive to school, you go to class, you leave. Without that structure, I simply didn’t know how to connect to others. Being in a fraternity provides that structure.

Verdandi wrote:
Was it you who talked about your sister generating these entire social stories about the reading the mind in the eyes test? Because I found that pretty incredible. I've taken it several times now - 19, 22, 25, 25, and 30 - and to me it's just looking at the eyes and the eyebrows and nothing else. The idea that other people might create stories to explain what they're seeing and assign personalities is just amazing to me.

And yes. That's something I really love in fiction, and I love stories where that's a deliberate goal (as long as they're written well). I love it when all the pieces are assembled and then the last thing puts it all into perspective.


Ah, yeah, that was me. ^_^; I guess I’ve told that story a lot, huh? I would have never understood why we scored so different if she hadn’t been talking to herself during the test! I was sticking around, part to make sure she actually took it and part to explain to her what all the “big words” meant, and just happened to hear her thought process. It was a really eye-opening experience for me as well. (Ironically! XD)

quaker wrote:
there are many poets and atrists with
AS who can create extradornary
expressiions of human joy and suffering,
they paint with their soul and
are strongly sensing. I would say
I fit into this catogry.


That is another thing I hadn’t really thought of. For people like that to exist, it discounts the theory that people with AS just have no interest in the inner workings of others.

BriannaBee wrote:
> Brianna: Feel bad for not reading the whole thing or any other posts.

I'll probably get around to reading the whole first post and only other posts after mine. Anywaaay.
1. There was a rumor about Aspergians hating reading? I understand fiction books mostly... I honestly don't know.

2. Nope. Motivation I understand. Or at least I think I understand. I don't really know. Ummm, well my sister and mother enjoyed a book called Magik but I didn't understand what was going on in it and didn't enjoy it.

3. Empathy: Feeling what others feel. Well, I think some of us lack some and others lack a lot and others are really good in that area. Ugh, I'm not doing good answering these questions.


You get ten bonus points for starting your post with a Homestuck reference. But no worries! The TL;DR version exists because I know I’m super wordy.

Yeah, if you look at tests like the AQ test you’ll see some odd questions, one of which was whether or not you enjoyed reading fiction.

See, I think that understanding motivation in books is more dependent on the author’s ability and intention to convey the motivation than any anything. In this case, though, it could be dependent on the age difference between your sister and you. Is your sister older? If not, it would be interesting to know what exactly caused the confusion on your part.

If you get a chance, go back and check out Verdandi’s first post. She talks about there being two different times of empathy: cognitive an affective empathy. She says that all Aspies have affective empathy, which is “the ability to look at someone and know what they're feeling, but not necessarily how to translate that knowledge into social action” while what Aspies lack is cognitive empathy, which is knowing how to react to a person’s emotional state intuitively. I think it’s an interesting perspective.

peterd wrote:
As far as empathy goes, its application in the reading area is easier for aspies than its application in interpersonal relationships. The receipt of feelings works for me, and apparently for quite a lot of aspies. It's the re-transmission of those feelings that doesn't work.


This is in line with my own understanding of Asperger’s as well. Sorry, don’t have anything else to add. : /

bumble wrote:
Oddly though, if I try to read body language I get confused and cannot always work out what someone is feeling. I need to be able to sense it...its weird I know but I am a very intuitive person and whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say I was psychic my intuition can be incredibly keen, even down to predicting when the washing machine is going to break down and various other upcoming events. I also know odd stuff like who is calling when the phone rings and who is knocking on the door without actually going out and looking even if no prior arrangement or appointment was made lol. I can't however predict things like plane crashes etc. My intuition is also not constant..sometimes I get no intuition at all and I can't force it so I would be no good at tarot reading or anything like that lol.


That is pretty interesting. And it sounds super useful! : D My mom has really good intuition too, but hers is mostly good with people.

Tsukimi wrote:
I think that SBC's theory on empathy and imagination is quite daft - I don't deny that some hints are good, but he seems not to see al the distinctions that are actually needed (cf. the 0 + theory - but that would be an entire other topic). SBC assumes Aspies have no interest in interactions and emotions, let alone understanding them. Now, being challanged on those sides does not mean having no interest at all. If you have an "active but odd" social motivation,
you can find novels enjoyable because they are easier to understand than real people - you cna take your time to think, read again etc. Then, one thing I love about novels is that they give me a sense of stability - I read a story and that story will stay that way forever - I don't know how to make it clearer.


I agree, and I think this point about SBC explains a lot of things that are… not very good with these tests. You’d just think that people who study these things wouldn’t make such simple mistakes.

Tsukimi wrote:
Then a friend of mine (diagnosed Aspie who loves novels) suggested me an interesting idea on this theory, that is to say that, when NTs like reading, they mainly read fiction, while even though some of us like fiction, we are more commonly attracted by non-fiction due to our interests. E.g., you can see I read a lot of novels, just as an NT might do, but also books on Japanese history that a NT will usually not read (of course I am stereotyping, some NTs read non-fiction but it is less common).


I am beginning to think that reading choice really has nothing to do with NT v. AS at all and more to do with personal preference and in Aspies the kind of special interest they have. If an Aspie has a special interest in a fictional subject they’ll naturally be more likely to read fiction books, but an Aspie with an interest in a non-fiction subject will be more likely to read non-fiction. It’s the same with NT’s, only make the special interest a normal interest. For instance, I think I’m an Aspie and I only read non-fiction related to my special interests. I’m much more likely to read fiction books. My dad, however, has a much more balanced interest in both fiction and non-fiction, yet he’s perfectly NT.

Franklin wrote:
Also, somewhere on this site I think, someone said something along the lines of - If you've met one person with Asperger's Syndrome, well then you've met one person with Asperger's Syndrome.


I have to keep reminding myself of this! Not all NT's like books either, and an element of personal preference is at play.



bergie
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25 May 2011, 6:52 pm

I read fiction quite a bit. I do mainly like historical fiction though but I also like John Grisham.



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29 May 2011, 5:14 pm

"If you are a diagnosed Aspie, do you have difficulties understanding things like motivation in works of fiction?"

I read all the time. All the time. But I can't read fiction, science fiction or anything else. I try to read sci-fi but I normally prefer biographies or science related texts.

Males also don't tend to read fiction, science fiction or other works.

For me, I just can't wait for the build up of the story. It seems pointless to wait through a long story. But on non-fiction, the story is automatically real and interesting. If it is science related, it spawn new ideas that can be applied the real world. On politics, I like how our society is structured.

On fiction, it just seems like a waste of time.



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29 May 2011, 8:18 pm

This isn't scientific in any way but, just the general impression I get, from posts in many threads here is that female aspies tend towards the creative. Fantasy, fiction, art, music - the more abstract concepts. I have no clue if this is the basis for a female Aspie dx but Rudy Simone sure suggests it in Aspergirls.

The whole theory of the 'male brain' in Asperger's tends to focus on the left brain activities that seem prevalant in Men - math, science, history, engineering - the concrete. This isn't to say both men and women can't have traits of both but men definitely seem on have cornered the market on the non-fiction side.

Personally, my favorite reading is usually textbook-like in nature. Fiction isn't my first choice. But I have a definite interest in specific fiction. I tend to focus on certain characters or series. I also gravitate towards the visual - graphic novels, comics, animation, anime. I do form very detailed pictures when I read - very movielike. I also read quite fast. I'm a rereader too. I'll go back and read the same thing over and over.



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29 May 2011, 11:29 pm

I'm into visual stuff not verbal stuff so I hate reading fiction. I can watch a movie and enjoy it because of the visual nature. I have trouble translating words/sentences into a visual image, so reading fiction is kind of pointless. I love science fiction movies.

With science stuff though, I like reading it versus watching it because I want more details and want to have the freedom to go back and forth so I can slowly figure out/explore the concepts in it. I can't do that with a movie.



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16 Oct 2015, 7:39 pm

Just as many have said over and over again, lacking one or more typical Aspie traits does not an NT make. I don't enjoy MOST fiction, but some I enjoy quite a lot. I really enjoy science fiction and even books/movies such as Harry Potter (and similar). I am very creative and music production is my special interest (obsession) and I am quite good at writing lyrics. I can and do sing in my music, albeit not like a pro.

I refuse to buy into the notion that someone on the spectrum must display "typical" male or female tendencies per their label (self-diagnosed or otherwise).

Asperger's is (or was) a sub-range on the low end of the spectrum. Within Asperger's itself exists an immeasurable variety of traits, personalities, likes and dislikes. I CAN be social when I absolutely must, even if it's not genuine and sends my anxiety through the roof. We do what we must to survive in this narrow-minded, conformity obsessed world of ours and only you can truly know the difficulties you have faced and continue to struggle with.

Bottom line: If after doing a good amount of research and analysis you feel, as I do, that ASD / Asperger's is the best possible explanation for the way you are, why continue to second-guess it? What's most important is determining whether the learning methods and coping techniques consistently applied to people OTS seem to be of help or could be potentially. In my case, the answer is YES.

***I know this is long-winded. I have a tendency to do that and I apologize if I've said far too much***



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17 Oct 2015, 5:40 pm

I know this is a zombie (revived) thread, but it's an interesting one so I will pose a question: of those of you who DO like fiction, what genres do you prefer? I'm wondering if AS people tend to prefer fiction that is more plot- or character-driven over fiction that explores motivations and symbolism? I see a lot of lovers of science fiction, fantasy, some history, and a few detective fiction fans, but not so much of the classics or romance, in which underlying motivation, emotions, and symbolism are the focus. I also wonder if many people have problems with poetry, which has a lot of underlying meaning.

I prefer science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, or detective stories, or anything that is generally plot-driven, but don't like stories that are pure character development or symbolic of larger issues like society or psychological archetypes. I was particularly annoyed in school by stories that had some hidden meaning, either through visual imagery, or meant to be some commentary on society as a whole. I despised Hemingway, hated most of the classics, was baffled by One Hundred Years of Solitude, and wanted to take Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye and smack him in the face. I found poetry unfathomable. Differential calculus was a piece of cake by comparison.

My roommate in college was an English major, and she would ask me what some story meant. One had a teenaged girl encountering a bull and seeing a pomegranate rotting on a bush. I told her, "it's about a girl seeing a bull and a pomegranate. The end." Her professor said the bull represented male sexuality and the pomegranate was her ripening womb, or some BS like that. I thought it was nonsense. Why did something have to mean something it wasn't??


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07 Dec 2015, 6:02 pm

mori_pastel wrote:
(NOTES: For the TL;DR version, skip to the numbered questions at the bottom and then use my giant hunk of text as a reference if needed. In text block, key text is presented in bold print for easy reading.)

I'm a self-diagnosed Aspie, and as such I am constantly second-guessing myself with hopes of arriving at a more definitive answer than "maybe I have it, maybe I don't." Asperger’s fits me better than anything I’ve come across, including every differential diagnosis that could possibly exist to Asperger’s. I hand-flap, I fail “reading the mind in the eyes” tests, I struggle in social situations in a way that can’t be contributed to social anxiety, I have sensitivities to lights and food textures, I’m incredibly resistant to changes in my routine and environment, etc., etc. But that said, it’s not a perfect fit. There are some “typical Aspie” traits that don’t apply to me. And the ill-fitting criteria I’m obsessing over today is fiction.

I am an avid reader of fiction. While I’m aware that there is some debate on this topic, that’s one of the questions you frequently see on tests like the AQ test. And when you do hear about things Aspies “typically” read, its sci-fi or historical fiction, something than connects back to a “typical” special interest. For awhile now, I’ve taken that criteria (or should I say characteristic?) at face value, but today I started wondering just what is it about fiction that Aspies aren’t supposed to like or have trouble with?

The most obvious answer would be to say that it comes from our difficulties understanding how other people think, but where does that difficulty stem? To the best of my knowledge, it is supposed to be only the difficulties in reading other people’s non-verbal communications and literal interpretations of figurative language. In other words, it theoretically isn’t that Aspies are incapable of understanding others, but that we’re not “hearing” all they’re “saying” which leads to the misunderstanding.

You could also point to the fact that Aspies tend to like socializing and the company of others in much smaller quantities than neurotypicals, but I don’ think this is a particularly valid characteristic when looking at fiction. If this were the root of the problem, than it would make more sense for Aspies to be drawn to fiction, not less. A book can substitute human relationships without making the same demands that people place on us. (In a sense, of course. I’m sure therapists have several reasons why books don’t make good substitutes for people.) That’s one of the reasons I’m so drawn to fiction. You can put down a book without it complaining that you’re neglecting it. A book doesn’t expect you to say hello to it every time you pick it up and it doesn’t expect you to buy it thoughtful gifts on its birthday. It doesn’t need you to consol it when it’s feeling bad. Yet at the same time books can provide us with the emotional experiences that human connection is all about. So why are Aspies rumored to hate fiction?

Does the answer lie in the elusive, indefinable empathy? Do Aspies pick up a work of fiction and simply fail to understand it? I find this answer both hard to believe and hard to reject. Firstly, how exactly impaired is empathy said to be in Aspies? Knowing what little I do of psychology, I find it impossible to believe that Aspies are simply incapable of empathy, an argument I’ve also seen from several others. To lack empathy completely is to be an individual with antisocial personality disorder.
If I ignore the issues previously stated and make an attempt to consider the idea, we get to the reasons why I find the possibility hard to reject. Not being a diagnosed Aspie, I can’t say for certain what Aspies think or feel. Is a person with Asperger’s simply incapable of reading a work of fiction and understanding it? I’m not asking if they pick up the latest romance novel and understand all the little nuances or comprehend all the subtilities displayed in great works of literature, I’m asking if you can pick up a Goosebumps book or an Anne Rice novel or just any old piece of regular fiction you could pick up at a local bookstore and simply fail to comprehend the interactions between the characters on a very basic level. To me, that is simply incomprehensible. But the thing of it is, for Aspies to have a general distaste for fictional works, it would have to be not because they personally disliked it but because they had actual difficulties with it, and if you take out mind-blindness and the sensory issues, the only difficulty that could present would be one in which the reader simply failed to comprehend. When you read a book, you don’t have to be good at “putting yourself in another person’s shoes.” To say the right thing to an upset friend, you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes and realize what would comfort them best. When you’re reading a book, you don’t have to make that intuitive connection. Especially not with modern literature. Today’s literature is so focused on the psychological aspects of characterization (for instance, today our villains were all horribly abused and have a great reason to be horrible people, while only a couple of centuries ago it was just enough to say that the wicked witch was wicked; nobody cared why) that you don’t have to be good at putting yourself in the character’s shoes because all of the character’s inner workings are laid out for you on the page. You don’t have to make any intuitive leaps because all of the character’s emotional workings are explained in detail. So where exactly is it that Aspies struggle?

The final point (which I admit seems most likely), is simply that Aspies are more “male-brained” or “left-brained” than your average neurotypical. After all, didn’t Hans Asperger first describe Aspies as “extreme maleness”? When you take the average neurotypical male (note: I’m speaking from an American perspective), they will probably not read even a single fiction book a year. And when they do read, they’re more likely to read books that are very action-packed, such as mystery and thriller novels. On the more intellectual end, you see more sci-fi readers. It’s not until you take an “intellectual” type of man that you’d typically see him reading any sort of general fiction on a regular basis. Where exactly does this stem from? I think that chances are, if we could find the answer to this, we could find the root of why Aspies are said to hate fiction.

To get more into this last point, I’d like to share something I found after a Google search that brought up some really good points for me, which you can find here:

Quote:
I think 'mind blindness' is misunderstood a little. Since our minds work differently than non-Aspergers people we have a hard time understanding them, just as they have a hard time understanding us. If there were more of us and less of you, we could describe you as mind blind for not understanding us. You assume others think like you and you are right. Before I knew I was Aspergers I would say things that I assumed others were thinking as well, such as 'this group of people is too big, I can't remember everyones' name and keep track of everyone, it is too overwhelming', assuming others would feel that way too--if it's too big to me, it must be so to everyone else. But others would get a puzzled look on their face and say they didn't think it was too big. (Incidentally, if non-Aspergers were in the minority we would say they have a remarkable skill in social relations). Non-verbal cues that you have from childhood, from other children and adults and in the rules and systems of the world, teach you in ways that you take for granted, that you learn/absorb automatically that we don't 'get'--it takes us actual learning and focusing and analysis to learn. We're also described as not having empathy, but this is the same thing as with mind blindness, empathy must be learned by everyone, you just get the benefit of most others and a world geared toward you, so that empathy is picked up by you without your being aware of learning it. There have been several studies that show that empathy must be learned, it is not automatic. As an example, I have frail health and I have found that super healthy people cannot have empathy for me. I could say they are unkind or deliberately being difficult, but they literally don't understand poor health so they can't be empathetic. Whether or not they are sympathetic or compassionate depends on whether or not they are humble and can concede there is another understanding then the one they have and their willingness to care, but the actual empathy is not there. I try to appear well all the time as I try to appear socially adept and non-Aspergers, to relieve them of the burden of having to deal with an empathy or understanding of something that doesn't come easily to them.

In a good book, the writer is usually skilled at characterization, helping the readers to get into the mind of the main character(s) and to a lesser extent, other characters. Often I'll ask my non-Aspergers husband to explain how he feels or understands something. Often he can't, he says, 'I don't know, it just is.' He is not a writer (and never would be!). Alas, the general public isn't skilled in the ways writers are, including descriptions and the use of illustrations, which is very instrumental in teaching something that is hard to understand in the way that can be understood by the person you're teaching.

Our love of science fiction is usually due the new ideas, imagination and philosophy expressed. Science fiction, besides having great imaginary worlds and people contained therein which is just plain fun, is full of allegory and ideas that are mind expanding. Sometimes questions are raised and by taking you outside the real world you can look objectively at issues, many philosophical. Sometimes it is a fight between good and evil and since many Aspergers have strong sense of justice, this appeals to us. Many non-Aspergers want stories about real life but we have to live real life why read about it? We care about people and their problems but don't want to read stories that go on and on about the problems. We would rather sympathise, then try to come up with a solutions (the male brain). I've been told by several people that I am better than the average person at perceiving intentions. I prefer science fiction with a good character (hero) that I can root for, which is the best of both.


So, here’s the TL;DR version:

1. Where do you think the rumor that Aspies hate reading stems from: difficulties tolerating as much socialization as NTs, are Aspies simply incapable of understanding fiction books because of a lack of empathy, or is this rumor simply the end result of Aspies being more “male-brained”/”left brain” than the average neurotypical? Why?

2. If you are a diagnosed Aspie, do you have difficulties understanding things like motivation in works of fiction? Where do you think this trouble stems from? What kind of things strike you as difficult or frustrating? (Note: A good example would NOT be something you read in your English class; those books are designed to be challenging reads. A good example would be something one of your friends/siblings/peers would pick up and read for fun.)

3. [b]In general, what are your thoughts on empathy and Asperger’s? How would you define empathy? Do you think Aspies lack empathy?
What do you think of the author’s opinion in the quote provided that NTs seem to lack empathy just as much as Aspies do, that we both have problems relating to one another, and that Aspies are only labeled empathetically challenged because we can’t relate to the majority of people (NTs)?[/b]

Finally, just wanted to thank everyone who put up with this super-long post. Asperger’s has become something of my special interest for the past six months, and I still feel like there’s just so much I don’t understand. I would really like to move forward soon and find some professional certainty, but thank you all for putting up with my anxious doubts in the meantime. : )



Must be a work of great fiction or just pure genius to post all that, some have fallen short of the empathy over the years another Mark Anthony trait I guess.


Goosebumps was something I used to read when I was twelve years old. I could establish the main differences between characters, and I still enjoy non fictional detail with the description intact.
I’m going to take on more reading as I get older as I’m bound to it.
You don’t need to be a scientist or historian to have traits of any ASD, like you I’m self diagnosed and hope to discuss this in further detail sometime.

If you've left, then its a shame, W.P could do with some more women and maybe men who can attribute a focus by contributing more of their own sensory perceptive natures.

Most of these discussions have left because of long explanations which I can discuss at length but have failed to find the latest bookworm to 'shop' with. All part of the aging process.

Putting the reality of these traits into words, defines a persons human ability to read and write, most aspies use a grid map or person, but human experiences balances the mind of reason and view.

Actually, this is starting to turn into the late late show for church goers, but defining a positive outcome comes from the person. Not persons.. 8) I've used up my current thinking time.



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08 Dec 2015, 8:22 am

mori_pastel wrote:
1. Where do you think the rumor that Aspies hate reading stems from: difficulties tolerating as much socialization as NTs, are Aspies simply incapable of understanding fiction books because of a lack of empathy, or is this rumor simply the end result of Aspies being more “male-brained”/”left brain” than the average neurotypical? Why?


It's supposed to be that the character's motivation and actions make less sense and are less interesting, so Aspies are supposed to prefer books that are less character-driven. Plus, some Aspies are described as being so literal that anything fictional is confusing because it's not real. It may be true for a subset of the spectrum, especially for young children.

mori_pastel wrote:
2. If you are a diagnosed Aspie, do you have difficulties understanding things like motivation in works of fiction? Where do you think this trouble stems from? What kind of things strike you as difficult or frustrating? (Note: A good example would NOT be something you read in your English class; those books are designed to be challenging reads. A good example would be something one of your friends/siblings/peers would pick up and read for fun.)


Not really. I do have a bit more trouble understanding some characters' motivation than others do, but not enough to seriously impact my ability to follow the story. In most cases, fictional characters are easier to understand than real people, because I can see their thoughts and the authors explicitly describe the relevant nonverbal cues.

Live action movies and TV shows are a lot tougher than books to understand. Difficulty reading facial expressions combined with prosopagnosia can make some shows pretty much unwatchable for me.

I do tend to prefer sci fi and fantasy, but I think it's more because I like characters who aren't normal humans. The realistic fiction I tend to enjoy most features people with disabilities or weird psychological quirks.

mori_pastel wrote:
3. In general, what are your thoughts on empathy and Asperger’s? How would you define empathy? Do you think Aspies lack empathy? What do you think of the author’s opinion in the quote provided that NTs seem to lack empathy just as much as Aspies do, that we both have problems relating to one another, and that Aspies are only labeled empathetically challenged because we can’t relate to the majority of people (NTs)?


I think empathy is the wrong word for it. They should only use empathy to describe an emotional reaction, not some vaguely-related cognitive abilities as well.

I think some Aspies are only impaired at understanding NTs and not impaired with other Aspies. (I fall into that category myself.) If your only social issues are linked to nonverbal cues or situations where others react differently from how you'd react, then you'd do just fine interacting with someone like you. But other Aspies show delays in things like understanding that other people don't know what they know, which can make interacting with a similarly-impaired person harder than interacting with an NT. (Ever seen two 3 year olds having a conversation?)

I don't know what makes the difference between these two categories. It's not clearly linked to cognitive ability, since I've met cognitively delayed autistics who relate more easily to autistics than NTs. (I even saw two LFA kids engaged in a nonverbal back-and-forth interaction over a piano, and both of them seemed to understand the other even though their body language was extremely atypical.) Meanwhile, I know an autistic adult who I'd guess has normal or mildly impaired IQ, but who has a lot of trouble reading my social cues even though I'm also autistic.

It might be a difference in the specific form of social impairment, or it might be due to early experiences. Deaf of Deaf kids have normal social skills while Deaf kids with hearing parents have delays in social skills, especially if they aren't exposed to sign early enough. So maybe autistics who have an autistic or BAP parent do better at interacting with other autistics because their earliest experiences with interaction were with someone they could learn to relate to easily. (I know I have an autistic Dad and a BAP Mom, and I'm doing a lot better than similar kids I've met with NT parents.) However, it would be tough to separate out the effects of early experience from the effects of different etiology, because autistics with BAP/autistic parents would usually have the polygenetic form of autism while autistics with two NT parents would more often have single gene etiologies or non-genetic etiologies. However, you could look at differences in functioning among autistics with known etiology - for example, do Fragile X children with full-mutation mothers differ from Fragile X children with premutation mothers?