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Ganondox
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22 Nov 2011, 12:29 pm

It is often stated that aspies "lack empathy", but that is apparently not true. We are often very empathetic, sometimes to a ridiculous extent. However, saying that we lack empathy means something, and it's complicated. Wikipedia has an entire section with several subsections on Autism on the Empathy page, and I believe it says just how complicated it is. When it is said we lack empathy the experts mean cognitive empathy, or theory of the mind, and we may appear to lack empathy because we may have difficulty expressing emotions appropriately, we may fail to pick up social cues, and we may have difficulty interpreting everyone's emotions, including our own. Aspies do not lack empathy, at least in the normal sense of the word.

Likewise I believe something similar is going on when it is said that we "lack imagination/creativity", and it's complicated. Aspies often have very vivid imaginations and we can be very creative, so what does this mean? One thing I heard was that, similar to the situation regarding cognitive empathy, it's not that we lack imagination, but that we lack "social imagination". What does that mean? Does it mean we have difficulty imagining the same thing everyone else is supposed to be imagining, or what? Does it have something to do with the tendency for Aspies to think literally and therefor imagine stuff "wrong"? Does it have something to do with us having difficulty of thinking of convincing lies on the spot Someone explain this.

Also, let's consider creativity. When I was a child I was still very creative, but it was really only for things I showed interest in, otherwise I'd find some sort of way to connect it to something that interested me. When I had to write for certain prompts that didn't interest me in the slightest and there was no way to connect it to something interesting I had trouble thinking of any ideas. Likewise I've always had trouble with personal narratives (unless something really interesting happened to me recently) and I prefer writing fiction or non-fiction describing a special Interest. Also, there're times when I have too much room to work with, I have way too many ideas, and then I have trouble on focusing on just one, so it takes awhile before I start getting any work done as I need to tether myself to just one thing first before I can start. I'm wondering if this might somehow be related to ADHD, as I've heard that people with ADHD tend to be very imaginative/creative, but they have difficulty focusing that creativity, and ADHD and AS are very often co-morbid (I think I've seen one statistic that stated that 65% of people on the spectrum could be diagnosised with ADHD. )

Any thoughts on what this means?


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Last edited by Ganondox on 22 Nov 2011, 9:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MrXxx
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22 Nov 2011, 1:56 pm

Not all Aspies lack empathy. Some do, some don't. It's not a "given."

As for the rest of your post about imagination and creativity, I think you're already on the right tack toward understanding the "social imagination" aspect, which is really the only part the specifically applies to AS.

As I read through your suggestions of what it means, I found myself saying "Yes" to all of them.


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22 Nov 2011, 5:10 pm

Yeah but I don't get it either. One minute they're saying that Aspies lack creativity, meaning in other words NTs do have creativity skills, then the next minute we see all sorts of information thrown about saying that Aspies are more artistic than NTs, and have more talents what involve a lot of creative thinking. I really don't get it.

And I don't think I lack social imagination. When I was a child I used to be able to play games for hours with another child, and I knew we were imagining the same thing because the games always went well and I enjoyed it. Once when me and my brother and his friend was round, (I was 6 and they were 9), we were playing ''Tarzan'', and although I never watched Tarzan, I still picked up on it by following the same imagination as what my brother and his friend were imagining. I remember imagining that the settee was a big tree log, and although I never said, I saw one of them yell, ''quick - get on that log!'' and they ran onto the ''log'' - just as how I imagined it was aswell. And then my brother's friend pretended to grab a vine in just the place where I pretended the vine was, even though I had never grabbed the vine yet, I was just picturing it there for when I needed to. We played the game for hours. So I must have had social imagination back when I was a small child. I remember I did too. In fact I often found myself playing imaginative games with other kids more than playing with toys with other kids.

Now I can imagine when people are talking. In fact, often when someone is ''setting a scene'' (meaning saying, ''yesterday when I was in the town just outside the post office....''), I can think straight away where they mean, but other people are still sitting there saying, ''where? Which corner? Which road?'' and so on, and I'm always ahead and sitting there waiting for the speaker to get to the point. As they ''set the scene'', my imagination goes right into play, and I can suss out where they mean because I start thinking right away. I actually can't listen to someone without being able to imagine the environment and destination of where they are talking about. If somebody is talking about somewhere I have never been before, I still can picture quite a good image in my mind of what they are talking about.


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MrXxx
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22 Nov 2011, 5:40 pm

Joe90 wrote:
Yeah but I don't get it either. One minute they're saying that Aspies lack creativity, meaning in other words NTs do have creativity skills, then the next minute we see all sorts of information thrown about saying that Aspies are more artistic than NTs, and have more talents what involve a lot of creative thinking. I really don't get it.


It's not general creativity that we lack, it's social creativity. Think of Steve Jobs. He was famous for anticipating what the public would want before the public even knew they wanted it, because "it" didn't exist yet. He'd go out and find ideas, pick the ones that he thought he could sell as desirable to the public, sell it to the public, and before we all knew it, we were all becoming dependent on things we never needed before.

That takes a LOT of creative social skills. First you have to convince people to share the ideas they have. Next you have to anticipate, using Theory of Mind, what the public will find most desirable out of those ideas. Then you have to gather a large number of people together to turn the idea into reality, assigning various individuals and groups to various tasks. Finally, when the product is finished, you have to take it to the public and sell them on the idea that they want it. If the idea is developed correctly, before we realize it, we don't just want it, we NEED it.

All that takes tremendous creative social skills. It's a lot different from being able to play an instrument or write music, or paint, none of which requires any creative social skills at all. They can all be done with no interaction with people.


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MindWithoutWalls
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22 Nov 2011, 6:01 pm

I can find out what sorts of things my drumming group would like to do, whether at a given practice or in general, decide which things would be fun for an audience to hear us play in one context and which other drummers might want to learn and play along with in another context, plan a performance or class, organize our members and practices to prepare, arrange for us to make our presentation or have space for free drumming time and open participation, and write up a description to entice people to attend, if need be. However, this does not all come to me naturally. I had to learn it. It takes a lot of energy out of me to pull it off, just as it does for me to sign up for an activity planned by someone else and then show up.

I'm not good on the fly in general, which includes musical improvisation. My "improv" is generally stuff I worked out how to do in advance, mixed into different combinations, thrown in here and there in the rhythm.

Might it be that the issue is not whether or not creativity is possible but how certain kinds become possible and what it takes to do a creative thing of a particular sort?


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Apple_in_my_Eye
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22 Nov 2011, 7:19 pm

That stuff comes from the early days of autism. So, if you ask an expert or look at a textbook, that's what it'll say -- "lack of empathy/imagination/theory-of-mind" is the essence of what ASD is. It's the established theory.

But what does "established" mean, besides it having been around for a long time? Has the idea truly been vetted, and if so, has it succeeded more than it's failed? I recall someone saying once that when a person is losing an argument they tend to start saying things like, "well, that word has a special, technical meaning, and you misunderstood when you assumed the usual meaning." Of course, it can be a valid point that a word needs to have a special, technical meaning. That can be a legitimate refinement of the theory.

But OTOH, if it's just a weasley way for someone (say, Baron-Cohen) to avoid admitting that he's wrong, how do you tell the difference? I guess one way would be if lots and lots of words in the theory need to have special meanings, when a different theory using fewer words with special meanings would also work. Or, maybe at some point an idea becomes so encumbered with caveats that it is abandoned.

I.e. "autistics lack empathy," now has a bunch of caveats about "cognitive empathy," "affective empathy" and so forth. What if the idea that "autistic lack empathy" simply isn't true in a statistically meaningful way? IOW, that some have it or some don't. Or, all have it, but it overloads some to the point that it shuts down. Or, maybe it would be better modeled of as a communication/language/perception/experience issue. Or, as an issue of "sense of self," maybe. (Not saying I know which of those is the absolute, whole truth.)

It all reminds me of "research" with gender/sex (in terms of GID/trasnssexual/orientation issues). There's a small cabal of researchers who came in and squatted there because there was (virtually) no one else in that field. And they all approve of and reinforce each other's ideas. What I mean is, there is no criticism of their ideas, and there is no competition. Science is supposed to aggressively criticize ideas in order to test their validity. But, in that field, that isn't happening. (Although in recent decades some new people have come it, and some old ideas have collapsed and some new, better ones are taking their place. The 'history' I've written, above, is sort of a fast, cartoon version or reality, I have to admit.))

Anyway, it reminds me of "stress causes ulcers" (as opposed to a pathogen; heliobacter pylori) being a medical "fact" for a long time. Science isn't supposed to let that happen, but since it's done by humans that can happen at times.



Ganondox
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22 Nov 2011, 9:16 pm

"If the facts don't match the theory, change the facts. "

Ok, so if the theory is incorrect and the terms are just being used to justify the theory, then what lead to the development of the theory in the first place?


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Apple_in_my_Eye
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22 Nov 2011, 9:30 pm

Ganondox wrote:
"If the facts don't match the theory, change the facts. "


I think not necessarily changing the facts, but just explaining them away with increasingly convoluted arguments. Over time, hopefully, a bad hypothesis will be countered in enough different ways that the level of convolution required to sustain it becomes obviously too much and the idea is dropped.

Quote:
Ok, so if the theory is incorrect and the terms are just being used to justify the theory, then what lead to the development of the theory in the first place?


Some observations and basically just dreaming something up. At the beginning, that is possible because there aren't a lot of facts yet (and no critics), so the range of possible theories that fit is pretty large.



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22 Nov 2011, 10:44 pm

I have a very wild imagination and I feel empathy very well.


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Ganondox
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22 Nov 2011, 10:49 pm

CockneyRebel wrote:
I have a very wild imagination and I feel empathy very well.


Exactly. The question is what is meant when official things on Autism mean by those things.


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idlewild
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22 Nov 2011, 10:52 pm

I don't lack empathy. It just overwhelms me. I don't know how to respond or what I'm supposed to do with it. Then I feel guilty because it makes me feel like I owe someone something because I understand how they feel, but I have no idea what to do with that information. And when I try to "fake it" it's exhausting and doesn't always come out right.



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23 Nov 2011, 3:56 am

Apple_in_my_Eye wrote:
That stuff comes from the early days of autism. So, if you ask an expert or look at a textbook, that's what it'll say -- "lack of empathy/imagination/theory-of-mind" is the essence of what ASD is. It's the established theory.

But what does "established" mean, besides it having been around for a long time? Has the idea truly been vetted, and if so, has it succeeded more than it's failed? I recall someone saying once that when a person is losing an argument they tend to start saying things like, "well, that word has a special, technical meaning, and you misunderstood when you assumed the usual meaning." Of course, it can be a valid point that a word needs to have a special, technical meaning. That can be a legitimate refinement of the theory.

But OTOH, if it's just a weasley way for someone (say, Baron-Cohen) to avoid admitting that he's wrong, how do you tell the difference? I guess one way would be if lots and lots of words in the theory need to have special meanings, when a different theory using fewer words with special meanings would also work. Or, maybe at some point an idea becomes so encumbered with caveats that it is abandoned.

I.e. "autistics lack empathy," now has a bunch of caveats about "cognitive empathy," "affective empathy" and so forth. What if the idea that "autistic lack empathy" simply isn't true in a statistically meaningful way? IOW, that some have it or some don't. Or, all have it, but it overloads some to the point that it shuts down. Or, maybe it would be better modeled of as a communication/language/perception/experience issue. Or, as an issue of "sense of self," maybe. (Not saying I know which of those is the absolute, whole truth.)

It all reminds me of "research" with gender/sex (in terms of GID/trasnssexual/orientation issues). There's a small cabal of researchers who came in and squatted there because there was (virtually) no one else in that field. And they all approve of and reinforce each other's ideas. What I mean is, there is no criticism of their ideas, and there is no competition. Science is supposed to aggressively criticize ideas in order to test their validity. But, in that field, that isn't happening. (Although in recent decades some new people have come it, and some old ideas have collapsed and some new, better ones are taking their place. The 'history' I've written, above, is sort of a fast, cartoon version or reality, I have to admit.))

Anyway, it reminds me of "stress causes ulcers" (as opposed to a pathogen; heliobacter pylori) being a medical "fact" for a long time. Science isn't supposed to let that happen, but since it's done by humans that can happen at times.


this! congrats to this post!



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23 Nov 2011, 5:35 pm

Yeah, you know, if you shut down from an overload of something or can't communicate well about it, how can anyone tell whether or not you experience it? Great post, Apple_in_my_Eye! Glad you said that!

People hate not understanding things. If they get too hung up about not knowing, sometimes they just make stuff up or make more out of what they can tell about it than is appropriate. Then they can go around sounding authoritative. That can sometimes end up affecting a lot of people.


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23 Nov 2011, 6:20 pm

From http://aeiou.org.au/social-imagination:

Quote:
Social imagination allows us to understand and predict other people's behaviour, make sense of abstract ideas, and to imagine situations outside our immediate daily routine. People with autism follow routines rigidly and favour predictability.

Those who experience challenges with social imagination may find it difficult to:

determine and interpret other people's thoughts, feelings and actions;
foresee what will or might occur next;
identify hazards;
engage in imaginative play and activities. Children with autism may enjoy some imaginative play but have a strong preference to act out familiar scenes;
prepare for change and plan for the future;
cope in new or unfamiliar situations which may result in the person becoming stressed;
appreciate other people may not be interested in their topic of interest which they talk obsessively about; and
attempt work if they feel they are unable to do it perfectly.
Difficulties with social imagination should not be mistaken with a lack of imagination. Many people with autism are very creative and go on to become accomplished artists, musicians or writers.



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26 Nov 2011, 4:22 pm

People who aren't aspies don't really understand us.