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dimfuture
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03 Jan 2013, 4:27 pm

I have read that people with AS have problems with abstract thinking and generalizing. This statement confuses me because aspies are often good in disciples that requires abstract thinking (like computer science, mathematics, physics, etc.). Many aspies are computer programmers (like me ;)) and programming is all about building useful abstraction and applying generalization. Also finding patterns in things requires to make a generalization.
So the question is: do you have problems with abstract thinking and generalization? What is your style of thinking (do you think using words or maybe you think in images, and more abstract forms that is hard to describe)? Does problem with abstract thinking is necessary to diagnose AS?

For my site I can tell that my mind works in mode of finding general principles behind real world examples. Some people even accuse me of overgeneralizing. I am thinking mostly using images and abstractions that are very hard to express in words (so I have problems with expressing them in real-time conversations).



Erminetheawkward
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03 Jan 2013, 4:58 pm

The statement that people with AS have problems with abstract thinking and generalization is a generalization itself in my opinion. I also engage in a lot of abstract thinking as a graphic designer.

The main AS traits that could contribute to that assumption is a tendency toward black and white thinking, that "all or nothing" mentality, and deficits in certain kinds of imagination. I once read a study showing that kids with AS often are lacking in one kind of imagination and abounding in the other. It makes sense to me. The first kind of imagination was thinking up something from nothing, total fantasy. The other kind is problem solving, and building from something to start with. People with AS tend to have the latter.

As for me personally, both of those are true. As for black and white thinking, I intellectually know better and usually catch myself unless I end up talking without thinking. And for imagination, I am very imaginative when I have something to build off of, such as a design brief or a school assignment, or something on the page when I'm sketching. But give me a blank piece of paper and I draw a blank.


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Stargazer43
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03 Jan 2013, 5:05 pm

I have problems with abstract thinking when it doesn't make sense. For example, I'm taking a literature course now, and we're discussing how the transcendental oversoul joins the macromind to the micromind, via rapt mystical meditation. I'm just sitting there thinking, ok, where is the proof behind any of this stuff? How do people even come up with some of these things?

However, other abstract concepts, such as wave-particle duality, psychology, etc. make plenty of sense to me, because they actually have some backing behind them and make sense.



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03 Jan 2013, 5:35 pm

"Black and White thinking" can also mean "arrived at positions logically from available information", even if that information was severely limited by being a child, not having direct access to independent sources, etc. So many ideas in this world that we're exposed to as children are based on "because everyone else does", and that is not good for Aspies, where our young brains might be processing away to figure out these things, when it's a default social choice.

For example, it really is absurd to have teenagers go to school from 8 PM to 3 PM, which is the norm in most places. Teenagers' body clocks arn't designed for that. However, that's the hours that society has determined is the proper hour, and anyone seen outside of school at that hour had better have a good reason.

Try reasoning that one out without understanding "This is history, this is convention, this is the bus schedule, this is when the businesses are open, etc.".


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03 Jan 2013, 5:42 pm

I've never understood that "abstract thinking" claim. What exactly do they mean by abstract? That sounds like a massively broad subject area to be classified under one word.

As for generalizations... I don't have difficulty understanding them. They just seem useless to me most of the time. I figure NTs are unable to deal with information in specifics, so they have to generalize, in which case they are the ones with the handicap.

I'm a primarily visual thinker (though I'm highly verbal) and most of what happens in my mind can certainly not be described verbally. Does that make it abstract?



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03 Jan 2013, 5:51 pm

kotshka wrote:
I figure NTs are unable to deal with information in specifics, so they have to generalize, in which case they are the ones with the handicap.


Heh, I like that. :P I'm inclined to agree.

Perhaps the whole 'trouble with abstract thinking'-business comes from our tendency to take things literally? To someone who is uninitiated in autism, it may seem very strange that we sometimes may take figures of speech for their literal meaning, and they misinterpret this for a complete failure to think abstractly at all.

But that's just what I think. What do you think?


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btbnnyr
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03 Jan 2013, 5:58 pm

I am a concrete thinker who thinks in terms of what things there are, what they are doing, how they are doing it, why they are doing it, all in specifics of physical processes. So I am good at science, but I suck at philosophy and social science, which involves thinking in more abstract idears.



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03 Jan 2013, 6:27 pm

Actually, the terms "abstract thinking" and "concrete thinking" are almost too abstract for me to grasp.

When I was in high school, I was told that on an aptitude test I took, that I got a really high score in abstract reasoning and really low scores in everything else. I don't remember the test, but this was really confusing to my parents and teachers.

I was good at algebra. I never memorized equations or algorithms. It was easier to make up my own than to memorize them. If I made up my own algorithms, then I could understand it. If I could understand it then it did not seem abstract. If I understand something then it is concrete. I can visualize it.

If I had to apply a memorized equation to a random problem, it would be difficult.

I was a computer programmer. Programming did not seem abstract to me at all. I could visualize the algorithms and see exactly what I wanted them to do. Sometimes I would draw diagrams to help me. If I can understand something, then to me it is concrete.



dimfuture
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03 Jan 2013, 6:28 pm

Quote:
I figure NTs are unable to deal with information in specifics, so they have to generalize, in which case they are the ones with the handicap.

Hmm I don't agree that generalization is useless. In fact in science this is very important concept - you can make an generalization and see similarity between two apparently distinct things that differs in details; then you can use this knowledge to solve problems. Let me give you example from my field: when you are learning new programming languages, instead of focusing on differences in syntax you can use general concepts from programming language you know and apply it in new language only modifying required details.

Quote:
I was a computer programmer. Programming did not seem abstract to me at all. I could visualize the algorithms and see exactly what I wanted them to do.

Abstract means for me that something does not exists in real world directly. For example in Object Oriented Programming instance of class that you creates does not exists directly in physical world. Going through layers of abstraction it exists in computer memory as sequence of bytes. Going deeper it exists as electrons in charged condensators used by memory. But this low level representations is far from concept of class you have created. So this means it is abstract.



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03 Jan 2013, 6:48 pm

Marybird wrote:
Actually, the terms "abstract thinking" and "concrete thinking" are almost too abstract for me to grasp.

When I was in high school, I was told that on an aptitude test I took, that I got a really high score in abstract reasoning and really low scores in everything else. I don't remember the test, but this was really confusing to my parents and teachers.


Questions on an abstract reasoning tests usually look something like this:

Image

If someone can explain to me how this is abstract, I'm all ears. Is it because it's not a real-life situation? IMO solving these problems requires logical reasoning, not abstract reasoning...

Edit: dimfuture I see you already answered that. I still think it's an odd word to use to describe this kind of reasoning.



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03 Jan 2013, 6:53 pm

yellowtamarin wrote:
Marybird wrote:
Actually, the terms "abstract thinking" and "concrete thinking" are almost too abstract for me to grasp.

When I was in high school, I was told that on an aptitude test I took, that I got a really high score in abstract reasoning and really low scores in everything else. I don't remember the test, but this was really confusing to my parents and teachers.


Questions on an abstract reasoning tests usually look something like this:

Image

If someone can explain to me how this is abstract, I'm all ears. Is it because it's not a real-life situation? IMO solving these problems requires logical reasoning, not abstract reasoning...

Edit: dimfuture I see you already answered that. I still think it's an odd word to use to describe this kind of reasoning.



Looking at the pattern, I would guess B. It goes where the ? mark is because it's the other part of the triangle. I assume we had to pick the pattern that would go where the ? mark is.


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03 Jan 2013, 7:00 pm

yellowtamarin wrote:
[Image

If someone can explain to me how this is abstract, I'm all ears. Is it because it's not a real-life situation? IMO solving these problems requires logical reasoning, not abstract reasoning...

Edit: dimfuture I see you already answered that. I still think it's an odd word to use to describe this kind of reasoning.



I don't think it is inherently logical to assume that the boxes must form a linear progression which would let you choose the 'right' one. It is an abstraction that you can figure out because of a familiarity with puzzles. The 'rules' of puzzles let you know that the missing piece must fit into the linear progression demonstrated by the other pieces. Those puzzle rules are the abstraction. But without an abstract knowledge of puzzle rules, logic wouldn't let you know which piece was 'correct'.



yellowtamarin
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03 Jan 2013, 7:22 pm

Janissy wrote:
I don't think it is inherently logical to assume that the boxes must form a linear progression which would let you choose the 'right' one. It is an abstraction that you can figure out because of a familiarity with puzzles. The 'rules' of puzzles let you know that the missing piece must fit into the linear progression demonstrated by the other pieces. Those puzzle rules are the abstraction. But without an abstract knowledge of puzzle rules, logic wouldn't let you know which piece was 'correct'.

Often they explain what the rules are, with examples/practice questions, at the beginning of the test.



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03 Jan 2013, 7:45 pm

Janissy wrote:

I don't think it is inherently logical to assume that the boxes must form a linear progression which would let you choose the 'right' one. It is an abstraction that you can figure out because of a familiarity with puzzles. The 'rules' of puzzles let you know that the missing piece must fit into the linear progression demonstrated by the other pieces. Those puzzle rules are the abstraction. But without an abstract knowledge of puzzle rules, logic wouldn't let you know which piece was 'correct'.

The rules can be figured out logically as well as figuring out the correct piece.
As League girl pointed out.



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03 Jan 2013, 9:45 pm

It depends on the kind of abstract thinking.

Abstract thinking is generally harder, in whatever subject area, than similar concrete thoughts. So, naturally, in areas we're poorer at, we'll seem particularly bad at abstract thinking. But in areas we're good at, we'll be pretty abstract.

Oddly enough, the one exception for me is math. Abstract math tends to be easier for me than the more concrete stuff. Not sure why.



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03 Jan 2013, 10:07 pm

I find abstract principles difficult until I can find a way to connect them to concrete things. There are some abstract things that seem to come more easily than others, but I've had my challenges there as well.

I do think that black and white thinking tends to be linked directly to concrete thinking.