what's it like not having first-order theory of mind

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Ettina
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23 Mar 2013, 9:29 am

In earlier topics discussing theory of mind, I've heard posters mention that they developed first-order theory of mind (realizing false beliefs are possible) at fairly high ages, such as 13 years old or whatever.

I'm trying to write a perspective character in a story who lacks theory of mind (for supernatural reasons, not due to autism) and I can't remember a time before I had ToM. (I have a memory of thinking someone had a false belief about me when I was 4 years old, one of my earliest memories.)

If you can remember before you had ToM, can you describe it to me?

Did you assume others knew what you knew, or did you just not think about it at all?

Did you understand that people could lie about things? Did you ever lie?

Did you understand pretending? (Apparently NTs understand pretend before they understand false belief.)



whirlingmind
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23 Mar 2013, 10:09 am

My eight year old daughter thinks I know what she knows a lot of the time. For instance if she bumps herself, and she's in a bad mood, she will accuse me of not caring that she hurt herself or not helping her even though I didn't know she'd done it. She also thinks that I know what is in her head a lot. She definitely struggles to understand that I am not in her head and I should automatically know.

I do remember, when thinking in my head, and being with others, forgetting that they don't know my thoughts. I have been so involved in my inner thought process and have come out with something that would have been a continuation of the thought process I was having, and they've looked at me puzzled because they didn't know what I was talking about. Is that the type of thing you mean?

If so, it's almost like the voice in your head (which I do have despite being a visual thinker) is having it's own conversation, sometimes based on a tangent (which I do go off on anyway!) of what the real-life conversation was about, and it feels so real that it seems to you to be part of the real conversation. It probably ties in with lack of empathy somehow that you are unaware of the other person's involvement in your thoughts. Your inner world is so vivid that it can sort of take over or at least become parallel to what is really going on.


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whirlingmind
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23 Mar 2013, 10:18 am

Just to add, not sure if this is also part of the same thing, but even now well into adulthood, I still get surprised and disappointed when people behave in bad ways. I cannot understand it, it is illogical to me and I am very honest. I have had multiple experiences of people behaving towards me and generally in bad ways, but I still don't understand it. It's almost like they should be thinking the same way I do, because the way they think doesn't make sense.


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kouzoku
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23 Mar 2013, 10:28 am

Wait a minute, so people don't have ToM from the beginning?

I can't remember a time where I didn't question everything and wondered, "What if it's not true?" even when I was extremely young. The difference between then and now is a sense of fear. When I was little and considered that something might not be true it scared me. I think it was fear of the unknown; if it's not true, then what is? *scared kid* lol

I had no idea about this concept until I read this post. I learned something new.



Callista
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23 Mar 2013, 10:28 am

I had first-order theory of mind by age two, which is weird because most kids get it around four or five, and autistics around nine or ten (highly variable, of course).

So I wonder, too, what it's like not to be able to think about what others are thinking. I don't remember ever not being able to do that, and my memories go back to age two.

What was different about me was that I had to explicitly think about what other people were thinking, like solving a math problem. I didn't automatically take it into account.

It's kind of like this: When you first learn to type, you have to think about where your fingers are going. When you're experienced, you just think about the words. I was like that new typist thinking about where to put my fingers. I had to figure it out as a logic puzzle.


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kouzoku
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23 Mar 2013, 10:39 am

Oh, so it's about what other people are thinking, not about truth and reality.

I still struggle with this. It's like there's a black curtain between me and other people. I have an extremely difficult time understanding others' behaviour and understanding what thoughts and feelings might drive their behaviour. It even hinders conversation and sometimes I can follow because of implied meaning.

The interesting thing is, I am better around other Asians. Yes, Asian culture is highly contextual, but even that is unchanging and has a code. We learn the manners when we are young and just act them out later on in life. It hardly changes over time. To me, it doesn't vary from person to person like Western contextual/implied communication, which varies with every individual and confuses me to tears.



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23 Mar 2013, 8:05 pm

I remember not having theory of mind. I didn't think about what I or other people were thinking at all. The concept of that was not in my mind. I developed that understanding after I gained verbal and speaking skills.


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bumble
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23 Mar 2013, 8:10 pm

In some ways I still automatically think that people know the same stuff as I do. I forget that they think differently to me and may not have come across the same information that I have. tut.



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24 Mar 2013, 3:38 pm

If you are writing from the no tom character, then the character should probably never wonder what other people are thinking or have thoughts about what other people are thinking and probably also never talks to self in own mind.


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24 Mar 2013, 3:49 pm

I supposedly don't have ToM, considering I fail the tests as an adult (three times now -- worded differently and with different objects; they're tricky people).

I don't think people are "real", nor do I think they have thoughts other than my own. I understand pretend (i.e., acting), and I understand lying (getting something from saying something that isn't true).

I've found that it doesn't affect all that much (other than people confusing me that is).


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24 Mar 2013, 4:23 pm

I don't remember not having it, but I do remember being fascinated by the idea of people having false beliefs or completely different perspectives as a kid (6-10 roughly). Heck, to some extent I still find it kind of fascinating, which goes to show that it isn't really automatic as perhaps it is to NTs. I certainly do catch myself assuming other people know what I know all the time, but then, I do "catch myself" rather than needing someone to always point it out. I also think everyone is probably (?) prone to that sort of error to some extent with or without ASD.



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24 Mar 2013, 4:30 pm

Callista wrote:
What was different about me was that I had to explicitly think about what other people were thinking, like solving a math problem. I didn't automatically take it into account.

It's kind of like this: When you first learn to type, you have to think about where your fingers are going. When you're experienced, you just think about the words. I was like that new typist thinking about where to put my fingers. I had to figure it out as a logic puzzle.


This. That's what I always remember doing and still do to this day.



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24 Mar 2013, 5:32 pm

I'm not sure if this is ToM but when I was a kid I thought my parents should know what I was thinking or feeling without me telling them. I didn't understand how they could not know. My grandson is like that. I have to tell him I can't read his mind.



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24 Mar 2013, 6:10 pm

I don't know if this would help you or not...

One time I asked my daughter a question. She didn't answer. I asked her again. No answer. I asked her again. Still no answer. I asked her again, and got

"Mommy, stop saying the same thing over and over. It's annoying."

"I am asking you over and over because you haven't answered me."

<insert exasperated tone> "But I thought 'yes'!"

Other times, when I have talked to her about things of this nature, it is clear she thinks that I know the same things she knows, even if there is no way for me to know them. Like what she did in school. She also thinks that she knows what I am thinking, but, of course, she only knows what she THINKS I am thinking and sometimes has a hard time understanding that she doesn't know what I am thinking. Although it is weird, because other times if you ask her to imagine how someone else might feel, she will respond with "how would I know how they would feel?"

She does understand that people lie, and she does lie herself. She is 7 now. My son still has a hard time recognizing that people lie (he is 11), and he rarely lies. He assumes because he is truthful that everyone is, unless he is primed to recognize that someone might be being deceitful. He has always, to my knowledge, known that I do not know his thoughts, though. So because their patterns are different (my two kids) I guess maybe one person's issues with ToM might be different than another person's?


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RagingShadow
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24 Mar 2013, 8:03 pm

I am surprised when people don't care about what I say, or don't have at least background knowledge on my interests. I don't ever remember wondering why people didn't know something that I saw when I was out of the room. I am also surprised when people know something that I don't (like when my Biology partner knows more about photosynthesis than me or something)


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