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

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shyengineer
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24 Mar 2013, 8:09 pm

I'm not too good on the theory but here are some of my experiences.

I sometimes reply to people in my head or assume they know something I know. I will be having a conversation and reply to the person in my head. I've completely not realised before and just stared at the person and walked off - I truly didn't know I did this until someone pointed it out to me. I still do this. I often catch myself now, but it's bit weird when I space out for a few seconds before saying "oh, yeah I agree, sorry." Sometimes the conversation carries on a little bit in my head, like I'm playing out the possibilities.

I also tend to start stories in the middle or miss important information when having a conversation. I refer to people ambiguously too - I know who "she" is but the other person doesn't. Some things I say just seem out of context but to me they're not.

I only realised (was told) I was doing this when I was 20+. I understand a lot of it now but still catch myself doing it sometimes - I watch for confused faces and think about what I'm saying more carefully.

I've always understood pretending but I'm terrible at it myself. Bad liar too.

In my mind I see the world as one truth - the world as you would see it if you just recorded it all. I have a hard time understanding how people can see different from this, even though my own truth is skewed by social truths. There are pro's and con's I guess.

Hope that will help you.



turtleprince
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24 Mar 2013, 8:12 pm

I remember that this boy and girl lived down the street from me when I was in 1st grade. They glued thorns to their foreheads and were telling me that they had just grown there overnight. I believed them at first but then I realized their horns looked just like rose thorns. Then I started getting mad at the fact that they had been lying to me. "No, they are not!" I really couldn't let it go. I argued for at least 10 to 15 minutes about the fact that they were lying to me even though they were just playing a game of pretend. I kept trying to remove the thorns to prove to them that they were lying but they wouldn't let me touch them. But I wasn't 100% sure they were lying cause they were so adamant about the fact that they had grown there. The next day I saw them with the thorns and I just believed them.

Is that an example of lack of TOM? To this day I still give my friend a hug every time he breaks up with his bf. Apparently they've broken up over 30 times... if you catch my drift. It takes me a minute but I force myself to disbelieve everything he says now. This one time they actually did break up (2 months ago)... He was crying and I had to ask him a bazillion times whether or not this was a joke or not. He waited till last week to use the joke again... -.- It's cool. He only jokes like that with close friends. I just get the most of it so obviously I'm his best friend. At least I'm told that that is how it works.



mikassyna
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24 Mar 2013, 8:56 pm

I remember being something like 8 or 9 years old and my sister and I were upstate mucking around and talking, and after one of us said something my brain went off on a tangent of free associations and then I blurted out loud the last part of my thought and my sister said "What? Where the hell did that come from?" I was shocked because up til that point I really thought she and I thought the same things and obviously when I wasn't talking she should have known how I got from Point A to Point B without saying all of it. Well, that was sure an eye opener.

Now I tend to overcompensate because I assume people don't know what I know and so I will take extra care to explain things which sometimes gets people upset at me anyway.

For example, I introduced one of my husband's long-time friends to my mother-in-law, not knowing if they had ever met before. Well, stupid me, they obviously had, and the friend got insulted because he knew my husband more than 20 years than I did. It never occurred to me that anyone would get upset over something like that. But the reason I did it was because I didn't want to take any chances on seeming rude if they hadn't met each other before and that's why I introduced them, because I've learned how sensitive people can be LOL

I tend to forget people's names and faces (mild prosopagnosia), and I have a tendency to remember and identify people in terms of their relationships or roles/category. So I tend to inject this information into my conversations with people because I don't know what they remember, and one of my friends said, "Why do you keep saying '(Joan) my (stepdaughter)' when I already know who (Joan) is?" Now that she's told me a couple of times I catch myself before I do that in her presence, but I guess I still do it a lot with others.



rapidroy
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25 Mar 2013, 12:34 am

Nonperson wrote:
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.


Same here, I just figured its a normal part of being autistic.



Ettina
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25 Mar 2013, 6:20 pm

Quote:
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.


I'm like that too.



DevilKisses
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25 Mar 2013, 11:37 pm

I intellectually know that not everyone knows what I know. One problem I have is thinking something is obvious to everyone else just because it's obvious to me.


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Anemone
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26 Mar 2013, 9:57 am

Ettina wrote:
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.


This is second order TOM, not first order. First order is hiding things from people. You can find examples of small children not understanding that other people have a different perspective in books on child development. An example is a small child thinking that you can't see her if she can't see you because her head is behind some furniture, even though her butt is sticking out. (Like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.)

A culture full of people who lack second order TOM won't have trickster figures in their mythology, and one that does (all human cultures) will have those myths. Anyone who lacks first order TOM won't hide things or be able to find them if they're hidden. (But a lot of species can get that.)

I suspect that an individual not a small child who lacks first order TOM would need institutional care, and anyone that doesn't doesn't lack TOM, but may appear to because of social or communication problems. There's a difference between understanding something and being able to pass the test.



dunya
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26 Mar 2013, 11:58 am

Ettina wrote:
Quote:
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.


I'm like that too.


Me too. I was reading Sherlock Holmes stories and realised I could try to work out people's intentions and actions by logical analysis. I observe, learn, ask questions like
"why did someone do that?" I can make an educated guess by remembering similar situations and gathering information.
But the same logical conclusions don't always apply in different situations, so sometimes I get it wrong.

I tend to say quite explicitly what I am thinking, what I want, but sometimes others interpret that as meaning something else because they are used to people not saying what they really mean.

One time I said to someone "I disagree with you on this matter but I don't want to fall out with you over it."
And she interpreted that as "You will regret not agreeing with me on this." She saw it as a threat!

The problem is not only that it is difficult to understand what others might be thinking. It's that their thoughts may be totally illogical!

Also

DevilKisses
Quote:
I intellectually know that not everyone knows what I know. One problem I have is thinking something is obvious to everyone else just because it's obvious to me.



Ettina
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09 Apr 2013, 6:53 pm

Quote:
One time I said to someone "I disagree with you on this matter but I don't want to fall out with you over it."
And she interpreted that as "You will regret not agreeing with me on this." She saw it as a threat!

The problem is not only that it is difficult to understand what others might be thinking. It's that their thoughts may be totally illogical!


But that sort of thing is logical if you assume that people don't simply say what they're thinking all the time. The NT standard is to constantly think about the impact your words will have on others, and modify what you're saying to have the right impact. So if an NT thinks 'I disagree but I don't want a fight' they will say something noncommittal that sounds like they agree but could mean they don't, and then they'll switch the topic. Whereas if they suggest a negative consequence they could impose on another person, even if they say they don't want it, they're usually trying to threaten the person.



Webalina
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10 Apr 2013, 3:45 am

I'm going to have to read up on Theory of Mind. I've read all the posts in this thread and am completely lost as to what you all are talkng about.



Ettina
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10 Apr 2013, 7:58 am

Quote:
This is second order TOM, not first order.


First-order theory of mind - just because something is true doesn't mean everyone knows it's true. People can have false beliefs about reality.

Second-order theory of mind - just because someone knows about something doesn't mean other people know they know. People can have false beliefs about other people's beliefs.



Chloe33
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10 Apr 2013, 8:04 pm

When i was young, my mother could read my mind a lot.
So this TOM is completely confusing to me, i don't understand if i have it or not...
I am terrible at wording things and even worse having to verbally word them.



cozysweater
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10 Apr 2013, 10:56 pm

dunya wrote:
Ettina wrote:
Quote:
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.


I'm like that too.


Me too. I was reading Sherlock Holmes stories and realised I could try to work out people's intentions and actions by logical analysis. I observe, learn, ask questions like
"why did someone do that?" I can make an educated guess by remembering similar situations and gathering information.
But the same logical conclusions don't always apply in different situations, so sometimes I get it wrong.

I tend to say quite explicitly what I am thinking, what I want, but sometimes others interpret that as meaning something else because they are used to people not saying what they really mean.

One time I said to someone "I disagree with you on this matter but I don't want to fall out with you over it."
And she interpreted that as "You will regret not agreeing with me on this." She saw it as a threat!

The problem is not only that it is difficult to understand what others might be thinking. It's that their thoughts may be totally illogical!

Also

DevilKisses
Quote:
I intellectually know that not everyone knows what I know. One problem I have is thinking something is obvious to everyone else just because it's obvious to me.


I completely agree with the above. I think I often seem pretty empathetic because I work to make anxious or awkward people feel comfortable, but it's all based on what I think they would logically be feeling based on the circumstances. Sometimes I'll be wildly off base, but most of the time I'm pretty good. Although, truthfully, all of my empathy is based on academic "what would I feel if..." problem solving as opposed to having actual feelings about whatever is going on.

About the ToM stuff:

My co-workers and I have kind of a running joke about starting conversations in the middle, because I frequently forget that they can't hear what's going on in my head or haven't seen what I've seen that day. It's a gentle way for them to bring me back to the beginning of the topic.

One of the serious downsides of a less than complete ToM is that it never occurs to me that people might talk about me behind my back or what they might say while they're doing it. Within the last year or two I've become much more conscious of it and it's caused some weird distrust and paranoia in my relationships.

For a variety of reasons I might not be the best model for childhood experiences. It did not occur to me until fairly recently that people lie with malicious intent and it took almost as long for me to realize that people actually do lie as opposed to just being mistaken. I was probably in my 20s before any of that really sank in. I'm currently in my 30s and I still assume I'm being told the truth.

Because I'm female, it was impressed upon me from an early age that being liked and acceptable is very very important. Maybe the most important thing. So while I used to correct errors or point out mistakes (without judgement & just for edification btw people never see it that way) I no longer do that. I've learned to just let it go. If the person wants to be loud and proud and wrong, it's not hurting me. I've stopped trying to fix those kinds of errors.