Instances of Theory of Mind issues...

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Pugly
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18 Sep 2007, 7:45 pm

I've read all the classic descriptions of Theory of Mind problems those with AS have. I usually don't have the specific problems they describe... they seem too simple and easy. Through a bit of reasoning I can figure it out.

I came into a very specific problem which I can only attribute to a Theory of Mind issue.

In my literature class, as an exercise, we were supposed to write down the thoughts and experience going through Martin Luther King Jr's head if he were to ride a bus in our city. I could not for the life of me think up anything, I don't know specifically how he thinks... or what significant would be on a bus. Perhaps I was over-thinking the exercise... I just could not think up anything.

This happens frequently in classes, where I'm supposed to imagine what another would be going through... It's extremely difficult.

Since the classic examples... aren't that great... listing specific instances of Theory of Mind troubles would be helpful.


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woodsman25
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18 Sep 2007, 8:26 pm

Well I know I was very disruptive, aloof and aggressive when little, and even growing up. later in life that would change I feel now days I have plenty of empathy, however back then I just could not see the world thru anybody elses eyes, so I could not understand how my behavior was being seen by other kids or even adults. To this day I think I still only see the world thru my eyes and just cannot identify with anyone else. The reason I feel empathy is, well... I think only because I can place myself in a position and know how I would feel and how I would see things, but not the other person. Im not sure if I can really put it into words, thats the best I can do. Hope it makes sence.

To give a quick example, say I have a friend who lost a parent, I would feel awful for him, and the reason why is because I would know how I would feel if I lost 1 of my parents, and not particularly how he feels, so I feel sorry for him only because I would think I knew how he was feeling cause I would think he would feel the way I do... Jeeze... just reading this I bet only makes sence to me. I cannot see how he may feel by seeing the world thru his eyes, only putting myself in his shoes and experiencing the situation thru my eyes.


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Belle77
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18 Sep 2007, 9:09 pm

woodsman25 wrote:
To give a quick example, say I have a friend who lost a parent, I would feel awful for him, and the reason why is because I would know how I would feel if I lost 1 of my parents, and not particularly how he feels, so I feel sorry for him only because I would think I knew how he was feeling cause I would think he would feel the way I do... Jeeze... just reading this I bet only makes sence to me. I cannot see how he may feel by seeing the world thru his eyes, only putting myself in his shoes and experiencing the situation thru my eyes.


I understand exactly what you mean because I'm the same way.



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19 Sep 2007, 12:33 am

Actually yeah woodsman, you've communicated that pretty well.

I made my roommate cry just earlier today by pointing out the (incredibly apparent) flaws in her endless string of idiot fratboy boyfriends. I didn't want to make her feel bad, not at all! I didn't even think I was hurting her feelings. I was just saying the truth, because that's what I'd want to hear. If anyone paid enough attention to notice the patterns in my own love-life I would have been grateful forever to be told "Nomessiah, you have a problem falling in love with girls who are likely to want to kill themselves once they come to understand your viewpoint on the world. Stop it."

But apparently normal people want lies. I still don't get it, actually. My theory of mind is barely even a hypothesis, and the experiment is flawed.



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19 Sep 2007, 1:12 am

My therapist ALWAYS asks me when I describe a situation, "how do you think that makes so and so feel?" "If somebody else could feel your anxiety, what do you think it would feel like to them?" "How do you think so and so would respond if you told them this?"

lol, I usually switch the subject quickly or just look at him, grin, and say "I'm wondering the same thing..." or "I have absolutely no clue..." lol. It's absolutely impossible! People think way too differently for me to even try to begin to describe how another might feel. Every time I try, I end my sentences with, "I suppose it *could* go that way... but there is no telling for sure, so I guess I really don't know still."

He also gets frustrated because I answer questions about myself this way too-very roundabout. It's hard for him to understand that when I'm responding to things, I'm not responding because anything is true necessarily, it's just that it is a possibility and I can detach myself from the situation that is being talked about to attempt to answer why somebody may behave the way that I do at times...


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Last edited by nobodyzdream on 19 Sep 2007, 9:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

marshall
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19 Sep 2007, 1:22 am

Pugly wrote:
In my literature class, as an exercise, we were supposed to write down the thoughts and experience going through Martin Luther King Jr's head if he were to ride a bus in our city. I could not for the life of me think up anything, I don't know specifically how he thinks... or what significant would be on a bus. Perhaps I was over-thinking the exercise... I just could not think up anything.

This happens frequently in classes, where I'm supposed to imagine what another would be going through... It's extremely difficult.


I get what you're saying. I have that same problem, but with me it seems more than just a theory of mind issue. I would have enough trouble just trying to write a story about the thoughts that go through my own head, let alone write about someone else's thoughts.

It just seems that very little of what I observe or think in real life has profound meaning. Like if I was riding a bus I would probably be thinking about the weather or maybe something funny I read on the internet. I might also be looking out the window admiring the shape of a building or watching distant clouds or mountains. Would that stuff be worth putting into a story? Also, when you read a story usually a characters thoughts revolve around some specific theme. It just seems so unrealistic because my thoughts are never as focused as how stories like to portray. I always wondered if NTs really think like that. :?



Last edited by marshall on 19 Sep 2007, 2:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

marshall
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19 Sep 2007, 2:04 am

Regarding what woodsman25 said, I guess it all comes back to the fact that I experience things so much differently than the typical NT mind. I can have empathy when it involves the most basic and intense types of feelings or experiences, because I can relate. The more nuanced things I find impossible because I cannot relate. I simply do not think or experience things the same way. I can't hold any presumption to understand the "expected" NT reaction to things.

Looking back to the problem I have with writing stories, I think it's more a problem with synthesis. The way I experience and think about my life is so much different from the way NTs do. I generally experience life like it is a stream rolling past me. I don't automatically pick out certain events and attach more importance to them than others. Sometimes I just experience everything equally, even the smallest details. Other times I may pick things out, but they won't be the things most other people would pick out. Something what my brain finds noteworthy may just be a minor detail to NTs. Also some things that most NTs would place a lot of significance on I would not. An example would be when my grandmother died. I did not place huge significance on it because I was only with her when she visited or when my family went to visit her. She was not a constant part of my life. I find the memory of a certain game I played in the yard behind my grandmother's house more significant than the memory of my grandmother on hear death bed.

So you can see why I sometimes have a lot of trouble when I'm supposed to write about something "significant" in my life. Whenever I was given an assignment like this I would feel a bit self conscious about writing what I really wanted to write about (like something involving one of my own personal interests which other people would probably not get). I remember in my college writing/literature class I was supposed to write about some life event that "changed" me or the way I thought. I honestly couldn't think of a single thing. In the end I had to BS something and I managed to get by with a B. It was a dreadfully difficult assignment for me though.



Last edited by marshall on 19 Sep 2007, 6:21 am, edited 3 times in total.

wishes11
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19 Sep 2007, 4:34 am

This is very interesting to me, being a mother to an AS son. I hope none of you mind me joining the site, but it will give me an insight into how my son feels about things, which will help my relationship thing.

I have been on courses about Theory of Mind, but as a NT person I find this as difficult to comprehend as many of you find us difficult to comprehend!

One of many examples I have of this is my son never smiles at Christmas, and never seems pleased with presents. As his mum, I am really excited but this used to anger him. When his therapist asked him why did he think his mum would be pleased, my son replied "Why would she be happy, she wasnt getting a present". He couldnt understand this....

I wanted to ask you all, if you ever WANT to buy someone something, if you get pleasure out of it, as he doesnt. He hates surprises as well. He can never feel sorry for anyone in the family when they are ill. As he is getting older, I think he is learning to at least show some empathy, even if he does not feel it.



marshall
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19 Sep 2007, 6:01 am

wishes11 wrote:
This is very interesting to me, being a mother to an AS son. I hope none of you mind me joining the site, but it will give me an insight into how my son feels about things, which will help my relationship thing.

I have been on courses about Theory of Mind, but as a NT person I find this as difficult to comprehend as many of you find us difficult to comprehend!

One of many examples I have of this is my son never smiles at Christmas, and never seems pleased with presents. As his mum, I am really excited but this used to anger him. When his therapist asked him why did he think his mum would be pleased, my son replied "Why would she be happy, she wasnt getting a present". He couldnt understand this....

I wanted to ask you all, if you ever WANT to buy someone something, if you get pleasure out of it, as he doesnt. He hates surprises as well. He can never feel sorry for anyone in the family when they are ill. As he is getting older, I think he is learning to at least show some empathy, even if he does not feel it.


Was the present clothes? That would explain it. :lol: My parents would always get on me for not acting happy or being thankful when I received things that didn't particularly interest me. Mostly new clothes.

How old is your son? I think it's kind of hard to expect a young kid to be able to put themselves in the shoes of an adult. I guess the main problem for me was that I couldn't relate to adults much so I couldn't have empathy (note this has nothing to do with not loving them). I just couldn't understand what made them tick. Adults liked things that were very boring to me. Also, adults seemed to like receiving sentimental gifts that they didn't really use much and this was hard for me to understand.

It was much easier to shop for people my own age. I definitely found pleasure from buying my younger brother things he liked. I could relate since I liked some of the same things.

Actually I'm still like this. I still can't enjoy buying sentimental gifts because I can't comprehend having pleasure from receiving such gifts. This makes doing things like buying cards seem like a chore to me. I would much rather just call my mom on her birthday than send her a card.



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19 Sep 2007, 6:33 am

wishes11 wrote:

I wanted to ask you all, if you ever WANT to buy someone something, if you get pleasure out of it, as he doesnt. He hates surprises as well. He can never feel sorry for anyone in the family when they are ill. As he is getting older, I think he is learning to at least show some empathy, even if he does not feel it.


I hate buying things for people, I usually take the opinion that for most holidays we shouldn't waste our time with the obligatory gift exchange. Why don't I simply buy what I want and you buy what you want. And if someone should come across something that they would like to give someone else, then do so by all means, regardless of the occasion.

It's not that I don't enjoy giving a good gift, it's more that I am rarely able to. I don't know what anyone wants and I am convinced most of my gifts are just useless junk and the person may be pretending to be happy just so I don't feel bad.



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19 Sep 2007, 7:49 am

Pugly wrote:
I've read all the classic descriptions of Theory of Mind problems those with AS have. I usually don't have the specific problems they describe... they seem too simple and easy. Through a bit of reasoning I can figure it out.

I came into a very specific problem which I can only attribute to a Theory of Mind issue.

In my literature class, as an exercise, we were supposed to write down the thoughts and experience going through Martin Luther King Jr's head if he were to ride a bus in our city. I could not for the life of me think up anything, I don't know specifically how he thinks... or what significant would be on a bus. Perhaps I was over-thinking the exercise... I just could not think up anything.

This happens frequently in classes, where I'm supposed to imagine what another would be going through... It's extremely difficult.

Since the classic examples... aren't that great... listing specific instances of Theory of Mind troubles would be helpful.

how exactly is anyone else but him going to know what he was thinking? that is the most stupidest task ever.



Quote:
My therapist ALWAYS asks me when I describe a situation, "how do you think that makes so and so feel?" "If somebody else could feel your anxiety, what do you think it would feel like to them?" "How do you thing so and so would respond if you told them this?"

lol, I usually switch the subject quickly or just look at him, grin, and say "I'm wondering the same thing..." or "I have absolutely no clue..." lol. It's absolutely impossible! People think way too differently for me to even try to begin to describe how another might feel. Every time I try, I end my sentences with, "I suppose it *could* go that way... but there is no telling for sure, so I guess I really don't know still."

He also gets frustrated because I answer questions about myself this way too-very roundabout. It's hard for him to understand that when I'm responding to things, I'm not responding because anything is true necessarily, it's just that it is a possibility and I can detach myself from the situation that is being talked about to attempt to answer why somebody may behave the way that I do at times...

does he know are on the spectrum,or is that what he is asking these questions for/being assessed for ASD?
either way,he should know from the answers that there is a ToM problem and shouldn't expect the same answer that a NT would give.



wishes11
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19 Sep 2007, 8:07 am

Thanks Marshall n Bigizz...it was a really nice bike by the way, something he wanted for ages lol. Its good to hear your opinion, and in a way I can't actually argue with either of your logic. In fact, I suppose I hate getting gifts myself, I always feel embarrassed and think, s**t, what if I dont like it and I have to pretend...but on the other hand I DO enjoy getting other people gifts, esp. the sentimental ones...thanks for your replies



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19 Sep 2007, 9:18 am

wishes11 wrote:
Thanks Marshall n Bigizz...it was a really nice bike by the way, something he wanted for ages lol. Its good to hear your opinion, and in a way I can't actually argue with either of your logic. In fact, I suppose I hate getting gifts myself, I always feel embarrassed and think, sh**, what if I dont like it and I have to pretend...but on the other hand I DO enjoy getting other people gifts, esp. the sentimental ones...thanks for your replies


Don't take it too personally. At my son's birthday parties, he sighs when it comes to opening presents, then says "is that all?" after he opens them all (meaning, "is there more hiding somewhere that I HAVE TO OPEN? I'm going back to the playstation..." lol). My son does enjoy the presents, just as I do when I receive something, I just don't express it well. I could be jumping for joy on the inside, but if I was interrupted to open them, didn't feel like it at the moment, or was not expecting a gift in the first place, I'm very "bleh" in my response. It isn't that I don't appreciate the gift-I think my problem is I get bothered by the idea of somebody giving me something just because it is "tradition", and then they expect a big reaction. It just doesn't make sense to me.


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19 Sep 2007, 9:20 am

KingdomOfRats wrote:
does he know are on the spectrum,or is that what he is asking these questions for/being assessed for ASD?
either way,he should know from the answers that there is a ToM problem and shouldn't expect the same answer that a NT would give.


Yes, he is actually looking into that with me. Maybe he's just seeing how far I can stretch the answers? lol. It's possible that it could be something that sparked interest so he's asking all of the time to see how consistent this "I dunno" response is, I supppose. Either that or he is trying to help me figure it out, because if I cannot answer, he "explores" it with me to see if we can come up with something.


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19 Sep 2007, 10:16 am

marshall wrote:

I get what you're saying. I have that same problem, but with me it seems more than just a theory of mind issue. I would have enough trouble just trying to write a story about the thoughts that go through my own head, let alone write about someone else's thoughts.


Ah, yeah I have the same exact problems. Whenever I am asked to do anything remotely creative, I hit a mental block. When I am on my own, I think up creative ideas all the time. But it's not a faucet that I can just turn on.

nobodyzdream wrote:
My therapist ALWAYS asks me when I describe a situation, "how do you think that makes so and so feel?" "If somebody else could feel your anxiety, what do you think it would feel like to them?" "How do you think so and so would respond if you told them this?"

lol, I usually switch the subject quickly or just look at him, grin, and say "I'm wondering the same thing..." or "I have absolutely no clue..." lol. It's absolutely impossible! People think way too differently for me to even try to begin to describe how another might feel. Every time I try, I end my sentences with, "I suppose it *could* go that way... but there is no telling for sure, so I guess I really don't know still."

He also gets frustrated because I answer questions about myself this way too-very roundabout. It's hard for him to understand that when I'm responding to things, I'm not responding because anything is true necessarily, it's just that it is a possibility and I can detach myself from the situation that is being talked about to attempt to answer why somebody may behave the way that I do at times...


Ah, I go through that same thing when people ask me what I think another is feeling. I barely know what I am feeling at any given point in time. And for me to make far reaching assumptions about others and state what they could be thinking... kind of absurd. I could go through what I might be feeling, or if I know a person and their character I could make some guesses... even then it'd be difficult.

I really like analyzing people though, and understanding just why they do something. But this is always after the fact, I'm never trying to guess just how they feel from the start. I need some input to show me what they are feeling, otherwise I just don't know.

I also get the same responses when people ask or comment on how I feel, I never give solid responses. Because honestly I don't feel anything completely... it's always a fluid I kinda feel sad or upset or angry... or satisfied or content.

I'm usually feeling happy though, so I can at least say that. But it's kind of bizarre to say that I'm happy... when something is happening which should be very sad...


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19 Sep 2007, 10:19 am

KingdomOfRats wrote:
how exactly is anyone else but him going to know what he was thinking? that is the most stupidest task ever.


Well the task was to show character and point of view, and how a story can change based on how you present the information.

We also did the same scenario, but with Hitler... :lol: That was even more difficult... :?


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Wonder what it feels like to be in love?
How would you describe it, like a push or shove?
Guess I could pretend that this is all I need
Wanting more than what I have might appear as greed.