Monday, December 14, 2009

Inverted Conclusions

I read an unfortunate article in science daily. You can read it here.

They note that autistics think about others and themselves with the part of the brain active when thinking about oneself. This makes sense. Autistics only think about themselves. We don't really have filters so we filter through ourselves. How is this like me. How does it relate. It is all about me because I am the only constant in my world.

However, they somehow screwed it up and decided: This is strong evidence that in the autistic brain, processing information about the self is atypical.

Wait. What? Everything processed through the area that thinks about the self and this proves that autistics don't think about the self?

Doesn't "strong evidence that in the autistic brain, all information is processed as about the self" make more sense? As a friend pointed out: "Everything is through the filter of you, and no one else truly exists. Object permanance can't happen unless you can think of the object not in relation to yourself."

Lombardo added: "Navigating social interactions with others requires keeping track of the relationship between oneself and others. In some social situations it is important to notice that 'I am similar to you', while in other situations it might be important to notice that 'I am different to you'. The atypical way the autistic brain treats self-relevant information as equivalent to information about others could derail a child's social development, particularly in understanding how they relate to the social world around them."

I think the scientists are missing the entire point here. " other situations it might be important to notice that 'I am different to you'." Yes, that is the issue. We don't know the difference between ourselves and you outsiders. This, however, is not because we don't have a sense of ourselves. It is because we do not have a sense of yourselves. It is very hard to understand that you feel differently than I do. I can easily see that you would feel the way I do. I am very good at thinking about myself.

My friend has a low functioning autie son. He thinks about himself just fine. That hurt me. That bothered me. This effects me. If it doesn't effect HIM it doesn't count. We are small children, unable to see beyond our personal little worlds because we haven't developed enough to have a sense of object permanence or empathy. When he speaks quietly, he is unable to realize that Mom didn't hear, because he did hear himself. Saying "I didn't hear you" makes no sense to him. Yes you did hear me, I heard me. There is no difference. She has had to learn to say "I wasn't able to make words out of what I heard" and he can say "I do that often. Mom didn't understand me" and repeat himself.

We don't naturally filter. We don't naturally generalize. Therefore, we are not easily capable of grasping social situations or being trained emotionally. A cause and effect is a cause and effect of that particular thing. It is not now a general rule for all similar situations. So how can we generalize enough to see people as their own selves, not only separate from us but as individual to their own little world as we are to our own!

Honestly, I don't think most humans have really developed well enough to see beyond their own little worlds. They all huddle in the boxes, with blinders on, terrified of the great big world. We huddle in terror, too. The only difference seems to be that we can't filter it out. We don't have blinders, so we rock and hum and try to force the world away by sheer force of will.

And then they say we don't have a sense of ourselves. Maybe it scares them to know we have no sense of you and this suits us fine. It is supposed to make one feel guilty to realize one thinks only of oneself. It doesn't bother autistics as much. We don't have that social training. I learned to accept that everyone is living in their own isolated world so that I can say "well this is true for me but not for you." I don't have any better understanding of your world, but I am now capable of differentiating. It is still totally egocentric and all about me, but it's a starting point.

In any case, this blog started with a point: That study was totally inverted in its conclusions! We have very strong senses of self. Egocentric as hell! We are just lacking a sense of anyone else. Stoopid scientists.


Kristin The Great said...

Honestly, I don't think most humans have really developed well enough to see beyond their own little worlds. They all huddle in the boxes, with blinders on, terrified of the great big world. the insight you give almost.. not quite.. but almost makes you a fibber.. you DO understand... you just aren't able to apply it on a daily basis... however there are times ive seeeeeeen it :D

Abifae said...

LOL. I've been studying them! Some day I'll write a book about them, like Jane Goodall! It'll be awesome.

Kristin The Great said...

ROFL.. i would buy it!

Abifae said...

yea! *grins* I'll let you know when I publish it ;)

Linda said...

This isn't the first time the scientists have totally missed the point :P

Abifae said...

LOL Auntie Zilla. Indeed. Dingbats.

Jon A.S. said...

Hye Abi,

Those scientists that missed the whole point of us auties not being with the world means that they are most likely like us....because we miss the point if we don't "read" the minds of


Abifae said...

LOL great point, Jonas. It's likely ;)

Angela said...

They evidently haven't met you! You are one of the most self-aware people I know ;)

Abifae said...


yeh. it "proves" i'm not autistic? LOL who knows. :D

Anonymous said...

"Lombardo found this area of the brain was indeed more active when typical volunteers were asked questions about themselves compared to when they were thinking about the Queen. However, in autism this brain region responded equally, irrespective of whether they were thinking about themselves or the Queen."

Lombardo may have been suggesting that the brain activity of autistic individuals showed to be lesser than 'typical' volunteers despite being consistently subjective. To try and put it in laymans terms if we used numericals a typical volunteer showed activity levels of 10 when thinking about self and 5 when thinking about others, an autie individual showed levels of 5 when thinking about self AND others.....

I would guess that the findings are poorly explained having read the article. If reported in a clearer fashion I suspect these scientific findings actually support the fact that autistic development of the brain shows consistent subjectivity when thinking about self and others, the lesser activity maybe attributed to the fact that without an objective stance the brain see's no need to heighten awareness when thinking about self in order to be account for the objective viewpoint of others?

Anonymous said...

Ps sorry, I'm in a rush today and see typo's in my response to this article, wish I could edit hehe.

When I get time I'll open a google account so that I dont have to post anonymously in the future. I do think the findings actually support you, it's a shame that these important medical finding have been reported so unclearly, especially on a topic such as autism, where the power of suggestion should really be left out.

Abifae said...

Yeh, I do think the actual study showed that we don't have a sense of ourselves as SEPARATE from others. But that isn't a lack of sense of ourselves, it's a lack of sense of others. We are still very immature and lacking in object permanence and lacking a real understanding of how others think. We are like small children in so many ways, even when "high functioning".

Anonymous said...

Hi Abifae

The findings do support what you are saying and don't seem inverted at all. Suggestion that activity levels were the same but less for autistic thinkers suggests that a) a difference between self and others isnt recognised and b) the lesser activity supports a theory of less maturity.

....Unfortunately this is 'implied'in the paragraph I quoted rather than stated clearly in the article, probably a medical writer or agency writer who has no clear understanding of the subject at hand
but instead has accumulated the info from various sources, interpreted and summarised (badly).

Happy New Year Abifae, I hope 2010 is a great one for you x

Andy said...

Everyone is egocentric. Few people are less egocentric than you seem to be. The difference is that we're trained to hide it, because if we don't, society can't function. People can't work in groups if every person in that group is thinking only of themselves, and not of the group too... but what it boils down to anyway is "I'm working in this group to help the group, because helping the group means helping myself."

People only do things for themselves, because they get something out of it. I had a conversation with someone in high school about this once... She argued that not everyone was like that, and noted volunteers and the like. People somehow think that if someone's not getting a physical, tangible thing, that they're not getting anything. Volunteers are getting a good emotional feeling. Satisfaction, accomplishment, a sense of helping others or improving the world... they're still getting something out of it. If you ask them why they volunteer, to actually explain it beyond "it's good to do," they will almost always say "It makes me feel good to help."

Being egocentric isn't a bad thing. It's how one expresses it. If someone expresses it in ways that also benefit others, it's a good thing. It's only bad if someone expresses it in a way that hurts others, and mostly because in the end, it hurts themselves too.

Abifae said...

*laughing* i had that conversation too! i told someone that volunteers get something out of it: feeling good about themselves, or satisfaction of doing the job... and was told that "didn't count". how could it not count? if you are truly getting NOTHING out of something you won't do it.

i don't think egocentricism (sp?) is bad at all. i think LYING about it is bad (i just have this things against lies in any form) and i think that putting yourself so far first that you are unable to have any real relationship is pretty stupid. but not bad. just dumb lol.