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Do you have High-Functioning Asperger's Syndrome?

19 [deleted] 10 May 2010 11:55PM


EDIT: To combat nonresponse bias, I'd appreciate it if anyone who looked at this post before and decided not to fill in the poll would go and do so now, but that people who haven't already considered and decided against filling in the poll refrain from doing so. We might get some idea of which way the bias points by looking at the difference in results.


This is your opportunity to help your community's social epistemology!


There is some evidence that consequentialist/utilitarian thinking is more common in people with Asperger's syndrome, so I thought it would be interesting to follow that correlation the other way around: what fraction of people who are attracted to rational/consequentialist thinking have what one might call "High-functioning Asperger's Syndrome"? From wisegeek:

Impaired social reactions are a key component of Asperger's syndrome. People who suffer from this condition find it difficult to develop meaningful relationships with their peers. They struggle to understand the subtleties of communicating through eye contact, body language, or facial expressions and seldom show affection towards others. They are often accused of being disrespectful and rude, since they find they can’t comprehend expectations of appropriate social behavior and are often unable to determine the feelings of those around them. People suffering from Asperger's syndrome can be said to lack both social and emotional reciprocity.

Although Asperger's syndrome is related to autism, people who suffer from this condition do not have other developmental delays. They have normal to above average intelligence and fail to meet the diagnostic criteria for any other pervasive developmental disorder. In fact, people with Asperger's syndrome often show intense focus, highly logical thinking, and exceptional abilities in math or science.

This book makes the following point about "High-functioning adults":

"Individuals at the most able end of the autistic spectrum have the most hidden form of this disorder, and as a result, these individuals and their family are often the most disadvantaged in terms of getting a diagnosis. Because they have higher IQs, high-functioning adults are able to work out ways to compensate for their difficulties in communication or in social functioning that are based on logical reasoning."

So if you are a very smart AS person, it might not be obvious that you have it, especially because if you have difficulty reading social situations you might not realize that you are having difficulty reading social situations, rather you'll just experience other people being mean and think that the world is just full of mean people. But there are some clues you can follow. For example this website talks about what AS in kids tends to be like:

One of the most disturbing aspects of Higher Functioning children with Aspergers (HFA) is their clumsy, nerdish social skills. Though they want to be accepted by their peers, they tend to be very hurt and frustrated by their lack of social success. Their ability to respond is confounded by the negative feedback that these children get from their painful social interactions. This greatly magnifies their social problems. Like any of us, when we get negative feedback, we become unhappy. This further inhibits their social skills, and a vicious circle develops.

If your childhood involved extreme trouble with other kids, getting bullied, picked last for sports team, etc, but not for an obvious reason such as being very fat or of a racial minority, then add some evidence-points to the "AS" hypothesis.

High-functioning AS gives a person a combination of strengths and weaknesses. If you know about the weaknesses, you can probably better compensate for them. For reference, the following are the Gillberg diagnostic criteria for Asperger Syndrome:

1.Severe impairment in reciprocal social interaction (at least two of the following)
(a) inability to interact with peers, (b) lack of desire to interact with peers, (c) lack of appreciation of social cues, (d) socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior

2.All-absorbing narrow interest (at least one of the following)
(a) exclusion of other activities, (b) repetitive adherence, (c) more rote than meaning

3.Imposition of routines and interests (at least one of the following)
(a) on self, in aspects of life (b) on others

4.Speech and language problems (at least three of the following)
(a) delayed development, (b) superficially perfect expressive language, (c) formal, pedantic language, (d) odd prosody, peculiar voice characteristics, (e) impairment of comprehension including misinterpretations of literal/implied meanings

5.Non-verbal communication problems (at least one of the following)
(a) limited use of gestures, (b) clumsy/gauche body language, (c) limited facial expression, (d) inappropriate expression, (e) peculiar, stiff gaze

6.Motor clumsiness

If people want to, they can respond to a poll I created, recording their self-assessment of whether or not they fit these criteria. My own take is similar to that of Simon Baron-Cohen: that there isn't a natural dividing line between AS and neurotypical, rather that there is a spectrum of empathizing vs. systematizing brain-types. For those who want to, you can take Baron-Cohen's "Autism quotient" test on wired magazine, and you can record your score on my poll.


Comments (295)

Comment author: Will_Newsome 11 May 2010 12:37:32AM *  14 points [-]

Good post. I'm not sure how much advantage one would get out of identifying one's autism, but it's probably good to know either way.

I think the most glaring atypical-for-people-with-Asperger's trait among the Less Wrong and especially SIAI community is the lack of an "all-absorbing narrow interest"; I and many others had such traits as children, but these days a lot of what I see among SIAI Visiting Fellows and my vague impression of folks here on Less Wrong are academic generalists, or even true renaissance man generalists.

I'm not sure if it's atypical that I built up my generalist nature via obsessively practicing skills for 6 months to 2 years at a time and then moving on. I spent a year constantly playing basketball, then 2 solid years on guitar and music theory, then 6 months learning social skills, then 2-month spurts of studying chess, then 6 months devouring the Sequences and cognitive psychology studies, et cetera, until it came to be that I have a solid base for doing whatever it is I may want to do. (Of course, I dropped out of high school in the process, but I feel it was probably worth it.) Do others have similar experiences?

Comment author: JamesPfeiffer 11 May 2010 02:44:55AM 4 points [-]

I wasn't good at social skills until something like age 17, though they still go bad because of winter depression. Kids have different brains too; I would tell adolescents wondering to wait a few years. For me it was like a light came on and I could understand strangers.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 May 2010 03:08:54AM 8 points [-]

I was a very bizarre child up to age 10 or so. Wouldn't look people in the eye, walked into walls, talked to myself, didn't make friends, etc. Now essentially none of that shows. I may have "had something" but it's moot at this point.

The only bizarre thing that remains is my near-pathological lack of spatial skills. I can't aim, throw, dance, or drive with anywhere near the ease of a normal person. (I wonder if it's improvable at all?)

Comment author: mattnewport 11 May 2010 03:25:55AM 4 points [-]

The only bizarre thing that remains is my near-pathological lack of spatial skills. I can't aim, throw, dance, or drive with anywhere near the ease of a normal person. (I wonder if it's improvable at all?)

I taught myself to juggle at around 14 or 15 and felt it improved my coordination in rugby and basketball which I played at the time. I attribute some improvement in my reaction times and spatial awareness to extensive Quake deathmatch sessions as well. It's hard to say whether those effects were genuine however since I had no real way of performing a controlled study. There may be a cutoff age at which significant improvement is possible (as appears to be the case with language acquisition) but this study found that surgeons who played video games improved their hand eye coordination for laparoscopic surgery which suggests video games may be useful for adults.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 May 2010 03:37:17AM 1 point [-]

I've heard this about video games. (I never played any, myself.) Now I really want to try and see.

Comment author: mattnewport 11 May 2010 03:49:23AM 2 points [-]

So-called 'twitch' video games are best for improving hand eye co-ordination. First person shooters are probably best for improving spatial awareness and also generally focus on twitch gameplay. A realistic driving game may help improve driving skills specifically. There are a number of attempts to use driving simulators to improve awareness in new drivers but I'm not sure what research exists to support their effectiveness.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 11 May 2010 06:19:27AM *  5 points [-]

For a different perspective, Psychonauts, Cave Story, and Portal are all absolutely charming twitchy games I'd recommend to anyone. Portal in particular will improve spatial awareness even in ways that aren't actually useful.

Comment author: mattnewport 11 May 2010 06:30:02AM *  5 points [-]

Portal is indeed a great game and since it features a rather unfriendly (or at least homicidally eccentric) AI is quite appropriate for Less Wrong readers. It's probably a little less stressful for a novice FPS player than your typical modern FPS as well while still being a spatial and coordination challenge.

Comment author: pjeby 11 May 2010 09:28:13PM 4 points [-]

Portal is indeed a great game and since it features a rather unfriendly (or at least homicidally eccentric) AI

Apart from the unrealistic passive-aggressive personality, GlaDOS seems like sort of a reasonable example of the problem of giving an AI overly-narrow goals like "conduct research". ;-)

Comment author: mattnewport 11 May 2010 09:31:41PM *  8 points [-]

I don't know about unrealistic but I found GLaDOS a bizarrely sympathetic character considering she has no qualms about killing you. And she does offer cake.

Wolpaw further describes the idea of using cake as the reward came about as "at the beginning of the Portal development process, we sat down as a group to decide what philosopher or school of philosophy our game would be based on. That was followed by about 15 minutes of silence and then someone mentioned that a lot of people like cake."

ETA: For the non spoiler-averse the song from the end credits of Portal gives a pretty good insight into GLaDOS' personality.

Comment author: komponisto 11 May 2010 03:34:03AM *  2 points [-]

The only bizarre thing that remains is my near-pathological lack of spatial skills. I can't aim, throw, dance, or drive with anywhere near the ease of a normal person. (I wonder if it's improvable at all?)

How do you feel about your "spatial reasoning" abilities? I'm curious, since I know you work in mathematics, a field in which high aptitude in this domain is apparently common.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 May 2010 03:36:22AM 4 points [-]

Used to be bad, improved with practice. Oddly enough, the year I learned topology I became much better at driving and also at geometrical puzzles.

Comment author: Jonii 11 May 2010 10:28:42AM 2 points [-]

I'm not sure if it's atypical that I built up my generalist nature via obsessively practicing skills for 6 months to 2 years at a time and then moving on.

I have this too. It's fun to get into something, but then at some point it stops being rewarding, and fades away. Thus far go has been the only thing that I have kept doing for more than 2 years just because it's fun.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 11:05:16AM [-]
Comment author: RobinZ 11 May 2010 03:45:15PM 4 points [-]

But most NT people typically don't have academic interests... they think about something for five seconds, make a cached response, and then get on with watching the football/soap opera.

Citation needed.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 03:54:49PM [-]
Comment author: RobinZ 11 May 2010 04:00:54PM 3 points [-]

Tell me, where do I meet "ordinary" people?

I am only being partially sarcastic - I'm a college student studying mechanical engineering professionally and a massive geek recreationally, and I already know those people have academic interests.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 04:09:54PM [-]
Comment author: RobinZ 11 May 2010 05:17:17PM 0 points [-]

I suppose working in a bar might work, but I don't think you can really get to know someone from their weekly shopping trips. Even I rarely break out the philosophical discussions in line at the CVS. I don't know if your experience is different.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 06:31:27PM [-]
Comment author: RobinZ 11 May 2010 06:32:51PM 1 point [-]


Comment author: Airedale 11 May 2010 05:23:51PM 4 points [-]

I have found that playing sports in some sort of team framework has introduced me to at least a somewhat different group of people than I would more typically meet through school or work.

Comment author: SilasBarta 11 May 2010 07:03:52PM 4 points [-]

Tell me, where do I meet "ordinary" people?

An easy way is to join a popular chur...ver mind.

Comment author: RobinZ 11 May 2010 07:37:37PM 0 points [-]

I was in a choir for a bit - I don't believe I got to know the people in the way Roko might suggest, but they were interesting.

Comment author: SilasBarta 11 May 2010 07:42:20PM *  0 points [-]

You need to go to an "organization" that breaks into groups that have meetings, which gives you time to socialize in general (both before and after, and probably during). Preferably groups that plan group activities on top of that.

Comment author: RobinZ 11 May 2010 07:48:07PM 1 point [-]

...Boy Scouts of America?

Comment author: SilasBarta 11 May 2010 07:58:15PM 0 points [-]

No, I mean an "organization" of the type that starts with "chur" but leads me to pause in the middle and try to act as if I were saying "never mind" when I mistakenly suggest it here.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 May 2010 04:03:53PM 6 points [-]

but "nonacademic" doesn't equal "NT."

Comment author: HughRistik 12 May 2010 12:47:13AM 20 points [-]

Roko, sometime we need to take LWers out on a field trip to talk to normal people in clubs and bars. I think many people here might be surprised at what they find out there in da jungle, baby.

...like people who believe in astrology, people with -1 second long attention spans, constant one-upmanship and power jockeying, people who slap you on the back and call you "bro," obsessions with alcohol and sometimes drugs, fixation on team sports and celebrities, complete moral relativism, talking extremely loudly, and other travesties too horrible to name.

At the same time, I wonder if there are citations available on this subject. If it takes, say, 115+ IQ to have academic interests, then most people are indeed below that threshold.

Comment author: Jack 12 May 2010 02:21:34AM *  10 points [-]

Your usual club/bar crowd in a major city is probably above average still. You can still have interesting conversations there: probably not AI, physics, serious philosophy or population genetics but pop-psychology, gender, sex, music and film, sure as long as you don't over do it and get too serious.

In comparison, my girlfriend's mother (they are from the rural midwest) thought "Al Qaeda" was the name of the man we had put in charge in Iraq (Al as in Albert or Allen).

Edit: I remember there was an AMA on reddit which was just with some guy who had a lower than average IQ and everyone acted like they were meeting an alien.

Comment author: Alicorn 12 May 2010 02:57:07AM 4 points [-]

I remember there was an AMA on reddit which was just with some guy who had a lower than average IQ and everyone acted like they were meeting an alien.

I want to read this. Can you dig up the link?

Comment author: Kevin 12 May 2010 03:14:00AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 12 May 2010 04:22:44AM *  9 points [-]

IMHO the guy is super articulate and rational for someone who's got an IQ of 85. See his user page for everything he writes:


I think that health care is a great thing, but not a right. I see rights as something other people can't take away from you. You have a right to live, but another person has a right to not be forced to help you to live or ask to make money off of it. If most people want it a certain way, I don't have a problem with them changing it.


I prefer to deal with interesting people. I meet a lot of people who think they are interesting because they are smart but they don't really have much to offer to a conversation. I'd prefer a less smart person that has driven a motorcycle across the country than a smart person ho makes all A's and reads all the time.


I've thought about how big the universe is, but I can't really grasp it. Most people have problems with sizes they don't have to deal with. It's hard for me to really grasp the size of Jupiter. I know I can say it's X many Earths in size, but I still can't really picture it.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 12 May 2010 04:37:24AM *  9 points [-]

In comparison, my girlfriend's mother (they are from the rural midwest) thought "Al Qaeda" was the name of the man we had put in charge in Iraq (Al as in Albert or Allen).

That's just a trivia question. It doesn't say much about her intelligence without additional information like the amount of news she has watched, etc.

I tried for a bit to think of something that would irrevocably demonstrate someone as stupid, but I couldn't think of anything. I think when it comes down to it, the kind of stupidity that matters is the kind that makes you slow at learning new things. So to figure out that someone was irrevocably stupid you'd have to see them work on learning something simple for a while without getting much of anywhere.

There is another important ability associated with intelligence: being able to apply existing knowledge creatively. This is easier to test--if someone "knows" how to program but can't write fizzbuzz, they fail. Or maybe if someone "knows" basic arithmetic but can't explain its misapplication in this story. But I think this creativity ability only arises in people who can learn things fast.

Comment author: Jack 12 May 2010 07:43:02AM 3 points [-]

That's just a trivia question. It doesn't say much about her intelligence without additional information like the amount of news she has watched, etc.

I think there is probably a high, multi-vector correlation between knowledge and intelligence such that it is evidence in favor of lower IQ. But yeah, I wasn't attempting to give comprehensive reasons.

I think when it comes down to it, the kind of stupidity that matters is the kind that makes you slow at learning new things.

Theres also the 'not recognizing the best solutions" thing.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 12 May 2010 09:57:33AM *  0 points [-]

Where can I learn more about what "multi-vector correlation" means in this context?

Theres also the 'not recognizing the best solutions" thing.

I tend to think of that as a lack of rationality. (I assume we're talking about someone who, say, simply refuses to change their standard response to a situation once they've made a semi-public announcement of it. This could also be explained by saying they're rational, but with a complex utility function.)

Comment author: Jack 12 May 2010 10:23:59AM *  3 points [-]

Where can I learn more about what "multi-vector correlation" means in this context?

Er, sorry. I'm sure I've mangled whatever legitimate mathematical jargon that resembles. What I mean is that intelligent people tend to have more knowledge and knowledgeable people tend to be more intelligent. By "multi-vector" I just mean that this co-variability isn't due to one simple factor or explanation but that lots of factors are responsible for the correlation. Intelligent people learn more, those raised in environments with lots of knowledge to pick up are more likely to have had intelligent parents, etc.

I tend to think of that as a lack of rationality. (I assume we're talking about someone who, say, simply refuses to change their standard response to a situation once they've made a semi-public announcement of it. This could also be explained by saying they're rational, but with a complex utility function.)

What I mean is: say there is some task that needs to be completed an intelligent will immediately see one of the better ways of completing the task and will routinely improve on the methods of the less intelligent. The less intelligent won't even always recognize what makes the new solution better.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 13 May 2010 06:44:51AM *  7 points [-]

Edit: I remember there was an AMA on reddit which was just with some guy who had a lower than average IQ and everyone acted like they were meeting an alien.

Taking the IQ score for a characteristic that says something precise about an individual, like height or weight, is a fallacy. The real utility of IQ is statistical. It correlates highly with a number of relevant measures of ability and success in life, but the connection is ultimately probabilistic. Someone who scored 85 on an IQ test is highly likely to perform worse on pretty much any intellectual task than someone who scored, say, 115. However, in a large population, there will be a significant number of exceptions -- both above-average IQ types who are otherwise dumb as a box of rocks and useless for any productive work, and below-average folks who come off as clever and competent.

This is by no means to say that IQ is irrelevant. In a population large enough for the law of large numbers to kick in, the relevant measures of intellectual success and competence will correlate with the IQ distributions with merciless regularity. But whatever it is exactly that IQ tests measure, it contains enough randomness and irrelevant components to make the correlations imperfect and allow for lots of individual exceptions.

Comment deleted 12 May 2010 12:30:40PM [-]
Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 May 2010 12:42:55PM 1 point [-]

Yeah, this one is quite shocking to see, actually. Especially the celebs thing. People gossiping about the antics of someone THEY HAVE NEVER MET. Chick crack.

Men don't do that?

I don't spend enough time with people who focus on celebrities to have an opinion, so I'm trying to update.

Comment deleted 12 May 2010 12:47:42PM [-]
Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 May 2010 12:55:45PM 6 points [-]

Do men gossip about the lives of famous team sports players, or is that also mostly women?

A more general point: I have an untested belief that everyone has something they're rational, or at least logical about. They might not be able to focus on math. They might not understand that plumbing pipes have limited capacity.

But they will by God track it down until they've established whether someone is a second cousin once removed or not. They'll fit actors' careers neatly into timelines.Maybe it's gardening or a model train set-up where they have something to defend, and update effortlessly even if they're clueless in other parts of their lives.

Am I over-optimistic to think that people generally have something like that?

Comment author: Jack 12 May 2010 01:02:15PM *  1 point [-]

Sorry, I deleted my comment after I saw Roko say the same thing.

Do men gossip about the lives of famous team sports players, or is that also mostly women?

My experience is that the personal lives of athletes only get discussed when they commit a crime which might lead to a them missing games and thus affecting the sport. And so it is mostly men.

Comment author: whpearson 12 May 2010 12:58:02PM 4 points [-]

Men tend to talk about the teams more than the individuals. If they talk about the people it is often in terms of their skill (Did you see X's brilliant Goal) rather than their character/actions.

Nerds also have their teams, see the cult of the Apple or open source software fanboys.

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 May 2010 05:22:17PM 2 points [-]

I get curious when I look at the covers of the supermarket tabloids, and once in a while I look at the insides when I'm bored waiting in line. But it's not something that I "should" care about - and it's not like the tabloids are known for their accuracy anyway - so I don't think about them when I'm not looking at them. And just seeing the covers has already made me sick of the Brad Pitt / Angelina Jolie / Jennifer Aniston love triangle.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 11 May 2010 08:45:45PM *  10 points [-]

Wait, all of academia is a 'narrow interest' in the eyes of your average person? Does the average person chunk people into two groups, 'those who seem like they read Wikipedia for fun' and 'normal folk'? That's a scary thought. It'd be really cool if someone ahem Michael Vassar ahem wrote a 'The World is Mad' post and followed it up with an analysis of why the world is mad: what you would expect of a world predominately run by IQ 120 people with an average age of 55 or so, elected by a populace who largely categorize the things they see in the world as either good or evil.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 09:42:52PM *  [-]
Comment author: Will_Newsome 11 May 2010 10:46:09PM 1 point [-]

No, but I will look into it as a case study.

I believe you! It's just... O_o

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 10:59:18PM [-]
Comment author: mattnewport 11 May 2010 11:04:23PM 2 points [-]

To be fair, that's true of pretty much any paper's horoscope page - The Sun is hardly unique in that regard.

Comment author: LucasSloan 14 May 2010 04:44:51AM 4 points [-]

It'd be really cool if someone ahem Michael Vassar ahem wrote a 'The World is Mad' post and followed it up with an analysis of why the world is mad: what you would expect of a world predominately run by IQ 120 people with an average age of 55 or so, elected by a populace who largely categorize the things they see in the world as either good or evil.


Comment author: RobinZ 12 May 2010 02:26:00PM 0 points [-]

Quick heads-up: I've been elaborating on my response in a few comments downthread.

Comment author: arundelo 13 May 2010 04:26:03AM 0 points [-]

I scored 22 or 23 on the Baron-Cohen/Wired test (I took it a few days ago and can't remember which of these two scores I got).

This fits my pre-test judgment of myself: I don't think I am AS but think I am noticeably more in that direction than the average person. I would have answered "people often tell me that I keep going on and on about the same thing" differently (and gotten a one-point-higher score) ten years ago.

Remember, if you have AS, but don't have much experience with NT people, your "all-absorbing narrow interest" will just seem like an "ordinary academic interest".

When I filled out your poll (Roko) I didn't check any of the "Gillberg" boxes, but it could be that someone closer to the hump in the neurotypicality bell curve would say I should have checked this one. (I also have "impairment in reciprocal social interaction", but not severe, and very mild "imposition of routines" [untwisting twisted phone cords and such].)

Comment author: HughRistik 12 May 2010 12:30:54AM 7 points [-]

Yes. I built up my generalist arsenal one obsession at at time.

Comment author: Jack 12 May 2010 02:06:06AM 1 point [-]

I get my generalism by going back and forth between 3-4 things and every 6 months or so dropping one and picking up a new one.

Comment deleted 12 May 2010 07:13:57PM [-]
Comment author: Blueberry 13 May 2010 05:45:30AM 0 points [-]

Are you afraid of success? What do you think would happen if you succeeded?

Comment author: wedrifid 13 May 2010 02:32:21AM 6 points [-]

I think the most glaring atypical-for-people-with-Asperger's trait among the Less Wrong and especially SIAI community is the lack of an "all-absorbing narrow interest"; I and many others had such traits as children, but these days a lot of what I see among SIAI Visiting Fellows and my vague impression of folks here on Less Wrong are academic generalists, or even true renaissance man generalists.

I read a pertinent comment on that criteria, probably by Attwood. He noted that sometimes the 'all absorbing narrow interest' can be 'the universe' or 'life'. For the purposes of identifying the type of personality in question the absolute scope is not the deciding factor. It is whether the interests happen to be approximately optimising social status in the local environment, being fully engaged in the social reality. Practically speaking 'knowing everything' is a narrow interest.

Comment author: Jack 11 May 2010 12:46:12AM *  7 points [-]

Your poll doesn't let responders get out of answering the second question if they haven't been diagnosed. Anyway, I scored a 27 but I'm pretty sure the fact that I have ADHD and some anxiety issues distorts my score.

(Edit: Apparently the DSM prohibits co-diagnosis of an ASD and ADHD which is really interesting. More and more I think a lot of psychological disorders are just random clusters of atypical neurological traits and not organized in any scientifically justifiable way)

Oh, and my approach to normative ethics is basically the opposite of the systematized, axiom-based approach of traditional normative ethics as exemplified by utilitarianism and strong deontology.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 11 May 2010 02:49:58AM *  0 points [-]

More and more I think a lot of psychological disorders are just random clusters of atypical neurological traits and not organized in any scientifically justifiable way

Well, that's hardly surprising when you take into account how little is still known about the actual brain structure and functionality that determines the relevant behaviors. It's even less surprising considering the amount of charlatanism and pseudoscience with which psychiatry has been plagued historically (think Freud or Rorschach -- who are in fact still taken seriously by some in the field, though such flagrant superstitions, as far as I know, don't make it into the DSMs and similarly prominent documents these days). Not to mention that many issues that psychiatry deals with have a pronounced ideological dimension, making the situation even more hopeless. (How can the question of what behaviors get to be branded as pathological ever be approached in an ideologically neutral way?)

Comment author: Cyan 11 May 2010 12:46:43AM 0 points [-]

Your poll forces the respondent to pick at least one check-box in question two.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 01:02:18AM [-]
Comment author: Jack 11 May 2010 01:04:56AM 0 points [-]

Why not include a question about people's views on morality?

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 01:07:29AM [-]
Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 11 May 2010 01:22:39AM *  0 points [-]

Use Mr. Poll instead?

EDIT: Although I'm not sure if that one allows you to get the relationship between individual responders' questions, so might not be useful.

Comment author: RobinZ 11 May 2010 01:04:42AM 0 points [-]

I've been told that I might be autism-spectrum by non-experts, but the counselors I've talked to suggest I have attention-deficit disorder. I got 20 on the test.

Comment author: ata 11 May 2010 01:12:27AM *  0 points [-]

Same here. I've been diagnosed (by multiple therapists/neuropsychologists/etc.) with ADD, while on multiple occasions, non-experts have thought I had (or might have had) Asperger's syndrome. Meanwhile, a few people with AS said that I seem fairly neurotypical to them. And I've been evaluated for it but not diagnosed. So I'm probably somewhere on the border (if there is a border).

I agree with Will Newsome on the significant deviation of LW/SIAI aspie-types from the "one/a few obsessive interests" criterion. Until I was 13 or so, I did have a fairly single-minded focus on computers (programming and such), but my range of interests exploded around that time. And thanks to my ADD, I don't tend to stay interested in any one thing long enough to get much done on anything...

Comment author: RobinZ 11 May 2010 03:58:23AM 0 points [-]

Addendum: My instincts point towards rule consequentialism - as a finite limited-information machine, optimizing my adaptations seems to me like generally a good way to win the better outcomes.

Comment author: SeventhNadir 11 May 2010 01:13:35AM *  2 points [-]

ADHD and Autism share early social difficulties and is nonspecific. One thing that differentiates the two is different profiles of impairment in executive function.

Autism has deficits in verbal working memory, while ADHD has deficits in motor inhibition.

The base rates of ADHD are also much higher than that of autism, so factor that into your calculations.

Comment author: Jack 11 May 2010 01:55:21AM *  1 point [-]

Autism has deficits in verbal working memory, while ADHD has deficits in motor inhibition.

Heh. Motor inhibition is the one ADHD symptom I've never had any issues with. I do have working memory issues but my understanding was that that was part of ADHD as well. ADHD meds didn't do much for me, though. I use caffeine.

The main thing that makes me think Aspergers or Autism don't fit is that while I often get anxious before entering a social situation (such that I don't do so as much as I should) once I'm there I generally enjoy myself and have plenty of social success (meeting people, holding court, getting people to laugh etc.) assuming the crowd is intelligent enough that I have something to talk about. The obsession with a single subject thing definitely doesn't fit me but that seems to be common here anyway. I also don't have any trouble being overly literal or getting jokes late. The weirdest question on the test for me was whether I would rather go to a museum or a theatre, both sound great to me!

Maybe it is just because I don't fit well but to me these diagnoses really don't resemble natural kinds.

Comment author: Kevin 11 May 2010 06:13:09AM 2 points [-]

Motor inhibition is the one ADHD symptom I've never had any issues with

My diagnosis is ADHD-PI, I would guess you are similar. I just have really bad akrasia -- people seem to assume that it is not nearly as bad as it actually is because I give off the impression that I get things done because it seems like I have accomplished things, but public school taught me how to master the art of getting things done while putting forth no effort whatsoever.

To me ADHD is just this convenient label that allows me to be prescribed rather serious medication, if I want it. It would be more meaningful to talk about how my akrasia is worse than the median person's akrasia than to say that I have ADHD and the median person doesn't.

Do you think there is fundamentally something different between what Less Wrong calls ADHD and akrasia? I wonder if I could defend the hypothesis that ADHD=akrasia in post form.

Comment author: Jack 11 May 2010 06:26:36AM *  1 point [-]

Well here is the DSM-IV's criteria:

  • Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
    • Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
    • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
    • Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
    • Often has trouble organizing activities.
    • Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period (such as schoolwork or homework).
    • Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
    • Is often easily distracted.
    • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Do these all fit under akrasia? I have pretty much all of these problems to various degrees.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 11 May 2010 07:17:18AM 8 points [-]

Those criteria sound like not being compliant to the desires of people in authority.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 May 2010 07:42:14AM 4 points [-]

The criteria are mostly there to let you diagnose the condition in children, and one thing that children in general are consistently expected to do is attend and perform tasks for school. However, characteristics like forgetfulness, short attention span, losing objects easily, or inability to follow long trains of thought as in a conversation can certainly exist in adults and cause various general-purpose functionality weaknesses.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 May 2010 03:03:50AM 8 points [-]

I've read quite a bit of (non-technical) writing about autism -- partly because I thought I fit some of the superficial criteria. But I came to the conclusion that the popular narrative is a bit silly.

Autism is a sensory processing thing. I've never heard of an autistic person without some non-standard sensory stuff. A lot of us may be better at logical thinking than socializing, for various reasons (including habit and preference!) but we mostly deal with sensory stimuli in a perfectly conventional way. I don't get overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a supermarket. I don't have a visual imagination. I don't find particular textures/tastes/sounds intolerable. I don't get any special zing from stimulation (pen clicking, reflective objects, etc.) These are pretty typical self-described traits of actual autistics, from what I've read from blogs and memoirs. And I don't have a single one of them. Sure, I'm a (mild) introvert, and I'm interested in academic and technical subjects, but I suspect that has absolutely nothing to do with autism.

The empathizing/systematizing brain-types stuff is really odd to me. Empathy and social skills are on one side; detail-oriented thinking and technical or abstract interests are on the other. Why should those things necessarily be on a linear spectrum? What about gregarious tech wizards? What about empathetic but socially awkward people? I don't know on what basis you project all these traits onto one dimension. Add in Baron-Cohen's shaky speculations about gender and you get something that just doesn't seem to hold up.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 May 2010 03:20:18AM 1 point [-]

Also, I'm a 22 on the scale. I'm not a utilitarian or a strict deontologist.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 09:27:19AM *  [-]
Comment author: [deleted] 11 May 2010 12:39:07PM *  5 points [-]

Okay, let me backtrack. When I wrote that, I'd read popularizations not research papers. I knew there was something wrong with the popularizations. Now, looking over the research, I still think there's something missing.

Best case scenario for Baron-Cohen: he's found correlations between all the relevant traits on his "autism spectrum" as well as autistic traits that I haven't seen mentioned in his work. And there are no major traits common to diagnosed autistics that don't fall onto this spectrum for the general population.

About gender: I wasn't thinking about PC, I was really thinking about it not making sense. What I know: there are more male than female diagnosed autistics. Men perform consistently better than women on spatial reasoning tests. Men are, of course, more common than women in technical professions. What's in question is the additional claim that these phenomena are all part of the same thing, a spectrum from empathizing to systematizing types of brains. That's an additional claim, and a bold one.

Keep in mind that it's not enough to claim that autistics tend to be more systematizing and non-autistics tend to be less systematizing. (He does have evidence to show this.) To make the kinds of claims he does in the media, he'd have to show that this is the main difference, that the systematizing/empathizing axis explains most of the variation between autistics and non-autistics.

Now I have looked at his website and papers and the papers and summaries I glanced at don't seem to indicate that he's done the work of correlating and comparing the different traits labeled as "empathizing" and "systematizing" to see if his scale is a valid concept. His main justification for using it is that the "systematizing" cluster is a list of traits found to be more common in males than females. But he doesn't cite high correlations between the systematizing or the empathizing traits. And, while systematizing and empathizing are inversely correlated, the correlation is weak (r = 0.16.)

I don't know if this is standard practice for psychologists but, at least with the survey-based studies, I think the papers confirm that he doesn't realize how much more he'd need to do to confirm his claims.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 12:53:45PM *  [-]
Comment author: [deleted] 11 May 2010 12:55:57PM 4 points [-]

The second one: 207 S. Baron-Cohen, J. Richler, D. Bisarya, N. Gurunathan and S. Wheelwright, (2003) The Systemising Quotient (SQ): An investigation of adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism and normal sex differences Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B, Special issue on "Autism: Mind and Brain" 358:361-374

Comment author: mattnewport 11 May 2010 03:15:23AM 2 points [-]

I scored 20 on Baron-Cohen's AQ test which appears to put me slightly above average but quite a bit below the threshold. Incidentally, Simon Baron-Cohen was my abnormal psychology lecturer at university but I don't really remember much from his autism lectures. I am always quite amused by the fact that he is Borat's cousin. I don't consider myself a utilitarian or a strict consequentialist.

Comment author: komponisto 11 May 2010 03:19:58AM 2 points [-]

My score on the test was 35, which I found surprising. I felt my answers were fairly mixed between autistic-sounding and not, and was expecting to be closer to average.

I don't think I have anything that could be called autism; for one thing, I am often preoccupied with what other people think to the point of near-madness.

Comment author: Kevin 11 May 2010 06:04:58AM 2 points [-]

You don't have to have autism, but you can still have personality and brain traits that are more characteristic of people that are diagnosed as autistic.

The question shouldn't be "Do you have autism?" but "How autistic are you?". The DSM-V's elimination of Asperger's Syndrome as something seperate from autism makes it clearer than ever that autism is a continuous spectrum. It is also obvious to me that ADHD is a spectrum, though the DSM doesn't quite agree with me on that point.

Comment author: anonym 11 May 2010 04:47:58AM 2 points [-]

I got 40 on the test, and 5 of Gillberg's 6 criteria for Asperger's apply to me moderately well (all but motor clumsiness). I've never seriously considered the possibility that I could have Asperger's though, so I don't quite know what to make of this.

I'm undecided about consequentialism. In practice, I lean towards rule consequentialism, but I've been withholding committing until I could huddle down in a cave for six months and exhaustively study moral philosophy with no distractions (ha, no desire for systematization there!).

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 09:47:42AM [-]
Comment author: anonym 13 May 2010 05:05:59AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the suggestion. I read all the pages available through Amazon's "look inside" feature, and also read Wikipedia on Asperger's and Autism, as well as browsed around on a couple of Aspie support sites.

I'm even less convinced now that I might actually have Asperger's or Autism -- for example, I have no trouble with metaphor or figurative language, I am very good at reading other people and subtle social cues (just can't do them myself), I've never had an obsession like collecting stamps or date calculating, I wasn't bullied ever and didn't have trouble understanding other children, etc. -- but I'm still puzzled by my high score. I think that perhaps extreme shyness and some anxiety issues, combined with having an intellectual bent in a world of mostly non-intellectuals, probably account for a good part of it.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 11 May 2010 04:58:30AM 5 points [-]

My own take is similar to that of Simon Baron-Cohen: that ....

I got really really confused for a moment. But no, totally different person:


Comment author: mattnewport 11 May 2010 05:02:07AM 5 points [-]

They are cousins however.

Comment author: xamdam 11 May 2010 04:59:38AM 0 points [-]

My oldest kid was diagnosed with PDD; he's gotten quite a bit more functional since, but he has all of the above. I'll ask him to take the test when he grows up ;)

Comment author: taw 11 May 2010 05:27:13AM 0 points [-]

I got 17 on that test (average is 16.4), and 0 on Gillberg diagnostic criteria, and I found plenty of questions highly wtf-ish. This leads me to believe that Aspergers might be a genuine thing - people who consistently reply so far unlike me to those wtf-ish questions must be seriously weird, not just differ in minor quantitative ways.

I'm not sure if I'm really utilitarian, but I certainly find all deontologies used as more than quick heuristics facepalmingly stupid.

Comment author: anonym 11 May 2010 05:56:26AM 1 point [-]

What are some examples of highly WTF questions, in your opinion?

Comment author: taw 11 May 2010 12:50:49PM 5 points [-]

The most wtf cluster of questions is:

  • 6 I usually notice car number plates or similar strings of information.
  • 9 I am fascinated by dates.
  • 19 I am fascinated by numbers.
  • 29 I am not very good at remembering phone numbers. [reverse]
  • 41 I like to collect information about categories of things (e.g., types of cars, birds, trains, plants).
  • 49 I am not very good at remembering people's date of birth. [reverse]

Another weird cluster is one about daily routine, which I feel strongly about but it doesn't feel that alien.

The cluster about social awkwardness / not liking interaction with people seems to me like a self-reinforcing personal preference, and it doesn't seem at all that there would be two different kinds of people based on it.

I'm not sure where questions about pretending and stories fall here - how is Asperger's/autism related to such geek activities as fiction, role playing games and such?

Comment author: Airedale 11 May 2010 05:10:27PM *  3 points [-]

I'm not sure where questions about pretending and stories fall here - how is Asperger's/autism related to such geek activities as fiction, role playing games and such?

As others have mentioned, the test is teasing out certain behaviors correlated with the autism spectrum, rather than actually attempting to diagnose autism. I believe these questions are directed towards empathy-type issues that often show up alongside an autism spectrum diagnosis.

Per this, the "interaction between empathy and autism spectrum disorders is a complex and ongoing field of research.” Some reports suggest that alexithymia, an inability to feel and/or express emotions, often co-occurs with autism spectrum disorders. Alexithymia results in “few dreams or fantasies due to restricted imagination.”

I haven’t looked at the original research/reports, but even if the co-occurrence of ASD and alexithymia is quite pronounced, at least some ASD individuals would not have alexithymia; and these individuals might enjoy fiction, role-playing, etc. But even among some ASD individuals who have alexithymia, I would guess that they might still like idea/science-based science fiction or enjoy role playing games for the world-building type aspect.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 11 May 2010 11:35:14PM *  5 points [-]

Memorizing phone numbers easily, doing arithmetic quickly, being fascinated by numbers, and being able to detect patterns in pictures rapidly, are traits that most people associate with high IQ, but that are highly associated with autism.

And, if you take an IQ test, you'll find it's full of questions testing how quickly you can memorize numbers, do arithmetic, and recognize patterns in pictures!

I think the idea that autism is correlated with intelligence is not the result of autism correlating with intelligence. It's the result of a cultural bias that doesn't understand what intelligence is, equates it with impressive "brute-force" autistic cognitive performance, and embeds that bias in our IQ tests. So if you test someone with autism spectrum, they score high, because the "IQ test" is partly an autism test!

Comment author: PhilGoetz 13 May 2010 01:03:20PM 0 points [-]

But, maybe these tests have been refined by removing questions that don't correlate well with some independent measure of intelligence?

What would be an independent measure of intelligence?

Comment author: byrnema 13 May 2010 06:22:09PM *  0 points [-]

I think this is obvious. IQ tests for one dimension of what I would mean by "intelligence".

Comment author: LucasSloan 12 May 2010 07:45:17PM *  3 points [-]

9 I am fascinated by dates.

This question really threw me. Is it asking me if I like having romantic dinners or if temporal co-ordinates are interesting?

Comment author: thomblake 12 May 2010 07:46:30PM 4 points [-]

I hadn't considered they might be talking about 'romantic dinners'.

Comment author: taw 12 May 2010 08:13:52PM 0 points [-]

Thank you - that was my first thought too, and it really made no sense in the context, only after brief cognitive dissonance (or in Internet parlance, "a brief wtf") I realized what they were really asking about.

Comment author: SilasBarta 12 May 2010 08:28:08PM 2 points [-]

Yeah, I first thought it meant romantic dinners, then realized that, since temporal coordinates have numerical content that autistics might be obsessed with, they probably meant the latter. (Also, they would have phrased a question about the former a bit differently.)

Comment author: anonym 13 May 2010 05:07:32AM 3 points [-]

I guess I don't understand what you mean by 'wtf' then, because to my mind, 'highly-wtf' indicates a profound surprise at something that is outside the normal range of experience, but we all know that some people are good at remembering phone numbers, and some aren't, while some are good at remembering birth dates and others aren't. That is normal human variation.

I don't see at all how "people who consistently reply so far unlike me to those wtf-ish questions must be seriously weird, not just differ in minor quantitative ways". Why would somebody be seriously weird because they do or don't have a good memory for phone numbers and birthdates?

Comment author: Blueberry 13 May 2010 06:10:16AM 1 point [-]

Seconded. Why is that 'wtf'? Seems normal to me.

Comment author: taw 13 May 2010 01:01:44PM 0 points [-]

but we all know that some people are good at remembering phone numbers, and some aren't, while some are good at remembering birth dates and others aren't. That is normal human variation.

No, this is far outside what I consider human normality to easily remember birth dates and numbers. This is not "good memory", this is memory which works completely differently from how mine works.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 13 May 2010 01:49:45PM 5 points [-]

You seem to be equating "human normality" with "how mine works".

Comment author: taw 13 May 2010 02:55:20PM 0 points [-]

Yes, this is exactly what I'm doing, and I don't see this as a bad thing at all.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 13 May 2010 03:45:55PM 6 points [-]

The obvious reason that it is a bad thing is that a single example contains no information about the range of variation in the population it is drawn from. You will know more if you look around you, and observe the actual range.

But this is elementary stuff. Frankly, I am at a loss to find any interpretation of "I don't see this as a bad thing at all" that is compatible with being here in the first place.

Tell us more.

Comment author: thomblake 13 May 2010 01:59:53PM 3 points [-]
Comment author: Kevin 11 May 2010 06:01:47AM *  3 points [-]

For what it's worth, DSM-V eliminated the distinction between Asperger's Syndrome and autism.

I scored 13 on the test. My most autistic trait is that I am not great at conversational eye contact, which the test didn't ask about. I also generally consider myself to be bad at phone conversations.

I'm actually on the ADHD spectrum -- I could make a post of the same format as this one for ADHD, which is probably just as prevalent here as among other forums heavy with programmer-type-people. For some reason I expect that ADHD thread would be controversial, but I guess that really depends on how I framed the questions.

Comment author: Jack 11 May 2010 06:09:58AM 1 point [-]

For some reason I expect that ADHD thread would be controversial, but I guess that really depends on how I framed the questions.

Can you name this reason?

Comment author: mattnewport 11 May 2010 06:20:03AM 0 points [-]

Perhaps some of these reasons, ranging from the basic controversy of whether it exists at all through a variety of controversies over treatment and diagnosis. Growing up in the UK I guess I'm influenced by the British opinion described there:

The British Psychological Society said in a 1997 report that physicians and psychiatrists should not follow the American example of applying medical labels to such a wide variety of attention-related disorders: "The idea that children who don’t attend or who don’t sit still in school have a mental disorder is not entertained by most British clinicians."

Although the article goes on to say that more recently they appear to have accepted that it may be a real condition.

Comment author: Kevin 11 May 2010 06:48:00AM *  2 points [-]

That's the reason. It's more debatable if ADHD even exists, and especially controversial given the high rate of medicating children diagnosed with ADHD.

Comment author: ata 11 May 2010 06:02:57AM 1 point [-]

I got a 28 on the AQ test.

Comment author: Kevin 11 May 2010 06:15:25AM 9 points [-]

If your childhood involved... getting... picked last for sports team

I got picked last for sports teams because the other kids were better at sports than me.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 11 May 2010 09:53:43AM *  3 points [-]

Mentioned this on another thread - I don't know if you are all already familiar with this, but this is probably a good place to point out that there's now pretty good evidence that autism has an "opposite" in schizophrenia; neurotypicality is then in the middle of the resulting spectrum.

(Clarification: This isn't something I actually have much knowledge about at all; this is just something I saw some time ago and the CNV evidence seems pretty compelling.)

I get the idea we should probably be trying to account for this somehow? I'll admit it seems unlikely that we get so many people from that end of the spectrum here, but scales that don't account for that do seem like a good way to end running into a fallacy of compression.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 11 May 2010 10:44:14AM *  12 points [-]

Another neuroatypicality that I find interesting to compare with autism is Williams syndrome. The behavioural symptoms (unlike autism, there are also a lot of physical ones) are a sort of opposite of autism/Asperger's. People with Williams syndrome talk readily -- too readily, in children -- to strangers, and appear usually adept at social conversation. On first meeting unawares someone with the syndrome, one may see nothing amiss. If it is a child, one may be impressed by their apparently mature behaviour beyond their years, but eventually, one realises that there's nothing behind it. They have a facility with the forms but not the function, a "party" personality that can do nothing else.

Williams syndrome isn't an all or nothing condition, there are degrees. A colleague of mine told me of meeting the headmaster of his daughter's school, and when he met the headmaster's wife, he immediately recognised the characteristic physiognomy of Williams syndrome. Sure enough, when he spoke with her, she was unusually affable and charming, but he could see that there was actually a real person there, a competent, intelligent woman.

Since discovering Williams syndrome, whenever I meet someone with a "party personality" my immediate thought is, "can they do anything else"?

Comment author: Morendil 11 May 2010 11:46:22AM 0 points [-]

I scored 24, responded to the poll. Non-AS that I know of, I do fit "all-absorbing interests" to some extent.

Comment author: Cosmos 11 May 2010 03:49:10PM 10 points [-]

I came to the conclusion that I have autistic tendencies a long time ago - lack of understanding of social cues, constant pattern recognition, stuttering, habitual actions... Given the high autism rates in Silicon Valley, it seems likely to me that there is indeed a genetic component, and "high-functioning" autistics have a heterozygous genotype. (Although I don't think it's yet ruled out that it could be caused by some type of improper socialization.)

However, I seem to have an uncommon level of ability to self-modify (from my discussions with other people, including rationalists), and since discovering rationality I've been attempting to ruthlessly optimize various aspects of myself. For my most recent example, because I didn't understand social cues I took a PUA seminar and within days I could successfully approach and charm people in bars and clubs, a world that I always thought would be inaccessible to me. It turns out I was just unconsciously sending low-status signals, because I never paid any attention to what myself or others were doing.

This also helps me deal with the symptoms as well. I have habitual actions, but I don't allow myself to be disturbed if they are interrupted. (In fact, I think settling too quickly into habits means we don't explore the possibility space thoroughly enough, so I consciously try to break up my routines and find new ways of doing things.) I have narrow interests, but I rotate between different things, in a type of serial immersion. I can even use conscious control over my mouth, tongue and throat to relax my muscles and effectively stop my stuttering.

For what it's worth I scored a 22. I predict that number will be lower in the future.

Comment deleted 11 May 2010 04:05:51PM *  [-]
Comment author: Cosmos 11 May 2010 04:24:18PM 10 points [-]

I did not find reading websites particularly helpful in this regard. I have always been very "book smart" and I love to theorize about things, but I am coming to realize that implicit experiential knowledge is key for success in this world. It's easy to know what high/low status signals are, but it's much harder to become aware of them and know what to do to correct them. Yet it only took a couple hours of in-person training at the seminar to fix the majority of the bad signals.

Despite that nitpick I definitely agree with your point. I needed to construct a mental model of social interaction, and now I can ruthlessly optimize over that as well. I am greatly looking forward to it.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 May 2010 04:16:44PM 6 points [-]

Can you describe the procedure you use when you self-modify?

Comment author: Cosmos 11 May 2010 04:35:22PM 5 points [-]

You're not the first person to ask me this, but there are obvious difficulties in conveying exactly what is going on when I do this.

The first step is becoming consciously aware of the phenomenon. Once this occurs, I begin to recognize it immediately when I do it. I then think to myself how I should have responded instead. Over multiple iterations of the above, I begin to internalize this conscious correction as a new habit.

I first used this technique when I took a course on cognition in college and learned about cognitive biases. The availability heuristic was the first to go - I knew when I didn't have actual data on a phenomenon, making it ridiculously easy to spot.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 May 2010 05:26:57PM *  2 points [-]

Tentatively-- once you decide what you want to change, you put your focus on the change, and check for the outcome after you've taken action.

I begin to suspect that one of my problems is assuming I know how a change will feel, and giving up on a change if I don't get the feeling.

Comment author: SilasBarta 11 May 2010 04:33:54PM 2 points [-]

What seminar? I had gone to a few of one particular PUA in person, and, though he was clearly very good, he was completely unable to articulate what it is he does, especially to autistic spectrum people. (Fortunately, he was understanding, and refunded everything.)

Comment author: Cosmos 11 May 2010 04:41:51PM *  2 points [-]

Pickup 101

Edit: they offer more than one, I took Art of Attraction.

Comment author: SilasBarta 11 May 2010 04:57:24PM 1 point [-]

Your'e saying that one talks about it specifically in terms of the impact of social cues on status signals, and how to classify various cues as revealing high or low status?

Comment author: Cosmos 11 May 2010 06:58:13PM 3 points [-]

No, they tell you to do this, and to stop doing that. You don't need the theory, you need instruction, and then you'll internalize high-status behaviors. (Although we did talk very briefly about theory - tribal mentality, alpha males, status.)

It is explicit about status being a variable, though, if that's what you're asking. For example, one of the exercises was role-play: we got assigned high- or low-status and had to act out a scene.

Comment author: thomblake 11 May 2010 06:45:07PM 2 points [-]

Took the poll. Got a 34 on the Wired thingy. I did notice that a lot of the questions ('enjoy meeting new people') would have been answered more in the AS direction when I was, say, 20 years old.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 11 May 2010 11:21:50PM 1 point [-]

Are there known genetic correlates of Asperger's or autism?

I believe Asperger's and autism are being combined in the DSM V.

Comment author: kodos96 11 May 2010 11:45:25PM *  6 points [-]

I just took the wired test, and scored a 31. I'm not sure what to make of this. For years now I've wondered whether I have asperger's symptoms, and gone back and forth on it, but never been able to make up my mind - seeking a formal diagnosis seems like waste of time, since there isn't any real treatment. But I AM curious about it.

My opinion seems to go back and forth depending on whose description of the symptoms I'm reading - sometimes I'll read something on asperger's and think "Yes, that's totally me", and other times I'll read something and say "no, not me at all". It really seems to depend on how the author phrases the symptoms.

The big thing to me seems to be the "inability to read social cues/read between the lines/read facial expressions".... That doesn't sound like me - I definitely feel I am able to pick up and read these kinds of cues - better than most people in fact.... I just have a very hard time responding in kind. As to understanding politeness/social appropriateness, it's not so much that I don't UNDERSTAND these things, as that I find them silly, and can't force myself to play along with things that I see as stupid status games masquerading as meaningful social interaction.

I see two possible explanations for this discrepancy:

  • Asperger's symptoms are consistently misunderstood by the researchers who study them - they observe people failing to appropriately RESPOND to social cues, etc, and incorrectly assume they're failing to UNDERSTAND those cues.
  • I don't have asperger's.

I'm not sure how to evaluate the relative likelihood of these two possibilities. Does anyone else here with aspeger's or other autism spectrum disorders have similar experiences?

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 12 May 2010 08:51:53AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: whpearson 12 May 2010 01:25:07PM 2 points [-]

I'm also like this, somewhat. I only scored a 13, but I am in no way neuro typical. Although someone who worked closely with Asperger's people said I had some of the properties of Asberger's.

I do more closely relate to the schizoid personality disorder that Risto posted. Although that linked it to autistic thinking as well.

I suspect that it is a mix of the two options, some people/society in general are lumping every introverted neuro untypical into asperger's/autism however there are two groups in that larger group.

Comment author: kodos96 12 May 2010 06:43:29PM *  3 points [-]

some people/society in general are lumping every introverted neuro untypical into asperger's/autism however there are two groups in that larger group

Yeah... I read Risto's link (I think I'd read it before), and I do see some similarities there, but neither lines up with me 100%... the more I read about these things, the more it seems to me like the whole idea of classifying psychiatric 'disorders' is just bunk - a widely diverse range of personality characteristics are just being artificially crammed onto a one dimensional scale, and then clusters are labeled as 'disorders' despite not really having a common cause.

Comment author: whpearson 12 May 2010 11:52:18PM 1 point [-]

I'd agree. I suspect that there might be some real clusters with common causes, but then there are probably lots of other people that appear in or near that cluster that don't have that cause.

Here is an interesting experiment that critiques the psychiatric profession I came across while trying to find about the scientific basis of the DSM classifications (little).

Comment author: [deleted] 13 May 2010 04:47:18PM *  4 points [-]

I also am socially competent when I choose to be and feel neurotypical, but scored a 30 the first time, 27 when I took it the next day (the first time was the day after I had last socialized, the second was the second day after I had last socialized).

I scored really high, and I imagine that this is because I am highly focused and dedicated to my subject area, like studying more than (most) people, and hate having my routine disrupted. But if you put me in a party, I'll hold my own. I'll either find the other person at the party who will take the bait and talk Bayesian, or I'll find some cognition altering substance to make it the time feel worthwhile.

We do strangely agree about the understanding of social cues, but not so much the producing of the appropriate cues. Maybe that's just coincidental though.

Comment author: SilasBarta 12 May 2010 03:51:38AM 3 points [-]

I've been suspected of being autism spectrum, and I scored 31.

Comment author: CronoDAS 12 May 2010 04:04:30AM 5 points [-]

From the popular literature on the subject, in terms of autism, I'd classify myself as "very slightly autistic, but still basically neurotypical." I don't have great social skills, but they're usually good enough. To the extent that my brain is atypical, it's mostly in other ways; I was diagnosed with both ADD and Tourette's syndrome as a young child. I can't stand not having something to do. I carry a book or portable game system with me everywhere so I have something to direct my mental focus on, and my final line of defense is simply to put my head down and take a nap. If I can't even do that, then I start freaking out. I'm also on antidepressants.

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 May 2010 05:41:59PM 0 points [-]

I just took the test, and I scored 22. I don't think this score means that much, though, because I was on the fence between "slightly agree" and "slightly disagree" for a lot of the questions.

Comment author: LucasSloan 12 May 2010 05:48:15AM 1 point [-]

I used to think that I had Autism/Aspbergers. I used to think that the same could be said about virtually everyone on this site. Now I know better. Roko, there is a world of difference between someone like you or I, who, if our parents cared about that sort of thing, could have easily found a psychologist willing to diagnose us with Autism/Aspbergers and someone like Tom McCabe or Alicorn. Perhaps it is not obvious in our interactions with them (as we are, in fact, fairly similar in many ways), and it may not be entirely obvious to others, as most people lack the skill to identify the various shades of non-social, but I think the both of us know that that difference is real.

Comment author: Blueberry 12 May 2010 06:49:30AM 0 points [-]

Could you please elaborate on this? This is something I've wondered about for a while. I've also wondered if I was autistic and noticed a difference when talking to some people, but then again, they might just have a more extreme version of autism, or a different neurotype. What is the difference you're talking about?

Comment author: LucasSloan 14 May 2010 03:31:33AM 7 points [-]

If I could use an analogy, I would use one of cars. Imagine, if you would, there was a type of car called a Ferrari. These "Ferraris" are notable for being very fast and having little passenger room. Because of this, would could define a characteristic, which I'll call Ferrariness, which depends on how fast and how many passengers a car can carry. Now, we can easily sort cars by their Ferrariness, mini-vans being not very Ferrari, sedans being about average for Ferrariness, and sports cars having very strong Ferrariness. Now, it seems to me like Roko notices that he and many of his friends are mustangs, and don't carry very many passengers and are very fast and says he's very high on the "Ferrariness" spectrum. But while he, you and I might score very high in speed and low in passenger capacity and thus do happen to lie on the extreme high end of the "Ferrariness" spectrum, there is still a qualitative difference between us and true Ferraris, namely being produced by the eponymous company.

Similarly, there are some people who have this thing called Asperger's syndrome, which is characterized by high IQ and low social skills. Roko notices he's smarter and less socially aware than the average person and is thus "fairly far right on the Autism spectrum", while Tom McCabe or Alicorn are slightly more to the right. But there really is a qualitative difference between a really smart nerd and someone who really has Asperger's. I'm not quite able to articulate what that quality is, but Tom and Alicorn have it, and Roko and I don't. I agree with his observations about the characteristics he associates with Asperger's but I think he's missing something.

Comment author: Alicorn 14 May 2010 06:58:05AM 5 points [-]

I've met you only very briefly, and not in a context where we got to directly interact a lot, so I am really curious what puts this impression across. (I do not consider it any sort of insult to say that I'm autistic/Asperger's or seem so, for reference, so there's no call for tiptoeing if it's tempting. Neurodiversity ftw.)

Comment author: LucasSloan 14 May 2010 04:41:17PM *  4 points [-]

It was just immediately obvious. The closest thing I can come to explaining it is that the way you introduced yourself was... childish? That's not really the right word, but I really can't come up with a better one. Maybe I mean something like overly eager? It was just immediately obvious you are different. Your mannerisms, facial expression, tone, I don't know, were off. I can't really explain it, but since it is usually accurate, I trust my intuition.

Comment author: ata 14 May 2010 07:43:15AM 6 points [-]

Imagine, if you would, there was a type of car called a Ferrari.


Comment author: Alicorn 12 May 2010 07:36:47AM 1 point [-]

I can't tell: are you saying that I do have Asperger's or that I don't?

Comment author: LucasSloan 12 May 2010 05:11:26PM 1 point [-]

The intent was to say that you and Tom do.

Comment deleted 12 May 2010 08:18:33AM *  [-]
Comment author: byrnema 12 May 2010 12:42:27PM *  9 points [-]

If I indulge myself doing c.15 minutes of anagramming or similarly highly focused, repetitive thinking, I find myself socially inhibited for the next two hours or so and feel as if I am controlling myself at one remove, my own puppeteer.

I am like this and my husband is like this. We're both academics. I call it 'work mode' and try to make sure one of us is always not in work mode when we're watching the kids.

My best friend in graduate school was a pure mathematician and this was very pronounced for her. She would study for 4-5 hours and then discover she couldn't talk, her voice just didn't work. I noticed her voice was about an octave lower. I think her vocal cords relaxed and she wasn't very good at moving her puppet.

I know exactly what you mean about controlling yourself at one remove. I think I have extreme cases of this, related to intense mental work but usually occurring not while working but during a sleep cycle that night. I wake up to discover reality has entirely unraveled for me, and I need to to do some work to 'jump back in the puppet'. In graduate school, a combination of working intensely and not socializing for bouts of time (I love socializing, but I was busy studying) caused something like a mental breakdown. The psychologist diagnosed 'multiple personality disorder' but I think he had no idea. The psychiatrist had the right idea: he told me to take a break from abstract thought and eat carbs before going to bed to regulate serotonin levels. I went on vacation with my parents and did the carb thing and completely recovered.

Since then, I notice the warning signs and I know I need to spend time with people to reset. However, if I am working on a new problem that seems to require building new neural pathways (this is my sense, perhaps it is an analogy), I will still wake up within a night or two with the feeling of unreality. Often at these times, I am jolted awake with the panicked sense that reality is some kind of conspiracy or fabricated layer, but when I try to pinpoint the details of the conspiracy (aliens? thoughts in the walls?) it dissolves as vague and nonsensical.

This may seem strange (I wouldn't want a prospective employer to read this the day of my interview) but I think I'm very normal -- in the sense of function and ability. I think that there is just a mental cost to high-level thought that we'll have mapped out eventually. For example, autistic traits for many people, and the set of traits I've just described that is something else. (My score on the autism test was 16.4, which doesn't surprise me because I am very social and tend to suffer from too much empathy, where I can't turn off feeling like I'm someone else once I've related to their situation.)

But these experiences I've described of feeling that there are realities nested within realities is captured in popular fiction -- The Last Star Fighter, the Matrix, etc., so I know its part of our collective consciousness. I'm confident it happens to other people even though I haven't found anyone who knows what I'm talking about yet (I even asked at work).

Comment author: knb 13 May 2010 07:12:18PM *  2 points [-]

Wow, multiple personality? Your psychologist was clueless. I mean, taking base rates into consideration, that diagnosis is bordering on absurd.

It sounds like you are having dissociative episodes; it could be depersonalization disorder, but it doesn't seem to be causing "significant distress or difficulties", which is one of the DSM IV criteria.

DSM-IV-TR criteria 1. Longstanding or recurring feelings of being detached from one's mental processes or body, as if one is observing them from the outside or in a dream.

  1. Reality testing is unimpaired during depersonalization

  2. Depersonalization causes significant difficulties or distress at work, or social and other important areas of life functioning.

  3. Depersonalization does not only occur while the individual is experiencing another mental disorder, and is not associated with substance use or a medical illness.

The DSM-IV-TR specifically recognizes three possible additional features of depersonalization disorder:

  1. Derealization, experiencing the external world as strange or unreal.
  2. Macropsia or micropsia, an alteration in the perception of object size or shape.
  3. A sense that other people seem unfamiliar or mechanical.

[edit] Etiology

Comment author: byrnema 13 May 2010 07:25:01PM *  1 point [-]

Of the criteria and features you listed, only this one seems apt:

Derealization, experiencing the external world as strange or unreal.

Since you apparently know something about this, what do you think of the hypothesis that dissociative episodes are the result of transiently handing the reins to the revolutionary? I make this connection because it always seem to happen when I'm seeking a paradigm shift in the way I'm thinking about something.

(And yeah, it seemed my psychologist was a nutcase himself. My impression was that he was new and was looking for something really exciting to find and write about.)

Comment author: knb 13 May 2010 09:58:01PM *  1 point [-]

You know, that's really interesting. The "revolutionary" mental model would offer a way of explaining all sorts of dissociative phenomena, like dissociative fugue, and dissociative identity. Basically, the brain would be triggering the "revolutionary" to escape from a traumatic reality, not to escape from a false belief. In the case of dissociative fugue, it seems the revolutionary removes your old memory and identity and lets the "apologist" defend your new identity.

It would be interesting to know if dissociative anesthetics can trigger the same kind mind changes as the revolutionary. From what I can tell, it sounds like they can.

Comment author: Blueberry 13 May 2010 06:07:07AM 1 point [-]

I feel more people-centred after focused mental work that involves marshalling intuition - this was after hitting high dual n back levels (12+) for which conscious rehearsal strategies were necessarily eschewed in favour of recourse to 'feel'.

This is incredibly interesting to me. Have you found anything else that uses intuition like that? How about music, or physical activities?

Does anagramming, etc. help your concentration? I have to confess I'm not clear why anagramming is any less intuitive and dual n-back more intuitive. When I anagram it feels like letter sequences pop into my head by intuition, while I've only used conscious rehearsal strategies for dual n-backing.

Comment author: aleksiL 13 May 2010 05:39:55PM *  1 point [-]

(Note: This post is speculation based on memory and introspection and possibly completely mistaken. Any help in clarifying my thinking and gathering evidence on this would be greatly appreciated.)

I suspect that I'm also affected by this and just haven't conciously noticed. Feels like I'm a lot more comfortable with analytical modes than more intuitive/social ones and probably spending more time inducing them than I should.

I'd like to be more aware of my mental modes and find more effective ways of influencing them. Any suggestions?

ETA: Now that I think about it I get a weird feeling. Certain types of concentration seem to act a lot like emotions. The duration seems right, there seems to be a certain mutual exclusivity: strong emotions make it harder to concentrate and intense concentration makes it harder to feel those emotions. Are mental modes emotions?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 May 2010 11:38:11PM 1 point [-]

You might want to take a look at Open Focus-- the premise as I understand it is that if you cultivate the ability to have slow synchronized brain waves, you spontaneously get better at having the appropriate sort of mental focus for what you're doing.

I've worked with it a little, and gotten better body awareness, and probably some psychological gains. It's hard to judge exactly what of the assorted things I'm doing have particular good effects, but Open Focus is scientifically based and working with their attention exercises has some short term good effects for me.

Comment author: CronoDAS 14 May 2010 12:03:06AM 2 points [-]

I don't like body awareness. Whenever I start having body awareness, I usually end up noticing various tiny aches and pains that I'd rather not be aware of. (For example, my glasses often cause me pain behind my ears - and getting them adjusted doesn't really help that much.) In fact, trying to pay attention to my body often seems to trigger such pains...

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 May 2010 08:20:43AM 0 points [-]

Whereas I've been fascinated for years by improving my body awareness, so take this as possibly risky, but Open Focus talks about making pain less salient (and sometimes go away) by increasing awareness-- partly because pain is increased by trying to fight it so that accepting it helps, and partly by putting it into a larger context of non-painful sensations. I've tried this (on minor pains) and it works some of the time.

Comment deleted 12 May 2010 08:31:40AM [-]
Comment author: RichardKennaway 12 May 2010 09:16:15AM 3 points [-]

I'm sceptical about the natural/learned distinction. My observation is that any very socially adept adult has spent a great deal of time and effort learning these things, thinking about them, and deliberately applying their knowledge, however easily it may have come to them in childhood. In fact, the most pressing task of adulthood is to relearn properly all the stuff you learned in childhood and didn't realise you were learning.

Here's an analogy: making music. Some people take to it easily, but if they don't practice and study and practice and study for years, they'll never be anything special.

Comment author: JanetK 12 May 2010 10:05:30AM 5 points [-]

I scored 17 - almost exactly normal. My brother was, I am sure, an medium functioning Aspergers and an uncle was a highly functioning one. On the other hand, I do not feel like a 'normal'. But that feeling is on a different spectrum. On the autism to schizophrenic spectrum, I am normal and feel it.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 May 2010 11:34:40AM 19 points [-]

I come in at 22 on the Wired test.

I have a weird story about me and living with people-- I've never heard of anything else like it, but this crowd is as likely a place as any to see if someone else has experienced or heard of something similar.

Up into adulthood, I was moderately bad at social interaction, and also not interested in "that boring people stuff". When Asperger's came on the public radar, I wondered if I had it (I'm 57-- if I'd been born later, there might have been an effort at diagnosis and treatment, but as it was, I was simply the sort of person who deserved to be bullied), but the emotional tone for people with Asperger's seemed to be that they tried to be social, couldn't make it work, and were sad about it. I was angry, and I hadn't tried especially hard, either. I was inclined to think I had a combination of being naturally somewhat socially inept and having grown up in an emotionally abusive family.

Anyway, sometime in my 30s (I don't have the autistic thing about dates), I was at an Alexander Technique workshop led by Tommy Thompson who has a background in meditation, and he had the class pair off and pay attention to each other for what was probably one or two minutes. That was when I found out that I'd had a lifelong pattern of my attention skidding away quickly whenever I was faced with a human being, and it didn't have to be like that.

It didn't feel as though I was learning not to have a bad habit, it felt like a developmental stage I'd missed. Being able to notice and pay attention to people as having long term patterns was an instant and permanent change for me, including that I came into much better focus for myself and that I was more interested in fictional characters.

I overestimated how complete the change was, and therapy at that time probably would have been a very good idea, but I've gradually become more social-- to the point where I can actually enjoy (reasonably intelligent) mundane conversation for an hour or two at a time, though I do start to get lack-of-abstraction claustrophobia after a while. I'm going to see if there's some way to get people out of the highly concrete chitchat vortex. (I recently spent a couple of hours with computer word game social group, and only found out afterwards that one of them was pacifist lawyer who works with conscientious objectors and is very glad to talk about it-- would have been much more interesting that the conversation I was in.)

Aside from my particular story, I'm beginning to wonder if a lot of what seems like innate incompetence (being bad at math for example) is that sort of correctable attentional skid.

Comment author: Mass_Driver 12 May 2010 03:05:48PM *  3 points [-]

Thanks for the story! I share your relative disinterest in extended small talk, and also your skepticism for high-functioning AS as a scalar diagnosis of permanent personality type, rather than as a current description of a vector of modifiable skill levels. I came in at a 23 on the Wired poll, and I think I would have come in about 6 points higher if I'd taken the quiz when I was, say, 12 years old.

I have often had trouble interacting with and bonding with peers for some of the reasons listed in the article, but my experience of overcoming the difficulties has not been one of finding logical workarounds, but of practicing social skills and getting constructive feedback on them until they came to feel more natural. Likewise, someone who is generally intelligent but "bad at math" might not be significantly different in their capacity to learn math from a "math prodigy;" they might just be stuck in a negative feedback loop.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 12 May 2010 11:40:03PM 3 points [-]

I don't have a general skepticism about AS as describing permanent traits-- my story seems to be very unusual, and it's quite possible that most people who are diagnosed (or even self-diagnosed) with AS may really have a distinctive brain structure and set of talents and deficiencies.

Comment author: Blueberry 13 May 2010 05:57:16AM 9 points [-]

I can actually enjoy (reasonably intelligent) mundane conversation for an hour or two at a time, though I do start to get lack-of-abstraction claustrophobia after a while. I'm going to see if there's some way to get people out of the highly concrete chitchat vortex.

I love the terms "lack-of-abstraction claustrophobia" and "highly concrete chitchat vortex." You have a way with words.

In my experience conversations may start with mundane subject matter, but with interesting and intelligent people, they dive off into abstraction and more interesting topics. For instance, what people do usually comes up early on, like with the pacifist lawyer, and that gives you a chance to talk about more interesting things. I tend to like asking probing questions early on, or casually throwing out some of my interests, and seeing what comes up.

Comment author: Jack 12 May 2010 12:28:18PM 4 points [-]

Anyone here have non-psychotic auditory hallucinations? Apparently they're surprisingly common.

Comment author: SilasBarta 12 May 2010 01:06:49PM *  7 points [-]

I don't, but Julian Jaynes makes this same point in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, and even says that he himself had one that came as an insight. (He says while working on some academic problem alone in his apartment, he suddenly heard, "Replace the knower with the known!" or something like that, and genuinely believed it was from someone else to the point of searching his place, but found no one.)

Jaynes claims this phenomenon is evidence for his thesis that humans 3000+ years ago were like modern schizophrenics in that they heard voices that guided them with insights and that they identified as gods, but which we today identify as part of our own internal narrative.

Comment author: Jack 12 May 2010 01:11:51PM 0 points [-]

Heh. Yeah, Morendil introduced me to the theory a couple months ago and I haven't stopped thinking about it.

Comment author: byrnema 12 May 2010 01:23:16PM *  10 points [-]

Hmm. This could finally explain a mystery for me regarding my mother. I think she believes that her ancestors talk to her, and I could never reconcile this with the fact that in all other ways, she's a very rational, non-superstitious and pragmatic person.

When I was about 4 -- barely talking because my family was bilingual and I'm less adept at language anyway -- I told my mother I saw 'people' on my eyes. I meant that scratches in my eyes looked like people. To my astonishment, she seemed very happy and started including me in conversations with invisible people. My dad found out and put a stop to it, but I've always wondered about it.

Six years ago at my wedding, I overheard my mother talking about the ancestors with her sister. I decided it was some kind of family delusion. Maybe it's a genetic trait I didn't inherit.

Comment author: SilasBarta 12 May 2010 02:41:46PM *  2 points [-]

Interesting. But note: Jaynes sayes that it's mainly enculturation that determines whether the tendency to hear voices is suppressed or not, so there are both genetic and cultural influences. ETA: He says that it's a latent tendency in everyone, thus genetic, but is revealed or not depending on upbringing.

Comment author: SilasBarta 12 May 2010 02:37:35PM *  0 points [-]

I started reading it a while ago. It's split up into three parts:

1) Explanation of the theory
2) Evidence from historical records
3) Vestiges of the bicameral mind in the modern world

I skipped part 2 and read most of 1 and 3. I don't know whether to recommend for or against it at this point. He definitely brings up some interesting evidence I hadn't known about involving schizophrenics, hypnotism, religious rituals (incl. Greek philosophers' experience with "gods"), and the development of modern science, and D. Dennett recommends him (in a bit of a back-handed way), but at the same time I get the sense of confirmation bias permeating the book. It's a big question mark at this point, and I've since focused efforts on more reliably insightful works.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 13 May 2010 03:12:04AM *  6 points [-]

The prominent linguist and writing systems scholar Peter T. Daniels once made the following comment about Jaynes's book:

I read it many years ago, when it first came out, as did people in all sorts of humanities, and everyone's reaction was exactly the same: "Of course he doesn't know what he's talking about in my particular subfield, but all the rest of it seems plausible." What that means is that Jaynes is a very good writer.

I've read Jaynes's book, and my impressions confirm this view. Jaynes is certainly an excellent writer. The book is well worth reading even if just for entertainment value, and there is certainly much worthwhile about its creative and interesting theoretical speculations, as well as many gems of erudition that are strewn throughout it.

However, I don't think Jaynes's arguments ultimately hold water. The evidence he presents is sparse and far-fetched, and overwhelmingly limited to the ancient Mediterranean and Near East civilizations. He says very little to nothing about other human societies. There is no clear and unambiguous historical account of encountering a bicameral-minded society, even among peoples who were below the development level of the old civilizations discussed by Jaynes when first contacted by Westerners and other literate civilizations who have left extensive and clear histories. This seems to require a lot of special pleading to explain away, so I'd say it's a decisive argument against his theories.

Also, I remember several claims made by Jaynes that, to my knowledge, contradict well established findings in various fields. However, I would have to re-read the book to write down a precise critique; my memory of it isn't reliable enough to talk about the specifics right now.

Comment author: Blueberry 13 May 2010 05:49:13AM 0 points [-]

Dennett has written that he sees Jaynes's theory as a modular theory, and that the historical hallucinations part is one part that he would like to discard, but that his ideas about consciousness coming from "talking to yourself" are spot on.

In any case, Jaynes is careful to say that he doesn't take any of it too literally and his thoughts are only suggestions and musings on how consciousness might have originated. Some of his critics seem to miss the larger picture and get caught up on factual details. Jaynes's book is really about large philosophical ideas, not historical facts.

Comment author: arundelo 13 May 2010 04:00:21AM 1 point [-]

Very rarely (maybe once a year or less) and only when I'm falling asleep or am extremely sleepy. (I'm only counting things that I think are real; I routinely have vivid audiations that are not confusable with reality.)

Comment author: Blueberry 13 May 2010 05:23:02AM 1 point [-]

I have also noticed hearing things when I am very sleepy: usually music or words that I can't quite hear clearly.

I'm only counting things that I think are real; I routinely have vivid audiations that are not confusable with reality.

I'm very confused by this sentence! You know the auditory hallucinations aren't real, right? And what are these vivid audiations you speak of?

Comment author: byrnema 13 May 2010 12:42:39PM *  4 points [-]

There's a distinct difference between hearing something vividly in your head, which is more like imagining a sound, and having an actual auditory hallucination. I read last night: schizophrenics may know that their auditory hallucinations aren't real, but they also can't distinguish them from real sounds.

Whenever I have had an auditory hallucination (also, very rarely), it has been of my name being called as well!

Comment author: KrisC 25 May 2010 10:55:40PM 2 points [-]

I often (~monthly) believe that my name is being called when further investigation suggests otherwise. I believe it is a result of a similar sibilant sound and my upbringing. My stepfather insisted that if he shouted my name I had to come running, even if I was out of earshot blocks away. Thus I was "nurtured" towards false positives.

This audio hallucination always fools me, but visual hallucinations never do.

At approximately the same rate (monthly), I imagine I see a cloaked figure. This is more an optical illusion in my peripheral vision, which I quickly recognize. Occasional Melatonin or Vitamin D greatly reduce the occurrence of this optical misidentification.

Comment author: Nisan 25 May 2010 11:35:54PM 3 points [-]

I also have a story about conditioned susceptibility to hallucinations: At one point I was in a long-distance relationship and I started hallucinating Google chat's New Instant Message notification sound. This happened several times a day, and if I happened to be in proximity to a computer I would have to check to see if it was real.

Comment author: arundelo 13 May 2010 12:45:51PM *  1 point [-]

I'll take your questions in reverse order. (Note: Wikipedia gives audiation a purely musical meaning, but I'm using it here to include hearing speaking voices and other nonmusical things in one's head.)

I have what I think is above-average skill at visualization and audiation. (For musical things, my skill is definitely above average even among the musicians I know.) During the day, these are both under my conscious control -- I decide to see or hear something in my head, and I do.

When I'm falling asleep, though, my visualizations and audiations become

  • much more vivid, and
  • spontaneous, in the sense that even though I still have some control over them, if I'm not exerting control at the moment, they keep going (like I have a TV station in my head that broadcasts nonsense).

Despite the vividness and spontaneity, though, I never think any of this is real. It has a clear quality of coming from inside my head rather than the external world.

In the very rare occurrences of actual hallucinations, which are always voices and usually saying my name, they seem real. The only way I know they're not real is context -- I live alone so I figure it's more likely that I'm hallucinating than that someone has entered my house late at night and is talking to me. (Back when I lived with someone I would holler back if it sounded like someone was calling me from another room.)

Comment author: MichaelBishop 12 May 2010 08:29:00PM 0 points [-]

I scored 17 but was a little worried that my responses were biased by a desire to believe I am socially proficient. I guess I have no reason to believe I suffer from this bias more than the average person.

Comment author: Blueberry 13 May 2010 05:32:47AM 0 points [-]

was a little worried that my responses were biased by a desire to believe I am socially proficient.

I'm glad you mentioned that. These types of self-diagnostic tools have always seemed of limited use to me because of that kind of bias as well as the Dunning-Kruger effect. I don't trust my own responses at all, and I would guess I'm strongly biased by a desire to believe I'm socially proficient.

I'd imagine people's responses are heavily biased by their mood, as well: when I'm in a good mood I think better of my own abilities about almost everything, so I would guess my score would tend to fluctuate with my mood.

Comment author: gwern 13 May 2010 02:48:06AM *  1 point [-]

33. I was a little surprised, and give more credence to the occasional accusations/suggestions that I could be diagnosed with Asperger's.

Comment author: ata 13 May 2010 03:02:07AM *  1 point [-]

You shall need to change that to "33\." (backslash-escape the period); otherwise the silly formatting thinks you're trying to start a numbered list.

Comment author: gwern 13 May 2010 03:19:07AM 0 points [-]

Fixed, thanks.

Comment author: Cosmos 13 May 2010 03:30:50AM 0 points [-]

My all-absorbing narrow interest is optimization.

Comment author: mwengler 13 May 2010 06:11:53PM 4 points [-]

26 on the wired test. I am 53. I noticed on many of the questions that i would have answered differently when I was younger, but that I had it seemed rationally figured things out or learned them in therapy.

I have for years wondered if a lot of what goes into scientists is sub-clinical autism/aspbergers. I listen to some of the concerns of parents about their aspberger kids and think "that's like me, it is part of how I got a PhD in Physics."

Comment author: ata 14 May 2010 02:12:54AM *  9 points [-]

A relevant comment from a few years ago (on Lonely Dissent):

What takes real courage is braving the outright incomprehension of the people around you,

I suspect that autistics are far more willing than neurotypicals to be true iconoclast because many neurotypicals find autistics incomprehensible regardless of what the autistics believe. So the price of being an intellectual iconoclast is lower for autistics than for most other people.

Sounds plausible on the surface, but if the reasoning is "An autistic person will suffer about the same social cost whether or not they are perceived as an intellectual iconoclast, so if they are inclined to be an intellectual iconoclast, they will realize that they may as well allow themselves to do so", then there might be a problem: the real reason might just be that they don't process social costs as well (if at all) in the first place. But then this hypothesis might work if we adjust it to account for that: "An autistic person will be less likely to realize or care about the potential social cost of being perceived as an intellectual iconoclast, so if they are inclined to be an intellectual iconoclast, they will see little reason not to allow themselves to do so". Any thoughts on this?

Comment author: ciphergoth 14 May 2010 07:29:08AM 0 points [-]

Didn't see the poll until now so not filling it in as per your request, but for the record I got 15.

Comment author: lilihmartin 14 May 2010 11:49:22AM 4 points [-]

I scored 27. My brother has aspergers (diagnosted at 38 years old) and I am pretty sure both my parents have it, although they won't get tested. I am not sure I have it, although I have many of the characteristics - IQ 132, fast processor, overachiever, say weird things inappropriately, small talk makes me uncomfortable, etc. Compared to my parents and brother, however, I always seemed like the odd one out in our little family. I am super friendly, make friends easily but have the narrow focused, intellectual pursuit thing for sure. I have been seeing a systems therapist analyst who says studies now say that it's likely that my neural pathways for natural empathy, etc that would have developed with a different mother probably didn't fire up (ages 1-3). I am working on "getting it", ie the cues for social intelligence, but feel limited like it isn't going to happen. Intellectually, I can understand someone talking about their feelings, but don't really like doing it. I can reflective listen for only so long and then I just get super bored. My husband is a gem and starting to understand that nothing is personal - I just do what I do. Anyone have research or thought on this area.

Comment author: AlexMennen 15 May 2010 04:22:47AM 1 point [-]

I got a 30. It's possible that I could have mild aspergers, but as far as I can tell, I don't match any common psychological pigeonhole.

Also, I skimmed the article and didn't see the request for people who have not yet seen the article not to take the poll until I responded to the poll.

Comment author: Abisashi 17 May 2010 09:17:11PM 2 points [-]

I got 11 (there's nowhere to report this on the poll; I selected '10 or less', as that seemed like where the missing 11 should go based on how the numbers are grouped).

I'm a utilitarian. Before taking the test, I figured I'd get something in the 16-20 range.

Comment author: Nanani 18 May 2010 12:38:28AM 1 point [-]

I'm several days late answering, but FWIW, I scored a 30 but only checked off one of the five diagnostic questions. I've never had my IQ tested as an adult.

I do obsessively pursue my chosen interests but given that one of those is language, I don't have the social / verbal awkwardness. I don't -like- social situations but I can function just fine in them.

Comment author: scotherns 18 May 2010 02:01:14PM 0 points [-]

I scored 36 on the test, which was way higher than I was expecting. I think I can do a pretty decent impression of a normally social person. Perhaps my responses are skewed by my having programmed for the last 7 hours. Maybe I should take the test again after spending a couple of hours interacting with my wife and kids.

Comment author: JanetK 22 May 2010 08:42:51AM *  1 point [-]

Here is another indication of Aspergers that I ran across here and thought that others might like to look at it in connection with their scores on the Aspergers test Roko supplied. Interestingly I was normal on the previous test but have a lot of these features.

The most common structural (morphological) features found in the ASD children included:

Sandal gap toes (59%) Facial asymmetry (46%) Abnormal non-frontal hair whorl (39%) High narrow palate (37%) Attached ear lobes (35%) Hypermobile joints (33%)

Some morphological features were found in the ASD that were absent in the 224 controls including:

Mouth asymmetry,
Eyes asymmetry, Ear lobe crease,
Macrostomia (large mouth), Limited facial expression, Open mouth appearance, Abnormal whorl, Prominent lower jaw

Comment author: cupholder 22 May 2010 06:07:56PM 4 points [-]

For anyone curious about the original source for this: it's 'Morphological Features in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Matched Case–Control Study' in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. (It looks like it's just an electronic preprint that's online - I don't see volume and issue numbers.)

Comment author: JanetK 23 May 2010 07:38:28AM 2 points [-]

Thank you cupholder for adding the source link.

Comment author: AnneC 08 June 2010 07:27:09PM *  1 point [-]

Full disclosure: I have been diagnosed with Asperger's (and prior to that, PDD-NOS and ADHD). I am also female and 31 years old at the time of this writing.

All that said, one thing I persistently have trouble with is thinking in terms of "isms" in the first place (well, with the exception of "autism", though that is a neurological configuration rather than an ideology). Hence I have no idea, really, whether my default mode(s) of thought fall into the "utilitarian/consequentialist" schools, and I have a very difficult time following the sorts of discussions wherein people are constantly trying to figure out whether a given notion fits in with this-ism or that-ism, or even where folks seem to be worrying about keeping everything they decide in line with a given, externally-sourced "system" of organizing ideas.

(This, incidentally, is why I stopped identifying as a "transhumanist" -- I just could not figure out what the word meant, it seemed to "lose meaning" the more I examined it, and eventually I determined the energy expenditure of even continuing to attempt discerning that thing was not worth it, so I disconnected myself from identification with the term. I still maintain my strong interests in longevity, human-machine interface, and whatnot, but I do not believe they NEED an over-arching ideology or what-have-you in order for my interest to be legitimate).

As far as making ethical decisions goes for me, my impression (as much as my own insight can be considered reliable here; I don't know for sure) is that I do usually invoke certain very basic principles (bodily autonomy, for instance) but that I tend to consider specific situations on a very individual basis each time, without concerning myself so much over being "consistent". Different situations can certainly share pattern-elements with one another, of course, and I can notice that, but for the most part -- and I don't know if it is a language processing thing or what -- I seem to have more trouble than most people on this site (who frequent it) with "ism"-based discussions. Moreover, while I believe my thinking to be quite rational and logical most of the time, I sort of burned out on heavy debate/argument over the 2006-2008 time frame and hence I say less about "heavy" subjects on the Internet than I used to these days,

EDIT: ...and the point of all that was to basically suggest (albeit without reference to data other than my own observations and pattern-identification skills, so take the suggestion for whatever you think it is worth on that basis) that while you may indeed find SOME correlation between AS/autism and whatever you consider to be particularly "utilitarian" or "consequentialist" thought, my take is that this is only one specific possible manifestation of "autistic specialization". Which is to say that some of us may indeed specialize in more abstract areas, however, there are also those of us who remain welded to the "concrete" and hence are less likely to be found as, say, regular LW commenters. Personally I identify, for instance, more with the "engineer" than the "philosopher" archetype, though that has little to no bearing on the presence of otherwise-inclined autistic persons in this or other forums.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 09 June 2010 12:35:15AM 0 points [-]

Since you were (at times) diagnosed both ways, could you respond to Peter McCluskey's comments about the compatibility of AS and ADHD?

Comment author: AnneC 09 June 2010 03:10:51AM 5 points [-]

Well in my case the thing that stands out is that the ADHD diagnosis was given after a very quick/superficial evaluation, whereas the AS diagnosis came after many months of testing, evaluation, and thorough analysis of my developmental history. I cannot exactly speak to whether the two configurations can or cannot coexist in the same person without further study, but my suspicion is that AS and ADHD can appear superficially similar to adults who are observing children and teenagers, merely because of the fact that the child/teenager does not appear to be attending to what the adult wishes they were.