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I’m afraid I used to be much more into the style of reasoning you present in your post when I first got started studying these things than I am today as I have changed my views on a bunch of things.
also beware—much of the discourse around AGP in particular has been turned into a political weapon, be careful about who you’re learning from
I’m not sure we have any reason to believe that it was ever not a political weapon. Some people such as Alice Dreger try to pretend that it is not political, while other people such as me attempted (and essentially failed) to colonize the space with a different political goal.
then why is there such significant variety in the extent of the distress associated with these autophilias
When I first got into Blanchardianism, I considered non-AGP autophilias to be a central form of evidence and spent a bunch of effort investigating them. But now I think these autophilias are too rare and that both my and other’s investigations are too brief/superficial to be helpful for understanding. There is too much uncertainty about what they are like.
Age players with strong enough feelings to identify as ‘littles’ in fact, do seem to experience notable distress − 38% of those surveyed reported ‘often’ or ‘usual’ distress at being an adult, age dysphoria (AD).
Note that partway through my survey there, someone reposted it from /r/LittleSpace to /r/ABDL. This changed the results in various ways; you can see the pre-repost statistics here:
Generally, I don’t like “community-level” reasoning because it seems pretty fuzzy and unclear to me what leads to community membership, and therefore also pretty unclear to me how to make things commensurable.
For instance, consider the contrast between /r/MtF vs /r/AskAGP; clearly the former is a lot more gender dysphoric than the latter, because the former selects mainly on gender dysphoria whereas the latter selects mainly on autogynephilia. But this means that you get different answers for the rates of gender dysphoria depending on whether you pick /r/MtF or /r/AskAGP as your community of interest.
Likewise eunuch dysphoria (ED) is bad enough to cause a track record of self mutilation.
I’m not sure genital self-mutilation is a valid indicator of severity of dysphoria. Like yes it may be a valid indicator that someone has crossed some high utility threshold, but “bad enough” connotes something like “the feelings have negative valence” or “the utility threshold is as extreme as corresponding self-mutilations would be for other things like limb self-amputations”, which I don’t think is true.
Third: Modern neuroscience is limited in its ability to shed light upon gender identity as it relates to the brain. That being said, certain very persistent, very noticeable neural and phenomenal correlates of gender dysphoria have been found. I’ll get to the point.
I haven’t yet been able to parse any of the neuroscience on gender identity well enough to believe it. I suspect most or all of it is noise. That said, I haven’t double-checked the studies you’ve linked.
This model is interesting to me. Is it true? I don’t know. I genuinely think (<50% confidence) that it is a step in the right direction, and a question that not enough people are asking.
My attention for any proposed model immediately starts at: how does one measure the concepts within the model?
Phantom experiences, from faint to extremely vivid, have been reported in rather high rates in transsexual populations. The model may help understand how one’s body image and even body schema itself may be made to take on traits typical of the opposite natal sex. It may also help explain why you see similar phantom experience in otherkin and adjacent communities as well, by demonstrating that the effect of sexuality can have major whole-brain impacts.
While reading Phil’s book, I saw the claims about phantom experiences linked to autogynephilia, and was pretty skeptical. This lead to me making a survey about them and posting it in /r/AskAGP. I should probably publish it, but basically what I found is that most AGPs don’t report phantom experiences, and the ones who do mostly report faint ones, especially occurring after having crossdressed (like wearing breast forms and then taking them off but still feeling like they’re there). I suspect the whole “phantom experience” thing is gonna be a dead-end.
Wow thank you for the response! These are really good points that have increased my uncertainty in my core hypothesis. I pretty much agree with you but I want to say a few things.
these autophilias are too rare and that both my and other’s investigations are too brief/superficial to be helpful for understanding. There is too much uncertainty about what they are like.
Definitely true for lots and lots of autophilias (god there are a potential infinite library of them truly), but for things like ‘autoanthrophilia’ (furries), or the autozoophilia-like sexuality visible in otherkin / therians, there are large communities full of people willing to talk about their experiences with the sexuality and how it impacts them and what sort of thing it correlates with. That being said of course in surveying these communities you’re already inducing a potentially serious selection bias as you mention. Ugh.
I haven’t yet been able to parse any of the neuroscience on gender identity well enough to believe it.
Yeah fair, I’m somewhat disillusioned but I think some really high-level patterns have been holding up in a way that I take seriously. I’m probably overconfident though don’t really trust my reasoning abilities here, subjectively I still have a real hunch in it. If anything I think the research I mentioned is probably pretty ‘empty’ in the sense of : obviously the network that activates more when someone feels more connected / in ownership of their body is going to activate less when people who have body-dysphoric conditions (like GD) look at their body. Like- you would very much expect that to happen, its hardly surprising or informing. Given that this body-self congruence measure used in those studies also shows GD-like patterns in anorexia, BDD, etc it’s not like this is some special para-Blanchardian model, I can’t see why Blanchard would have issues with this finding, people who don’t like their bodies show it in their body-image-networks, yeah.
This lead to me making a survey about them and posting it in /r/AskAGP.
Don’t you have a selection bias here already cause of lower dysphoria and stuff like you mentioned? (I don’t know what you’ve accounted for though and I assume you did think of that of course, sorry, would like to see the data). I always had scepticism around the idea of ‘phantom limbs’, in that I felt like a lot of subjects were talking about a much weaker phenomenon than real vivid phantom limbs. I’ve felt vague AGP and furry/therian-related ‘phantom’ feelings myself but I recognised that these were very far from real phantom limbs and were more just me vividly imagining the sensations of a different body so that it felt bordering on real. This may be projection but I wonder if a lot of people reporting phantom sensations felt those types of vivid imagination. That being said I’m not convinced its a dead end as opposed to just being seriously overreported (for example some (probably not a lot) trans men really do seem to have vivid phantoms I’ve seen scatterings of people in communities I’m in), I continue to think a causal influence on body schema of autophilia is very plausible.
how does one measure the concepts within the model?
Shortly after writing the article I realised the lack of established falsifiability criteria / measurement ability then proceeded to simply continuously forget to create them ;w; apologies. I have some ideas on this now but nothing finalised. If you’re still interested I could tell you if / when I create them but I’m not sure now.
Thank you again, I intend to write and research more about autophilia and paraphilia and will definitely be better and more empirical next time! (still gonna vomit some more silly ideas out into the world too)
I guess one important thing to mention is not just what one shouldn’t do, but what I think one should do: One should play to the strengths of one’s research method. And in my case, my main research method is quantitative and qualitative surveys, so that raises the question of what the strengths of that method is.
I think surveys are good for mapping out people’s experiences and stitching them together into a big-picture perspective. That is to say:
Often people anecdotally report various things (e.g. odd neurodivergent symptoms correlating with transness, specific coping mechanisms for GD, specific patterns of sexual interests, specific connections between events and later psychological factors), and surveys can be used to map out things like “how common are these things?”, “are the correlations mentioned real?”, “do they form a syndrome together with other phenomena of interest?”, etc..
Qualitative surveys can be used to identify new factors that might not have made it into community anecdotes yet, but might still be relevant.
In contrast, if one doesn’t rely on surveys for this, then it becomes difficult to stitch things together (the information is too sparse/data missingness too high to reason on an individual level, so you have to reason on a demographic, community or identity level), and you also end up prone to apophenia (because often people only point out coincidences and not contradictions to those coincidences, leading people to perceive a correlation when really there is none).
This is somewhat in contrast to other’s focus, which tends to be to prove various biological factors to be relevant. Biological factors would be the relative strength of e.g. biobank methods, but I don’t currently have access to a biobank, so it wouldn’t be a strength for my method. That’s not to say that nothing biological could ever show up in my methods though, it’s just more subtle than that. For instance, people often talk about neurological symptoms such as hypersensitivity, or other biological symptoms such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, in connection with transness. These could in principle be surveyed, and it would be interesting to submit them to factor analysis to see how they relate to other factors of interest.
I think comprehensively mapping out people’s experiences is very useful even without biological work, both because it can make previously discovered connections much crisper and clearer, and because it can serve as a basis for other work, e.g. factor analysis is great for constructing and understanding measures, and once these measures are constructed and understood, they could then be integrated into other fields such as by including them in a biobank dataset.
Now admittedly this research angle is especially easy for me to support because I am willing to pay a lot of money to have research subjects answer surveys for me, which leads to a lot of advantages such as e.g. being able to send out very long questionnaires, being able to get qualitative answers, being able to do followup surveys, etc.. Before I did that, my strategy above didn’t work as well.
Maybe. I’m not sure I trust that this is a thing in anorexia or BDD either, but I haven’t investigated it in detail. As I understand it, neuroscience doesn’t mesh well with differential psychology because neuroscience usually uses sample sizes of 20ish people, which works fine when you’re doing “within-subject studies” (figuring out which brain areas relate to which external stimuli, as then the sample size that matters is the external stimuli), but not so well if you’re doing “between-subject studies” (figuring out which brain differences relate to person differences). For between-subjects studies where you know what you’re measuring (e.g. because it’s the first few PCs, or because you’ve already gotten a theoretically validated reason to use them), you usually want hundreds of people, and for quantitative exploratory between-subjects studies (such as connectome-wide association searches) you want at least tens of thousands of subjects and actually really more.
Maybe there’s some reason why this doesn’t apply to the anorexia/BDD thing, but if so I’d like to see an in-depth explanation of what they did and how it worked.
Don’t you have a selection bias here already cause of lower dysphoria and stuff like you mentioned? (I don’t know what you’ve accounted for though and I assume you did think of that of course, sorry, would like to see the data).
I’m more concerned about /r/MtF having selection bias in favor of higher rates of dysphoria than /r/AskAGP having selection bias in favor of lower rates of dysphoria. Like if there are some non-AGP factors that lead to gender issues, then presumably they increase the likelihood of joining /r/MtF, but have no effect on the likelihood of joining /r/AskAGP.
It’s possible there are exceptions to this. The most obvious exception would be that the whole concept of “AGP” is sort of associated with gender conservatism, whereas gender progressivism might contribute to gender issues, in which case /r/AskAGP might select for gender conservatives.
This may be projection but I wonder if a lot of people reporting phantom sensations felt those types of vivid imagination.
I can share the data on phantom sensations from /r/AskAGP with you, it might help clarify things as I had some qualitative questions in there too. I’m gonna need you to DM me an email address to do that though.
That being said I’m not convinced its a dead end as opposed to just being seriously overreported (for example some (probably not a lot) trans men really do seem to have vivid phantoms I’ve seen scatterings of people in communities I’m in), I continue to think a causal influence on body schema of autophilia is very plausible.
What I don’t understand is why you are presuming that it is an autophilic thing rather than some other thing (e.g. autistic thing) that can also lead to these identities.
Vomiting silly ideas into the world is definitely an important part of the process, it’s just that shooting them down and understanding why they don’t work is also very important.
am writing this as my first ever article on this website. This isn’t going to be particularly clear or good, I just hope it’s ok enough, or well… interesting / fun to read.
Given the circumstances, you did a great job!
People writing their first article on a political topic (and as you said, the discourse about AGP is often political) is usually a recipe for disaster, simply because those people were attracted to LessWrong by the topic, rather than by the local norms of communication. So they write a political article, ignoring the local standards. You have successfully avoided that. Congratulations!
That said, I have no idea about the correctness of your hypothesis. There is often a big difference between “sounds plausible” and “is true”, and I have no data to check your hypothesis against (I have no such dysphoria myself; and if someone in my proximity does, they stay in the closet). So all I can say is that it sounds plausible to me, but who knows, tomorrow someone may provide a similarly plausible story in a different direction. Or maybe there is an obvious flaw that I don’t see, but people who actually have the dysphoria may be screaming in frustration as they read the article. I have no idea.
People express very strong opinions and emotions in different directions, which seems to me like a good reason to refrain from mere guessing. Generally, this entire discussion frustrates me a lot. Not your fault, of course.
very interesting, yet concise and digestible. Though I don’t completely agree on how believability of a dream diminishes disappointment, anecdotally I’ve had many dreams that can be deemed as impossible and highly unlikely yet has caused a high level of disappointment in me after I woke up.