Do you have High-Functioning Asperger’s Syndrome?
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
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.