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Assuming that Other People are Mind Readers (NT Confusion in Aspie Conversation)

Assuming that Other People are Mind Readers is commonly described as an aspie trait though I don't think it's the result of aspie assumptions. Instead I think it's an NT interpretation of their behaviour.

Behaviour 1: Sudden changes of topic in mid-conversation
This stems from the aspies difficulty with small-talk. Aspies won't stand around discussing the weather but tend to discuss and resolve a single topic, then quickly move onto the next. NT conversation is quite different and they will tend to move to a neutral topic before starting on something completely different. There is nothing wrong with either approach but NTs talking to aspies often get lost at this point and think that the aspie has found something new to add to the original topic.

Behaviour 2: Expecting People to have a Shared Memory
A lot of things come back to the aspie memory. Aspies often have very clear memories of events and quotations. In conversation, they may drop a remark which links back to a particular memory but even if the NT was present at that event, it could have been years ago, or the particular part of the event to which the Aspie is referring may not form a large part of their memory.

Example: An NT spills a drink at a party. The Aspie might say, "you have a habit of spilling drinks - lucky it wasn't orange juice". This could refer to an event at a picnic more than two years ago where perhaps that NT had knocked a bottle of orange juice over. NTs do not remember events in such detail and would therefore have no idea what the Aspie is talking about.

Similar things happen when the Aspie drops a quotation from a particular movie or song into the conversation without warning and without acknowledging the source. The NT becomes confused.

Behaviour 3: Leaving half the words out
Aspies often get the feeling that they are not being listened to. This is probably something to do with not understanding the visual and tonal cues in conversation. What often happens as a result of this is that the aspie trails off in midsentence.

Similarly, sometimes aspies have a tendency to start a conversation in their head and only verbalise the last parts. This is particularly common when they've just had an idea and pick up where a mental conversation, rather than a real one, left off. For this reason, NT's have a great deal of difficulty following aspie conversation and assume, not wrongly in this case, that we are expecting them to be mind readers.


Unknown said…
Very Informative post!

I noticed a couple Sunday's back that I had trouble initiating a conversation with some that I know, but would like to get to know them better. I think that we have some common interests that would prove to be good. However, I found myself talking to no one at first as I spoke without getting his attention. He was talking with someone else and I feel like, since it's hard for me to do small talk... that they (the NTs) should be attentive to me. Oh well. The whole scenario turned out okay, although I was feeling very awkward.

Same day, I "think" I was picking up some body queues on disinterested conversation, but I couldn't tell. I realize that the person was on a tight schedule and I wanted to go into detail. I'm not sure if I did the right thing, I needed my wife there to moderate/translate what was going on to see I saw the right things.

Lastly, sometimes I have the conversations in my head. Only for the fact that I can survive the small talk. If I have already had the conversation in my head once, the next time that I have it won't be as scary. Of course, the real conversation might not be exactly what I imagine, but it might be close
Anonymous said…

I've had some problems with people who have known me really well over my life with them "not listening to me" or not having the respect for me that I expect.

My mom always was trying to convince me that there was something wrong with me - depression, asperger's, etc.

I guess what happened that might be (or hopefully might not be!) is that she (my mom) did not respect boundaries that those living together should respect. Specifically, going into my room without knocking, not respecting my verbal requests such as "leave me alone," etc. (when I was not doing anything wrong, she was just yelling at me (sometimes through my closed door), I don't remember what about)

I eventually agreed to see a therapist to appease my mom. During the sessions, the therapist picked up on my continual use of phrases such as "lack of respect." The term aspergers never came up, but she diagnosed me with depression. I've read in psychology text books that feeling depressed because of life events or a current life situation is not "clinical depression" but the "blues." I told the therapist that and that I will feel much happier once I got a stable job; that it was only a matter of time, but she still argued sternly that I take anti-depressants. My mother did also (she also previous-to-this gave me anti-depressants and told me that they were vitamins).

I then went to a psychologist (not a "psychologist" but the kind of psychologist that can prescribe drugs - I forget the word for them). He diagnosed me with depression, basically because I was talking about unhappy things the whole time because that was what my life had been about the last few days, or maybe up to two weeks.

I didn't like the anti-depressents because they robbed me of all my motivation and I wanted to get a job and move on with my life.

(This all happened after I came back from college because I couldn't afford it, and was living with my parents)

Anyways, I am just wondering what the deal is, who has what syndrome, etc.

Also, one of my long-time friends just seems to not hear me sometimes when I speak, if he is around other people. It's very annoying. And another person I know will ask somebody else in the room a question in the middle of my sentence that I am directing to him, as if I am not even there.

I bet you will say "We (or I) can't tell from your post if you have aspergers or not."

Are there potential indicators of other disorders in the case of my mom / two friends / aquaintences? Please note I say potential, not for sure.

I don't know - the whole psychology thing is kind of corrupt in my opinion. Psychologists have a lot of power over people, and I don't think they should have that much. If they do, then they should have a lot of respect for their patients and explain their reasoning and even the reasoning behind the psychology, to their patients. Unfortunately most human beings, in my opinion, are not able to fulfill that standard, so I think it's better left at "the system of psychology is thus flawed."

Anyways, if you think I have aspergers, go ahead and say so. I do like to know what people think about me, and do have respect for psychology as a subject.
Gavin Bollard said…

I'm not a psychologist and there's not nearly enough information on other items in your post to satisfy the DSM IV criteria.

I think that your best bet to quickly determining whether or not you fit the profile would be to do the aspie quiz.

If you answer the questions honestly, you should get a fairly accurate determination.
Unknown said…
Don't think you're asexual. There's not enough medical or scientific research on it. There is no clear definition what Asexuality really is. It's all about what people who claim to be asexual is to them or what AVEN says.

According to AVEN anyone who doesn't want sex is asexual to them. Which is wrong, there's many reasons why people don't have sex.

Just because AVEN, or people who claim to be asexual say doesn't make it fact.

There's a lot conerdictions with this thing called asexuality.

Not having sex doesn't need a label. Asexuality truly is when plants and some animals can make an offspring without sex. Humans can't do there.

Yes, some might not strong sexual attraction, but they might have a weak sexual attraction becsuse, they might have small pituitary gland, low sex drive, or something else.

Until they get more information, asexuality in humans is just a label some people use to label themselves.

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