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People with Asperger’s less likely to see purpose behind the events in their lives

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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BOSTON—Why do we often attribute events in our lives to a higher power or supernatural force? Some psychologists believe this kind of thinking, called teleological thinking, is a by-product of social cognition. As our ancestors evolved, we developed the ability to understand one anothers’ ideas and intentions. As a result of this “theory of mind,” some experts figure, we also tend to see intention or purpose—a conscious mind—behind random or naturally occurring events. A new study presented here in a poster at the 22nd annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science supports this idea, showing that people who may have an impaired theory of mind are less likely to think in a teleological way.

Bethany T. Heywood, a graduate student at Queens University Belfast, asked 27 people with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild type of autism that involves impaired social cognition, about significant events in their lives. Working with experimental psychologist Jesse M. Bering (author of the "Bering in Mind" blog and a frequent contributor to Scientific American MIND), she asked them to speculate about why these important events happened—for instance, why they had gone through an illness or why they met a significant other. As compared with 34 neurotypical people, those with Asperger’s syndrome were significantly less likely to invoke a teleological response—for example, saying the event was meant to unfold in a particular way or explaining that God had a hand in it. They were more likely to invoke a natural cause (such as blaming an illness on a virus they thought they were exposed to) or to give a descriptive response, explaining the event again in a different way.

In a second experiment, Heywood and Bering compared 27 people with Asperger’s with 34 neurotypical people who are atheists. The atheists, as expected, often invoked anti-teleological responses such as “there is no reason why; things just happen.” The people with Asperger’s were significantly less likely to offer such anti-teleological explanations than the atheists, indicating they were not engaged in teleological thinking at all. (The atheists, in contrast, revealed themselves to be reasoning teleologically, but then they rejected those thoughts.)

These results support the idea that seeing purpose behind life events is a result of our mind’s focus on social thinking. People whose social cognition is impaired—those with Asperger’s, in this case—are less likely to see the events in their lives as having happened for a reason. Heywood would like to test the hypothesis further by working with people who have schizophrenia or schizoid personalities. Some experts theorize that certain schizophrenia symptoms (for instance, paranoia) arise in part from a hyperactive sense of social reasoning. “I’d guess that they’d give lots of teleological answers; more than neurotypical people, and certainly far more than people with Asperger’s,” Heywood says.

Image ©iStockphoto.com/pepifoto





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  1. 1. LetsHaveAnAdventure 3:50 pm 06/3/2010

    This result is not surprising at all! Both my girlfriend and I have been diagnosed with Asperger’s (in fact, we met on wrongplanet.com), and we’re both atheists.

    However, 2 data points isn’t quite enough, and the article does a decent job of explaining the link in more general terms. There’s a theory of religion due mostly to Scott Atran and Pascal Boyer that explains religious behavior as a misfiring of one’s theory of mind (Steven Pinker summarizes this theory well in the discussion session following Richard Dawkins’ wonderful "Tanner Lecture" at Harvard).

    In people with Asperger’s, theory of mind is by no means absent: I’ve never met anyone with Asperger’s who has any problem whatever with teleological thinking. On the contrary, a slightly toned down theory of mind might help one to avoid misapplying this otherwise very useful strategy.

    Using one’s theory of mind is only appropriate when another mind is, in fact, present. That is, what this study suggests is that people with Asperger’s are somewhat more likely to avoid the misfiring of one’s TOM that is religion.

    As such, in the case of religion, our slightly less active theory of mind (provided we believe Atran and Boyer) turns out to be a feature rather than a bug.

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  2. 2. robert schmidt 8:26 pm 06/3/2010

    @jtdwyer, "Since diagnosis of Asperger syndrome began in the mid-1990s and is most noticeable in children, few people over 20 years of age have been diagnosed." so you have no evidence that, "a large percentage of scientists are undiagnosed Asperger ‘sufferers’". Thanks for clearing that up.

    "I think your summary statement does not adequately represent the article’s assertions, which are hardly as clear as you portrayed them." ok, my statement was about people with Asperger’s. The statement you quoted was about "neurotypical" people. Do you understand that this article is saying that people with Asperger’s differ from "neurotypical" people in that they DO NOT automatically think that events are intentionally caused?

    I worked in the film industry in the 80′s. Many people I encountered were very, "expressive". Hey, that is similar to Manic Depression. I guess it must be a proven fact that a large percentage of "artists" must be clinically Manic Depressive. Wow, who needs facts and figures when you can just go with your gut feeling?

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  3. 3. jtdwyer 10:50 pm 06/3/2010

    robert schmidt – You stated:
    "It clearly indicates that people with Asperger’s do not attribute intention as a cause of events."

    How can this be understood? How can events be attributed to ‘intentions’? Whose intentions? The whole point of the article was that ‘neurotypical’ people were more likely to apply teleological reasoning to assign undetermined event causation to culturally approved supernatural entities.

    I apologize if I fail to measure up to your personal criteria for comment acceptance, but I’m not interesting in being your research assistant or proving anything to you. Research the subject for yourself: perhaps you’ll even find that you exhibit symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome.

    Some subject area experts have even speculated in peer reviewed published research that Newton and Einstein had symptoms of Autistic Spectrum Disorders, although they could not confirm their diagnosis….

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  4. 4. Neptunerover 5:54 am 06/4/2010

    So religion is like paranoia. Morals are just paranoia. If someone with Asperger’s becomes schizophrenic, they will be more neurotypical. What a wonderful batch of garbage this article is.

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  5. 5. Ylanne 9:22 am 06/4/2010

    I’m a Christian with Asperger’s, so I guess I’m the outlier here.

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  6. 6. robert schmidt 10:02 am 06/4/2010

    @jtdwyer, "How can events be attributed to ‘intentions’?" If you come home and see a window broken in your house what is your first thought? Do you think that someone intentially broke it, perhaps to gain access, or do you think, the house must have settled and put stress on the window causing it to break? Most people would assume that the window was broken intentionally. The "who" is irrelevant. That is the point of the article, "Teleological" thinking means believing there is a purpose or intention behind events rather than just natural processes.

    "I apologize if I fail to measure up to your personal criteria for comment acceptance, but I’m not interesting in being your research assistant or proving anything to you." If you are going to make statements that suggest you have a fact that deserves consideration then you better make sure you can support your claim otherwise you will only discredit yourself. You are free to post whatever comment you like just as I am free to challenge your comments. This is a science site after all so you shouldn’t be too surprised that people will expect your "facts" to be supported by evidence.

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  7. 7. robert schmidt 10:14 am 06/4/2010

    @Neptunerover, "So religion is like paranoia" I think your comment is like paranoia. Nothing in this article suggests that Teleological thinking is paranoia. Just because something was done intentionally does not mean it was done to persecute anyone. It also does not mean the action or event was directed at the observer. If I see a regularly spaced stand of trees I immediately think that they were planted intentionally in that configuration rather than just arising naturally from a random dispersal of seeds, even though I never saw them being planted. I don’t think the trees were put there to harm me in fact I don’t think the trees were planted with any thoughts about me at all.

    I see this time and time again. People who clearly do not understand an article post comments saying it is stupid or doesn’t make sense. What gets me is that people don’t seem to understand their own limitations. Instead of acknowledging the fact that they are out of their depth, they assume that the experts don’t know what they are talking about. What arrogance.

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  8. 8. jtdwyer 10:37 am 06/4/2010

    robert schmidt – Like I said, I’m not here to prove anything to you, and don’t care if you consider me discredited or not. I admidt that I am not an accredited scientist, scholar or researcher. My comments are not intended to gain respect from any community, only to make alternative suggestions to the readership for purposes of discussion.

    You’re a fortunate commentator not to have an antagonist like yourself demanding references for your comments, which are highly opinionated. Until you provide references for you own remarks I won’t be responding to any demands you attempt to place on mine. You can take my word for it.

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  9. 9. robert schmidt 12:42 pm 06/4/2010

    @jtdwyer, "You’re a fortunate commentator not to have an antagonist like yourself demanding references for your comments, which are highly opinionated." Skepticism is an essential part of science. If you want blind faith go to church. If I have an opinion you disagree with feel free to call me on it. I would be happy to provide evidence to support any comments I make. All you need to do is ask.

    "I admidt that I am not an accredited scientist, scholar or researcher" that is irrelevant. You don’t need to be a scientist to have evidence to support your claims. I don’t care what your background is. The onus of proof does not change based on your career choices.

    "My comments are not intended to gain respect from any community, only to make alternative suggestions to the readership for purposes of discussion." suggestions are welcome. Discussions are great. But, "In case you’re unaware, a large percentage of scientists are undiagnosed Asperger ‘sufferers’." is not a suggestion, or a question, or a hypothetical. It is an assertion.

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  10. 10. Azsu 1:06 pm 06/4/2010

    I find these results predicable but I don’t quite understand:

    >The atheists, in contrast, revealed themselves to be reasoning teleologically, but then they rejected those thoughts.

    It *seems* NT atheists answered something along the lines of "it was…NOT supernatural" and the Asperger group answered "it was a…virus".

    If these results hold up on a more comprehensive study, it seems the theory of the mind scale may to some degree predispose religious belief:
    (Schizoid)Religious->(NT)Atheist->Agnostic(Autistic)

    In this context I’ll define Atheist: Active rejection of religious teachings or no introduction to religion.

    It is also interesting to speculate the physical reason for this. Perhaps the autistic mind is less susceptible to mental ‘noise’ due to reductions in communication between various brain regions / structures.

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  11. 11. Danno Davis 1:28 pm 06/4/2010

    I don’t quite understand why this article is receiving such negative feedback. What was incomprehensible about it? I had a mild beef with the characterization of atheists as "anti-teleological," but other than that, what exactly is the issue?

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  12. 12. jtdwyer 2:07 pm 06/4/2010

    Danno Davis – Some people with Ausperger’s syndrome object to being described as having ‘impaired theory of mind’ and ‘impaired social cognition’, especially when these differences in neural processing are being unfavorably compared to a process in most ‘neurotypical’ individuals that produces belief in metaphysical beings. It could reasonably be argued by those who are inconsiderate of others that it is the unaffected majority who are delusional.

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  13. 13. lyle91 6:34 pm 06/4/2010

    This is a good article. It says that atheists put meaning to things that don’t have meaning, but then choose to ignore that meaning because they use knowledge to understand that the meaning they have made up is just that, made up. The people with Aspergers on the other hand, don’t put any meaning to anything and automatically see things as they really are. This article is obviously not religious.

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  14. 14. Newo 7:51 pm 06/4/2010

    What an interesting read although it does not come as a surprise.
    To all those people who are offended about this article, stating things like "Good luck trying to tie Atheism with a disease.", did you actually comprehend the article let alone read it?
    What they are stipulating is that through evolution via social environment we have procured behavior that when misfires leads to teleological thinking, Aspergers (a disorder not a disease) is merely an indicator of this truth as one of it’s main symptom is to cause a redundancy of social behavior.

    I would also like to point out that this is far from a religious article as a few have pointed out. Richard Dawkins an evolutionary biologist and well known atheist has been pointing out human behaviors that are a result of misfiring evolved behaviors for a long time, this is merely a study supporting this thesis.

    sorry about the rash nature of my post but only had a min to kill as heading out.

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  15. 15. zomgodless 7:59 pm 06/4/2010

    This is ridiculous. One, this author is ignoring the vast amount of neurological studies that have been done on the human brain. Most studies show that teleological thinking (religiosity) is nothing more than misfires in the brain. This can be shown in simply changing the electromagnetic field variations that the brain is exposed to. A scientist can invoke teleological answers (religious experiences) simply by manipulating electromagnetic waves (KW search "God Helmet"). There have been many others. Second, she mentions but basically ignores the big difference between Asperger’s and atheism: Asperger’s patients CAN’T give teleological responses, atheists can but through logical thinking deny teleological responses. When an Asperger’s patient sees breaks in a mirror or haze in a photo that’s all they see: breaks and mist. When "normal" people see breaks in mirrors or mist something called matrixing occurs where our brains try to make sense of the patterns. This is what a lot of people claim to be "ghosts" or "spirits". But someone who is aware of this and use to thinking through things logically may be able to see this image but deny it as being a face in the mist but simply our brains trying to make sense of the world around us and they move on, knowing that it is not a ghost but just shapes and formations.

    The author of this article is making a huge stretch, concluding that because Asperger’s patients and atheists come to similar conclusions (but through completely different processes) both suffer from sociological disorders, anti-social behaviors; that by not accepting teleological responses they are somehow ignoring social roles and guidelines.

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  16. 16. robert schmidt 8:12 pm 06/4/2010

    @zomgodless, please read the article carefully again. Your conclusions are completely unjustified. The point you claim the author ignores is stated very clearly in the article. The point of the article is not to claim atheists are somehow defective. Quite the contrary, atheists dismiss the hypothesis that all events have a purpose not because they are incapable, as is the case with some people with Asperger’s, or because they are anti-social but because they reason through the problem. Sorry but you must have either a huge chip on your shoulder or a reading disability to have missed that.

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  17. 17. zomgodless 8:19 pm 06/4/2010

    @Robert Schmidt I’m quoting from the article, "These results support the idea that seeing purpose behind life events is a result of our mind’s focus on social thinking." Thus saying that those who do not share in teleological thinking are somehow not aimed at social thinking. If the author did not mean this, then the article is poorly written. The amount of people who took this article to mean one thing is very high. If she did not mean to make the correlation then she needs to rework the article.

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  18. 18. robert schmidt 11:06 pm 06/4/2010

    @zomgodless, taking one sentence out of context proves nothing. Read the whole article not just the bits that confirm your paranoia. For example, "The atheists, as expected, often invoked anti-teleological responses such as “there is no reason why; things just happen.” The people with Asperger’s were significantly less likely to offer such anti-teleological explanations than the atheists, indicating they were not engaged in teleological thinking at all." Anti-teleological thinking is not the same as no teleological thoughts, and it isn’t the same as anti-social thinking. Teleological thinking, or thinking that all events have a purpose, is the result of a mind adapted for complex social interactions. Determining that an event has no purpose is a cognitive conclusion based on evidence. As an atheist myself I see nothing here that suggests atheists are mentally defective. On the contrary, it indicates that despite having brains hard wired to think that everything has been intentionally caused, atheists are able to override that instinct to see things as they really are. Hey man, science is on our side.

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  19. 19. Shiztearer 11:32 pm 06/4/2010

    Atheists like to think they understand new information without religious prejudice – jwolfe2 clearly debunks that belief. This article is not about religion, it’s about neurological processes. The way we think. Yes there are different ways of thinking. Not to value-add, but some people are retards, some are smart, and Aspis are a very rare breed perceived as both, which (like twins) are very useful for research purposes regarding the mind/society interface.

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  20. 20. zomgodless 11:50 pm 06/4/2010

    @ Robert Schmidt I understand what you are saying and the arguments presented supporting your interpretation. However, I happen to interpret what the author is saying differently. Ultimate point: She needs a clearer thesis and a better conclusion because there is a lot of confusion in what she is trying to say. My main qualm at this point is not with WHAT she is saying but HOW she is saying it.

    And I don’t think the quote is out of context. In my understanding of article. it is an appropriate example. I am not trying to misrepresent anything.

    In the future though, I would appreciate it if you didn’t say I was "paranoid" because I happened to interpret her article differently than you do.

    Next time, can you show me a little more respect? Thank you.

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  21. 21. jashbowie 4:02 am 06/5/2010

    Man, based on many of the responses here, both pro and con, people really hate it when science reveals things about themselves they don’t like. Looks, it’s simple: the idea of seeing purpose behind events is probably a function of our social mind, and this hypothesis is supported by data showing that people with impaired social cognition see less purpose. Yet again we see that supernatural belief is a byproduct of human psychology.

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  22. 22. morp 7:37 am 06/5/2010

    The conclusion of this article is right Asperged people has explanations for many things that dry people cannot explain,e.g. about molecules and atoms;Dry people says "There is no proof of the existence of God" and believe photons exist .Tere are many things that can be explained by the hypothesis of God e.g. creation, while no other hypothesis can explain the creation . Dry people believes in photons while light t is an electromagnetic wave. Who is impaired ,the asperged or the dry?

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  23. 23. jjg.denis.robert 8:09 am 06/5/2010

    To those who complain that the authors are linking Atheism with a disorder: I’m both an Atheist and an Aspie, and I can certainly vouch that what the authors claim is correct in my case.

    What is implied, in my view, is that neurotypical people have a deficiency in their ability to perceive correct causal relationships due to their social wiring. That deficiency is attenuated in Aspies, which makes them more likely to attempt to find proper causes to events.

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  24. 24. jjg.denis.robert 8:11 am 06/5/2010

    @morp: you make no sense, dude.

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  25. 25. jtdwyer 9:34 am 06/5/2010

    morp – Hey, I’m gettin’ it, man! Keep in mind though that the photon only exists when the wave energy of light is absorbed, collapsing its particle energy to a single location… Particles are dead.

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  26. 26. zorg2001 9:16 am 06/6/2010

    I think the point is that atheist neurotypical people give some value to the irrational beliefs of their peers, so they do consider theological explanations, before discarding it. So they consider God (because many people believe in It), but not the giant flying spaguetti monster (because no one believes in it), even if both theoritically deserve the same level attention (none).
    Meanwhile, aspies would only focus on their own logical deductions and not take into account what other people believe in. Since their observation of the world does not give any reason to consider a God or flying monster, they don’t think about it.
    Amazing to me that the ability for independent thinking should be described as an impairment.

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  27. 27. robert schmidt 9:44 am 06/6/2010

    @zorg2001, that is only one side of the coin. What isn’t discussed in this article is the ability of people with Asperger’s to determine the purpose of actions of other people. Non-teleological thinking isn’t a choice for them so perhaps they are unable to understand other people’s motivations. That would be an impairment.

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  28. 28. stray bullet 10:02 pm 06/6/2010

    So let me get this straight. A large percentage of scientists have undiagnosed Aspergers. I really don’t believe I’ve ever read such an illogical or unscientific statement associated with SciAM. Pray tell, how are undiagnosed percentages arrived at (in order for your answer to count the educated and guess cannot be in the same sentence.) I myself am an undiagnosed rich man. Now if only my creditors would believe me.

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  29. 29. jtdwyer 4:09 pm 06/7/2010

    stray bullet – Yeah, I was going to ask – if you’re so smart how come you’re not rich…

    You’re right, of course. I should have said a large percentage of people with undiagnosed Asperger’s are scientists. I’m going back to sleep now. Thanks for your help.

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  30. 30. jstahle 10:51 pm 06/8/2010

    This raises the question whether Asperger’s syndrome is a disease at all, or whether it may be the rest of the population who are suffering from a genetic defect.

    Who is ill cannot be decided by numbers as high IQ is rare – or is intelligence just a disease?

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  31. 31. jstahle 11:00 pm 06/8/2010

    "Tere are many things that can be explained by the hypothesis of God e.g. creation, while no other hypothesis can explain the creation "

    Which hypothesis explain the creation of supernatural deities?

    Which of the many deities is the word "God" referring to: Othin, Zeus, Ta’Aroa, Osiris, Khrisna, …?
    If you don’t believe in all of the 8,000+ deities, then you are an atheist.

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  32. 32. leewool 6:42 am 06/9/2010

    Thank God for Asperger’s. Ha ha. Maybe if they had let an aspi do the research they would have discovered that non-aspis were prone to magical thinking, psychology itself is a flawed pseudo-science, and that psychologists are on the lowest rung of educated intellect incapable of true scientific thought that waste a lot of time trying to prove the obvious.

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  33. 33. jkashir 7:49 am 06/9/2010

    Well….the argument that Aspergers Syndrome sufferers are more ‘grounded in reality’ is a good one….but one might also argue that those suffering from Aspergers (or other forms of Autism) cannot percieve or understand other viewpoints….thus, just because they dont feel the need for ‘spiritualism’ or a higher power may be that they are incapabale of understanding the concept of religon….whether religon is true or just the product of an over-active human imagination (which is programmed to find patterns and meaning behind the most minor of things) is slightly irrelavant do you not think?

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  34. 34. proudmummaatheist 11:22 pm 06/14/2010

    How is aspergers a disease? it is a social condtion that is it not a disease. That is what fundamental christians belive and that it is caused by mercury and or vaccines.
    It makes sense most with aspergers are generally based in reality more so than most people. Unlike people with a mental illness most people with aspergers are based in reality. Maybe people need to realise this. However new atheists are reactionary and fundamentalist atheists.

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  35. 35. e1ora 6:41 pm 06/20/2010

    Asperger’s is not a disease.

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  36. 36. e1ora 6:41 pm 06/20/2010

    Asperger’s is not a disease.

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  37. 37. World's Oldest Aspie 12:48 pm 06/30/2010

    Wow! They actually went to all of the trouble of interviewing 27 Aspies? What a struggle it must have been to find such a ginormous sample to work with! Perhaps they should also interview 34 religious people to counterbalance the 34 atheists.
    Not exactly what I would call true scientific method.
    The people at Nielsen or Gallup are probably ROFL.
    BTW, I am an Aspie, close to 75 years old, borderline genius level IQ scores, an RN, a retired US Army officer, and a devout Protestant. Heywood and Bering can count me as #28, but that would probably skew their alleged statistics.

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  38. 38. alotoralittlebit 10:18 pm 07/5/2010

    As a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I would prefer that she think rationally for herself, rather than subscribe to the ‘groupthink’ that I notice with people who associate themselves with organized religion. We steer clear from the pat answers that religions give to explain the mysteries of life and we encourage critical thinking. I also wonder why the "researchers" are even asking this question. It’s totally irrelevant in terms of theory of mind. I agree with previous posts – it’s another way to isolate a group of people who are already isolated. And, I am terrified about how the right-wing media in the U.S. could pervert this information.

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  39. 39. Lívia 5:27 pm 07/9/2010

    As long as people are unable to understand Asperger syndrome is NOT a disease, at least not in the sense the word "impaired" suggests, the conclusions about this article won’t change. "Impaired", in this case, is the easiest way to describe succintly, at the expense of accuracy, a condition that could be better understood simply as diferent.

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  40. 40. Lívia 5:27 pm 07/9/2010

    As long as people are unable to understand Asperger syndrome is NOT a disease, at least not in the sense the word "impaired" suggests, the conclusions about this article won’t change. "Impaired", in this case, is the easiest way to describe succintly, at the expense of accuracy, a condition that could be better understood simply as diferent.

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  41. 41. generationx 4:41 pm 07/18/2010

    So, people are mentally impaired when they attribute events to their correct causes, and not to some delusion of every event having intelligent intent behind them?

    Personally, I think the "Asperger’s disease" is actually a good step in a direction for evolution. Maybe the reason behind the lack of intuitiveness in social awareness is caused by those people being naturally less wild. They could probably become even better socializers than the "normal people" if they were to be taught and conditioned for it, similar to how a psychopath would learn in order to game people.

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  42. 42. AussieAspie 8:16 pm 07/31/2010

    I have Asperger’s. I fully support a persons’ right to believe in whatever they chose but, for me, religion is illogical and irrational. That said, I won’t force my beliefs on anyone else and I hope others will show me the same courtesy (great in theory!).

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  43. 43. Crios22 4:23 pm 11/19/2010

    Jeebus no nobel winners in the comments section.

    Why are people trying to figure out of the article is comparing religious people or athiests to people with aspergers when the article was clearly using the "matter of fact" aspergers thought process to show a distinction between the 3?

    Aspies are known to see everything from a very cut and dry matter of fact view point. They don’t see the bias.

    So far example:

    Religious peoples thought process – If I do the right thing good things will happen to me. If I wash my hands I will not get sick, unless its Gods will

    Aspergers – What happens to you is based on a calculatable or comprehensible string of events. You not getting sick is because you washed your hands enough. Or if you get sick its because you touched your eyeball in between contact with a virus and a hand washing.

    Athiest – Everything that happens is random, therefore if you reap bad things its not because of what you sowed. Therefore if I am sick, its not because I did a lousy job of washing my hands.

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  44. 44. psychtld 5:43 pm 01/24/2011

    Stupid statement and quite probably made by someone whose education and/or training doesn’t qualify her to make such a statement. Especially since the reality of the difficulties that Asperger-autistic people experience on a daily basis, trying to make some headway in this world, is an unassailable fact.

    I’m not impressed.

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  45. 45. psychtld 5:55 pm 01/24/2011

    Bit nasty, don’t you think?

    Or am I to infer that you DON’T think. Because, if you DID think, you might realise that your ‘preferred’ title is pretty damned offensive.

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  46. 46. psychtld 6:06 pm 01/24/2011

    "Perhaps you are just too close to the problem to understand it. Maybe only people without Asperger’s are capable of understanding it."

    Wrong. I think that the problem is that – in order for Asperger syndrome to be understood – there has to be a dialogue between the researcher and the person whose experience of living is being researched. To assume that only the Asperger-autistic can understand that experience is at least akin to being an ethnocentrism expressed from within a culture, and to assume that only a non-autistic person can understand the autistic person’s experience is just as much of an ethnocentrism … from outwith the culture. Either way, the information obtainable by either approach is seriously limited: it requires dialogue. The second way of ‘understanding autism’ is no different from the approaches used by early anthropologists who studied ‘primitive cultures’ without reference to the cultures (and those who themselves practised those cultures). The first one is no different from that way of thinking that is classified as group-think. Indeed, it is likely to lead to group polarities when one in-group member disagrees with another in-group member and seeks to out-group that dissenting member. Neither is useful. Both are wrong.

    Dialogue. No substitute for dialogue. No dialogue means no understanding.

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  47. 47. psychtld 6:32 pm 01/24/2011

    "Keep in mind though that the photon only exists when the wave energy of light is absorbed, collapsing its particle energy to a single location… Particles are dead."

    What?!

    In physics terms, that make no sense at all! Everything has wave-particle duality but, for things of every-day experience size (a ball, or a potato or whatever), the effects of size on the calculations lead to a phenomenon known as classical limiting… measurement error, á là Heisenberg, gives the appearance of a non-quantised continuum of values for things. So, a human being could be modelled as both particle and localised wave-packet (which is what a photon is). Neither photon nor particle is dead.

    Regarding the existence of photons: your assertion is so off the scale that it isn’t even right enough to be deemed wrong! Assuming a sub-atomic particle hitting a target with a given energy, E, and that energy being absorbed by the material of the target; in any collision between the incoming particle and any of the electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom, a photon is release of an energy equivalent to that of the impinging particle… minus any energy absorbed by the atom’s electron complement, and this would include that absorbed into any recoil electron ejected from the atom’s electron system. So your assertion that "… the photon only exists when the wave energy of light is absorbed … " is in fact wrong.

    Your assertion of a photon "… collapsing its particle energy to a single location … " is entirely nonsensical: a photon, by definition, has no particle energy. It is a photon: a localised wave-packet that propagates from a source under an excited condition. It contains a fundamental frequency wave, with harmonics superimposed upon it. These waves combine to form a single wave-packet, whose propagation happens in space and time, and – as such – has no single location in space and time. Its position is spread over the distance between the first detectable ‘wobble’ to its last detectable ‘wobble’. So its position is not knowable exactly. Were it to be modelled as a particle, it would fall foul of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle if one were to try to determine its position whilst knowing its momentum. This means that its position would – as a particle – suffer the same problem that the photon suffers under a wave-mechanical approach to determination.

    Your statement that ‘particles are dead’ is just complete and utter bollocks.

    Do you always expound on topics about which you evidently know next to nothing?!

    Link to this
  48. 48. farohhh 1:56 am 07/3/2011

    take another read with your thinking cap on this time kid!

    Link to this
  49. 49. farohhh 2:01 am 07/3/2011

    They should have a disorder named after people from "Toronto", you fall right into the stereotype of Torontonians always communicating off the top of their heads without any knowledge behind their thoughts, while believing everything that comes to their mind is valuable—head up your anus syndrome!
    Your comment is not even relevant to this messed up article, it’s a bird of a different feather. You’re not superior in any way by bringing up an argument nobody has brought up yet, we didn’t for a damn good reason!

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  50. 50. farohhh 2:12 am 07/3/2011

    You are an idiot and I don’t believe you have ever worked with people with aspergers! Although we find topics far more interesting then dealing with ignorant people such as yourself we are still plenty capable of seeing the forest for it’s trees when necessary to make judgement. We are overloaded with info, that is true and decision making is more strained because of it, that is because life in real terms is complicated, unlike you(obviously) who can follow a set of predetermined rules and make the decisions that have been made for you many times before.
    See how nicely stereotyping can work(ask the author for more advice on it), either way! You do not interact with people with AS, you have merely read/heard and are re-communicating a bunch of stereotype behaviors, of which those few that may be true are grossly misunderstood!

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  51. 51. Dude123 3:02 pm 09/19/2011

    I don’t like the way this article or the survey presumes that theological thinking is a beneficial asset, when it so clearly harms humanity in general. Theological thinking is something that is passed on by society and your parents, like with violence as a means of discipline – that doesn’t mean it’s beneficial, or that it is healthy for it to be part of your frame of mind.

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  52. 52. reishi9154 6:53 pm 10/21/2011

    Hmm, so I am trying to understand what is being proposed in this article. You are saying that people with AS are likely to just say what happened as in “The tires fell off my bike because I didn’t put enough air in them” instead of “It was meant to happen” or “It was a sign I wasn’t supposed to be riding that day,” to give one example?

    I would say that is largely true based on the Aspies I know and the fact that I am one. On the other hand, I do try to assign meaning to things when I can. For example there is an event tomorrow that I was looking forward to that I will not be able to go to , so I am rationalizing that I might not have enjoyed it anyway, didn’t want to get up early anyway. Although there might be a difference between that sort of rationalization and assigning meaning, I really don’t know. I do think if something bad happened to me I would try to come up with a meaning for it, rather than accept it as face value. Not a religious meaning, but a meaning. I do not know if that flies in the face of this article’s proposals or not.
    By the way, If anyone reading this has a loved one with AS and is looking for support resources, I am reminded of this site I found the other night. http://www.aspergerssociety.org/articles/support.htm

    Keep up the good work and the thought provoking articles.

    Link to this
  53. 53. nullnvoid 5:59 pm 09/9/2013

    I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned that the teleological thinking Atheist will suffer cognitive dissonance and try to rationalize away the cause. In essence he denies his own senses by process of rationalization. One would expect to see vehement denials of the existence of God or other seemingly irrational causes (even what is beyond rational) when one considers the psychological need to minimize dissonance.

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  54. 54. rexwild 11:31 am 01/18/2014

    Wow! My challenge to neurotypicals is, “If you want to understand Aspergers, ask someone who is an Asperger.” We’re here, we’re everywhere. We think, we reason, we observe, and yes many of us are quite intelligent and capable of describing the workings of our minds and emotions and our reactions to the natural environment vs. the manmade social environment. ASK AN ASPIE! And by the way, not invoking supernatural beings as the cause of everything (magical thinking) doesn’t mean we don’t find meaning in the events of our lives. How silly to conclude that only socially acceptable delusions can confer meaning! We think literally, and guess what? We live in a literal universe.

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  55. 55. Brain1 3:45 am 04/16/2014

    You dont use “magical thinking” ?
    Tell me what you would call the Universe popping out of nothing and designing itself or as is in vogue now…the Magical Infinite Everything maker machine that just happens to create the very thing we need…Universes, to explain the fine tuning.

    I wish people could actually hear themselves.

    Btw..I have an autistic son who was intially diagnosed with aspergers. He’s very intelligent, as is my entire family line. He does have a deficiency of not detecting purpose, he’s socially awkward and would fit in perfect in science club.
    But he has a heart. He wanted to know God and as with anyone who seeks with love, he has found Christ. So its not as if God has abandoned these people. Understand this…this is not a question of intellect. There are 2 billion christians and many more throughout the centuries and there are many who are not. Many believe in a god, but its just them on the throne..a god that agrees with their worldview.
    These people are essentially no different than the aspergers man who sees no god. The result is the same. So while seeing no purpose may lead you to mock God…the same result will occur for the man who sees purpose but worships a Klingon god.
    One thing is beyond question. It is normal to come to the determination that God created and designed the universe and our impossibly complex consciousness. To suggest the entire human race engages in magical thinking but you are so superior that you do not is why the world shuns atheists. Normal humans use logic and we have determined that a Universe this complex could not have occured by random chance but also we Christians have turned to God and he has confirmed our choice in our thoughts.
    We know there are all sorts psychological tricks people play, like reasoning the whole world must be stupid and no one smart disagrees with you but….boy…believing that is so far past the lunacy you attribute to us.

    Link to this

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