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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mind Modelling

I've been giving some thought to why Aspies (people with Asperger
Syndrome) have so much difficulty with carrying on conversations.

I suspect part of the process of understanding conversation is an
unconscious modelling of the behavior of the other participant. I think
one instinctively creates a "mental model" of the behavior of the other
person, based on past experience and on one's own behaviors, and uses that
to project what the other person is likely to say or ask next.

Since much of the side channel content, body language and eye contact and
tone of voice, is lost on us, and since we haven't understood previous
conversations much and our previous models were broken, our current models
are also faulty.

So while an NT would have a pretty good idea what the next question would
be and what the next answer needs to be, an Aspie guesses wrong most of
the time, and then has to spend time designing a strategy to respond to
the unexpected question or comment, and the model gets more fouled up.
This in turn creates more stresses in the conversation, which makes things
go more pear-shaped, if you will. Even if we eventually figure out what's
going on, the delays in response create a thoroughly fouled-up
conversation.

For a number of reasons (e.g. "Theory of Mind") I leave as an Exercise For
The Reader, we tend to stick by our models, even though they fail time
after time. So if all else is equal, we fail repeatedly.

With a sufficiently patient NT conversant, it can work. But patience is
hard to come by, dealing with people who find the process relatively easy.

Anyway, that might be part of what's happening.

--
Grizzly <grizzly at grizzly.podzone.org>
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Some Weird Guy Whining About His Problems

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