The lack of demonstrated empathy is possibly the most dysfunctional aspect of Asperger syndrome. Individuals with AS experience difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, which may include a failure to develop friendships or to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others (for example, showing others objects of interest), a lack of social or emotional reciprocity, and impaired nonverbal behaviors in areas such as eye contact, facial expression, posture, and gesture.
Unlike those with autism, people with AS are not usually withdrawn around others; they approach others, even if awkwardly. For example, a person with AS may engage in a one-sided, long-winded speech about a favorite topic, while misunderstanding or not recognizing the listener's feelings or reactions, such as a need for privacy or haste to leave. This social awkwardness has been called "active but odd". This failure to react appropriately to social interaction may appear as disregard for other people's feelings, and may come across as insensitive. ... Childhood desire for companionship can become numbed through a history of failed social encounters.
Although individuals with Asperger syndrome acquire language skills without significant general delay and their speech typically lacks significant abnormalities, language acquisition and use is often atypical. Abnormalities include verbosity, abrupt transitions, literal interpretations and miscomprehension of nuance, use of metaphor meaningful only to the speaker, auditory perception deficits, unusually pedantic, formal or idiosyncratic speech, and oddities in loudness, pitch, intonation, prosody, and rhythm ... the conversational style often includes monologues about topics that bore the listener, fails to provide context for comments, or fails to suppress internal thoughts. Individuals with AS may fail to monitor whether the listener is interested or engaged in the conversation. ...
It's like I'm reading about myself! Who's been spying on me?
Here, I said to Izgad,
You also mention your speaking in a "string of association fashion". Have you ever heard someone say something, and then that reminds you of something, and then that in turn reminds you of something, and then that reminds you of yet something else, and finally, you verbalize that last thought, and everyone looks at you like you're crazy for speaking non-sequiturs? (This whole process takes only a split second.) And then you explain to them the entire mental train of thought that lead to what you eventually said out loud?He in turn directed me to Cambridge's Autism Research Centre's Autism-Spectrum Quotient test.
Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge's Autism Research Centre have created the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, as a measure of the extent of autistic traits in adults. In the first major trial using the test, the average score in the control group was 16.4. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher. The test is not a means for making a diagnosis, however, and many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger's report no difficulty functioning in their everyday lives.
*** Update: Izgad has posted an interesting reply to this present post. His first paragraph is especially relevant:
From the moment I started reading Michael Makovi's blog, I suspected that he had Asperger syndrome. This was someone who wrote about theory and was willing to follow theory to its practical implications without concern with making friends. His focus on political theory, particularly within the context of the minutia of early modern history, as opposed to practical policy could not simply be a coincidence. This was someone who did not fit into the obvious political and religious categories and who clearly formulated his view of the world from reading and not from some social group. Once he started talking about his failures with women, I was convinced. So I asked him if he was familiar with Asperger syndrome and pointed him to the Simon Baron Cohen quiz. Makovi has now posted his results. Normal people usually score a sixteen. People on the spectrum usually score above thirty. Makovi scored a 37. I would like to hereby welcome him to the club. I take this as a testament to my ever increasing power to infect people with Asperger syndrome. I usually have to bite people, I guess now I can infect people through a blogospheric evil eye. Mothers lock up your children and be afraid; I am autism and I am dangerous.
Here is the quiz, with my answers:
1. I prefer to do things with others rather than on my own. --> Strongly disagree. I'm VERY individualistic.
2. I prefer to do things the same way over and over again. --> Slightly disagree. I of course prefer consistency, but I like to think I'm creative enough not to meet Einstein's definition of insanity, viz. doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.
3. If I try to imagine something, I find it very easy to create a picture in my mind. --> Strongly disagree. I'm very poor at conjuring mental images of things.
4. I frequently get so strongly absorbed in one thing that I lose sight of other things. --> YES!!! Strongly agree. This is the story of my life!
5. I often notice small sounds when others do not. --> YES!!! Again, story of my life; strongly agree.
6. I usually notice car number plates or similar strings of information. --> Strongly disagree. I've never noticed any personal inclination or predilection for things numbered.
7. Other people frequently tell me that what I've said is impolite, even though I think it is polite. ---> Strongly disagree. I've been told that I'm very polite and respectful (especially by those several decades older than me), except when I'm talking about aharonim :P.
8 When I'm reading a story, I can easily imagine what the characters might look like. ---> Are you kidding? You can give me a page-long physical description, and I still cannot imagine their appearance! Strongly disagree.
9. I am fascinated by dates. ---> Strongly disagree. When I study history, I find that I remember the events and basic trends and the basic order of progression far better than I do their precise dates.
10. In a social group, I can easily keep track of several different people's conversations. ---> Strongly agree. My family is known for having conversations with several branching tangential conversations; as soon as one branch is concluded, we backtrack to the previous branch, like in a computer science tree, until all the branches have been exhausted.
11. I find social situations easy. ---> Strongly disagree.
12. I tend to notice details that others do not. --> It depends. I notice obscure technical details and facts, but I don't notice things like people's clothing or their emotions. So I didn't know what to answer. I just chose "somewhat agree". I would have preferred, "no opinion".
13. I would rather go to a library than to a party. ---> Strongly agree.
14. I find making up stories easy. ---> Ha! I couldn't write a fiction-piece or tell a lie to save my life. Strongly disagree.
15. I find myself drawn more strongly to people than to things. ---> Strongly disagree. Give me more books!
16. I tend to have very strong interests, which I get upset about if I can't pursue. ---> Strongly agree.
17 I enjoy social chitchat. ---> Strongly disagree.
18. When I talk, it isn't always easy for others to get a word in edgewise. ---> Strongly agree.
19 I am fascinated by numbers. ---> Strongly disagree (see 6 and 9 above).
20 When I'm reading a story, I find it difficult to work out the characters' intentions. ---> Yes!!! Yes!!! I'm horrible at anything involving sensitive emotions or conspiracies. I'm too socially inept and emotionally-blind to notice the former, and too openly honest and blunt to comprehend the latter. I won't notice characters' intentions in stories unless they hit me over the head with a shillelagh. Strongly agree.
21. I don't particularly enjoy reading fiction. ---> Strongly agree.
22. I find it hard to make new friends. ---> Strongly agree.
23. I notice patterns in things all the time. ---> It depends (see 12 above). Since I answer "somewhat agree" to 12, I answered "somewhat disagree" here, to balance it out. I would have preferred to answer "no opinion" to both.
24. I would rather go to the theater than to a museum. ---> Strongly disagree.
25. It does not upset me if my daily routine is disturbed. ---> Strongly disagree.
26. I frequently find that I don't know how to keep a conversation going. ---> Strongly agree.
27. I find it easy to 'read between the lines' when someone is talking to me. ---> Strongly disagree (see 20 above).
28 I usually concentrate more on the whole picture, rather than on the small details. ---> It depends; are we talking about people's emotions, or the details of how Calvinist and Locke-ian politics converged? Cf. 12 and 23. I just answered "somewhat disagree".
29. I am not very good at remembering phone numbers. ---> Strongly agree. Again, I don't like numbers or dates.
30. I don't usually notice small changes in a situation or a person's appearance. ---> ROFL! I dated a young woman once, and she said, "Somehow, I don't think you'd ever notice what anyone is wearing, ever." Strongly agree.
31. I know how to tell if someone listening to me is getting bored. ---> Strongly disagree.
32. I find it easy to do more than one thing at once. ---> Somewhat agree. I do multitask a lot, so I guess... I'm really not sure, though.
33. When I talk on the phone, I'm not sure when it's my turn to speak. ---> Strongly agree. I cut people off all the time, because I cannot see their mouth, and so I cannot see when they're finished talking.
34. I enjoy doing things spontaneously. ---> I prefer routine, but I can be spontaneous when a sudden flash of insight hits me, at which point I'll forget about everything else, including food. I didn't know what to answer, so I just answered "somewhat agree".
35. I am often the last to understand the point of a joke. ---> Somewhat agree. I understand most jokes, but not as well as most people, especially when they rely on subtle aspects of human nature or society. Plus, sexual jokes are incomprehensible to me.
36. I find it easy to work out what someone is thinking or feeling just by looking at their face. ---> ROFL! You must be kidding! I may as well look at a brick wall, for all the good it'll do me. Strongly disagree.
37. If there is an interruption, I can switch back to what I was doing very quickly. ---> Not only do I switch back quickly, but until I switch back, I get frustrated and angry. If you see me in the middle of concentration, and try talking to me, I'll snap back in anger, before I realize what's going on. Then, when I calm down and finish helping you, I'll immediately get back to what I was doing before. Strongly agree.
38. I am good at social chitchat. ---> You must be joking. Strongly disagree.
39. People often tell me that I keep going on and on about the same thing. ---> All the time!!! Story of my life! Strongly agree.
40 When I was young, I used to enjoy playing games involving pretending with other children. ---> No opinion, so I just answered, "somewhat disagree".
41. I like to collect information about categories of things (e.g., types of cars, birds, trains, plants). ---> Oh yeah. Strongly agree.
42. I find it difficult to imagine what it would be like to be someone else. ---> I can imagine wearing T-51b power armor and wielding a laser rifle, but not much beyond that. Strongly agree.
43. I like to carefully plan any activities I participate in. ---> Strongly agree. I like consistency and order and predictability.
44. I enjoy social occasions. ---> It depends, so I just answered, "somewhat disagree". If the people there are a few decades older than me, or if they are nerdy, I'll enjoy it. But if they're not older than me and if they're not nerds, then I won't enjoy it. I have very carefully phrased myself: given that "A" is "a few decades older than me" and "B" is "nerdy", then:
IF A OR B THEN YES
The negation of that (in which case the answer is no), according to computer science logic, is: NOT (IF A OR B), which in turn becomes IF NOT A AND IF NOT B. That is, the "or" must become an "and". It is very common to make a mistake in this.
45. I find it difficult to work out people's intentions. ---> Strongly agree.
46. New situations make me anxious. ---> Somewhat agree. It depends on whether I expect older people and/or nerds to be there.
47. I enjoy meeting new people. ---> Somewhat disagree; it depends on whether I expect older people and/or nerds to be there.
48. I am a good diplomat. ---> Strongly disagree.
49. I am not very good at remembering people's date of birth. ---> Strongly agree; remember, I don't like numbers.
50. I find it very easy to play games with children that involve pretending. ---> I have no idea, so I answered, "somewhat disagree".
In the first major trial using the test, the average score in the control group was 16.4. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher.However,
The test is not a means for making a diagnosis, however, and many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger's report no difficulty functioning in their everyday lives.