Little philosopher

Girls with Asperger’s syndrome can sound like ‘little philosophers’, with an ability to think deeply about social situations.” Tony Attwood, “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome”

I have a strong interest in human. I am not talking about social interaction. I am referring to the observation and study of human behaviour. I think I reflect upon people’s behaviour and reaction to the point of obsession. Human beings fascinate me, as much as they disconcert me. It troubles me that I spend so much time trying to decipher their behaviour which brings me nowhere closer the truth. It never occurred to me that this could be an Asperger trait until I came across the description below, written by the late Dr. Lorna Wing in her foreward to Professor Tony Attwood’s “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals”:

“People with Asperger’s Syndrome perceive the world differently from everyone else. They find the rest of us strange and baffling. Why don’t we say what we mean? Why do we say so many things we don’t mean? Why do we so often make trivial remarks that mean nothing at all?”

People with AS baffle me just as much as their neurotypical (NT) counterparts, not because of their autistic tendencies but because they are just as equally humans. Sometimes I even wonder if individuals with AS are aware that because the spectrum is so diverse, what they say may sometimes appear contradictory, for eg. people with AS value their personal space but some are known for standing too close to another person due to their poor sense of space, or when a quiet Aspie meets a chatty Aspie who has difficulty understanding social cues and just can’t stop talking, that might not end up well either. It is not just NT but people with AS too, who need to be aware of the different range of behaviours within the autism spectrum.

I am offended by inconsideration, rudeness, arrogance, the vice of human nature and bear a grudge when being treated unjustly. I wish my skin were thicker and my heart more generous then I wouldn’t feel offended so easily. I was once treated with skepticism by an acquaintance who questioned that I took a long time to answer a simple question. I am bittered that my mind wasn’t quick enough to respond to the challenge but I doubt people who think so highly of themselves possess the mind and sophistication to think about others.

“People with ASD, and their carers, think about things that most of us take for granted…some questions that people with an ASD ask go deeply to the heart of many philosophical questions…Clinicians who try to grapple with the questions that a person with ASD puts to them, if they are able to empathise with the emotional intensity that lies behind these questions, will find themselves having to question their own values and life equally carefully.” Digby Tantum, “Autism Spectrum Disorders Through the Life Span”

Humans are intriguingly annoying (or is it annoyingly intriguing?). My interest in the study of human psychology pre-dates my knowledge of autism. Very early on at school, I find girls to be unpredictable and two-faced. My passion for law was out of a sense of social justice as much as the human interest. In the field of psychology, I have an interest in the study of human behaviour in social and organisational context such as compliance and conformity. I would find it interesting to see if people with AS would react any differently to their NT counterparts. I also enjoy reading about how people make decisions, such as behavioural economics and cognitive biases, which provide a glimpse into the (ir)rationality of human behaviour. Not to mention that I have a personal interest in the study of the autism spectrum and related areas, which covers pretty much all areas of psychology.

Thinking why about people is perhaps my biggest obsession in life. What are they thinking? Do they mean what they say? These are questions in my head that I never say out loud, thinking most people are probably just going to shrug it off and knowing fairly well that they are just my personal obsession. I know it sounds ludicrous to try to find an explanation or meaning to everything but I like to be able to put a name to a behaviour. I think if I know the cause of a behaviour, I can make peace with it, life would make more sense. I wonder if I would still be as interested in the study of human psychology were I to live a reclusive life disconnected from the society?



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