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From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, December 21, 2001 12:26 AM
Subject: Re: (||Universe) FW: Fwd: The Geek Syndrome
At 10:09 PM 12/20/2001 +0800, you wrote:
>I forward the message below from the Extropian discussion group with
>permission. When replying, please indicate so if you will like
>to allow me to forward the message to the Extropian discussion group. You
>can also optionally CC a copy to the person (but not to
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Eric, you may forward this reply to the Extropians if you wish to.
>I'm not claiming that the test is bogus (after all, I scored high, maybe I
>really am abnormal along with the other 95% of the population), but I
>would like to hear some informed feedback on how people think the test
>stands up against a rigorous logical dissection. What kind of delusion
>does someone need to score high or low, and be placed in the wrong
>category by this test? (Heck, maybe even asking this question puts me in
>the "autistic" category, but if that's true, humanity is in serious need
>of more autistic people.)
>Someday psychologists will discover that there is no normal. Then it's a
>not-so-simple matter of letting the rest of the world know.
I had some of the same questions about this test that you had. I've also
considered the question of "normal" very seriously for two years, and I've
come to the opposite conclusion: there is a normal, and understanding it
is important. The concept of normal is somewhat like the concept of
"alive." The many living things have little in common with each other, but
they have a bond of sameness also in that they divide cells, eat, and
respirate. Normal people range in personality over a wide spectrum, but
there are a few things they have in common that make them, if not normal,
NT. I've found that manic-depressives are most often NT, though no one
would want to call them exactly normal. So refining normal to NT, here are
some thoughts on what it is and how to recognize it.
First, you're right about the shallowness of this test. I thought it
focused too much on externals, and yet depended on the subject's ability to
know how he is different from other people. It also expects a level of
generalization, for example, what is a "party"? I can think of some
parties I'd flee, and others I'd pay a lot to attend. The library makes me
tired, and if I don't have a book I need, I'd rather stay home. The
question assumes an ability or willingness to look past these particulars
and conjure up a generic "party" at which people stand about with social
drinks, laugh a lot, and tell little stories. I've been to very few of
those, how about you? I have only a dim picture of that sort of
thing. Since I know this is what they are asking for, I'd reply, in
default, the library. But it's not really accurate, because I like to be
with people if I can be sure of myself and not fatigued.
Most of the other questions had similar problems embedded. I thought that
it was portraying a rather simple stereotype of a person on the autistic
spectrum, and then asking questions designed to find YES or NO answers
about these "typical" traits. Because its aim was so obvious, it lost
value in my eyes. It is only a bit more insightful than the
career-choosing test I got in high school, that had question as obvious as
"do you enjoy mixing cement" and "do you like taking care of sick people"?
But don't be fooled, NT is not an artificial construct. You are correct
when you wonder if raising questions like this means that you are
automatically not NT. I know of some NTs who would question the test
itself very sharply, but they would never question the value of
"normal." They know innately what "normal" is, and they are afraid of its
opposite. Questioning "normal" is done only by autistics, and some parents
of autistic children who deal with their discomfort/sadness by claiming
that no one is normal.
A listmember here once said, the essence of being autistic is feeling
alone. To turn that around, the essence of being NT is feeling part of a
group. They feel this, they don't have rules for it. The rules come about
because of what they feel, rather than the other way.
There are NTs who don't like to go to parties, and there are some who don't
follow fashion, or who like to study. None of these traits is "owned" by
autism, which is why stereotypes are only partly useful. But shy and quiet
NTs will still have some one person they feel part-of-a-group with, or they
will take quiet enjoyment out of being in a group setting and just feeling
it. If they don't follow fashion, it's for some reason, like lack of
money, or being part of a group that does not follow fashion, or just not
being interested. NTs range widely over a personality spectrum. However,
all of them will have an innate sense of how clothing relates to a
group. They will be able to read clothing signals and feel the right to
interpret "messages" being sent by apparel.
My NT sister tells me that NTs have some common traits such as, they don't
like direct communication. They only permit direct corrective
communication with those they admit as superiors (father; boss; priest) or
else their closest friends, with whom they will exercise the same right in
return. Because of this, they have a set of practices (innately) that
communicate indirectly what they won't say directly. If a person at a
party is saying something wrong, no one will correct that person, but they
will have different facial expressions, or will walk away, or turn their
bodies away. The NT transgressor is expected to pick this up and alter his
own behavior. Failure to do so is interpreted as intentional offense.
They use these means so much, that everything comes to seem intentional. I
commented to my NT sister that my husband's personal dress code was out of
line, and I wondered what everyone would think. She said they would think
he was trying to change the group dress code. I was surprised; all I had
in mind was that they would think he was ignorant or gauche. I am reminded
of a boy I knew in college who dressed as a Hippie, which I took to be how
his family dressed, or something--just his personal choice. He told me
later that he overheard someone commenting that he dressed as a hippie to
try to come and change things and make everyone think something or
other. I would never dream of interpreting him with such intentionality;
to me, it was his natural tree bark or fur.
The innate sense of being part of things, of adjusting without being taught
rules, and the tendency to interpret non-verbal details as intentional
communication, are the essence of being NT. This is what all the NT
personalities have in common, and what even the slightest autistics do not do.
The test's main flaw in my opinion was to miss this, and to pick it up only
in externals that are open to misinterpretation, like the party/library choice.
My own contention is that autistic traits can be grouped in seven
categories: interpersonal connectedness; perseveration; emotional output;
splinter skills; neuro/sensory; motor-skills; language. Differences in
these categories define autism whether it's LFA, AS, or the mildest "geek"
syndrome someone wants to detect. If the supposed "geek" has
interconnectedness with other geeks, and gets good grades across the board,
and can change the subject easily even in his own mind, then the "geek" is
just a "geek." On the other hand, my skateboarding son, who does not look
or act like a computer nerd, checks out autistic in all of these categories
(though he'll argue that he's okay on motor skills now).
Shallow stereotypes are really not the way to pick this up accurately.
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