Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anthropology of the alien mind

As a neurotypical [1] parent of an atypical mind I often feel like a human anthropologist visiting an alien world. Sometimes I imagine I can understand #1's thinking, and sometimes I know I can't.

I know he has an IQ less than half of what I once had [2], but often he has insights I miss. He solves the world in a different way; usually a much inferior way, but sometimes his methods are better.

He can't explain them though; he can't translate his inner states and reasonings to verbal form, or even to an internal model of himself [3]. He can't tell me why he suddenly won't go to hockey practice because he doesn't know himself.

Perhaps he saw something disturbing on the long and twisty road to the distant arena. Maybe it's a joint practice, and there's someone on another team he wants to avoid. Maybe he's feeling anxious, and he wants to know that his father will enforce the rules and consequences he relies on. Rules he is, as yet, unable to internalize.

When the rules are applied, not for missing a practice, but for breaking a promise [4], he is not angry or sad. He is cheerful. He seems relieved. His guard rails are intact.

I am training for First Contact.

[1] More or less: What if we could see the diversity of minds?
[2] As I age we may yet converge!
[3] Arguably neither can "we", cognitive research has shown many of the mental-state stories we tell ourselves are false. They are often post-hoc explanations with little relationship to how we think.
[4] Hockey is important for many reasons, but most of all as a safe lab in which to learn the rules of adult life and of employment. 

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