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Old 03-11-2007, 11:12 PM   #1
David Sklansky
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Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

What I am about to say is something that I believe most psychologists who study the subject agree with. But it is less well known among the general public. It has to do with why some science minded people and those who have a mild form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, sometimes seem socially inept. It isn't because they are incapable of changing. It is because many of the little things that dumber people do in social situations are obviously ridiculous. Obvious to them that is. Saying "God bless you", offering High Fives, asking "what's up" or "how are you" (when you obviously don't really care). Going crazy when ten strangers at your college win a basketball game.

Now I'm not talking about those poor souls who rarely shower, wear two different shoes, forget to zip up their fly or stuff like that. They miss those skills that are logical and obvious. But many of the more subtle skills are more likely to be found in the less intelligent because it is easier for them to not notice how silly or artificial a certain accepted mode of behavior is.

When I was in fifth grade I was berated for wearing pants with cuffs as they were "out" that year. I will never forget how angry that made me since it was clear that there was no intrinsic reason to wear cuffs or no cuffs except for what some irrelevant person decided was in. Likewise for most of the more trivial (but highly noticed) social skills. Especially those that guys use to attract young girls. Most people just accept them and make them a habit without dissecting them in their mind. Highly intelligent math types can't do that. They recognize how silly those little rituals are whether they want to or not. Others find it easier to suspend disbelief.

Now I understand that SOME rituals are helpful to grease conversations and avoid uncomfortable situations. Math geniuses realize this too. But that doesn't stop them from feeling a bit silly when they use them. Much sillier than the average Joe. On the other hand it is important to understand that the majority of math geniuses can learn these silly rituals if they find it imperative to do so. And get better at them than most who don't know math. Just
like almost everything else.
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Old 03-11-2007, 11:30 PM   #2
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

I was talking to a maths professor a few days ago who had been very irritated by a student who sent him an email and ended it 'god bless'.

not sure what's wrong with unmatching shoes - do you just mean functional differences or do you feel strongly about socks as well?

god bless

chez
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Old 03-11-2007, 11:39 PM   #3
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

I have some questions that I'd hope you'd answer that are related to this. I know it's not completely on topic, but I'd appreciate your input on this even though they are semi axiom questions.

Which do you find harder to cope with socially?

Having to lie, or the truth being unacceptable VS Telling the truth but being in an akward social situation.

Pretending you care when you don't VS Being rude or an ass.

Being wrong but being well liked VS Being disliked but being correct.


These three spots plague me constantly in social situations and I have trouble justifying doing the more socially accepted option a lot of the time. I know you must be put in these spots all the time and I wonder how you deal with them.


example: Someone explaining something that is obviously incorrect and obvious immediately, yet you need to fake that his opinion could be valid, and need to stand there listening to what you know is garbage without rolling your eyes.
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Old 03-12-2007, 12:07 AM   #4
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

Very insightful. I'm mathematically adept, and I agree completely.
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Old 03-12-2007, 12:15 AM   #5
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

What happens when you put a group of people that all have math talent, Asperger's Syndrome together? Is it the math skill that makes them socially inept or just that they are different from others they normally interact with?
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Old 03-12-2007, 12:19 AM   #6
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

i guess one of the things self-described math geniuses can't do well is construct valid arguments or accurately report those of the scientific community.

just as there is no 'intrinsic' reason to wear cuffs or no cuffs, so too is there no 'intrinsic' reason why social conventions are ridiculous or silly and thus worthy of contempt. viewed objectively they are value-neutral. if someone chooses to do something it is because: a) they value it for its own sake, or; b) they realise it will aid in the pursuance of a long-term goal that does have inherent value (social status, wealth, maintenace or improvement of health etc.). math geniuses who choose not to observe social conventions either don't care about them, don't have long-term goals that require them, or as is almost always the case with those afflicted with the various forms of autism, they have perceptual biases that do not allow them to even become aware of them in the first place.

it's really that simple. you cannot argue that bathing is more 'logical' than saying 'god bless you' when someone sneezes. actions are initiated to solve a self-generated problem. if someone's programming is such that they assign zero value to personal hygiene or the goals it will allow them to successfully pursue, either because they don't notice or because their prefrontal cortex doesn't allow them to see those higher-order relationships, then they have no reason to bathe. actions are predicated on internal value schema. no value, no action.
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Old 03-12-2007, 12:28 AM   #7
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

they'll ignore each other. part of their brain doesn't work properly and they do not naturally observe facial expressions or body language, thus missing out on the natural cues humans use to create and build rapport w/members of their group.

it isn't a long-term planning problem. because of some malfunction, highly maladaptive until just a few centuries ago, the evaluative circuitry underlying attentional direction and focus does not 'force' them to clue in to what most of us do naturally. it's likely a spectrum disorder - less functional mirror neurons or less connections b/n them and other parts of the brain (or some conceptual analogue of this description) is the supposed cause.
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Old 03-12-2007, 12:32 AM   #8
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

Quote:
When I was in fifth grade I was berated for wearing pants with cuffs as they were "out" that year.
Grade 5!?

Man even when I was in grade 9 I didn't care what clothing I wore and I don't ever remember anyone giving me a hard time about it. Were you in a rich kid school or something? In grade 5 every pair of pants I wore had holes in the knees or they had patches because of holes. Sometimes patches with holes in them!

I really find this hard to beleive. You felt shame about your style in grade 5? There is no way the other kids that age gave you a hard time it must have been older kids saying that to you just in jest.
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Old 03-12-2007, 12:40 AM   #9
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

Quote:
What I am about to say is something that I believe most psychologists who study the subject agree with. But it is less well known among the general public. It has to do with why some science minded people and those who have a mild form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, sometimes seem socially inept. It isn't because they are incapable of changing. It is because many of the little things that dumber people do in social situations are obviously ridiculous. Obvious to them that is. Saying "God bless you", offering High Fives, asking "what's up" or "how are you" (when you obviously don't really care). Going crazy when ten strangers at your college win a basketball game.

Now I'm not talking about those poor souls who rarely shower, wear two different shoes, forget to zip up their fly or stuff like that. They miss those skills that are logical and obvious. But many of the more subtle skills are more likely to be found in the less intelligent because it is easier for them to not notice how silly or artificial a certain accepted mode of behavior is.

When I was in fifth grade I was berated for wearing pants with cuffs as they were "out" that year. I will never forget how angry that made me since it was clear that there was no intrinsic reason to wear cuffs or no cuffs except for what some irrelevant person decided was in. Likewise for most of the more trivial (but highly noticed) social skills. Especially those that guys use to attract young girls. Most people just accept them and make them a habit without dissecting them in their mind. Highly intelligent math types can't do that. They recognize how silly those little rituals are whether they want to or not. Others find it easier to suspend disbelief.

Now I understand that SOME rituals are helpful to grease conversations and avoid uncomfortable situations. Math geniuses realize this too. But that doesn't stop them from feeling a bit silly when they use them. Much sillier than the average Joe. On the other hand it is important to understand that the majority of math geniuses can learn these silly rituals if they find it imperative to do so. And get better at them than most who don't know math. Just
like almost everything else.

LOL @ u Skalansky.

I find there are many medical labels for personality traits (or shortcomings, depending how you look at it)that have a big 'ole grey area that is never really discussed -

1) at what degree does a person just have Asperger's, or is just kind of a douche? is there a gene that determines it? or a series of genetic code that differs slighly in each one of us, with each minor change maybe making the "symptoms" greater or worse?

2) I feel you posed the question in this very entertaining forum (I feel I am qualified to say that ) because of you own personal insecurities towards women. Some dudes just don't have any game, and there certainly is a genetic explaination for it, but I feel that basically everyone is made differently. You are of course a mathmatics wiz, great poker player, and amazing technical writer - but for whatever reason that is not what the chicks dig.

They want the bad guy - it is something in their DNA. Many women call the nice guy when they need help, but call the bad guy when they want to be "stuffed like a thanksgiving turkey." I know you are NOT the dude they call to get that satisfaction from. You're just not the type for *most* chicks - but obv. there are freaks that love to just trip out a dude like you, real straight laced and stuff. Gotta holla via Myspace / Craigslist. I just think that's why u asked the Q in the first place.

Just my $0.02 on 4.
 
Old 03-12-2007, 12:42 AM   #10
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

err, surely u noticed all the cool kids were dressed more stylishly than their social 'inferiors'? your attire demonstrates your degree of wealth and, more importantly, your relative degree of mastery over the culture you share w/your coevals. it is very important even in gr 5 and esp in gr 9.

unlikely you'll be a direct target unless you're someone who doesn't realise where they 'belong' on the totem. if you've misassessed your social value you will be ridiculed, often mercilessly.

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Old 03-12-2007, 12:52 AM   #11
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

Quote:
they'll ignore each other. part of their brain doesn't work properly and they do not naturally observe facial expressions or body language, thus missing out on the natural cues humans use to create and build rapport w/members of their group.
Thanks for trying to explain it to me I understood this part at least.

So what can a dumb person like me say to these people to make them comfy when I see them? Is "I am going to say some dumb stuff now but I am just doing it so we both will feel more relaxed. Tell me to take off if you are busy thinking on something tho ok." any good?

I'm leaving this thread pretty sure I am bothering a few people already. lol
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Old 03-12-2007, 01:02 AM   #12
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

Quote:
err, surely u noticed all the cool kids were dressed more stylishly than their social 'inferiors'? your attire demonstrates your degree of wealth and, more importantly, your relative degree of mastery over the culture you share w/your coevals. it is very important even in gr 5 and esp in gr 9.

unlikely you'll be a direct target unless you're someone who doesn't realise where they 'belong' on the totem. if you've misassessed your social value you will be ridiculed, often mercilessly.


I seriously can't tell you who dressed nicer than me or worse than me when I was in grade 5. Around grade 8 and 9 maybe, for sure in grade 10. Some people were cleaner than others tho. I remember smelly kids getting teased.

I think we all remember different things selectively I am sure some kids thought about clothing at that age. I really find it hard to believe guys did tho. All the guys I knew just liked playing football, baseball ect. I guess that was how we set our pecking order. We even played with the smelly kids they were normally the best ones.
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Old 03-12-2007, 01:18 AM   #13
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

The majority of people who are good at math have just spent a lot of time and focus working on it. They often have one track minds that don't broaden well to deal with the complexities, uncertainties and feelings evoked by social interactions.

As for your comments about silly social rituals, there are ways to grease the wheels without doing anything stupid or demeaning. People with exception social skills prove that.

Math geeks are awkward because they don't grasp human emotion and the subtleties of social interaction. They're often ugly and lacking in confidence as well. It's comforting to believe that intelligence is the reason they're social cripples, but that's just not true. I was smarter than everyone in my college physics/math classes and had a good social life as well. There were others in my classes who were also intelligent and not socially awkward.
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Old 03-12-2007, 01:21 AM   #14
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

Quote:
What I am about to say is something that I believe most psychologists who study the subject agree with. But it is less well known among the general public. It has to do with why some science minded people and those who have a mild form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, sometimes seem socially inept. It isn't because they are incapable of changing. It is because many of the little things that dumber people do in social situations are obviously ridiculous. Obvious to them that is. Saying "God bless you", offering High Fives, asking "what's up" or "how are you" (when you obviously don't really care). Going crazy when ten strangers at your college win a basketball game.

Now I'm not talking about those poor souls who rarely shower, wear two different shoes, forget to zip up their fly or stuff like that. They miss those skills that are logical and obvious. But many of the more subtle skills are more likely to be found in the less intelligent because it is easier for them to not notice how silly or artificial a certain accepted mode of behavior is.

When I was in fifth grade I was berated for wearing pants with cuffs as they were "out" that year. I will never forget how angry that made me since it was clear that there was no intrinsic reason to wear cuffs or no cuffs except for what some irrelevant person decided was in. Likewise for most of the more trivial (but highly noticed) social skills. Especially those that guys use to attract young girls. Most people just accept them and make them a habit without dissecting them in their mind. Highly intelligent math types can't do that. They recognize how silly those little rituals are whether they want to or not. Others find it easier to suspend disbelief.

Now I understand that SOME rituals are helpful to grease conversations and avoid uncomfortable situations. Math geniuses realize this too. But that doesn't stop them from feeling a bit silly when they use them. Much sillier than the average Joe. On the other hand it is important to understand that the majority of math geniuses can learn these silly rituals if they find it imperative to do so. And get better at them than most who don't know math. Just
like almost everything else.
This post is all ego. It's great that you have mastered the PROCESS of logic and math. Even so until you embrace and RESPECT other aspects of human intelligence like emotional intelligence you'll be like a human calculator.

We all know that we can buy a calculator at any convience store for a couple of bucks.

Thank you though for writing the best poker book ever written.
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Old 03-12-2007, 01:26 AM   #15
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

It gets muddy when you go into detail, but if the person who is being a douche doesn't realize they are being one then it's hard to blame for being a douche. Even more so if after explaining to them why what the did was wierd they still can't see it.

I see what you're trying to say basically "they blame x for why they suck at Y, even though it's their own fault". I'd be more inclined to agree if being good at Y wasn't something EVERYONE wants to be good at. Also if it doesn't require a lot of effort what reason would someone not do it?

I don't think it's the same as someone saying their fat because they retain water or big boned. That person is giving an excuse for why they don't exercise (lots of effort) or overeat (give in to temptation). Some guy with AS really isn't doing either of those.
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Old 03-12-2007, 01:52 AM   #16
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

"many of the little things that dumber people do in social situations are obviously ridiculous."

How much of the behavior of math geniuses that you describe do you think is due to the obvious ridiculousness of dumber people, and how much do you think is due to the superiority complex that math geniuses develop in reaction to it?
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Old 03-12-2007, 02:02 AM   #17
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

I think a truly intelligent person would be able to see to the next level beyond dismissing all these social conventions and be able to easily see why things like saying "What's up?" or investing yourself emotionally in a sports team are reasonable and valuable.

It's the almost-smart person that views things the way you describe. Roughly equivalent to the guy who always knows enough to try to sound smarter than everyone else but not enough to avoid proving himself to be a complete idiot. I think we all have that friend.
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Old 03-12-2007, 02:04 AM   #18
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

First, I lumped Asperger's and math talent together because there is a lot of overlap. But they are different. Asperger's patients have trouble relating to what others are feeling so that is part of their problem. But they share with the math geeks the feeling that many social conventions are artificially contrived with no logical basis behind them. And they thus feel uncomfortable using those conventions. But as I said, plenty of smart people decide to go with the flow until it eventually becomes almost as second nature to them as those who never thought about the silliness of many of those conventions.
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Old 03-12-2007, 02:08 AM   #19
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

I think it's a diservice to those with math/science ability to promote this stereotype of the socially retarded geek. I've associated with a lot of talented mathematicians and I've never seen this correlation with social retardation. I've found them to be bright, charming, and socially competent.

I've also known people with extraordinary social skills who have little talent in math. Their skills have to do with things like, empathy, making others feel comfortable, making others feel important, pursuading others, inspiring others, leading others, managing others, getting others to do what they want and feel good about it. I don't see much relationship between these kinds of things and the stuff David is talking about. I also don't see math ability being much help for these kinds of skills.

Different people have different talents.

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Old 03-12-2007, 02:35 AM   #20
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Intelligence != wisdom

Quote:
But many of the more subtle skills are more likely to be found in the less intelligent because it is easier for them to not notice how silly or artificial a certain accepted mode of behavior is.
I suspect another reason is that intelligence sometimes crowds out wisdom, especially in young. (I'll elaborate below your second quote.)

There is plenty of other inductive evidence of this phenomenon, by the way. Here are a few recent examples that required genius+ level intellectual prowess coupled with a staggering lack of wisdom:

1. The creation of genetically modified corn and its introduction into agriculture in settings that allow the modified strains to be introduced into the wider world by insects, wind, and other natural forces
2. The manufacturing of (and possible genetic tampering with) smallpox weapons in the former Soviet Union after smallpox vaccination had ceased worldwide
3. A personal favorite of mine, the berating of fish by poker logicians who explain theory in detail at the table, including loud, expositive dissertations on how the fish utterly failed to apply sound poker principles with his abysmal play of the hand, and how he should expect to lose his ass if he keeps on playing this way, the stupid moron, how the hell could he possibly call two bets cold with that trash, didn't he know he was drawing to two outs that might not even be good if he hit them, etc.

Quote:
When I was in fifth grade I was berated for wearing pants with cuffs as they were "out" that year. I will never forget how angry that made me since it was clear that there was no intrinsic reason to wear cuffs or no cuffs except for what some irrelevant person decided was in.
What you didn't realize at the time was that humans are social animals with strong hierarchical tendencies. Actually, if you had thought about it, you probably would have realized it; but your preference for "objective" activities (probably amplified by your ego telling you how much better and more logical were your preferences than those of your cohorts) interfered with your ability to recognize how this related to the problem you were faced with: you didn't submit to the common idea of what clothes were "right" at an age when this is important to humans, and you were castigated for it. The guy who decided what's in isn't irrelevant: he was directly relevant to you. You just didn't like it.

So the taunts pissed you off, but the fault (albeit unsurprising because of your age) was in you: your antagonists were stupid (by comparison to you) and you're smart by comparison to almost anybody, right? So shouldn't you either have ignored their taunts (who cares what lesser minds think?) or spent a few minutes perusing a J Crew (or equivalent) catalog and dressing to kill so that you could more easily manipulate them into treating you in a manner you'd have found more amenable.

The point is, there are sociological formulae that are almost mathematical in efficacy. Here, I'll prove it: Are you a guy who wants to get laid during your college years but haven't had much luck so far? Learn* to club dance. Work at home as scientifically as possible, but remember that it's perfectly fine "look like an idiot"** when you get on the floor. Do what you can to follow the beat of the music, and when in doubt, assume the more energetic your movements, the better.

Don't waste your time trying to figure out why dancing will get you laid. It probably has to do with some birdlike tendency in women to appreciate the vigorous mating gestures and obvious display of self-assuredness by the yadda yadda - but who cares? The point is it works. This is an applied science. Use it or don't, but don't piss and moan about it just because it doesn't fit with your preconceived view of how things "ought" to be.

Best regards,
Jogger

*I put "learn" in quotes because there are multiple ways to dance that will work fine. You don't need to be rigorous in your approach, and you won't really become proficient at anything substantive in any traditional, "hard" way.

**This is natural and actually helpful, as too much technical skill may look forced and can harm your chances of getting laid.
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Old 03-12-2007, 02:41 AM   #21
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

OK, so you're arguing that math geeks make a principled or aesthetic stand against silly behavior, and suffer socially as a result? And that less intelligent people don't, because they're just spinal cords with impulses who can't observe the silliness of their behavior? I find myself agreeing with that on some level.

But ultimately I think it comes down to this: If you understand life to a reasonable degree, you'll realize that most of life's meaning is in social relationships. And most social skills aren't skills, as such, but having your heart in the right place.

Like understanding that other people have feelings and needs just like yours. Like believing other people are basically good, and worthwhile. Like caring that others are comfortable and feel included. Like not wanting to impose your will on anyone else's freedom or happiness. Like having the courage to be assertive.

For an intelligent person, the only real skill element to successful social interaction is the ability to read people's moods, and a limited amount of general social knowledge. These can be learnt with time, unless you an autism like disorder.

So ultimately I think it's less about being "uncomfortable with silliness" and more about lacking one or several of these traits. Which I think may have been what andyfox was getting at with his superiority comment.
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Old 03-12-2007, 02:54 AM   #22
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

Oh but I agree with most of what you say. Of course you should do what is necessary to achieve your goals regardless of whether you think they are silly. I came to that conclusion many many years ago. I'm just saying that is a bit harder for some (not me any more) if the silliness slaps you in the face.

The truth is that my goal is to teach as many of the nerdy people as possible to put aside their discomfort and learn the illogical conventions. Many don't now because they think it is sort of insulting to the airheads who like it. ("Sure I'll help you with your trig homework. You are a nice person." rather than "Screw the homework, lets go out tonight, I'll let you cheat off me on the test tomorrow") But I've been over that for 35 years. If most geeks learn to get over that they will take over the world.
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Old 03-12-2007, 03:34 AM   #23
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

"Of course you should do what is necessary to achieve your goals regardless of whether you think they are silly."

whether or not something is judged silly doesn't depend on incontrovertible logical dictates. no social convention is inherently 'silly' or 'illogical' and they may only be judged so when additional suppositions are made. math geniuses aren't especially discerning social critics - those you're referring to (a modest %, i'm sure) are socially dysfunctional for reasons unrelated to their aptitude.

and for what it's worth, all experimental evidence thus far indicates there is a very positive correlation between social acculturation and intelligence as measured by IQ tests through the entire range.
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Old 03-12-2007, 03:49 AM   #24
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

David,

It seems to me that we should make a distinction between people that CAN'T exercise rudimentary social skills versus those who elect not to. The former is sometimes referred to as "mind blindness" and stems from an inability to read social cues that might tip one to the appropriate response. Oftentimes the response itself might be trivial, but nevertheless these people have a diminished ability to process certain types of information. If this capacity is very diminished, they may be diagnosed as autistic.

Of course, there are lots of people that elect to ignore certain forms of social etiquette. Some people might "correctly" deduce that certain social graces aren't worth their time and energy. Others might be too narcissistic to see the forest for the trees and won't recognize that observing certain social rituals will ultimately be to their benefit. Finally, you have plain old vanilla boredom, which can make it difficult to relate to your immediate environment.

How does intelligence tie into all of this? I imagine that very bright people (and very dumb people) are more likely to be bored in mixed company; boredom in its extreme forms can certainly make one appear to be anti-social.

On the other hand, I tend not to be so sympathetic to the argument that "intelligent" people are more able to "see through" the importance of social rituals. I'd wager that many of your fifth grade classmates were just as capable as you were of detecting that the whole business about cuffless pants was silly on some level. Perhaps in fact they were more aware of the social consequences of their choice.

However, I do think there is something more profound going on. Specifically, I think that there is a relationship between intelligence at certain tasks like complex mathematical and creative pursuits, and being able to marshal a higher percentage of the brain's resources toward this task. In other words, intelligent people have the ability to concentrate very deeply on something; perhaps this is part of what makes them intelligent.

I know that when I'm concentrating very intently on something complex, I find it relatively easy to shut off other stimuli in my environment. For example, I might have left the TV on for several hours without having any recollection of what program was on. Or if someone else was in the room and trying to ask me a question, I might not "hear" their question until the second or third time they asked it. At these times, my behavior can arguably resemble that which you might see in someone with autism. Perhaps even I've temporarily become "mind blind". But, I'm able to drift into and out of this frame of mind with relative ease, whereas an autistic person is not.
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Old 03-12-2007, 04:14 AM   #25
J_V
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Join Date: Sep 2002
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Re: Math Talent, Asperger\'s Syndrome,\"Social Skills\"

Quote:
know that when I'm concentrating very intently on something complex, I find it relatively easy to shut off other stimuli in my environment. For example, I might have left the TV on for several hours without having any recollection of what program was on. Or if someone else was in the room and trying to ask me a question, I might not "hear" their question until the second or third time they asked it. At these times, my behavior can arguably resemble that which you might see in someone with autism
That eerily describes me.
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