Over-Easy? Hard-Boiled! Hard-Boiled? Over-Easy! (Part 1)

Last year, I took both the Sally-Anne Test and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), brilliantly passing one, and failing the other, also brilliantly.

I passed the RMET, scoring 34/36 on this advanced test of mentalizing, and demonstrating superior abilities in social cognition compared to the majority of adults.

I failed the Sally-Anne Test, answering the single question incorrectly on this basic test of mentalizing, and demonstrating severe deficits in social cognition compared to the majority of children.

For most people, this pattern of performance is inexplicably bizarre, but for me, it makes sense. In the context of autism, it is perfectly makesensical, and I will try to explain why.

First, the idea of mentalizing.

Mentalizing, or “mindreading”, is the act of perceiving and understanding the mental states of other people to interpret, predict, and manipulate their behaviors based on their cognition. One of its aspects is knowing what another person is thinking or feeling without that person telling you directly. Instead, they show you through their non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language, and tones of voice, and it is up to you to detect and interpret their cues, know what they mean, and interact with them accordingly in a socially appropriate manner.

For example, if someone is bored while you are telling them about your collection of doorknob model numbers, then you are supposed to know that they are bored from the expression of abject boredom on their face, and you are supposed to stop telling them about your collection of doorknob model numbers, so they can start telling you about one of their favorite topics to bore the begeebus out of you in turn. This is social-emotional reciprocity, and it is regulated through the expression and reception of non-verbal communications.

One of the cues that is considered critical for mindreading is the expression of the eyes on the face (not to be confused with the eyes in the back of the head, the evolutionarily-endowed oculoptical-optocular modules that female, but not male, parental units possess in their occipital vicinities to detect and inhibit all of your extremely enjoyable, but highly illicit, activities), and the RMET assesses mentalizing from the eye region instead of the entire face.

On the RMET, you look at a photograph of the eyes to answer a question about the state of the mind behind the eyes. (1)

Here is an example: Choose the word that best describes what the person in the picture is thinking or feeling.

a) impatient

b) aghast

c) irritated

d) reflective

Here is the test: Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test

According to the popular conception of autism, autistic people are incapable of reading the mind in the eyes, thinking about what other people are thinking, and socially interacting with people, so if you can do any of these on a test or in real life, then you are not autistic, and neither am I.

Which brings me to the Sally-Anne Test and my performance on it.

According to researchers and clinicians, the Sally-Anne Test is a much easier test of mentalizing than the RMET, which means that the RMET is a much harder test of mentalizing than the Sally-Anne Test. Therefore, anyone who does well on the RMET should be able to pass the Sally-Anne Test, and the majority of typical children pass by the age of four.

On the Sally-Anne Test, you look at two dolls named Sally and Anne. Sally has a basket, and Anne has a box. Sally has a marble, but Anne does not. Sally puts her marble into her basket, and the fun begins. (2)

After she puts her marble into her basket, Sally leaves the room. While she is gone, she loses her marble, because Anne steals it, moving it from the basket to the box. When Sally returns, you are asked a question, “Where will Sally look for her marble?”, and you answer by pointing to the basket or the box.

If you point to the basket, then you pass the test, because you have put yourself into Sally’s shoes to take Sally’s perspective. You have thought about what Sally thought to predict that she will look in the basket, where she thinks the marble is, because that is where she left it when she left the room.

If you point to the box, then you fail, because you have not thought about what Sally thought to predict her behavior based on her cognition. It is unclear what you thought instead, but what is clear is that you are incapable of mentalizing and severely deficient in social cognition.

In addition, according to the popular conception of autism, you are also incapable of learning to mentalize or socially interact, 4evar and evar and evar, and also, you are additionally incapable of learning to do anything else either, 4evar and evar and evar. In this scenario, you are autistic, and so am I.

Here is a summary of the popular conception of autism:

1) Pass the RMET. You are not autistic.

Autistic people are incapable of mentalizing or socially interacting or learning to mentalize or socially interact, 4evar and evar and evar. In addition, autistic people are incapable of doing or learning to do anything else either, 4evar and evar and evar.

2) Fail the Sally-Anne Test. You are autistic.

Autistic people are incapable of mentalizing or socially interacting or learning to mentalize or socially interact, 4evar and evar and evar. In addition, autistic people are incapable of doing or learning to do anything else either, 4evar and evar and evar.

Ummmmmmm…How do I fit into this model, exactly?

Eggggggg…How do I fit into this model, eggsacly?

Clearly, I don’t, and I will try to eggsplain why, as soon as I leave my room to return with my eggstremely enjoyable, but highly illicit, breakfast of brainiacs. I hope that you have read my mind to know what it is without me telling you directly. My mother only allows me to eat one of it per week, because she thinks that I will keel over and die of cholesterol poisoning if I eat more, and the reason that I will keel over and die of cholesterol poisoning is because her cholesterol is slightly high. Neither her eyes or her oculoptical-optocular modules are around right now, so if you’ll eggscuse me…

Meanwhile, I know what you’re thinking, and I’ll be thinking about what you’re thinking while I’m gone.

So while I’m gone…

…don’t lose my marbles!

Moar marbles in Part 2.

References

1. Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test revised version: a study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 241-251.

2. Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21, 37-46.

One thought on “Over-Easy? Hard-Boiled! Hard-Boiled? Over-Easy! (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Over-Easy? Hard-Boiled! Hard-Boiled? Over-Easy! (Part 2) | Autistic And Awesome

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