This is probably going to be a terribly confusing post, but I need to get this thought out in order to begin dissecting it.
I was just reading a booklet that I found on the Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)’s website. They say: “Many people rely on their own intuitions about how they would act, when trying to take the perspectives of others” (12). This reminded me of something that the writer from Yes, That Too asked at my presentation at Computers & Writing. “Theory of Whose Mind?”
I am very slow on the uptake, usually, so I am now beginning to finally see what she was asking. What if theory of mind is simply a complex way of saying, “people think about what they do when put into a situation with someone else.” Is that the in between?
By the in between, I mean there has to be something between “knowing that others have their own mental states” and “knowing what those mental states are (or mindreading according to Simon Baron-Cohen).” What is the in between those two stages? Because I can know that there is an answer to a math problem, but that doesn’t mean that I will know what the answer is. There is something in between, the solving.
So, is that the in between? That being “putting oneself into another person’s shoes” meaning “putting ones mind into another person and assuming they think like you.” Is that what theory of mind is? If so, then there is the main reason that autistic people don’t have it. NO! I don’t like the way I just worded that. They have a theory of mind if you define theory of mind as: 1) the ability to impute mental states to others (recognize that other’s mental states are not your own), 2) the ability to put ones mind into another (think about when you would make a facial expression like that), and 3) The ability to know what they are thinking (when it is really, actually, what you would think in the same situation they are in).
So, the in between knowing that other people have their own mental states and knowing what those mental states are is the ability to assume they think like you do and then think what you would be thinking if you saw the behavior they have.
So, theory of mind, then, is an innate ability? Do I agree with this or disagree? If it is defined as all three of those things that I have mentioned and recognizing that it is neurologically full of holes, then yes, I agree with it. Anyone with a different way of thinking (like autistics, schizophrenics, ADHD, etc.) or neurology (different brain) will mess up with this if that is the in between.
If theory of mind is the ability to assume that an other person has the same neurology (and thoughts, emotions, etc.) as yourself and if you are different from that person neurologically, then there will be a disconnect.
Do autistics lack a theory of mind? It depends on your definition of theory of mind. If you are asking the autistic to experience the world like a neurotypical, it cannot happen (the brain is, while plastic, not that plastic…or is it?). If you are asking the autistic to attempt to impute mental states to others in the
The world is predominantly neurotypicals, so theory of mind is determined to be theory of the neurotypical mind. The in between demands (If you use the definition of theory of mind that I pointed out before) that you assume that the other person has the same types of thoughts and emotions. But as it stands right now, that in between is that you have to assume that the other person is neurotypical (and if you can’t think like a neurotypical [or can think like one, but are a neurotypical native, instead, are a neurotypical immigrant] (I think I will call my thesis: Theory of Mind: The Trials and Tribulations of the Neurotypical Immigrant).
As you can probably see, this was pretty much the very essence of word and thought vomit. This is how my brain thinks and processes information. It seems insane, and it very well may be, but from this I promise, I will write up something that makes sense and is formed well.
How can I prove this?
(No theory of mind) Arguments against: This doesn’t work for normal children (they fail until they are 4, then start passing the theory of mind tests).
(Theory of Mind) Argument against the argument: the theory of mind tests are false-belief, why and how does that test theory of mind?
(no theory of mind) Argument against the argument against the argument: It’s a false-belief, meaning it is something that the test subject (I don’t know what else to call them) is not thinking. It is the ability to understand others beliefs are not your own beliefs.