Lacking "imagination" & "empathy"



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Nonperson
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Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:38 am

Has anyone else noticed this? We're often described as lacking imagination and empathy when what is meant is actually a specific kind of each ("social imagination" and "cognitive empathy") or at least a definition that differs from the popular use of the term; for instance, "empathy" is used to mean only "ability to read others" while "compassion" denotes the ability to "feel with" and care about others. This definition might make sense to those who have heard it, but the people giving this description should know very well the term "empathy", as it is commonly used, also implies compassion.

This sort of language-twisting has the same effect in both cases: it dehumanizes us. It makes it seem as though we lack an inner life, which is absurd. I don't know if anyone intended that or not, but it's a bit creepy.



LostNutritionGurl
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Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:44 am

I agree; normal humans being, including autistic ones, do not lack imagination or empathy -_-



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Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:47 am

It appears to me to be even more precise. Our lack is in the exact kind of social imagination or empathy that an NT would.

I find it interesting that those I feel closest to are also either Aspie or have considerable Aspie traits.


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elfabyanos
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Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:44 pm

Yeah I've noticed this too. To me its down to the lack of understanding NTs have of how their own empathy functions - it functions on different levels but are unaware of that.

Obviously aspies have difficulty in empathising with no information to work on owing to a under-functioning connection in the brain structure. But an NT mind still needs to then process this information into something meaningful, and the parts that do this use all sorts of other information as well, not just the information from the facial recognition parts etc. Without these other bits the NTs would be just as lost and wouldn't have understood and would therefore also be unable to empathise.

The problem is merely a hasty generalisation owing to a misunderstanding of this complexity - the NT* recognises one instance of an empathetical failure, and assumes all empathy will fail.

Once brain mapping and processes have been better understood, this old fashioned and clunky concept of empathy will die away.

* NTs who subscribe to this view, not the ones that don't.



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Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:15 pm

I was just playing a game with my husband where he showed a facial expression and I guessed what it meant, and I realized that I normally intuitively interpret expressions based on what they would mean if I wore them (which, I think, is what NT's do as well when they refer to imagining themselves in someone's place), but that often gives unreliable results for me. My husband has a very exaggerated "fear" expression that I used to interpret it as sarcasm, for instance. Or I interpret a blank expression as being deep in thought (true for both of us) while for a lot of people it seems to mean anger or sadness . I am often asked "what's wrong?" when I'm just thinking.

Obviously empathy is going to look dysfunctional if you're empathizing with the wrong thing, as I often find myself doing. Even when I get the emotion right - someone is angry, for instance - I frequently can't figure out why because there is nothing that would have made me angry if I was in the other person's shoes. For me (aside from the really basic stuff) it's a long, slow process of learning what each individual's expressions and emotional triggers are, but it doesn't seem to be that way for NT's.



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Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:18 pm

I actually find it very frustrating to read everywhere about Autistics lacking empathy and NTs ''having'' empathy for other people but don't seem to know how to read the thoughts and emotions of people with invisible disabilities like Autism and AS, judging by the way so many Autistics are misunderstood, underestimated and shunned in society and the general public. It gets me thinking, ''but if NTs are supposed to have empathy then how come it feels like my feelings aren't considered and that people dont seem to care?'' It feels like me, as an Aspie, has all the blame and NTs get away with being unempathetic towards my feelings but I'm expected to consider their feelings otherwise I are the nasty one being unempathetic. That does not seem very fair when you think about it, and I bet it will make us feel a bit happier if ''lack of empathy'' was took off the Autistic and AS diagnostic criteria and people stopped playing into it so much.

The truth is, there are only very few NTs who have a very strong sense of empathy and so can try to put themselves into another person's shoes whoever they are and whatever problems they have whether they share them or not, but most people only seem to know how to empathise with those who have had similar experiences. And so do Aspies: we spend a lot of time here empathising with eachother. So we DO have empathy, it's just easier to imagine what life is like for other Aspies who are similar, just like NTs find it easier to imagine what life is like for other NTs who are also similar.

Like I said before, not all intentions of NTs are related to how they want someone to feel all the time. Some people are just self-centered and forget how much they are upsetting someone. If NTs didn't lack empathy, this world would be a much better place!


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Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:41 pm

I think definitions of sympathy and empathy should be considered at this point.

Yes, people with AS generally lack *empathy*; however they have *sympathy* towards other living things, maybe even more than NTs. Feeling sorry for someone and looking from someones view are completely two different things. It is considered that sympathy is an extension of empathy (this is from wikipedia), but I think this idea is totally wrong. Let me give you an example about sympathy:

If I see a wounded animal (lets say a cat with missing tail), I feel very sorry for her. Humans do not have tails, so how can a human being feel empathy towards her? It is technically impossible.

NTs are looking from their perspective. They have both empathy and sympathy, so they are insisting about their connection. Thus, they tend to evaluate people with AS as psychopaths. They cannot be empathetic towards a person with AS, this even proves the inaccuracy of their theory.

Also, empathy can easily be suppressed by group psychology fueled by racism, religion etc. I presume empathy is overrated. If empathy was that effective in this NT world, wars would be nonexistent.


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Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:35 pm

Nonperson wrote:
Has anyone else noticed this? We're often described as lacking imagination and empathy when what is meant is actually a specific kind of each ("social imagination" and "cognitive empathy") or at least a definition that differs from the popular use of the term; for instance, "empathy" is used to mean only "ability to read others" while "compassion" denotes the ability to "feel with" and care about others. This definition might make sense to those who have heard it, but the people giving this description should know very well the term "empathy", as it is commonly used, also implies compassion.

This sort of language-twisting has the same effect in both cases: it dehumanizes us. It makes it seem as though we lack an inner life, which is absurd. I don't know if anyone intended that or not, but it's a bit creepy.


They really need to be specific of what they're talking about because it really does come across people with autism are 'robots'. People with autism can actually be very creative.



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Sun Jul 29, 2012 4:50 pm

Somberlain wrote:
I think definitions of sympathy and empathy should be considered at this point.

Yes, people with AS generally lack *empathy*; however they have *sympathy* towards other living things, maybe even more than NTs. Feeling sorry for someone and looking from someones view are completely two different things. It is considered that sympathy is an extension of empathy (this is from wikipedia), but I think this idea is totally wrong. Let me give you an example about sympathy:

If I see a wounded animal (lets say a cat with missing tail), I feel very sorry for her. Humans do not have tails, so how can a human being feel empathy towards her? It is technically impossible.

NTs are looking from their perspective. They have both empathy and sympathy, so they are insisting about their connection. Thus, they tend to evaluate people with AS as psychopaths. They cannot be empathetic towards a person with AS, this even proves the inaccuracy of their theory.

Also, empathy can easily be suppressed by group psychology fueled by racism, religion etc. I presume empathy is overrated. If empathy was that effective in this NT world, wars would be nonexistent.


Exactly - NTs struggle to understand how it feels to be an Autistic person, just like it seems common in Aspies to struggle with understanding how NTs feel because we're not NTs, just like NTs aren't Autistic. So it works both ways, why should Autistics be clasified as ''lacking empathy'' when NTs are just as bad with understanding us? Do you see the pattern?

I hate seperating NTs and Aspies into two different groups or make it look superior or opposite, because that's not what I do, but I'm just looking at it under an ''empathy'' umbrella here.

Besides, I believe I have empathy. May be a bit personal here, but I suffer with period pains a lot, and when another girl has them and I haven't, I can still ''feel'' their pain in my tummy because I know how bad it is. I bet a man couldn't do that.


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Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:58 pm

Normal people aren't going to have empathy for outliers of human beings; they'll have empathy for the majority who are like them.

I can say for certain that I have no imagination, and it's always been that way. I can also say for certain that I lack empathy as it's defined in the dictionary (I totally don't understand the feelings of others; it's an impossible concept as far as I can tell).



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Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:22 am

I've read the definitions of "empathy" and "cognitive empathy". I don't totally grasp the concepts.

I've had relatives die, where everyone else was upset, crying, etc, but I felt nothing.

As for "social imagination," if it's "social" anything, I don't have it, save anxiety.



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Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:06 pm

I have no idea how my experience of empathy compares to that of others. On one hand, I can't stand to see others cry. At the same time, I don't think that I'm great at expressing empathy; it often takes considerable effort on my part to respond as expected. Also, I tend to try and "fix" others' problems rather than merely be the figurative "shoulder to cry on."

Relevant to this discussion:
http://insideperspectives.wordpress.com ... s/empathy/



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