Gray Matter

  • Reading time:2 mins read

It seems to me there is some kind of association between comfort with probability or uncertainty and understanding of compassion or the theory of mind. It’s something about relative, rather than absolute, reasoning. Where I see a lack in one, I often see a lack in the other.

Comfort with one doesn’t necessarily equate to comfort with the other, of course. People will specialize and compartmentalize. But, like… there’s something here, that I’ve not yet picked apart.

Related to this, there’s this thing about autistics supposedly lacking empathy, right. This is based on tests that ask one to draw conclusions about someone else’s mental state based on limited information. Each question has an absolute, correct answer. The way autistics tend to address things like this is, “I don’t want to presume. I’m not that person. There are, like, a thousand possible explanations. Here are maybe a top five, in terms of probability.” And that causes them to fail, and the tester to conclude they have no empathy.

In the neurotypical mind, or at least that of those who pathologize the autistic mind, a failure to project onto another person and so to expect that they’d behave exactly like one’s self, in favor of recognizing that everyone is different and has their own set of reasons for doing things, is considered a sign of defect. Which, uh, in terms of the framing of the exam, is, like. You can see the absurdity here, right—the complete and utter lack of theory-of-mind that goes into the testing of an autistic’s theory-of-mind. To be “empathetic” by this perspective is to fail to understand that people are different.

Anyway. This kind of an expectation that everyone else is some sub-facet of one’s own self, it seems to line up with stuff like trouble with large numbers or what a likely chance is as opposed to a remote possibility. Playing the lottery every week and getting angry each time when you fail to win. Black-and-white thinking. Either it is or it isn’t, and if you say it’s not that simple then you’re fucking around and not to be trusted.