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Question about social-emotional reciprocity

Oz67

Well-Known Member
I understand most social cues, but I have severe problems with social-emotional reciprocity.

Why is only understanding social cues not enough?

I tend to show abnormal facial expressions to a mild degree and some abnormal body language as well. It takes a few minutes for people to find out that I have Autism Spectrum Disorder or odd.
 
People are wired to recognize differences from a norm or a steady state.

E.g. our visual system is very sensitive to movement, but less so to detail. And we see contrast better than we see forms.

Similarly (but not the same "wetware"), we are very good at recognizing human variations (from local norms) in "everything": appearance, facial expression, body movement, tone and volume of voice, accent, content of speech, etc.

Most Aspies can learn to present as being within local norms in all of those things, because the acceptable range is quite wide. But it's a lot of work, and there are no classes for it, so it's also hard for us to get started.

BTW: In my experience the best "cheat code" is to develop a genuine NT-compliant smile that you use naturally when you meet people, including strangers. With that you get an automatic "50% discount" on everything else.
 
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People are wired to recognize differences from a norm or a steady state.

E.g. our visual system is very sensitive to movement, but less so to detail. And we see contrast better than we see forms.

Similarly (but not the same "wetware"), we are very good at recognizing human variations (from local norms) in "everything": appearance, facial expression, body movement, tone and volume of voice, accent, content of speech, etc.

Most Aspies can learn to present as being within local norms in all of those things, because the acceptable range is quite wide., But it's a lot of work, and there are no classes for it, so it's also hard for us to get started.

That makes sense. There are acting classes, that teach you how to perform in theater, I took that class in middle school, but I got a B-, never an A, because I am odd and eccentric.
 
If you don’t need to ‘fit in’ then you have no need to learn any of it. But if your goal is to have friends, get a good job, fall in love, etc, then it’s just easier when you seem smart instead of weird.

All of the things life has to offer are still available to a person on the spectrum, but there’s fewer opportunities to find them if you’re perceived as ‘different’. Becoming a chameleon was how I made it to where I am today.
 
If you don’t need to ‘fit in’ then you have no need to learn any of it. But if your goal is to have friends, get a good job, fall in love, etc, then it’s just easier when you seem smart instead of weird.

All of the things life has to offer are still available to a person on the spectrum, but there’s fewer opportunities to find them if you’re perceived as ‘different’. Becoming a chameleon was how I made it to where I am today.

I agree ;)
 
If you don’t need to ‘fit in’ then you have no need to learn any of it. But if your goal is to have friends, get a good job, fall in love, etc, then it’s just easier when you seem smart instead of weird.

All of the things life has to offer are still available to a person on the spectrum, but there’s fewer opportunities to find them if you’re perceived as ‘different’. Becoming a chameleon was how I made it to where I am today.

Acting classes can help me build some social-emotional reciprocity, but it is not perfect at all.
 
I understand most social cues, but I have severe problems with social-emotional reciprocity.

Why is only understanding social cues not enough?

I tend to show abnormal facial expressions to a mild degree and some abnormal body language as well. It takes a few minutes for people to find out that I have Autism Spectrum Disorder or odd.
In my personal experience, I never understood I had a problem, at all, until I was tested and interviewed by the psychologists. Only then, did I come to realize I had "severe" deficits in reciprocity. Sure, I notice things now that it was brought to my attention and I am self-conscious about it, but what I am trying to suggest here is that perhaps we are not the best assessors of this and that perhaps we just might have more difficulties with reciprocity than we think we do. Furthermore, I am in the middle of reading the latest biography on Elon Musk and there are quite a few situations were he has difficulties with empathy and social-emotional reciprocity that can really make him appear to be a total jerk. Others were recognizing that Elon is consciously analyzing people and struggling to read others, but in the heat of an emotional moment, he can lash out without any regard for the other person. As I am reading someone else's experiences it really hit home.

So, to your question why is only understanding social cues not enough? First off, I am wondering if we are truly understanding the social cues as well as we think we are and two, most people are emotional creatures. So, imagine a humanoid robot full of AI communication software and visual sensors to recognize all the soft and subtle body language. It's a logical system, but without the emotional component. No matter how well the outer skin and prosthetics were that could be made to make it appear human, a human being would still quickly recognize this lack of emotional reciprocity and could tell they were dealing with an artificial intelligence. Now, obviously, we are human beings, but without some degree of "expertise" and "fluidity" to our emotional reciprocity, others are going to sense something a bit "off" or "odd". The little warning "bells and whistles" are going to off in their amygdalas and they will be hesitant to make a strong social bond with us. To complicate things, if we are not making those emotional connections, it's difficult to make friends and find life partners.

"Why can't I find a girlfriend?" "How can I make friends?" "I am getting a divorce." You've seen these threads on this forum. In many cases, that missing emotional reciprocity and understanding is a contributing factor.
 
@Oz67

This is interesting: a short video about Andy Serkis.
It has the best examples of matched expressions & emotions I've ever come across.

BTW I'm a huge admirer of Andy Serkis' acting. For me, the three best performances in the first LoTR trilogy were Gollum, then Gandalf, then the really ugly Orc that led Sauron's attack on Gondor. And that's against some very tough competition - a lot of very good actors gave outstanding performances in LoTR.

I've seen it argued that Gollum is the only really good part of the second trilogy (The Hobbit) :)

 
I understand most social cues, but I have severe problems with social-emotional reciprocity.

Why is only understanding social cues not enough?
I guess that at a very basic level, understanding social cues is necessary but not sufficient to *respond* to those cues. The response depends on so many factors. Some of them are learnable, though. The problem is that we seldom get feedback. We just learn about the consequences.
 
In my personal experience, I never understood I had a problem, at all, until I was tested and interviewed by the psychologists. Only then, did I come to realize I had "severe" deficits in reciprocity. Sure, I notice things now that it was brought to my attention and I am self-conscious about it, but what I am trying to suggest here is that perhaps we are not the best assessors of this and that perhaps we just might have more difficulties with reciprocity than we think we do. Furthermore, I am in the middle of reading the latest biography on Elon Musk and there are quite a few situations were he has difficulties with empathy and social-emotional reciprocity that can really make him appear to be a total jerk. Others were recognizing that Elon is consciously analyzing people and struggling to read others, but in the heat of an emotional moment, he can lash out without any regard for the other person. As I am reading someone else's experiences it really hit home.

So, to your question why is only understanding social cues not enough? First off, I am wondering if we are truly understanding the social cues as well as we think we are and two, most people are emotional creatures. So, imagine a humanoid robot full of AI communication software and visual sensors to recognize all the soft and subtle body language. It's a logical system, but without the emotional component. No matter how well the outer skin and prosthetics were that could be made to make it appear human, a human being would still quickly recognize this lack of emotional reciprocity and could tell they were dealing with an artificial intelligence. Now, obviously, we are human beings, but without some degree of "expertise" and "fluidity" to our emotional reciprocity, others are going to sense something a bit "off" or "odd". The little warning "bells and whistles" are going to off in their amygdalas and they will be hesitant to make a strong social bond with us. To complicate things, if we are not making those emotional connections, it's difficult to make friends and find life partners.

"Why can't I find a girlfriend?" "How can I make friends?" "I am getting a divorce." You've seen these threads on this forum. In many cases, that missing emotional reciprocity and understanding is a contributing factor.

I sometimes do online autistic tests and it shows that I am in the middle, it means that I understand most social cues, but failed half of the test and that means that my social skills are not that great. But then again, online autistic tests are not official and I should talk to my psychiatrist about it.

I do have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is just I want reevaluation or to learn more about it.
 
I guess that at a very basic level, understanding social cues is necessary but not sufficient to *respond* to those cues. The response depends on so many factors. Some of them are learnable, though. The problem is that we seldom get feedback. We just learn about the consequences.

That makes sense.
 
develop a genuine NT-compliant smile that you use naturally when you meet people, including strangers. With that you get an automatic "50% discount" on everything else
Brilliant! The first impression tends to last. It colors everything that happens from then on. If you can be "NT compliant" for even a few seconds, it colors everything that happens after that. People can form a lasting opinion of a stranger in as little as a tenth of a second. After 30 seconds the opinion is solid enough that it will take much time and effort to change it.

 
Acting classes can help me build some social-emotional reciprocity, but it is not perfect at all.
My high school acting class was a horrible waste of time. I had to choose an elective from a limited list, and figured I had already learned to act normal enough to get by, so how hard would it be? Prior to the class, I was fairly good at not getting noticed. In the class, we were each "fish-bowled" in front of the class with individual assignments. So I went from being invisible to showcasing my weirdness to the class.
 
That makes sense. There are acting classes, that teach you how to perform in theater, I took that class in middle school, but I got a B-, never an A, because I am odd and eccentric.

Same here! Idk about you, I found body language-based classes particularly useful. The tips about where to orient feet & body, where to look, pauses to use in sentences etc. are still in my toolbox for coping in an NT world. I'd encourage any one of us who hasn't to seek out a drama/theatre/improv class at least for a short while, it's a good investment.

My stint was a full BA, though, and I almost failed out, because professors felt I wasn't going deep enough nor emotionally connecting with the material, both physical/performed and written (as well as on-the-feet directing & acting, we did dramaturgical essays and pitches). It was hurtful to receive that feedback, especially as at that time I was undiagnosed, on a downward spiral in terms of health, and needing support. The school weren't to know, though, and I suppose without context it looked like a poor excuse for study and engagement to them. Wish I had a do-over!
 
For me, the three best performances in the first LoTR trilogy were Gollum, then Gandalf, then the really ugly Orc that led Sauron's attack on Gondor. And that's against some very tough competition - a lot of very good actors gave outstanding performances.

film!Boromir's betrayal and subsequent redemption/end is the top of the tree (Ent?) for me. Unmatched. I still cry just thinking about it, and I've seen the scene (and read it) dozens of times. Sean Bean left everything there in that forest.

Am biased, though, he is my favourite male character in the whole story.

 
Same here! Idk about you, I found body language-based classes particularly useful. The tips about where to orient feet & body, where to look, pauses to use in sentences etc. are still in my toolbox for coping in an NT world. I'd encourage any one of us who hasn't to seek out a drama/theatre/improv class at least for a short while, it's a good investment.

My stint was a full BA, though, and I almost failed out, because professors felt I wasn't going deep enough nor emotionally connecting with the material, both physical/performed and written (as well as on-the-feet directing & acting, we did dramaturgical essays and pitches). It was hurtful to receive that feedback, especially as at that time I was undiagnosed, on a downward spiral in terms of health, and needing support. The school weren't to know, though, and I suppose without context it looked like a poor excuse for study and engagement to them. Wish I had a do-over!

That is an interesting point.
 
@Seladon

A agree Sean Bean was good. But I never liked Boromir, even back when I first read the book.
I know it was the Ring's baleful influence, but I can't forgive the betrayal :)

I watched Ronin again not so long ago, including the scene where Sean Bean gets "ambushed with a coffee cup" by Robert DeNiro, which I've always liked :)
 

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