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Seeing things in black-and-white terms

Discussion in 'General Autism Discussion' started by IContainMultitudes, Jun 18, 2011.

  1. IContainMultitudes

    IContainMultitudes Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Nearly all of the AS books I've read say that aspies tend to be more likely to see things in absolute "black-and-white" terms rather than shades of grey. I find this a little confusing since I think that could just as easily apply to plenty of people in the NT population (for example, have a look at the comments on just about any political blog). Whenever I read a book on AS that makes this claim, I can't help but think "Wait a minute, I thought people on the autism spectrum based their thinking more on logic than emotion."

    Do you agree or disagree that aspies are more likely to see things in "black-and-white" terms? I think that there is a kernel of truth to this idea: I may be able to intellectually understand complexity and nuance, but my emotional reaction to things are likely to be much more "black-and-white."
     
  2. epath13

    epath13 the Fool.The Magician.The... V.I.P Member

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    I've always known that I tend to look at things this way and since childhood I worked on changing that "habit" of mine. At that time I came to a conclusion that black and white thinking was unpractical and illogical but still couldn't help myself. I called it "overdramatizing". I do believe many NTs do the same thing but I've never met anyone who would do it so consistently.

    I'll give you a few examples of my recent and old black and white thinking.

    We bought a house that was supposed to be renovated but ended up having tons of problems. My reaction - it has to be renovated completely right now or we have to move, we have to demolish the house and build and new one or we have to move or do nothing and suffer. All ideas were completely unrealistic, and suffering didn't seem like a good idea either :) it took me months to calm down and accept the fact that there might be other solutions.

    When I was a kid I had a compultion to throw away my homework and start over if I make one mistake.

    Sometimes when things didn't go in life the way I thought they should, I started thinking - I should have the life I want or I should die.

    I've got way more examples but I think you get the picture :)

    As about, how common this "thinking mistake" among NTs... I'm not sure... But I explained my personal tendency to think in black and white terms like this - when I look at most of the situations my mind wants to consider only 2 outcomes: absolue positive or absolute negative, 1 or 0, as if there can't be anything in between. But because I know from experience or understand logically that it's more complicated than that, I can work on the issue and possibly change my thinking patterns. As for NTs, I think usually a person would have to reach a certain, possibly very significant stress level which would effect his/ her brain function in order to think that way but quite possibly that NTs wouldn't show this tendency otherwise.
     
  3. AnneTheEmpress

    AnneTheEmpress Well-Known Member

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    I can definitely relate to this and it doesn't bother me. I'd rather be certain of where I stand than not be able to make up my mind at all. I suppose at times, when my husband (who is good at finding those "gray areas") gets frustrated that my mind is so absolutely black and white of the idea, it can be a bad thing. We have gotten great at "agreeing to disagree" on things that are not important.
     
  4. 142857

    142857 Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Most people see things in black and white. Maybe aspies are just less diplomatic about stating their views, and it makes us appear to be more black-and-white.

    Intellectually, when you hold a strong view one way or the other on a topic, you should know exactly why you hold that view (what logic and data do you have to back it up?), and you should also be able to understand the opposing point of view. So many times I see people (usually NTs) who very strongly hold a point of view on something but who cannot logically or factually support that point of view.
     
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  5. Spinning Compass

    Spinning Compass Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    What I've been running into is the notion that seeing things in black and white is politically incorrect and brands you as a brainwashed fundie. This is especially common on atheistic and agnostic forums. If you don't take a strong stand, or only take approved stands on approved positions, then that is ok. But heaven help you if you express a strong opinion that isn't popular or politically correct.

    I agree with the above poster that you should know exactly why you hold certain views and you should be able to back them up. "It's only a matter of opinion" doesn't cut it with me. What is that opinion based on? And I also agree that you should know the other side of an argument. Unfortunately this is all too often lacking, especially when the topic is religion versus science. I'm not against religion though it might sound like it at times, all I am saying is if you are a believer, for God's sake, do a little homework before you approach people with your "message". I have to laugh at the recent Pew survey that showed atheists and agnostics to be far more acquainted with the Bible than believers. So if you come to me wanting to convert me and a) you assume I don't know anything about the Bible, and b) you don't know anything about science, we can't have a fruitful discussion.
     
  6. epath13

    epath13 the Fool.The Magician.The... V.I.P Member

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    When somebody has a strong opinion about something and doesn't want to pay attention to anybody's else point of view,or when people can't back up their statements it could be considered as a form of black and white or all or nothing thinking even though I have a feeling something doesn't add up... Behavior of somebody's showing signs of dichotomous thinking because of stress, psychological/ mental disorder or depression might appear similar to behavior of those who naturally have a tendency to think that way but there might be some significant differences.
    I found 2 articles mentioning black and white thinking as a result or trauma and in people on the spectrum. I found them very interesting. I definitely see the difference. maybe somebody will find them interesting as well, hopefully I can post the links here:
    THE NEUROSCIENCE OF TRAUMATIC BODY-WIDE MEMORIES
    http://www.individualaddictiontreatment.com/BodyWideMemories.pdf

    and
    very interesting website, I recommend to look through it, not only this particular article:
    Caetextia: a new definition of autistic and Asperger's behaviour

    oh, Irish accent, I miss it! :) anyway, hope you guys find those links helpful
     
  7. epath13

    epath13 the Fool.The Magician.The... V.I.P Member

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    I've just read the 1st article one more time, not sure how strong the connection to the subject, I mean not sure how many people will be able to see it....eh well :)
     
  8. jaws

    jaws Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I'm not entirely sure of my opinion about aspies being black and white thinkers, though I have read that it is the case. I've always seen myself as more balanced than most, but I am OFTEN accused of black and white thinking...so it could just be something I can't see in myself. What I TRY to do is come up with a line of thinking that will make sense of even opposing views, by asking myself "how can both be correct?" Ultimately logic will generally dictate an answer that is more correct than others, but I have to remind myself that other answers may be less efficient but not incorrect. That said, I often see things in a very particular way and it takes a good deal of logical arguing to get me to change my view. So maybe I am a black and white thinker.:S
     
  9. epath13

    epath13 the Fool.The Magician.The... V.I.P Member

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    I think I'll try to give an example of black and white thinking of a person under stress or with deep psychological issues and a person on a spectrum. I think there's a very significant difference there. NTs and even sometimes people on the spectrum who are under stress get involved into dichotomous thinking in order to control their environment, themselves or other people (or at least to attempt to do so). For people on the spectrum other options might not exist or make sense.

    Example: let's say we have a family, NT wife and Asperger husband. Let's assume she's been through some traumatic experiences in her life and developed a defence mechanism in form of an idea that she can control her environment, herself or other people (like so many people do). You'll see how wish to control manifests itself later. Let's also assume that husband might have some control issues, but it's not as strong.
    She wants to live in suburbs and he wants to live in a city. Her argument is: "it's a better environment to raise a family". She's not very likely to change her opinion, not because she doesn't see other options but because She thinks that things have to go her way, because if they don't - she's not in charge any more, and when she's not in charge something bad might happen.
    He, on the other hand, has an idea in his mind, how great would it be to live in a city. Let's say he likes museums or other similar attractions and for him 2 connections have been established: he lives in a city conveniently close to his favorite attractions or he lives in suburbs far away from it all, it means that he might Never go and visit them. He might recognize other options but it is very difficult to establish new connections or more of them. It is possible but it's going to take some time and effort on his part. He would be willing to compromise if he realizes that there're other options and if those options will make sence to him. He would have to build a new patterns, like right now he has this pattern: "I live in a city (maybe even in a particular building in a city) it takes 20 minutes to get to this museum by foot, it takes 5 minutes to this place by train etc)" but he can also establish a compromise pattern and accept it because for him it's not about control but about sense.

    Of course it could be more complicated that that, person with Asperger's can have a bunch of psychological issues and display obsessive behavior, I've given this example so difference can be seen.
    That is the way I see it....
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
  10. uncommonsense

    uncommonsense Well-Known Member

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    I really enjoyed your analogy! I was able to see myself in the wife and husband's point of view. My ex husband is someone who yells...a lot and was rather controlling with me! When we were married, I was constantly stressed and developed dichotomous thinking. I would lay claim to certain decisions in our family and only I could make the choices. I knew something 'bad' would happen if I did not maintain control and I was willing to yell and fight till the end to maintain that control, which is odd sense I despise yelling and/or disagreeing.

    I am remarried to a man who really allows me to be myself. There is rarely a disagreement between us and he would never yell at me, be dismissive, or controlling. Quickly the need for the dichotomous thinking diminished and I learned how to 'talk myself' through change. I still don't naturally gravitate towards that but if someone offers a suggestion, I have no problem considering the pros and cons. I have even been known to change my mind and admit that the change is a good thing! :)

    Regarding Black and White thinking...I do think in black and white but as I have gotten older and I have learned more, I have adjusted my views on many issues. Now I am able to question my own conclusions....I kind of play 'devils advocate' with myself. Much like an earlier poster, I ask myself logical, cognitive questions and I do not allow myself to think about the 'feelings' behind the answers. Just the facts, please. :)
     
  11. FishyEnthusiest

    FishyEnthusiest Well-Known Member

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    I think people with AS are more concrete and black and white is much easier to understand rather than those shades of gray. I know I have a problem with being to concrete causing me anxiety and making other people upset at me for various reasons. I would say that I am very black and white or yes or no....i'm not fond of maybe's even though they can be effective at times.
     
  12. Arashi222

    Arashi222 Cuddling Vampires V.I.P Member

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    Personally I don't see it in myself however...that being said... the proverbial caveat is that apparently I do. Or at least I tend be that way with friendships. Everything is right or wrong, hurtful or not hurtful, on time or late, you name it my ex-friends have said this about me. I don't see it at all but I will admit that I am sure there is some truth to it. I tend to be very methodical, very one step, two step...etc...I can't deviate from that step by step thinking process and if someone tries to tell me to skip from step one to step 5 I can't do it.
     
  13. Gomendosi

    Gomendosi Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    To my way of thinking, an aspergical person sees things in black and white, to us something either is or it isn’t... full stop, but there is where the difference lies.
    We take into account every tiny variable and make a decision based on the best course of action or alternatively, the strongest feeling toward something, but then tomorrow those variables may very likely change drastically and our thinking with it.
    In the eyes of anybody viewing with interest, noticing that change of heart, they would then claim we do see shades of grey.
     
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  14. arthurfakaya

    arthurfakaya Well-Known Member

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    I would never have thought of myself as a black and white thinker, because all my decisions are largely the result of logic with as little emotional content as possible. I will carefully weigh up the pros and cons, sometimes making lists. This can be very time-consuming compared to the black and white thinker who sees only two sides to every issue. But for me, it's time well spent, because it's an investment in reassurance; knowing I considered carefully rather than rashly, and this helps me deal with anxiety. For someone who is socially anxious, as many Aspies are, decisions based on logic have the potential to be correct more often than a black and white coin-toss. So there's less risk of social embarrassment.

    Black and white thinking I believe suits those who are less informed, less intelligent, and more emotional. Decisions can be made quicker, and a quick decision may well have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors when they found themselves prey to faster, larger animals; and even in everyday life: it takes a fair dose of quick decision-making to cross a busy road. Sometimes any decision is better than a delayed response.

    The pay-off for me is that it allows me to remain true to my logical world-view. The pay-off for black and white thinkers is that it supports their emotional / simple world-view, one they've possibly learnt from their upbringing. If they tow the line, they'll be rewarded by those they depend on for support.

    So I would imagine that Aspies, who are more logical than emotional might tend not to be black and white thinkers. But that's just my logically-deduced belief. :lol:
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2012
  15. Gomendosi

    Gomendosi Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    arthurfakaya, I might point out that we are on the same track here in that I said a person with Aspergers is going to be totally in one camp or the other but only after taking into consideration all factors of the given situation.
    But people see us as having grey areas to our perceptions because if the factors we took into consideration in that first instance change, then so can the camp we ally ourselves with.

    You then said that after looking at the pros and cons you will side with one or the other and I am just thinking that that means you are black and white, in line with my own definition.
    Perhaps I need a more black & white idea of what the term black & white is, I mean, I take it to mean one or the other and no middle ground, for or against with no sitting on the fence. If this is the proper description then I am only black & white in that after careful consideration I will definitively choose one or the other and I still reserve the right to change should any new data come to light... or does this last bit change the meaning of my thinking to being in the grey area.

    I confess that after your post I am confused thinking I may have my definitions mixed up; it seems that you agree but you?re also contrary to me?

    Anybody at all got any thoughts on whether I am thinking straight on this topic? :twitcy:
     
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  16. Bay

    Bay Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    It has always seemed to me that it is not so much about black and white thinking as it is about idealism or idealist thinking and realistic or pragmatic thinking. My sister, for instance, always has an ideal in mind when thinking about how her life should be, and in that sense she is what I might call black and white. She is unable (or unwilling) to see the actual variables. When things do not go according to her world view, she sees it as a disaster when it isn't really, it's just doesn't fit with her ideal. There is no middle ground. For her this makes sense.

    To me it makes more sense to assess what truly exists, the way things and people really are, and aim for the best possible outcome given the circumstances. Usually that isn't ideal, but it's realistic. If it doesn't work out, well, maybe it will with a bit of tweaking. I believe that acknowledging the shades of gray that make up a realistic situation are most useful. Once I make up my mind about something I am willing to change it as circumstances change or more evidence becomes available.

    I agree that if a mind is made up and is thereafter inflexible, that result could be called black and white thinking.
     
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  17. arthurfakaya

    arthurfakaya Well-Known Member

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    From my interpretation of "black and white thinking", and from how you've described yourself, I'd say you are just like me - not a black and white thinker, because you weigh up the pros and cons of each situation, use logical thinking, and alter your opinion if new evidence comes to light. To me, that is typical Asperger's thinking. For me, black and white thinkers are people who can only see two sides to a question/issue and quite often already have their mind made up regardless of what facts come to light. They make decisions based on their emotions and prejudices. That doesn't sound like you at all. So, sorry if my original post sounded derogatory. It wasn't intentional. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2012
  18. arthurfakaya

    arthurfakaya Well-Known Member

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    I agree. Here again, this is non-black-and-white thinking at work. This type of thinking is more likely to be realistic & flexible because it considers all the facts/information available at any point in time, and is not as easily swayed by emotion or prejudices. What I'd call typical Asperger's logical thinking. :)