Autism Speech & Autism Language

Presenting a new model of human communications

By Eric | More Theories & Myths

Group of 3

Speak to any autistic and you will soon find that the way they converse is very different. Autistic language tends to sound technical, silted, monotonous, inappropriate, long-winded and repetitive etc.

Ask the autistic what he thinks about non-autistic language, and he will probably describe them as inefficient, redundant, illogical, irrational, not to the point and extremely confusing.

Both parties are not trying to be funny or anti-social. They may not realize that they have different internal models or ideas about communicating. After I observed my own thinking and emotional processes before and after I rediscovered my instincts, I created a model to help bridge these differences.

 

Reactive Predictive Communications (RPC)

Introduction

Non-autistic people use what I call "Reactive Predictive Communications". It is a communications system vital to human survival and has evolved beyond sharing information like signaling food and danger.

Communicating information is secondary for the human communications system. Its primary role is to influence other people, or to make them behave and react the way we like. This mutual influencing keeps human society functioning and people agreeable with each other.

Communicating to influence is the most obvious unspoken rule for non-autistics, yet most autistics may find it difficult to understand this concept. When autistics are unable to influence others (such as by using diplomatic wording) or respond to others' influence (such as by compromising), they earn the wrath of the people around them for "purposely" being difficult or selfish.

 

Explanation

In Reactive Predictive Communications, non-autistics have some guiding rules:

  1. Pay attention to what you say or do because they create intentional and emotional impact on others
  2. Before saying or doing something, adjust it for the intentional and emotional impact to create desired results (e.g. make someone happy)
  3. If you cannot adjust away an unwanted impact, avoid talking about the matter unless absolutely necessary
  4. If you have nothing that can create any impact, shut up

Using RPC requires advanced mastery of the "Theory of Mind", which allows non-autistic people to create a profile for every other person they know and store these in their "people database".

Whenever they encounter someone, they draw out the profile and create a inner simulation of the person on which they will process RPC on. The profile associated with a certain person becomes more detailed and accurate the more experience they gain about that person. They can also switch profiles effortlessly when talking to different people at the same time.

For people whom they don't know, they create a "generic profile" based on stereotypes. While this is a good heuristic, it gives rise to over-simplified judgment of people based on their race / culture / religion etc (i.e. discrimination).

 

Reactive Predictive Communications Model (click to expand)

When they initiate verbal RPC, they go through these steps:

  1. The sender constructs a simulated model of the sender based on his understanding
  2. He sends a test message to the simulated receiver
  3. Analyzing the response, he tunes the message to fit the response
  4. He repeats steps 2 to 3 until he has the appropriate response
  5. He then transmits the specially constructed message to the ‘real' receiver

RPC usually functions in "real time" (i.e. within the time span allowed by the conversation and its reply). However, one can extend its processing duration for special and complex situations (e.g. by politicians who want to increase the chances of people voting for them or advertisers who want to influence consumers to buy certain products).


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Case Studies

To autistics, RPC may sound like a form of manipulation. However, RPC is mainly used for social bonding. Without RPC to persuade each other to compromise, people will offend each other frequently, making it impossible to develop civilization.

In this case study, we can see how Alice uses RPC to persuade Jack to stop blowing his nose loudly because it bothers her.

  1. Alice constructs a test message: “Stop blowing your nose loudly”
  2. Alice imagines talking to Jack and observing his reaction
  3. Imaginary Jack refuses to listen
  4. Alice tried a different message taking into account Jack's preference: “I will give you a chocolate if you stop sneezing loudly”
  5. Imaginary Jack accepts the offer but breaks his promise
  6. Alice repeats the above steps until she gets the expected response from imaginary Jack: compliance
  7. Alice communicates final message to real Jack: “I will not let you copy my homework if you keep sneezing so loudly”

 

RPC is used for the complex "Theory of Mind" assessment of all social situations. For instance, imagine that a male driver and female pedestrian is crossing a road without a traffic light or zebra crossing.

  1. The driver and pedestrian notices each other
     
  2. The driver determines the probability of the pedestrian ignoring him (e.g. is her walking speed fast, is she slowing down, is she looking in his direction)
     
  3. The pedestrian determines the probability that the driver is giving her the right of way (e.g. is he slowing down, is he waving to her)
     
  4. The driver makes a decision whether to give the right of way based on his probability assessment (i.e. if lady is still showing no signs of slowing down or noticing him, he must honk and slow down to avoid hitting her) and prevailing cultural norms (e.g. cars usually have the right of way)
     
  5. Both makes a decision
     
  6. Both then indicates their respective decisions to each other through RPC. We assume that the pedestrian gives way to the driver and the driver chooses to have the right of way.
     
  7. The pedestrian will do what she can to match the driver's probability assessment that she is giving him the right of way. She will slow down to indicate that she does not want the right of way. She will look at the driver to indicate that she is paying attention to him.
     
  8. The driver, noticing that the pedestrian is slowing down, will continue driving past her without giving any contradictory clue or indication.

This system has a failsafe: even if one party is not paying attention, an accident can be averted by the vigilant party. It is automatic, effortless and works so fast that few notice it. When I discovered how to use this system myself, I was amazed by its elegance and simplicity.

 

To increase human bonding, non-autistics often share "emotional gifts" with people they like, for instance, praise and good news. These gifts are "calculated" using RPC to make recipients feel good. Illustrating with an oversimplified example: A lady who wants to look pretty asks her friends how she looks. Her friends compliment her for being pretty even though they might not think so. This makes her feel good because she has apparently achieved her goal.

Non-autistics instinctively avoid sharing things that reduce bonding with people they like, such as bad news. If they must share, they use RPC to reduce the negative impact or create a "positive spin" before sharing it.

 

Straight Forward Communications (SFC)

Autistics do not innately understand RPC, so they fall back on a less complex system called Straight Forward Communications. SFC is used to communicate information and requests. It is similar to the model of what engineers call "communication theory" (for machines).

In SFC, autistics have some guiding rules:

  1. You communicate what you believe is most important first, followed by the less important
  2. You should be objective and not be influenced by emotions
  3. You should not make mistakes with your speech (like having wrong assumptions or data)
  4. Share more data just in case it is helpful

SFC is the systematic transfer of information from one mind to another (note: mind, not people). It is much like downloading files from the Internet, except that human speech is too slow to convey all the information. To compensate, autistics may have to talk very fast for a long time.

SFC operates on a WYSIWYG* system. It assumes that the mindset of both parties are different and thus tries to clarify as much of the situation as possible by exhaustively listing out the facts, possibilities and assumptions. Its main tool for correcting errors is repetition: it assumes that the other party could not hear the original message clearly.

* WYSIWYG – A Computer Term for desktop publishing meaning "What You See Is What You Get"

 

When non-autistic meets autistic

The trouble starts when people use different models of communications with each other.

  1. The non-autistic converses to determine the emotional goals of the autistic
  2. The autistic converses to determine the informational goals of the non-autistic
  3. The non-autistic becomes frustrated because he cannot read the intentions of the autistic; he begins to suspect that the autistic may be hiding something, being difficult or disliking him
  4. The autistic becomes frustrated because he cannot pinpoint the data or request that the non-autistic wants
  5. Both end up disliking each other

To avoid misunderstandings, both parties must specify their intentions explicitly.

Straight Forward Communications

Reactive Predictive Communications

The transmission is the message The reaction is the message
Intent to express one's truth or knowledge Intent to influence others towards personally desired behavior
Convey as much details as possible Avoids details: say only what is necessary to prevent unwanted side-effects or unexpected reactions
Makes effort to be precise to avoid misunderstandings

Makes effort to be vague to maximize flexibility in repairing social mistakes

Minimize future misunderstandings by conveying enough common concepts Minimize effort needed to trigger desired reaction

 

Conclusion

I believe that in order to understand other people, autistics must first grasp the concept of self, remove their psychological barriers and activate their instincts. If they do not own their personal history, refuse to accept the irrationality of other people and are not aware of their emotions, it would not be possible to understand themselves. If they do not understand themselves, they could not understand others and construct their people-simulator.

Training them in social skills using textbook rules is like asking people to learn English from a dictionary. True mastery of English comes from instinctive use, not memorization of definitions. The same goes for social skills.

It is wise for autistics to bear this "cultural difference" in mind. Believing that "manipulating people" is "bad" misses the point of social communications. People want to converse because the experience benefits them (both in helping them obtain their goals and with personal enjoyment).

People are not just individuals, but "tribal groups". In these groups, the inner worlds of people cross into each other as a unified body. Just as we would not complain that a certain part of our mind is "manipulating" us to yawn when other people start yawning, people do not see such "social gifts" as manipulation because these are part of their psyche.

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