Diametrical Model Of Autism And Schizophrenia

One interesting thing I took from Evolutionary Psychopathology was a better understanding of the diametrical theory of the social brain.

There’s been a lot of discussion over whether schizophrenia is somehow the “opposite” of autism. Many of the genes that increase risk of autism decrease risk of schizophrenia, and vice versa. Autists have a smaller-than-normal corpus callosum; schizophrenics have a larger-than-normal one. Schizophrenics smoke so often that some researchers believe they have some kind of nicotine deficiency; autists have unusually low smoking rates. Schizophrenics are more susceptible to the rubber hand illusion and have weaker self-other boundaries in general; autists seem less susceptible and have stronger self-other boundaries. Autists can be pathologically rational but tend to be uncreative; schizophrenics can be pathologically creative but tend to be irrational. The list goes on.

I’ve previously been skeptical of this kind of thinking because there are many things that autists and schizophrenics have in common, many autistics who seem a bit schizophrenic, many schizophrenics who seem a bit autistic, and many risk factors shared by both conditions. But Del Giudice, building on work by Badcock and Crespi presents the “diametrical model”: schizophrenia and autism are the failure modes of opposing sides of a spectrum from high functioning schizotypy to high functioning autism, ie from overly mentalistic cognition to overly mechanistic cognition.

Schizotypy is a combination of traits that psychologists have discovered often go together. It’s classified as a personality disorder in the DSM. But don’t get too caught up on that term – it’s a disorder in the same sense as narcissistic or antisocial tendencies, and like those conditions, some schizotypals do very well for themselves. Classic schizotypal traits include tendency toward superstition, disorganized communication, and nonconformity (if it sounds kind of like “schizophrenia lite”, that’s not really a coincidence).

Typically schizotypals are supposed to be paranoid and reclusive, the same as schizophrenics. But the diametrical model tries to downplay this in favor of noting that some schizotypals are unusually charismatic and socially successful. I am not exactly sure where they’re getting this from, but I cannot deny knowing several extremely charismatic people with a lot of schizotypal traits. Sometimes these people end up as “cult leaders” – not necessarily literally, but occupying that same niche of strange people who others are drawn toward for their unusually confident and otherworldly nature. Some of the people I know in this category have schizophrenic first-degree relatives, meaning they’re probably pretty loaded with schizotypal genes.

Schizotypals, according to the theory, have overly mentalistic cognition. Their brains are hard-wired for thinking in ways that help them understand minds and social interactions. When this succeeds, it looks like an almost magical understanding into what other people are secretly thinking, what their agendas are, and how to manipulate them. When it fails, it fails as animism and anthropomorphism: “I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me by making it rain today”. Or it fails as paranoia through oversensitivity to social cues: “I just saw him twitch his eye muscle slightly, which can sometimes mean he’s not interested in what I’m saying, and in the local status game that could mean that he doesn’t think I’m important enough, and that implies he might think he’s better than me and I’m expendable…”

Autism, then, would be the opposite of this. It’s overly mechanistic cognition, thinking in terms of straightforward logic and the rules of the physical world. Autistic people don’t make the mistake of thinking the universe is secretly trying to tell them something. On the other hand, after several times trying to invite a slightly autistic woman I had a crush on to things, telling her how much I liked her, petting her hair, etc, she still hadn’t figured out I was trying to date her until I said explicitly “I AM TRYING TO DATE YOU”. So not believing that you are secretly being told things has both upsides and downsides.

Autistic people are sometimes accused of looking for a set of rules that will help them understand people, or the secret cheat code that will make people give them what they want. I imagine an autistic person asking something like “What is the alternative?” This is the kind of thought process that usually works on stuff: figure out the rules that govern something, find a way to exploit them, and boom, you’ve landed a rocket on the moon. How are they supposed to know that human interaction is a bizarre set of layered partial-information games that you’re supposed to solve by looking at someone’s eye muscle twitches and concluding they’re going to steamroll over you to get a promotion at work?

Is this true? There’s…not great evidence for it. I’ve never seen any studies. There’s certainly a stereotype that brilliant engineers are not necessarily the most socially graceful people. But I know a lot of people who combine excellent technical skills with excellent social skills, and other people who are failures in both areas. So probably the best that can be said about this theory is that it would be a really neat way to explain the patterns of similarities and differences between schizophrenia and autism.

In this theory, both high-functioning autism (being good at mechanistic cognition) and high-functioning schizotypy (being good at mentalistic cognition) may be good things to have. But the higher your mutational load is – the less healthy your brain, and the fewer resources it has to bring to the problem – the less well it is able to control these powerful abilities. A schizotypal brain that cannot keep its mentalistic cognition yoked to reality dissolves into schizophrenia, completely losing the boundary between Self and Other into a giant animistic universe of universal significance and undifferentiated Mind. An autistic brain that cannot handle the weight of its mechanistic cognition becomes unable to do even the most basic mental tasks like identify and cope with its own emotions. And because in practice we’re talking about shifts in the complicated computational parameters that determine our thoughts and personalities, rather than the thoughts and personalities directly, both of these conditions have a host of related sensory and cognitive symptoms that aren’t quite directly related.

So here the reason why autism and schizophrenia seem both opposite and similar to each other is because they’re opposite (in the sense of being at two ends of a spectrum), and similar (in the sense that the same failure mode of high mutational load and low “mental resources” will cause both).

If you’re thinking “it sounds like someone should do a principal components analysis on this”, then Science has your back (paper, popular article). They find that:

Consistent with previous research, autistic features were positively associated with several schizotypal features, with the most overlap occurring between interpersonal schizotypy and autistic social and communication phenotypes. The first component of a principal components analysis (PCA) of subscale scores reflected these positive correlations, and suggested the presence of an axis (PC1) representing general social interest and aptitude. By contrast, the second principal component (PC2) exhibited a pattern of positive and negative loadings indicative of an axis from autism to positive schizotypy, such that positive schizotypal features loaded in the opposite direction to core autistic features.

In keeping with this theory, studies find that first-degree relatives of autists have higher mechanistic cognition, and first-degree relatives of schizophrenics have higher mentalistic cognition and schizotypy. Autists’ relatives tend to have higher spatial compared to verbal intelligence, versus schizophrenics’ relatives who tend to have higher verbal compared to spatial intelligence. High-functioning schizotypals and high-functioning autists have normal (or high) IQs, no unusual number of fetal or early childhood traumas, and the usual amount of bodily symmetry; low-functioning autists and schizophrenics have low IQs, increased history of fetal and early childhood trauams, and increased bodily asymmetry indicative of mutational load.

If men have much more autism than women, shouldn’t women have much more schizophrenia than men. You’d think so, but actually men have more. But men have greater variability in general, which means they’re probably more likely to satisfy the high mutational load criterion. So maybe we should instead predict that women should have higher levels of high-functioning schizotypy. Studies show women do have more “positive schizotypy”, the sort being discussed here, but lower “negative schizotypy”, a sort linked to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.)

Something that bothered me while I was writing this: famous mathematician John Nash was schizophrenic. Isn’t that kind of weird if schizophrenia is about an imbalance in favor of verbal/personal and against logical/mathematical thinking?

There are exceptions to everything, and we probably shouldn’t make too much of one case. But I find it striking that Nash’s work was in game theory: essentially a formalization of social thinking, and centered around the sort of paranoid social thinking of figuring out what to do about how other people might be out to get you. This is probably just a coincidence, but it’s pretty funny.

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134 Responses to Diametrical Model Of Autism And Schizophrenia

  1. Pingback: Rational Newsletter | Issue #38

  2. temujin9 says:

    The Nash problem has a fairly simple analysis: he tried to simulate the mentalistic mindset via a high-functioning mechanistic mindset, and got a low-functioning result with similar failure modes. This seems like a common failure mode — autists trying to understand normies, and burning out in schizoid ways — and might explain some of the overlap between the appearance of the two.

    The obverse, of the overly mentalistic mindset trying to simulate a mechanistic one, is easily recognized already as a symptom of schizoid behavior: psuedoscience adherence and invention.

  3. markpneyer says:

    This model seems to suggest these two are almost polar opposites:

    A schizotypal brain that cannot keep its mentalistic cognition yoked to reality dissolves into schizophrenia, completely losing the boundary between Self and Other into a giant animistic universe of universal significance and undifferentiated Mind.

    An autistic brain that cannot handle the weight of its mechanistic cognition becomes unable to do even the most basic mental tasks like identify and cope with its own emotions.

    Yet At different points of my life, both of these would accurately describe my experience. Is it possible for a person to ‘transition’ between these two? Because that seems to be what happened to me over the course of a few years, before settling on what i think is a happy medium.

    Mt people who knew me from birth to ~2010 would have described me as matching the second one, to a T. Totally robotic, logical, and unable to process my own emotions – although i’d react to them, intensely. From the period of 2010-2012 people who knew me would say I seemed to have gone completely in the opposite direction, and that the first one described me more. I was hyper aware of my own emotoinal state an in turmoil vecause of it, consumed by animistic thinking. People who know me know would say I have changed a _lot_ since 2013. Those who’ve known me the whole time would say i’ve basically been the same person the whole time, but that i’ve changed a lot as well.

    This ‘transition’ (i don’t know how else to call it) was moderated, i think, by some combination of abilify (i was prescribed this after being diagnosed as bipolar), as well as cannabis (Which i started consuming because abilify made me feel awful.

    I can fully empathize both with ‘trying to find the secret pattern that governs human social interaction’, as well as ‘descending into paranoia based upon seeing someone else’s eye twitch’. I finally achieved some balance and tethering to reality around 2013, but since then, have consistently wanted to understand what exactly happened, both in good terms and bad. This model seems to be useful, if I could explain that via some process, i went from having an abnormally small corpus callosum, to an abnormally developed one, and now mine is somehow roughly calibrated to allow me to appear – for the most part – normal to neurotypicals, just one who is somehow extremely charismatic and wildly logical at the same time.

    Do you know of any evidence or literature around the idea of changing, growing, or shrinking the corpus callosum? While all the cray shit was happening in late 2012 (what i think would characterize as a schizophrenic break), i kept thinking consciously about my corpus callosum, thinking something was wrong with it, but resisting the internal instinct to break or sever it. I was explicitly told by a therapist to ‘stop thinking about your brain while trying to use it’, which i found bewildering.

  4. miguelmadeira says:

    I suspect that are so many people with a SSD misdiagnosed as having an ASD and vice-versa (I think that there is even doubt if the Schizoid Personality Disorder and the ex-Asperger Syndrom are different things or only different names for the same thing) that becomes almost impossible to make a serious study about the differences between the two.

  5. Don_Flamingo says:

    Math is all about abstract symbolic thinking, but it’s not necessarily about spaces and visualization. But words themselves are abstractions and symbols.

    I think, that Math doesn’t need you to have an etch-a-sketch visiospatial notepad, in which you can derive the most challenging of geometrical identities and just exclaim ‘Oh, that’s obvious.’, because it’s all animations and arrows and colors and automatic transformations to veridical Isomorphisms to you.
    But if you’re one of the lucky few who have that gift/curse and it doesn’t turn you into a spastic, nonverbal OCD-kiddie or you started out with that, but somehow got the hang of this ‘words’-thing, then you have a bright future ahead (thinking Jake Barnett here).

    On the other hand if you’re good with mapping the right words with the right emotion and tone to subtle and subtler social situations (most of them imaginary), you can exploit that, by using words to differentiate between fine and finer aspects of reality itself by playing with stacked and nested metaphors. Play some modern 3d video games and take a few drugs and there’s hope for getting good enough at visualization skills for you to be useful yet.

  6. echidna says:

    As Banach wrote, “A mathematician is a person who can find analogies between theorems; a better mathematician is one who can see analogies between proofs and the best mathematician can notice analogies between theories. One can imagine that the ultimate mathematician is one who can see analogies between analogies”. It doesn’t sound too much like autism.

  7. Fregoli says:

    Another theory (or more exactly – framework) offering a diametrical view of psychosis and autism is the predictive processing framework. See Fletcher & Frith and Wilkinson regarding psychosis, and Pelicano regarding autism. To some degree, both are associated with faulty integration between prior beliefs and incoming sensory information, with autistic people theorized to have “hypo-priors” “…leading to a tendency to perceive the world more accurately rather than modulated by prior experience…” while the case in psychotic patients is of “…a disturbance in error-dependent updating of inferences and beliefs about the world…”.

  8. quaelegit says:

    This might be a dumb question but is paranoia similar to social anxiety? Your description (especially “I just saw him twitch his eye muscle slightly, which can sometimes mean he’s not interested in what I’m saying,…”) feels very similar to my typically though patterns, and everyone has told me I have social anxiety.

  9. Aging Loser says:

    “Verbal intelligence” is just an insultingly dismissive label for imaginative power. People who employ this phrase generally intend to contrast what they call “verbal intelligence” with what they take to be REAL intelligence — the ability to solve difficult math-problems. You can almost hear a “merely” before the “verbal intelligence”.

    • acymetric says:

      I haven’t noticed that in this thread, I think you are reading something into it that isn’t there.

    • Nornagest says:

      Funny, I usually see the opposite: people talking up verbal intelligence who seem to be trying to place it (and often other things, like “intrapersonal” or “kinesthetic” intelligence) on the same level as “mere” logical/analytical ability. See for example.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      Not here, not in science,
      but I know exactly what you mean.
      I do use it like that.
      People with high verbal, but middling ‘real’ IQ are extremely persuasive.
      And they believe their own bs, too. And then they usually get in charge.
      But they really should not run things.
      Hitler must have had one hell of a verbal IQ. One charismatic motherfucker. Verbal IQ is about leadership and our leadership is always in danger of condemning us all to our deaths by good intention, lacking actual brains. Mostly their harebrained schemes just waste everyone’s money, time and attention (which also cost lives, bcs. opportunity costs).
      Look at all the verbal intelligentsia in the US gleefully trying to start some kind of bs culture war, mostly just because they can.
      Or they just can’t live without some poetic struggle of good vs evil, scrappy underdog rebels vs the Empire, Islam vs the West, Oppressed vs Oppressors. Kids drunk on fairy tales and stories wanting to larp it all out.
      Immature fucks, the lot of them.
      I’m stronger in my verbal IQ too and that’s why I’m very cautious to take any of the self-serving bs seriously, that I’m liable to automatically come up with effortlessly.
      They don’t call it the “Dark Arts” for nothing.

      • Nornagest says:

        They don’t call it the “Dark Arts” for nothing.

        “They” call it the Dark Arts because “they” desperately want to believe that studying it will make them cool, like dark wizards in fanfiction.

        • Don_Flamingo says:

          No, I think you’re wrong about that.

          I agree that Professor Quirrel is a cool dark wizard, but I don’t see much of the Dark Arts in the book. He’s just a Sherlock type super villain with a doctor House personality doing plotception. Just that that the book tries to take that concept seriously and refuses to hand wave away all the details.
          He sucks at actually winning friends and influencing people. (Or rather if he doesn’t, we just rarely see him do that part; not the emphasis of his story)
          He just wins at playing mind games against people, who universally mistrust him, already (literally everybody in that story was merely unsure about how much to mistrust him and in what exact way).

          ‘Dark Arts’ is all about propaganda and persuasion tactics that sacrifice effectiveness for truth.
          So if not HPMOR, then I don’t know what you’re referring too.

          The Dark Arts is not a term that Yud invented, the rationality community is more than just exactly his stuff (though a large chunk of it is). I get that it sounds related, but it really isn’t.
          Dark Arts seems more related to PUA/marketing/advertisement/Caldini ideas, maybe. Not sure. Looking into it more, I see that it’s a silly name for several reasons, though. Probably best to not use it.

          I think Quirrel is dark, because he’s nihilistic and cruel and doesn’t love people. Similar to Rowling’s idea in some aspects. Potter is not dark, because he has the romantic idea of an ascendant humanity, that motivates him and he actually likes and loves the people around him. He’s got something to protect and that’s an important part of his ‘tsuyoku naritai’-motivation.

          EDIT: I was very much thinking Hitler and for a literary example Marco Inaros from ‘The Expanse’.

  10. Nootropic cormorant says:

    I’d go with the boring answer and say that these are just artifacts of biased diagnosing.

    Failing that, perhaps the scale reflects some aspect of neural plasticity, with (parts of the) Schizophrenic model adapting too fast and overfitting and autistic models being too rigid and unable adapt to new information properly.

    I think that plasticity is not equal in all developmental stages and all parts of the brain, and that this differentiation is one of the key tools by which genes determine the structure and functioning of the brain, so this hypothetical over- and underplasticity of schizos and autists respectively probably doesn’t concern the same parts of the brain, but if there are some genes or other factors that affect overall levels of plasticity, they could plausibly create an impression of these disorders being polar opposites.

  11. methylethyl says:

    It’s nice on the surface, and has plausible elements, but I don’t like it. I mean, I’m somewhere on the spectrum, and I’d love to be able to say “welp, at least I’m as far as possible from those ACTUAL CRAZY PEOPLE.” Makes me feel better about myself, ya know?

    But I also think there’s a lot to be said for autism as a kitchen-sink diagnosis that combines a whole lot of people who have similar symptoms, but whose symptoms probably have a huge range of different causes.

    Where does Olga Bogdashina’s work fit in? She hypothesized that ASD stemmed primarily from dysregulated sensory-input mechanisms. I find that her theory fits me perfectly, but my husband, who’s actually diagnosed ASD, doesn’t seem to fit that mold at all: he’s got the mechanstic thinking and social behaviors part, without (apparently) any of the wacky hearing/visual/tactile issues. Thus: kitchen sink.

    Scott’s theory is too neat. The world is messy.

  12. nameless1 says:

    I must say, once social status theory, signalling theory etc. emerged, now it is really possible to figure out human interaction in a mechanical way. Mechanical, formal thinking is basically science and so far science didn’t find any informal systems it could not eventually formalize, although it is possible that it is because systems that really resist formalization, like chaotic systems in the chaos theory sense, were quickly dropped and abandoned by scientists 🙂

    The problem is, this makes you a cynic. Not really good for mental health. It is not really good for your mood to consciously know that every time people engage in non-effective altruism, they are signalling for status, albeit not consciously. Really it should be better if you would only know it subconsciously so you could follow the herd, and share in the good feels, the warm fuzzies, and the status. It’s a bit like a religious person reading about the hypocritical pharisees in the bible and realiizing most folks in his church are exactly that. But he has at least religion itself as a consolation: people may be kinda bad, but god ain’t. What is our consolation?

    • ze2 says:

      “every time people engage in non-effective altruism, they are signalling for status”

      Someone can engage in non-effective altruism with altruism as a terminal value, but simply not think through it long enough to realize it’s not effective. I guess your point is that the effective purpose of altruism or the reason evolution created altruistic people is that it helps signal status, but evolution also created people that use condoms, which is hardly useful for reproductive fitness. It’s entirely possible to act altruistically without it being “useful” for some other purpose.

      I agree that learning about effective altruism can make people feel less good about altruistic actions that turn out to not have much impact, but the more significant effect should be feeling better about donating money, because it turns out that it’s more effective than it seems, so overall learning about effective altruism should make people feel better if they act on that knowledge.

      See also

  13. nameless1 says:

    Nicotine. I am somewhat autistic, and after 22 years of smoking it is still about 10 cig a day. Isn’t this supposed to be so super addictive that you hardly stop under 20-25 a day? And in fact I only smoke after coffee, alcohol or meals. Dunno why. Not interested in smoking just for its own sake. It does not feel good on the stomach, when trying to smoke hungry.

    Nicotine is a stimulant. I also have ADHD. ADHD people love stimulants but don’t notice them as stimulants, they become “normal”, not stimulated. Hm.

    • acymetric says:

      I don’t think smoking less than a pack a day is terribly uncommon for regular smokers. Pack a day or more is would generally get you labeled as a “heavy” smoker, so presumably there is a meaningful population of smokers who smoke less than that for the label to have meaning.

    • Aapje says:


      Addictiveness of substances tends to be overrated, because people who have problems get more attention.

      It’s hardly uncommon for people to be social smokers, who don’t smoke due to a strong addiction, but who only smoke in certain circumstances.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      my guess:
      You’re not supposed to feel normal after a meal, you’re supposed to feel sluggish. Nicotine stim counteracts that nicely getting you back to normal.
      You do use coffee for stim presumably and with nicotine it’s a better stim.

  14. multinomial says:

    I can now see why some people call psychology a pseudoscience.

  15. razzor111 says:

    About the John Nash comment:

    This article talks about how the diametric theory of mind (hypermechanistic thinking vs. hypermentalistic thinking) might concern mathematical geniuses like John Nash, Isaac Newton and Alexander Grothendieck.In a nutshell, it argues mathematical geniuses actually exhibit both extremes simultaneously, hence their technical and imaginative powers, and hence their rarity (since both extremes probably play against each other (?)).

    As a note: I just registered, long-time lurker.Something disturbing about this blog: it’s at least the fourth time a blog post about X or Y subject pops up just after I read a crap ton about said subject in the preceding days.As if the interests of Scott Alexander were somehow tied to mine in an inexplicable way (and no, I’m not psychotic nor obsessed, just to reassure everyone).

    Those weren’t vague topics.I was reading the article I posted this week and been thinking about it, about how great mathematicians exhibit both mastery of the technical aspects of math (logic, deduction, calculations, moving the X’s and Y’s around, rigor) and a strong imagination to step outside the box, to explore new realms, to see the mathematical panorama, to have a strong intuition of what to research.

    Another topic which I was thinking about myself just before Scott posted about it was the link between common knowledge and censorship.I’m talking about the exact day before, then I go on his blog and there was a long post about it.I remember it well because I was disappointed that the work was already covered by Scott, since I was planning on making an essay of my own.But I lost all interest in this enterprise once someone else covered it (by the way it was a very good post).

    Those coincidences occured a couple of other times, though maybe more vaguely.Not to be too schizotypal myself ;), but I wonder if there’s some “meta” phenomenon at work, like synchronicity.We intuit at a very high level what the “mass”, the “collective” is thinking about (and probably via internet, so there’s an actual common “collective” to take input from), where the “flows of dominant and marginal ideas” are going, and somehow similar ideas and topics pop up at more or less the same time in individuals with perhaps the same intellectual tendencies or something.

    Yes, I understand this sounds crazy.

    I’m out and everyone have a nice day or evening.

  16. JohnBuridan says:

    Was Jesus more autistic or more schizotypal?

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      Undoubtedly the latter. I can imagine Saint Paul as autistic, though. Or Moses.

      • Aging Loser says:

        Paul is way more imaginative than Jesus: the Adam-Christ dialectic (or whatever), the grafting of Israel into the holy tree, the holy community as bride/body-of-Christ, rising as spiritual body … crazy intense neon psychedelic imagery throughout Paul’s letters. Plus Paul repeatedly (at the end of each letter) addresses individuals as individuals in a way that recognizes their individuality (“Give Jim a holy kiss for me; tell him I’m not mad about what he said to me last time; would somebody please ask Kim to make me some of those super cookies again when I drop by?”). Contrast with Jesus, who can’t think beyond “Kingdom of Heaven coming, everybody gets forgiven, get on board, Father’s watching” and for whom all disciples are interchangeable and nothing but disciples. So I’d say that Paul’s the schizo if anyone is, while Jesus is sort of like those fairly dim aspies who can’t think beyond a list of political talking-points.

        • acymetric says:

          I’m not sure I would agree with that particular reading of Jesus.

        • Philipp says:

          Aging Loser, you’ve clearly got some idea of what Paul’s letters look like, but really, really need to read the Gospels again. The characteristic that is striking about Jesus is not repetitiveness (an illusion produced by reading three closely interrelated accounts–Matthew, Mark, and Luke–together), let alone dull simplicity, but the combination of extreme personal shrewdness with a jarringly prophetic authority. The parables do handle certain key themes repeatedly, but always with a different nuance and (of course) considerable inventiveness of both language and image. No “political talking-points” (in fact or by analogy) here. So too, he’s constantly dealing with people as individuals (especially, but by no means only the Gospel of John), though the writers have a tendency to contrast the disciples as a group with their master.

          Paul’s letters do not do much of their work through symbolic imagery without exegesis, in the way that, say, Revelation or Daniel could be seen as doing, but through language that builds upon definite scriptural antecedents. Trees, Adam and Christ, bridal language–all of that is straight out of the Hebrew prophets, and intelligible to anyone who knows that language. And of course it’s entirely natural for a letter-writer to address specific readers in small, controversy-riven communities.

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  18. SEE says:

    How are they supposed to know that human interaction is a bizarre set of layered partial-information games that you’re supposed to solve by looking at someone’s eye muscle twitches and concluding they’re going to steamroll over you to get a promotion at work?

    Even if we know that, there still is no alternative. Sure, most actual thinking is subconscious; careful, conscious, step-by-step reasoning is used only a small percentage of the time, and is high-effort and slow compared to subconscious cognition. But if my subconscious lacks the faculty for analyzing the partial-information games and prompting me with the correct answer, I need to try to consciously learn the rules of the games and consciously apply them. It won’t work well, but it works better than not even trying.

  19. jonm says:

    I suspect if John Nash had famously had autism, then game theory would have been held up as the typical behaviour of an autistic person trying to turn the complex social world into numbers and rules…

  20. Freddie deBoer says:

    Somebody who’s smarter than me should talk about what Friston would have to say about this.

  21. metacelsus says:

    This is probably just a coincidence

    Come on, you of all people should know that nothing is ever a coincidence.

  22. Sniffnoy says:

    Hey, don’t forget that Nash also did important work in geometry! (Both differential geometry and algebraic geometry, apparently, though (me not being any sort of geometer) I’d only heard about the former. And he also apparently did PDEs, which I also hadn’t heard about…)

  23. Joyously says:

    Hmm… My nephew is diagnosably on the autism spectrum, and if you were to study the rest of the family you’d might call us “autistic-type.” When we’re together we make fun of people who think someone else gave them “a look” (I’ve said “I don’t believe in ‘looks.”) My brother and I have talked about how we don’t understand what people mean when they say other people don’t “respect” them…

  24. Hussell says:

    Autistic people often have sensory sensitivities, and I sometimes think this is one of the root causes of autism. Do schizophrenics show any signs of sensory insensitivities? For example, could rubber-hand-illusion susceptibility be due to having lower touch sensitivity, so schizophrenics rely more on visual cues to correct their perception of their hand’s position, while autistics with touch sensitivity are more likely to override visual cues based on input from their sense of touch?

    The previous sentence may be a perfect example of confirmation bias in action. Are there any studies of sensory sensitivity/insensitivity in schizophrenics?

    • Thegnskald says:

      The summed evaluation of the post, plus the various comments (I am probably a crackpot, I could be a cult leader if that didn’t sound terribly boring and like a lot of work because people are mostly basically kind of boring), suggests I’d be put more on the “schizotype” side of things, and I definitely have sensory insensitivity.

      I didn’t start with sensory insensitivity as a young child, however. I do remember that injuries used to hurt. I think I was a lot more thing-oriented then, as well.

      Hard to evaluate. Could meditation promote or exaggerate some schizotype characteristics?

    • methylethyl says:

      I’m curious about this, too. A quick search pulls up this:

      Which says yes, there are sensory issues in schizophrenia. But from reading it, it’s not clear to me the exact nature of the dysregulation, but it at least hints at under-sensitivity in most modes. Poking around further, though, others seem to find a lot of similarity in the sensory dysfunction of autism and the sensory dysfunction of schizophrenia– they share inadequate filtering ability, perhaps? It’s confusing, and warrants more reading.

  25. honoredb says:

    My toy model for this is that people have some level of talent for mentalistic thinking (call it EQ although I’m sure that’s a dated or discredited term now) and some level of talent for mechanistic thinking (call it IQ but again that’s probably wrong). There are some common traits, including pathologies, that are associated with low EQ, and there are also some common traits, including pathologies, associated with having EQ be low relative to IQ, regardless of absolute values. Since EQ and (EQ/IQ) will correlate in the same direction, these get lumped together into autism.

    I came up with this model not from doing any sort of rigorous analysis but just from trying to explain why I have some stereotypical autistic traits despite having an about average EQ. I do wonder what you’d get if you tried to factor this out into three factors, though: IQ, EQ, and EQ/IQ.

  26. secondcityscientist says:

    If men have much more autism than women, shouldn’t women have much more schizophrenia than men. You’d think so, but actually men have more. But men have greater variability in general, which means they’re probably more likely to satisfy the high mutational load criterion. So maybe we should instead predict that women should have higher levels of high-functioning schizotypy. Studies show women do have more “positive schizotypy”, the sort being discussed here, but lower “negative schizotypy”, a sort linked to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.)

    To the extent that the mutational load model is accurate – and I am pretty suspicious of it – you would default to always expecting that men have a higher mutational load. Not just that every gene on the X chromosome is a singular copy – in women, X-chromosome-inactivation means that each cell only uses one copy of the X chromosome – but the DNA damage repair pathways mostly rely on having an intact copy of the chromosome to use as a template to fix the damage, which women have for the X chromosome but men do not.

    • Garrett says:

      Is there any evidence that DNA repair mechanisms can use the duplicate copy of the X chromosome to perform repair? I know very little about this kind of thing and it would be fascinating to learn more.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        For “The X Chromosome in humans specifically” probably not, but homology directed repair of DNA damage (specifically double-stranded breaks) has been a known biological pathway for a while. You can read about the basic mechanism here. There’s also a specific examination of HDR using homologous chromosomes (that is, the “other” chromosome of the same type) as opposed to the more typical use of sister chromatids (that is, identical copies generated as part of mitosis) here. That second one is pretty dense though.

  27. Garrett says:

    For what little it’s worth, the mentalistic vs. mechanistic cognition as described above seem to match the T/F axis for the Briggs-Meyer Type Indicator.

  28. vV_Vv says:

    There are exceptions to everything, and we probably shouldn’t make too much of one case. But I find it striking that Nash’s work was in game theory: essentially a formalization of social thinking, and centered around the sort of paranoid social thinking of figuring out what to do about how other people might be out to get you. This is probably just a coincidence, but it’s pretty funny.

    Kurt Gödel was also schizophrenic, or at least severely paranoid, to the point of starving himself to death for the irrational fear of being poisoned. His work had nothing to do with social thinking and everything to do with formal logic, the quintessential mechanistic thinking. He was a very socially withdrawn person, with very few friends.

    Individual examples aside, I think this autism-schizophrenia axis hypothesis is too simplistic. When your brain tries to infer something, it also tries to estimate the uncertainty on this inference (in Bayesian terms this is the variance or entropy or some other dispersion measure of the belief posterior). There is a difference between making poor inferences about something (e.g. social interactions) while correctly estimating a high uncertainty on these inferences, and making poor or average inferences while incorrectly estimating a high certainty.

    In my understanding schizotypals and schizophrenics are not exceptionally good at making inferences about social
    interactions, rather they are average to poor, but they very strongly overestimate the quality of their inferences.


    – Alice has an average understanding of social interactions and an average (that is, bad) understanding of quantum physics. Alice correctly estimates the level of her understanding of both. Alice is a normie.

    – Bob has a bad understanding of social interactions and an good understanding of quantum physics. Bob correctly estimates the level of his understanding of both. Bob is a high-functioning autistic working as a physicist.

    – Carol has an average understanding of social interactions and an average understanding of quantum physics. Carol overestimates the level of her understanding of social interactions. Carol is schizotypal or schizophrenic.

    – Dave has an average understanding of social interactions and an average understanding of quantum physics. Dave overestimates the level of his understanding of quantum physics. Dave is a crackpot spewing green ink on the internet.

    Don’t you think that crackpots are more similar to schizophrenics than to autistics?

    • vaticidalprophet says:

      Crackpottery is high-schizotypy. Autistic people can be high-schizotypy, see: me, my father. Autistic people can also do a godawful job of estimating just how fucked their social skills are, see: an autistic guy I personally know, who is pretty low on schizotypy (by my standards). (He’s since gotten better, mostly by way of everyone pointing out to him how amazingly awful his social skills are by autism standards.) For that matter, autistic people don’t need to have excruciatingly bad social skills — people really overestimate how much of autism is social, as opposed to sensory or motor or cognitive. Autistic people won’t be intuitively brilliant at socializing, but plenty of us are able to cover for our flaws.

      Overestimating inference quality is a pretty good way to model SZ social interaction, and rings ‘true enough’, but not necessarily wholly true.

    • InvalidUsernameAndPassword says:

      Couldn’t Gödel’s work also be interpreted as paranoid-ish? (“What if all of mathematics is inconsistent and none of us actually know what we’re doing?”)

      • vV_Vv says:

        I think it’s a bit of a stretch.

        His famous incompleteness theorems are indeed a negative answer to Hilbert’s program, but Gödel also introduced new frameworks and proved many positive results, e.g. in the theory of recursive functions and intuitionistic logic. Outside pure logic, he also discovered, as a birthday present to Einstein (one of his few friends), an interesting class of solutions of the field equations of general relativity which were the first ones known to allow time travel to the past.

        I wouldn’t say his work is particularly paranoid or negative, that was just his personality as an individual.

  29. mcpalenik says:

    I do theoretical physics (technically, I’m working in a chemistry department right now), and I feel like I’m more on the schizotypic end of the spectrum. Your comment about John Nash made me think about how I’ve always disliked the aspect of my job that involved solving concrete problems involving actual, specific systems. The thing I like about theoretical physics/chemistry and mathematics is that it allows you to kind of explore a new realm and think of creative solutions to problems that haven’t been solved yet. Even when I was in high school, I was drawn to areas of math like differential geometry and things like 3d game programming because I liked visualizing spaces as a kind of unexplored, otherworldly place. I also strongly prefer reading and writing fiction to nonfiction (although I don’t mind writing scientific papers, and everyone I work with has always told me I write really well) and music composition, which I think would be considered a creative, rather than technical endeavor. Additionally, I score really high on that test where you have to identify emotions based on looking at a closeup of someone’s eye (edit: and I think I’m slightly susceptible to the “your left eye twitched and that means you hate me” thing). So perhaps being on either end of the spectrum has some benefits for mathematical/scientific work, depending on how you carry it out.

  30. algekalipso says:

    Here is an interpretation for the PCA decomposition. It is possible that for any given person to stand out in either mechanistic or mentalistic traits he or she will generally have to come from families that sort of specialize in only one of the traits. This does not mean that exceptional abilities in both are impossible, but a degree of polarization will be present due to assortative mating. Some families break this pattern, though (e.g. Huxley and Bohr families).

    This interpretation would predict that societies that are less specialized (or where there is less skill-based assortative mating) would lead to a different factor decomposition. Namely, rather than 2 we would see 3 in this case, as the mentalistic and mechanistic traits would separate into orthogonal factors. More so, we would also predict that if a society explicitly values well-roundedness and promotes assortative mating based on “a balanced set of skills” we would then see only two factors again. In this case mentalistic and mechanistic abilities would become positively correlated and hence couple together when seen at a coarse level (i.e. few factor views).

    I will add that in this account, some of the most brilliant people on earth will be those who manage to blend their mentalistic and mechanistic skills in their craft. When two traits are anti-correlated and having both at a high level of competence leads to non-linear benefits then some people would stand out extraordinarily in terms of their accomplishments. Such people could also then be exposed to higher chances of bizarre and unique catastrophic mental breakdowns. If combining mentalistic and mechanistic traits leads to great upsides, in their failure mode would lead to having psychotic and autistic dissociations/panics at once. Hence John Nash? I feel like there is an archetype for this kind of “polymath bad trip” and I’m not remembering it now.

    • algekalipso says:

      I’m also going to add that in QRI’s frameworks, mentalistic and mechanistic abilities are high-level applications of two underlying axis of variation.


      Autism – what it feels like to have disjointed over-expressed neural metronomes.

      Schizophrenia – what it feels like to have excessive, uncoordinated, neuronal entrainment.

      More specifically:

      From emotional intelligence to EnQ & MQ

      EQ (emotional intelligent quotient) isn’t very good as a formal psychological construct- it’s not particularly predictive, nor very robust when viewed from different perspectives. But there’s clearly something there– empirically, we see that some people are more ‘tuned in’ to the emotional & interpersonal realm, more skilled at feeling the energy of the room, more adept at making others feel comfortable, better at inspiring people to belief and action. It would be nice to have some sort of metric here.

      I suggest breaking EQ into entrainment quotient (EnQ) and metronome quotient (MQ). In short, entrainment quotient indicates how easily you can reach entrainment with another person. And by “reach entrainment”, I mean how rapidly and deeply your connectome harmonic dynamics can fall into alignment with another’s. Metronome quotient, on the other hand, indicates how strongly you can create, maintain, and project an emotional frame. In other words, how robustly can you signal your internal connectome harmonic state, and how effectively can you cause others to be entrained to it. Empirically, women seem to have a higher EnQ (and are generally more sensitive to the energy in a room), whereas MQ might be more similar on average, with men being slightly higher (especially on the tails). Most likely, these are reasonably positively correlated; in particular, I suspect having a high MQ requires a reasonably decent EnQ. And importantly, we can likely find good ways to evaluate these with CSHW.


  31. Ozy Frantz says:

    If this is true then why do all my autistic friends keep having psychotic breaks?

    • doortraptedaan says:

      Mutational load?

    • Aron Szabo says:

      My two psychotics breaks so far have been caused by stress (due to school), sleep deprivation and in the later one’s case my tendency to focus most of my attention inside my mind. I think my autism played an important part in all three of those causes.

      I don’t know how my experience generalizes.

    • Conrad Honcho says:


      • Mark Atwood says:

        Of the small handful of such implosions I’ve seen in highly intelligent geeks, in more than half of them, a rising and then spiking intake of Adderall was an leading indicator.

        I can’t speak to whether their legal Rx to it was because they were actually ADHD, or they were using it as “study aid”.

  32. harzerkatze says:

    Regarding schizophrenia in mathematicians, I’d also like to mention Kurt Gödel.

  33. Interesting! The chain of causation goes from genes to corpus callosum to autism to mechanism, which matches a spectrum going from concrete to abstract. Everything downstream should be less tightly coupled to underlying causes upstream. So, mechanism and mentalism may not be diametric, even if autism and schizophrenia are.

    Separately, what your post reminds me of is a TANSTAAFL model[1] of the brain versus an unlimited one. Our default, unlimited model of the brain is that of a computer with modules: you can increase numeracy by just getting an extra helping of the number module. Instead, the brain appears more like D&D point assignments, where if you give extra helpings in one dimension, you necessarily have less to give in other dimensions. Tanstaafl makes sense given how the body is economical in its use of calories, especially so with the brain, our most expensive organ. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the different features that appear in the zoo of human intelligence are ultimately diametric. In the rare cases when it’s not (e.g., Steve Nash), you get a genius, which may be a synonym for a high-functioning mutant, a rarity under a mostly Tanstaafl model of the brain. When you produce one, though, that becomes progress for the species by generating novel, but useful, blueprints for new minds.

    [1] First noticed on

  34. Norman says:

    Have you read Cecilia Heyes, Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking? It only has a few passing references to autism specifically, but the general model seems relevant. I would be interested to know what you think.

  35. Joe says:

    I read the book “A Beautiful Mind” about John Nash. He was actually a pretty terrible person. The movie made him seem like a disturbed but decent guy.

  36. harzerkatze says:

    An observation that I have made among artists (musicians, jugglers, magicians…) is that there are basically two kinds of them:
    – The ones who are so good at working with people that they seem born for the stage, and thus chose that chareer.
    – The ones who are so bad at working with people that they had a lot of time working alone on their skills (manual, theoretical etc), and later found that that offered a shortcut to being liked by people despite the lack of personal relationship. So in effect a hack of the weird social game.

    In the above context, these two types seem to be the two ends of the schizotypal spectrum, but both end up as artists.
    Perhaps something similar is at work for the mathematicians?

    • eric23 says:

      It makes sense that autistic-type skills make you good at math. But how would people skills help with math? If you write a math proof, anyone can read it and it’s either correct or incorrect.

      • acymetric says:

        It wouldn’t necessarily help with the math, but maybe it would help with getting a job that pays you to do math, and with collaborating with colleagues or people in other fields on big problems. The worse your people skills are, the more obviously brilliant your math skills need to be to accomplish these things.

  37. theredsheep says:

    Well, I’m somewhere on the spectrum, but my verbal intelligence is significantly higher than my ability with math. I’m not bad with math, actually above average in some respects, but not as good as I am with words. I don’t think I’m at all uncreative; I’ve taken the typical aspie desire to obsess over systems and, instead of obsessing over an existing system, use it to build my own. For my whole life I’ve entertained myself by constructing fantasy worlds of extreme complexity. For example, from my adolescence I spent years building a civilization of three-inch-tall people living according to mostly realistic constraints (e.g. all native plants and animals, no metalworking) in the local woodlands. It turned into a gigantic novel that fell apart halfway through due to its sheer ambition (each manuscript chapter was fifty pages, all cluttered with details about daily life and something like 2000 years of history). I did this multiple times with different worlds before finally succeeding last year and getting a novel self-published.

    Now, you can argue that this is a very different kind of creativity than the Vincent Van Gogh variety, but it’s hard to say it isn’t creative. I’m sure there are other people out there like this, most notably more successful science fiction and fantasy writers. Possibly the distinction is between more rigid and rules-based systems on the one hand and sloshier, more fluid styles of creation?

    Also, for more annoying contrary anecdotal evidence, my one full brother is quite good at the math side of things–he works training people in network intrusion techniques or some such for the army–but not at all autistic. The reverse, actually; he’s extremely charming and disposed to play things fast and loose. He’s never had a problem attracting women, and spent like a decade of his life as a sort of pseudo-bohemian–the way an artist lives, crashing with friends, except that he’s not an artist, really. He has significant technical talent at drawing, and can play guitar, but doesn’t have the compulsive desire to make stuff that I do.

    Our dad is blatantly autistic in a conventional manner (he worked analyzing healthcare trends for NIH); our mom is a much more people-oriented person (a geriatric nurse, pastoral counselor, and psych professor by turns). Does this mean we got our pathologies crossed?

    • arlie says:

      My family is full of high functioning autists. One of them is seriously made of fail with regard to math. Two of them write fiction; one of those gets published. Another picked up a schizophrenia diagnosis, along with the rest of her collection. I “only” got 790 on my verbal GRE, to go with my 800 for math. (But as a child, I saw myself as far better at math, and disliked mushy squishy fields where pleasing the teacher seemed more important than getting the correct answer, so YMMV.)

      Bottom line: this theory doesn’t fit my personal experience, nor that of my family. It feels seductive, on first reading, perhaps due to thinking in stereotypes. But it falls apart for me as soon as I engage my ‘slow’ thinking system.

    • theredsheep says:

      Different kinds of creativity may play a role; Tolkien was immensely creative, but in a more autistic way–he set up an enormous system that made sense in linguistic, cultural, and theological terms (among others), but with a few exceptions like Gollum his characters aren’t terribly complicated and tend to appear as types. Barsoom is even more so; the characters are utter cardboard, while Burroughs made up Martian systems of measurement and chess games and who-knows-what. Then you have the likes of MC Escher.

      But there’s another kind of creativity, that’s more chaotic and fluid–James Joyce hardly seems autistic, for example. The whole genre of magical realism appears antithetical to autistic thinking. And most of the books I read in high school were highly people-oriented.

      Could it be a matter of the human creative impulse channeled along divergent paths? Maybe shrinks tend to call autistics uncreative because they don’t create in a people-oriented way, and the social sciences would seem to be a subject of some interest to the people-oriented.

  38. Luke Perrin says:

    So am I less likely to get schizophrenia because I have autism?

    • vaticidalprophet says:

      Absolutely no researchers care about autistic people over the age of ten, so good question! The research that does exist that I know of actually implies an increased risk, because the ‘no schizo-autists’ hypothesis is hilariously terrible. But it’s been a while, and again, Nobody Cares About Autistic Adults.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Nobody Cares About Autistic Adults

        I’ve also noticed this. Everybody I know who does research on autism seem to be always doing research on autistic children. But when autistic children grow into adults, as they always do since there is neither a cure nor spontaneous remission, nobody cares anymore.

        It puzzles me a bit. If I try to apply mechanistic thinking to make sense of it (what is the alternative?) I might sort of explain why nobody cares about adult autistics: most of them are male, and males are the disposable gender, the frail and diseased are left behind as men see them unworthy as allies and unthreatening as rivals while women see them unworthy as sexual partners. But why do people care about autistic children? Does the general empathy towards children override the disdain towards weak males?

        • Aapje says:

          (Potential) parents of an autistic kid want a cure?

          • vV_Vv says:

            And they stop wanting a cure when the first hair start to grow out of the kid’s face?

          • Quixote says:

            Maybe years of raising an autistic child puts demands on them that reduce their ability to be energetic advocates for research.

          • Aapje says:

            Or they stop believing that a cure is possible.

            Or we are seeing the 5 stages of grief, where denial, anger and bargaining tend to happen when the child is young and the parents have moved onto depression or acceptance once the child is an adult.

        • vaticidalprophet says:

          I think the more parsimonious explanation is just that autistic children are far more likely to be diagnosed than autistic adults. This is less true for Zeds (who are now preadolescents through young adults) than any preceding generation, but trust me, I’ve seen some really blatant missed diagnoses still amongst people (including people for whom demography wouldn’t cause underdiagnosis) in my birth cohort. At this point, I figure only a tiny portion of autistic people born before 2010 or thereabouts are diagnosed, and nearly no one before 1995. This gets some insanely high prevalence estimates, but again, with some of the people who’ve been missed…

          • arlie says:

            Last I heard – decades ago, so YMMV – the only way to diagnose functional autism in an adult (in the opinion of the shrinks) was to interview people who had known the adult as a child. I.e. researchers and clinicians hadn’t even bothered to look at grown up autistic children enough to get a diagnosable picture of the adult effects.

            Now some of this is probably because they were classing it as a developmental disorder – so if all the pieces eventually develop (just late/out of sequence), the adult doesn’t have anything wrong with them. If there was evidence that this classification was correct, it didn’t get into popular books about autism – both those by NTs for NTs unfortunate enough to have an autistic child, and those by autistic teens and adults for other autistics.

            And given that the prior name for highly functional autism – “Asperger’s syndrome” – comes from someone who was active during the second world war – plenty of the children he studied have had time to die of old age by now, never mind time to be studied as adults.

            Yes, there weren’t many disagnoses before the syndrome became well known. But there were some.

        • arlie says:

          I don’t think it’s about dislike of males. I think it’s about dislike of “weird” people, geeks, nerds, and those who don’t act appropriately friendly.

          The sympathy from the non-autistic writers seems to be all for the normal people who might (gasp) be stuck with an autist in their family. And 90% of the time, the goal is to either fix the autist (make them sociability focussed and competent at it) or at least get them to stop behaving in ways that distress non-autists (Google “Applied Behavioural Therapy”)

          Getting non-autists to stop behaving in ways that distress autists is never a goal, except to the extent that that might be the only way to stop some non-autist’s autistic child’s temper tantrums/melt downs.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think it’s about dislike of males. I think it’s about dislike of “weird” people, geeks, nerds, and those who don’t act appropriately friendly.

            Except that one of the more common complaints levied against weird/geeky/nerdy male people is that they are insufficiently friendly to weird/geeky/nerdy female people, and one of the more common complaints levied against weird/geeky/nerdy female people is that, wait, I don’t have an answer to this one because complaints about weird/geeky/nerdy females don’t seem to be a common thing.

          • arlie says:

            @John Schilling

            It seems to me that the dislike of nerds is culturally broad and deep, whereas the pressure for successful nerds to include females is more limited, more recent, and frequently targetted at including all females. (I.e. it’s nerds (male) vs good/normal people (female).) So you get complaints about lack of small talk, etc. – which no geek wants, whatever their gender. And a lot of the people pushing for it seem to me to be professional whiners. (Wikipedia has a pretty bad case of it, IMO, including unsubstantiated guesswork about female representation being quoted as if it were research.)

            That’s not the whole thing going on there. IMO there are 2 real problems lurking in the tangle:

            – male nerds who talk/act as if females are objects put on earth for their (often sexual) satisfaction. This is intermittent, and generally involves a more extreme than usual case of clue defeciit disorder. (I first encountered this as an argument at MIT, about whether female students should be distributed evenly among mostly male groups, as this would basically share the amenity fairly. Many of the female students didn’t like this plan. I.e. it’s not always about sex per se.)

            – privileged people (who may be nerds) vs others who want some of the same privilege. This manifests in the silicon valley brogrammer controversy. The question is whether equally qualified people are excluded from these well paying, high status jobs as “not fitting in” in a way that’s the antithesis of meritocracy. Or more accurately, whether that is happening “too much”, since it’s part of any human society I’ve ever heard of.

            But very often the goal of “including more women” is simply code for “be more welcoming to normies”, as “everyone knows” that women (at least those that should be included) are always normies, with their main interest being human relationships etc. – even the subset of them who want to write software. (Because of course people pick a career that’s high on logic, and low on social interaction when that balance doesn’t suit them, since there’s money in it, and then demand it be reworked to suit them better.)

          • veronicastraszh says:

            @John Schilling — There are a non-trivial number of men in nerd space who literally hate women. They hate their bones, with unbridled rage.

            They conceal this hatred to the degree they are required to by context, sometimes not even that.

            Yes, sometimes women hate them back — I’ve been on Twitter. But still.

            I think nerdy people should get to have “safe spaces” where they don’t have to deal with “normies.” But those “safe spaces” are not, for example, all of gaming. Nor are they all of Youtube — or any other battleground where any outspoken woman will have to deal with the “angry, hateful nerd” crowd.

            I want more “normies” (including women) in nerd space, because I’m a nerd and I like a variety of people. Regarding the nerds who hate women, I have very little sympathy.

          • John Schilling says:

            There are a non-trivial number of men in nerd space who literally hate women.

            Would you care to be at all specific about what you think that number is, and how it compares to the number of men outside nerd-space who “literally hate women”?

          • INH5 says:

            So you get complaints about lack of small talk, etc. – which no geek wants, whatever their gender.

            Have you ever been to a comic/gaming/anime convention? This isn’t even remotely true.

            Geek does not equal autistic. I’ve spent a fair amount of in ASD support groups, and had a mostly geeky circle of friends since high school. The two groups act very differently, and most geeks have plenty of small talk when they get together, just about different subjects than normy small talk.

            Now, it is true that nerd spaces are more tolerant of weirdos than mainstream spaces, which leads to an over representation of people with autism and other issues. This is the likely inspiration for Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory: that “weird” kid who hangs around your nerdy social group because no one else will talk to him. But Sheldon is considered strange even by the other nerd characters.

            In my experience, the “women in nerd communities” controversies over the past decade or so, meanwhile, seem to be more driven by people using “women” as a euphemism for “feminists”, with any actual issues buried deep under a pile of partisan shitflinging. Political views tend to end up mattering much more for which side any given person ends up on than social skills or even being female/any other “marginalized” identity.

          • veronicastraszh says:

            @John Schilling — I don’t know. However, my point is not that nerds are particularly bad. Instead, it is that I want nerd spaces to be welcoming places regardless of how non-nerds behave in non-nerd spaces.

            In other words, the fact that there is a very vocal and very energized subset of nerds who actively hate women is unacceptable. Furthermore, given a choice between women and bitter hate-nerds, we should prefer the women over the haters.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @John Schilling — There are a non-trivial number of men in nerd space who literally hate women. They hate their bones, with unbridled rage.

            They conceal this hatred to the degree they are required to by context, sometimes not even that.

            Yes, sometimes women hate them back — I’ve been on Twitter. But still.

            The difference is that you can tweet #killallmen and #bringbackbullying and not only keep your job, but also be praised as edgy and powerful. Try and tweet #killallwomen or #bringbackmaritalrape and count how many milliseconds it takes for you to be fired-banned-deplatformed from the universe.

            But the problem is the hateful male nerds…

          • INH5 says:

            @arlie: Also,

            But very often the goal of “including more women” is simply code for “be more welcoming to normies”

            Like I wrote above, I think it’s more often code for “be more welcoming to feminists/social justice advocates.” If it was about appealing to normies in general, then:

            1) We wouldn’t see the same things happening in fandoms like Star Wars that have always had a large normy audience.
            2) #Getwokegobroke wouldn’t be a meme.

          • caryatis says:

            Sometimes, in nerd spaces, you get these conversations about women that are…like anthropologists preparing to visit a hostile tribe. We must learn about their customs before we dare to approach! Can someone explain these strange ways? What magic rituals can I engage in to appear friendly to them?

            That sort of thing isn’t hateful, and I completely understand why autistic people would try to analyze and understand social interactions like that. But, women are human, and it is a bit alienating to frame them as the Other like that.

          • Baeraad says:


            Tell you what – I’ll do my very best to help you get rid of the woman-hating nerds, if you can promise that they’re not just going to get replaced by nerd-hating women.

            Because God knows I’m not a fan of those damn alpha-geeks screeching about how they’re ZOMG OPPRESSED!!!! because some character’s breasts aren’t rendered as big anymore. And they’re not any fans of me, either. I’m too damn effeminate for them – I like games with horrible, alien things like “colour” and “emotions” that are apparently a threat to their fragile sense of manhood. I’d be more than happy to see the last of them.

            But while I’m nowhere near autistic enough or self-consciously masculine enough for those mouth-breathers, I am in fact autistic, and I do in fact have a few drops of testosterone in me. So an influx of genteel feminist women who wail about how uncomfortable they are whenever male hetereosexuality is expressed in a way that is even the slightest bit clumsy or tonedeaf – and no, by the way, I do NOT think that’s an exaggeration – well, that doesn’t work for me either.

            That doesn’t mean I’ll do any gatekeeping – in fact, I’ll probably point and laugh at the alpha-geeks as they wail about how they’re getting cooties, because hey, you got to look at the bright side of these things – but why exactly should I lift a finger to help replace one group that hates me with another group that hates me?

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            But if normies enter the nerd space in numbers, it would cease to be a nerd space. It would become normie space. The nerd culture would be driven out. Nerd culture cannot survive on normie norms, but only on nerd norms. Normies claiming nerd space will not tolerate nerd norms.

            Spaces are as much defined by who is in, than by who is out.
            And they’re very much defined by who they welcome, as who they don’t.
            If you want nerd space/women space/male space/whatever space to be welcome to outsiders, you really just want their culture dead.

            If you’re a nerd, who likes a variety of people, then why is meeting the variety of people in normie space, which is the universal meeting space not good enough?

            Ok, maybe you don’t want those cultures dead, that was presumptous. But do you not see, that it would kill them? Or radically alter in them in such a way, that the people who created the space in the first place will no longer be comfortable with it?
            I mean, if you say you are a nerd, then I think you’re implying, that nerds understand you best.
            So it’s useful to have spaces, where your expectations of meeting people with that attribute is maximized and you never have to deal with people, where you have to explain yourself or basic nerd concepts.
            EDIT2: Where it’s actually required as a matter of form, that everybody knows about whatever nerd-thing, and people get really annoyed, if somebody does not. So that everybody gets their nerd-facts straight, so that people are guaranteed to have a proper conversation about nerd-thing, if they decide to enter the space.
            I think people are reacting aggresively to the fact, that other people are trying to capture and drive them out of all their spaces and destroy all their cultures. And those other people are saying, that they must do that, because they don’t like the culture, they’re trying to murder.

          • veronicastraszh says:

            @Don_Flamingo — Nerd-versus-normie is a continuum, not a bright line. When I say “normie,” consider that I don’t mean “smug finance guy in an Italian suit.” Instead, suppose that I mean “someone interested in nerd stuff, but non-autistic or perhaps attractive, or perhaps even female.”

            The point: if you want to build walls about yourself, I cannot stop you. But you don’t own “all of video games” or “all of comics” or all of anything. If you want to be hostile to normies, I cannot actually stop you. But I’ll be over on the other side of the room with the people who are open and inviting. I’ll be among the part of the culture that grows.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            I don’t see it as a continuum and the “nerd” thing is overly broad. I see it more as a map, where different cultures congregate in their own more or less walled cities, each with their own set of rules and norms.

            I understand, that you only feel comfortable in warm, welcoming
            communities. But I think you underestimate that many people do not
            get the same thing out of them.
            That not being welcome, at least appearing to have a harsher, less friendly
            tone is exactly what they want for themselves.
            It’s part countersignaling, part familiarity.
            Not being considerate allows you to be short, wild and unfiltered.
            Being non-diverse allows you to be funny and say the most outlandish
            things with impunity.
            Have you ever heard a joke, that would be considered pure evil in normie culture,
            but in the right context just hits some kind of sweet spot between being utterly offensive,
            utterly ridiculous and maniacally insane and you laugh together for minutes at a time?
            Have you ever been playing with a friend and your conversation just degenerates into utter bullshit,
            saying the wrong words or just even non-sense words or just uttering plays on In-jokes?

            You need trust for that. And trust is hard to maintain in a big, open, inclusive space.
            In a niche, people trust each other not to be evil, and if feathers are sometimes ruffled,
            then that’s just a price, they’re willing to pay for the intensity of experience, camradery and insanity they desire.

            There’s only one guy I play Rocket League with and that’s just fine.
            Often people play games with their siblings or best friends.
            Video gaming is 99% about small groups or it’s alone.
            “You don’t own all of video games.” is a non-sequitur.
            It’s not something that can be owned.
            Nobody can own a million bigger and smaller niches.

            And if you value being part of a community,
            that grows is important to you (don’t get it, don’t need to), or you just really hate a certain kind of tone, that’s ok too.
            Doesn’t sound like fun to me, and I’m not even sure what a community
            like that would look like. (an example would be great, actually)
            But if it’s out there for you, that’s nice.

        • caryatis says:

          >But when autistic children grow into adults, as they always do since there is neither a cure nor spontaneous remission, nobody cares anymore.

          I don’t agree with this. Based on personal experience, I think it’s possible to grow out of autism–at least move along the spectrum to the point where you would no longer be diagnosable. I did.

          • arlie says:


            I think it’s worth reading Pretending to be Normal and considering whether or not you have simply become competent at presenting a persona that results in people treating you like one of them.

            That will make you undiagnosable – until you become too exhausted/stressed to handle both the role playing and everything else in your life, or too alienated from your own feelings/experiences to function psychologically/emotionally.

            I wound up off work on disability for 3 months, with mostly physical symptoms. (My digestive system proved to be the weakest link, though I also picked up a diagnosis of depression.)

            YMMV. But *after* this had happened, I found others writing about having had similar experiences. So that’s one possiblility.

            And of course the other is that you did grow out of it, with no latant ill effects waiting for you. I hope you are indeed the second case.

          • caryatis says:

            >I think it’s worth reading Pretending to be Normal and considering whether or not you have simply become competent at presenting a persona that results in people treating you like one of them.

            I guess I don’t see a meaningful difference between improved ability to present the appropriate persona and actually becoming less autistic. Isn’t that a lot of what separates mildly/high-functioning autistic people from the other kind–that the mild autistics have the ability to interact in a more neurotypical way when they choose, and the lower-functioning people can’t?

            I don’t *think* it’ll lead to a mental breakdown. I don’t mind interacting with normal people, as long as I get to be alone and rest afterwards.

          • arbitraryvalue says:


            I think presenting a persona is entirely normal, whether or not the presenter is on the autism spectrum. Everyone alters behavior based on social situation: alone vs. with friends vs. with family vs. with co-workers, etc. Some people effortlessly know what sort of persona is best for any situation, and some people don’t. Being “authentic” is presenting the personas you truly want to present. Not presenting a persona at all is a failure of one’s theory of mind: I’ve met people like that (heck, I’ve been like that) and they aren’t normal people.

            Unless you have a different definition of “persona” in mind?

          • arlie says:

            I agree that presenting personae is normal. I’m not sure I’d call those presenting the “best” aspects of oneself, as much as the ones you anticipate producing responses you’ll prefer.

            I am not a therapist or a psych researcher. But I see several opportunities for problems, as well as simple exhaustion.

            – ‘learning’ that one’s own personality is bad-by-definition, and everything has to be fake, all the time.

            – coming to believe oft repeated things that lead to making really bad decisions. These would typically have to do with preferences (Normal people like …; if I don’t say I like … I get bad reactions … and now I’m doing … all the time, instead of things that would actually make me happy – and I’ve essentially forgotten that I don’t actually like …) Or they’d have to do with ideas of ‘healthy’, ‘sane’, ‘well-adjusted’ behaviour. Or for that matter, of ‘best’ – as in “when I pretend to be an extrovert/to be inept-at-things-my-gender-shouldn’t-do, etc. etc., I’m presenting the ‘best’ parts of myself.

            In my case, the problem was mostly alienation. I knew I was lying, all the time, about who I was, or what I liked, because that was required to produce acceptable work ‘relationships’. So I also knew that nobody there liked *me*. But a pretence at connection was nonetheless required. (Have I mentioned that I despise liars – both *myself* in this situation, and all those coworkers who, I presumed, were equally much role playing with me. And especially the managers who’d made quite clear what I needed to do in order to (ahem) “behave acceptably”. (One of them was shocked when I casually said something like “since my personality is not acceptable …” – I thought they knew what they were demanding, but being non-autistic, and therefore good at ’empathy’ and ‘social skills’, not to mention having an advanced ‘theory of mind’ (unlike me :-() they still could not conceive that I was different from them, other than in social skills.)

            I learned tricks. Hating “team building” in noisy environments with shop talk forbidden was execrable. Really wanting to go to the bowling alley with the team (yuk!) but unfortunately having had bad experiences with migraines in bowling alleys in the past was more acceptable. Admitting to never watching movies – I can’t follow many of them, thanks to prospognosia – makes me weird – not having seen this one, but acting interested was OK, and I could learn things I could later use to demonstrate proper cultural interest in movies.

            I’m probably an extreme case, I certainly am more aggressive/angry about the situation than others whose writings I’ve read. OTOH, part of recovering was deciding that I wouldn’t hang out with soul-killing people any more. It helped a lot, emotionally, to reframe them, or at least their behaviour, as ‘bad’.

            But this is the basic pattern I worry about in others – learning that their natural instincts are ‘bad,’ faking ‘good’ to the point of confusion, while at the same time being instinctively (and maybe not consciously) certain that slipping up and letting their real self show through will draw significant retaliation.

          • arbitraryvalue says:

            The situation you were in sounds awful! I’m quite fortunate by comparison, because once I wasn’t a little kid anymore and had some control over who I associated with, I haven’t had to act out a persona I did not enjoy for more than a short time. I am always around plenty of nerdy or nerd-adjacent guys. I did have to learn how to interact even with them (I started out totally clueless) but I find that interaction genuinely pleasant.

            (The one big exception is actually dating, where I think I share a lot of your frustration. Often it feels like being back in middle school.)

            Anyway, there’s a difference between rejecting a persona that makes you miserable and rejecting all personas entirely, but I’m not sure you would disagree with that. (I mean, posting here involves adopting a persona; I don’t write the same way here as I do on a My Little Pony forum.)

            Edit: Also, when I said “best”, I meant it in the sense of “best aspects to present” with no judgement of aspects other than deciding which were appropriate for the current situation.

            Edit 2: Regarding “since my personality is not acceptable”. I don’t think that they didn’t understand what they were demanding. Rather, they were expecting you to play along with a polite fiction rather than making them openly acknowledge that (1) what they were demanding was really unpleasant for you and (2) they were still going to demand it because they didn’t want to deal with your issues. It’s like when someone asks “how are you?” – the answer is always expected to be “fine” unless you’re talking to someone very close to you.

          • chophshiy says:

            I generally agree on that, as I’ve had a similar experience. On the other hand, how much can you honestly say you have changed at the core? My experience in interacting with others has changed beyond recognition. My internal experience however is often mired in frustration, if not rage about how I don’t get/appreciate these damn aliens and they don’t get me. Attempting to explain the experience to ‘them’ is useless, no matter how much they may like or respect me.

      • Emby says:

        Anecdote time: about four years ago I was employed in a research project to study a social/technical skills program for kids and young adults. We had two age categories – under 15 and over 15.

        For the under 15 group we had participants coming out of our ears – enough to support three different sessions. But the researchers could only just scrape together enough participants for kinda-sorta-enough to run an over-15 group, and only because we promised we were going to do it, and we enrolled some people who weren’t all that interested in what the group was doing in the first place.

        So: why that effect happened I’m not entirely sure. It could be that the driver for autistic people to be involved in research or programs is their parents (likely) and that parents’ ability to make their kids get out there and participate decreases as the children get older and more autonomous. Or that older ASD folks are less likely to be participating in regular therapies, and therefore are less findable for research. But if the recruitment effect that I observed is at all common, it would certainly be likely to lead to a bias in researchers towards working with younger kids.

  39. Pingback: Recomendaciones | intelib

  40. AppetSci says:

    It seems like the Autistic brain favours linear rules (A then B then C = D) with the brain strengthening these processes through repetition (sometimes to the extreme). Schizotypy brains, otoh, seem to favour decision tree processes with “if then”s or logic gates with patterns strengthened through social experience (and maybe over recognition at the extreme). Higher functioning brains seemingly have more plasticity and lower over-recognition.

    What at a structural level would cause a brain to favour linear processes over decision tree processes? Is it something to do with numbers of neurone to neurone connections or increased “strength” of an initial neurone connection or pathway in autistics?

    I’m a total layperson, but I find Scott’s posts fascinating.

    • 天可汗 says:

      What’s the relevant difference between linear rules and decision trees (the presence or absence of probabilistic weighting?), and between repetition and social experience?

      (epistemic status: crackpot hypothesis)

      I think I see a difference between tree-like and associative thinking, which might map to autistic vs. schizotypal. In linguistics, I can draw connections but can’t follow theory; and my impression is that the people who can follow theory don’t do a very good job of drawing connections. When you’re trying to follow theory, you’re handed a very large pile of algorithms and operations and whatnot, and you have to apply the operations and learn how they fit together; this feels different from, say, historical linguistics, where you want to have a lot of data points memorized and be able to abstract across them in productive directions. I wonder if there are any stereotypes about personality differences between historical linguists on the one hand and syntacticians on the other — I’ve absolutely noticed some, but I’m not in the field so my impressions probably aren’t representative.

      (The one syntax-and-semantics linguist I’ve met who didn’t seem like a totally different sort of person than I am was trying to program computers to understand metaphor. So.)

      Chomsky’s “what if we applied Nuremberg precedent neutrally” seems like one sort of cognition, the type you might expect from autists and syntacticians: you pick up a set of principles from somewhere and you mechanically apply them. On the other hand, you have, like, “America is a steppe empire”.

      Possibly this is just Myers-Briggs sensing vs. intuition? I’m not sure.

  41. vaticidalprophet says:

    I’m not a huge fan of psychological models that predict I don’t exist. Which, in fairness, is all of them. But especially the ‘no schizo-autists’ one.

    I’ve spent a lot of time trying to rebuild all the models from the ground up. Most of this centers around the Neurodivergence Triangle (autism-schizophrenia-borderline personality disorder), where BPD is female ASD (‘people-oriented ASD’ if I’m talking to blank slatists) and SZ is, uh, something. Most of these models hold up about as well to five seconds of skeptical thought as you’d think, but I’ve made excellent progress and can now construct ones that hold up to ten seconds of skeptical thought!

    I think Multiple Complex Developmental Disorder being left out of the DSM-IV was a horrible idea and blame it for every single one of these takes.

    Aside: for a long time, most of the autistic people I met were schizo-autistic. I have recently started meeting people who aren’t schizo-autistic (the main one, ironically, has a psychosis diagnosis). I’m kind of horrified by a lot of them on a visceral level and finally understand where allistic people get off.

    • Slicer says:

      This was the very first thing that leapt to mind. Scott, you shouldn’t have posted this without mentioning obvious counterexamples. You’ve really never met a Puevf-Puna equivalent in your line of work?

      • vaticidalprophet says:

        I was going to say he reminds me more of some of the lower-schizotypy autistic people I’ve known, but then remembered he’s actually psychotic now, so yeah, that’s a good low-functioning example.

    • Truism says:

      This is a relevant point that basically echoes what I was going to say. My sister and I are the offspring of an autist and a schizophrenic, but both raised as wards of the state (from 7 and 14 respectively). We have traits of both all the time and substantial bouts of one or the other every few years. We are both very high functioning people with extremely challenging characteristics; the ability to obsessively focus for hours, days and weeks at a time but also to get stuck in rabbit warrens, the ability to quickly and intuitively unravel organisational and social secrets that others are oblivious to but also getting hung up on conspiracies, and so on.

      She nearly joined a seminary, but instead became an organic chemist. I studied to be a diplomat but instead became a military officer.

    • arbitraryvalue says:

      Aside: for a long time, most of the autistic people I met were schizo-autistic. I have recently started meeting people who aren’t schizo-autistic (the main one, ironically, has a psychosis diagnosis). I’m kind of horrified by a lot of them on a visceral level and finally understand where allistic people get off.

      What do you mean by this? I don’t understand which sorts of behavior correspond to your categories.

    • Madeleine says:

      Yeah, there are a lot of autistics who experience animism, or who have so much empathy that they get overwhelmed by other people’s emotions. The autistic blogger Dani Alexis said that as a child, she was horrified by the injustice of being allowed to punch an innocent pillow, but not a person. Another person, I couldn’t find who, said that they used to think houses grew out of the ground, like plants.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      If there are like, I dunno, 100 genes that affect this, and 50 of them come in ternary types like, “autistic,” “schizotypal,” and “neither,” it might be possible to express moderately high levels of both autism and schizotypism, though less likely than being high in one and low in the other.

  42. Somethatname says:

    I apologise for asking this, but in these sorts of discussions I feel it’s important to hold up a mirror. So are you Schizotypical, or Autistic? Would you consider yourself to have a personality disorder?

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      Could you expand on your reasons for thinking this is relevant?

    • Tarpitz says:

      Based on things he’s said in the past, I believe that despite his greater verbal than mathematical proficiency, Scott is a very mild/high-functioning autist.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        Based on having met him once, and on watching his affect and posture while talking to people, my working hypothesis is the same.

        I also noticed that he was “distance observing” each person in the room, which is a habit I share.

  43. The Big Red Scary says:

    “But I know a lot of people who combine excellent technical skills with excellent social skills, and other people who are failures in both areas.”

    I’ve worked in universities and research institutes for a number of years, and while I’ve known a number of rather autistic math-phys-comp-sci people, and even a John Nash act-a-like, I’ve encountered at least as many highly outgoing and eloquent Steven Pinker act-a-likes. My hypothesis is not that mathy people are so much more likely to be autists, but rather that mathy fields are a refuge for autists, some manic-depressives, and even the occasional schizophrenic. Unless your working on Inter-universal Teichmuller theory, people can figure out fairly quickly whether you’ve got the goods, and if you do, they are willing to put up with a fair amount of bizarre interpersonal behavior.

    By the way, looking from the outside, it seems to me that if you want to find autists, one should visit the economists.

    • masharpe says:

      My hypothesis is not that mathy people are so much more likely to be autists, but rather that mathy fields are a refuge for autists, some manic-depressives, and even the occasional schizophrenic.

      I like this hypothesis. Ever since reading, I’ve come to view weaknesses as more relevant than strengths. In the context of the featured article, maybe it could work to think of autism/schizophrenia as the lack of properly functioning mentalistic/mechanistic cognition respectively, with the other acting as an imperfect substitute.

      • arlie says:

        I’m inclined to agree. It seems to me that humans really like the idiot savant model, or the idea that all deficiencies come with compensations and vice versa, and tend to stuff their oberservations into that model; I wonder whether it’s another mis-optimization from “fast” thinking. (After all, it would generally tend be true about learned skills – no one has time to learn everything to a really good level – if not about talents.)

    • JRG says:

      Stephen Pinker is a linguist and a psychologist and isn’t even vaguely a mathematician/engineer/computer scientist. Not a great example.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        That seems to be besides the point that some math types are similar to him. But you can take Max Tegmark as another example of this type.

        • The Big Red Scary says:

          Indeed, my point was precisely the contrast.

          This type can even talk to normies :). Currently my favorite is Jim Al-Khalili, since I can show his films to my family on movie night with a good conscience.

          A different type, more of a brilliant dude than an eloquent gentleman, is Nima Arkani-Hamed.

  44. viktoremma says:

    some schizotypals are unusually charismatic and socially successful. […] Sometimes these people end up as “cult leaders” […] : strange people who others are drawn toward for their unusually confident and otherworldly nature.

    […] like an almost magical understanding into what other people are secretly thinking, what their agendas are, and how to manipulate them. When it fails, it fails as animism and anthropomorphism: “I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me by making it rain today”

    You can’t not know you’re describing Jesus Christ, right? Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.

    • mcpalenik says:

      I had the same reaction, but I suppose it probably describes other religious leaders as well.

    • moridinamael says:

      All descriptions of mental disorders are horoscopes, in that with a squint you can read in them yourself, your friends, and your politician of choice.

      • acymetric says:

        Anecdotal evidence of this is that apparently nearly everyone’s ex is a narcissist or sociopath (per social media feeds).

        • theredsheep says:

          It’d be a nice change of pace if somebody’s ex were autistic: “he didn’t care about me at all … all he cared about was his goddam trains.”

          • wobbler says:

            I’ve been dumped on more than one occasion because of that (well, not trains specifically, but y’know)

        • cassander says:

          I’d bet an awful lot of money that social media popularity and narcissism are very strongly correlated.

    • Alaindelon says:

      For more on this watch Sapolsky’s lecture on religion and schizotypy. It’s on youtube.

    • Aron Wall says:

      It is true that the Gospels portray Jesus as having an uncanny ability to tell what people were thinking. But Jesus pointedly refused to make deductions about people’s characters based on their random life circumstances. See e.g. Matt 5:45, Luke 13:1-5, John 9:1-3.

      Yes, we can deduce something about God’s character from him making it rain today, but it turns out we’re supposed to deduce the exact same thing from it every time it happens. And we deduce the same thing from the sun as from the rain. (Note, in a desert culture rain does not represent bad things happening, both the sun and the rain are blessings.)

    • Nav says:

      Julian Jaynes wrote a whole book about this (or this sort of topic), called The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind; that the pre-literate mind-state of humans was quasi-schizophrenic, in the sense that many would literally hear the voices of their gods, and from this basis emerged our original concept of the Divine.

      The bicameral mind theory is itself a Class S Conspiracy Theory, but others have independently reached similar conclusions. A strange 60s book I found, Problems of Historical Psychology by Zevedei Barbu reaches similar conclusions, with lots of intriguing links to McLuhan’s claims in Gutenberg Galaxy. The short and unified version is that our visual sense is more “differentiated” than our other senses and thus more “objective”. The printing press led to mass literacy which led to lots of weird psychohistorical results involving the nature of consciousness, of the divine, of science, etc. It would be a lot to get into in a brief comment.

      For now, it suffices to say that a person’s internal experience in prior historical periods may have been considerably different, and that these differences might have been especially dramatic for individuals with neurological traits now associated with schizophrenia. In other words, I agree, Jesus may have been schizophrenic.

      • Philipp says:

        If you define “schizophrenic” in such a way that it no longer means “schizophrenic” according to a modern definition, you can apply the term to any ancient prophet or writer you want, but it will no longer be doing any useful intellectual work. Ancient people knew about madmen and demoniacs. The useful question is thus whether Jesus was either one, and he had his own answer for that.

  45. chaosmage says:

    This book is sounding better and better. Does it discuss the Rank theory of depression? Because I happen to subscribe to that one and I’d love to read smarter people than me discussing it.

    • mtl1882 says:

      I think I read about the Rank theory a while ago and forgot about it. Rereading it, I find it very compelling. I searched but didn’t come up with any proposed treatments. As it is involuntary and prolonged, it is thought to be beyond treatment? I’ve experienced something like this, and I’ve been unable to explain it because the causes sound relatively frivolous. But I’ve always experienced depression as something very different than being sad or upset, as most imagine it. It does feel like a total surrender in order to ward off further attacks, and relatively mundane situations can definitely feel like involuntary loss of status or defeat. It depends on who you are up against and how many places there are in the hierarchy.

      • chaosmage says:

        The treatment approach would be to look for the specific signals the evolved brain uses to determine that it has ended up at the bottom of the pecking order. And then work on those signals.

        My pet suspicion is that it is an absence of victories over others. Successful domination is clearly felt, it is reliable evidence of not being at the bottom of the pecking order, and it is evolutionarily old enough for brains to evolve a response to it’s absence that affects everything.

        The problem with that is it would make bullying an antidepressant. I think this is true, but it is not the kind of hypothesis that is fun to defend.