[extropy-chat] fiction and autism

pjmanney pj at pj-manney.com
Mon Apr 23 18:19:34 UTC 2007

>At 08:35 AM 4/23/2007 -0400, Keith wrote:
>>In between session conversation, Dr. Tooby mentioned (due to his work
>>trying to understand the EP origin of fiction) that autistics can't enter
>>the mind state required for fiction.  Dr. Pascal noted the same thing about
>>religions.  Autistics are essentially blind to both religions and

It's about mirror neurons and empathy creation.  Autists have diminished mirror neuron use and diminished ability to empathize.  We use the mirror neurons to, among other things, create empathy.  Fiction reading is an empathy creating activity (you are putting yourself in the shoes of your characters, etc.).  If you don't have the neurons to appreciate fiction, you don't read it.  Or get it.  Also, interestingly, narcissists don't read fiction either, for the same reasons -- lack of empathy.

I wrote a paper on this for the WTA's book on H+, which has yet to find a publisher.


Damien wrote:
>But as often noted, people on the boundaries 
>(Aspies, etc) are unusually prevalent among 
>science fiction readers and to a lesser extent sf 
>writers. Hard to know whether the typical 
>characterization of much sf is due to the 
>Asperger readership or vice versa. Notably, 
>characters in Greg Egan's fiction often exist at the margins of autism.

It's why hard SF fiction is a literary ghetto: most people like character-driven fiction, because they CAN empathize and want to empathize.  When they read something that doesn't allow for increased empathy, most readers reject it.  Hard SF is idea driven, which is alientating for most readers.  And as you said, most of the writers aren't exactly the poster children for empathy creation, either.  I've written about this, too...  <sigh>


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list