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Christopher Davis

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The Intense World Theory and early intervention

In this TED talk, the speaker illustrates a graph where infants with autism seem to be born with a higher developed sense of eye connection than those without autism, and then dips down, whereas infants that are not eventual diagnosed with autism start lower but stay relatively stable.
The Intense World theory is a theory by Makram and Makram that pursues the idea that instead of the idea that people who are autistic were born with an undeveloped sense of empathy and connection towards other people, it is actually the opposite, and that over-sensitiviy has caused people with autism to have natural aversions to other people over time because it causes too much emotional distress.
What do you all think of this theory? The data shown in the TED presentation seems to be consistent with what the theory proposes. What kind of implications would this discovery have on this concept of early intervention?

Topics: autism
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    Jun 22 2012: I definitely think what you suggest is a correct assumption.
    I myself diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome is someone who can communicate and empathise very easy with more similar people. Autistic people can empathise and communicate very well with other autistics. It's just the case they can't as easy empathise with 'normal' people. It's the same for normal people, they can't easily communicate with autistics. The experience of the world is very different.
    If the parents of an autistic child parent the childs like other children, the autistic child can behave very bad on this.
    On the other hand, I think - I'm just thinking - that if you parenting your autistic child not like others but in an other way, I think they won't go in their own world as much. I think their is truth in the intense world theory tbh.
    • Jun 23 2012: Thanks for your response. Indeed, it is natural for people who are more similar to be able to empathize with each other more, simply because it is easier to identify with those that are more similar to yourself; it lays out a framework, common connection.
      On a side note, I'm not sure if the distinction should be made that all people with Asperger's syndrome can't empathize with "normal" people; I'm not sure if we should be so cut and dry: empathy is a very complex part in a person's character, and it's not as though some people have it or some people don't: it's always on a continuum, never on and off. I only mention because I imagine some people who have disabilities may be attacked for having "no empathy", and I think that that assumption may be harmful. What do you think?
      • Jun 30 2012: I, personally, have always thought it important to clearly define the "lack of emapthy" of the autistic mind. It is not an inability to understand that other people are sentient beings with a capacity to think and feel, love, joy, sadness, whatever, but rather, a difficulty in recognizing those states.
        The autistic may know that other people are thinking and feeling beings, but precisely *what* they are thinking and feeling is difficult for the autistic person to discern. This is largely due to the autistic difficulty with tonal and body language cues.
        These cues form a great deal of neuro-typical communication, and it is difficult for a brain on the autistic spectrum to detect and process them. It is not the case that the autistic individual does not "care." It is rather that the autistic individual is missing a great deal of the information being communicated.
        The assumption that autistic persons do not feel or care is a very dangerous one indeed.
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          Jun 30 2012: I already written it down on other posts, but I do it again.
          You think it's important to clearly define the 'lack of empathy' on the autistic mind....
          Are you autistic??
          How can you say that without experience it?
          It's like saying: Animals seems to have a lack of empathy, because it can't understand me!!

          I notice people can't feel precisely what I think and what I feel...
          That's because we have other non verbal communication...
          and of course than you could say autistic people have difficulty with tonal and body language cues... WOW, you're very intelligent :O...
          But neurotypical people have problems with my non verbal communication too...
          They can't understand when I use my eyes to communicate, other autistic people can understand it. The point is...
          It's a different adaptation of communication not a lack of the neurotypical or the autistic...
          Did you ever studies evolutionary psychology? probably you didn't

          So, should I make a theory?
          theorie of mind lack in neuro-typical, because they can't understand precisely what I feel and what I think?
          I think this is the biggest mistake of today, of course autistic people have problems understanding other people, because they experience the world differently ...
          BUT it works in both directions ...

          I don't want to sound rude or something, but it's very annoying that people like you who don't know anything of this speak about it...
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          Jun 30 2012: And btw, the assumption that autistic people lack empathy is more and more questioned.
          For example the intense world theory is a good example.
          It's even said in this theory that autistic people have overwhelming of empathy.
    • Jun 30 2012: Perhaps I should have stated my credentials up front. I have decades of experience with autism, because I, too, am autistic. My point was that empathy is a very broadly used term and that it is important to be extremely clear what one means when discussing it, for it is entirely innaccurate to say that autistic individuals do not have the ability to see others as people or the capacity to understand that others might have similar thoughts and feelings.
      There is certainly the factor that neurotypical and autistic individuals simply think differently, and that social empathy is greatly aided by similarities between individuals. As you say, in general it is easier for autistics to understand other autistics than it is for neurotypicals and autistics to understand each other. However, that does not negate the fact that, for whatever reason, it is more difficult for autistic individuals to understand non-verbal cues and metaphoric language. Because, regardless of the reason, we *do* have difficulties understanding other people, even other autistics.
      I would actually state some interest in the intense world theory, as it would explain some of my personal experiences as an autistic person. I often feel intense emotional pain when witnessing even strangers in emotional duress. This is often to a degree greater than my neurotypical peers. In addition, I find greater difficulty making eye contact during emotionally intense periods. As well, it is a well know fact that autistic persons tend to have sensory intergration issues. It would make sense that our aversion to other people and the outside world might be caused due to an oversensitivity to such stimulation.
      I have studied evolutionary psychology, actually.
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        Jul 1 2012: "we *do* have difficulties understanding other people, even other autistics."

        Well, I never felt I could not understand other autistics, my girlfriend has asperger syndrome too btw.
        And we have no problem in understanding each other. So it's your opinion, it's not a fact. I'm sure I can equally understand other autistics, even better than neurotypical people understand each other.

        Can you give me some prove please?

        " I find greater difficulty making eye contact during emotionally intense periods. As well, it is a well know fact that autistic persons tend to have sensory intergration issues"

        The fact why I said, did you studied evolutionary psychology was because then you would know the behavior of an autistic is just different from that of a normal person. this is NOT a prove autistic people are defective or something... It just prove that the needs are different.

        If i read evolutionary psychology books I always noticed that we just behave in a completely different way.
        Of course you could find "defective" ways in autistic if you compare the autistic population with the neurotypical population. But this is not science!
        We could say that bonobos are defective in comparing with chimpanzees in some ways, but it works both ways. This is not science and again this is not Falsifiability. The fact is that bonobos and chimps have different adaptations ...

        Evolutionary psychology is studying this:
        A. Survival and individual level psychological adaptations
        Consciousness
        Sensation and perception
        Learning and facultative adaptations
        Emotion and motivation
        Cognition
        Personality
        Language
        Mating
        Parenting
        Family and kin
        Interactions with non-kin / reciprocity
        Evolution and culture

        Autistic people are different in all this adaptations, it's NOT, again NOT, a prove that autistic people have a defect or something, it is just different!

        If you want a prove of everything evolutionary psychology is studying which is different in an autist, I will do it for you. No space left
        • Jul 1 2012: I do not view autistics as defective. I would agree that we are differently adapted.
          I did not say that we do not understand, I said that we have trouble understanding. It really isn't the same thing.
          I would ask that an attempt be made to at least understand what my argument is before offering a rebuttal.
          Again, I have studied evolutionary psychology.
          As to autistic individuals being differently adapted, no matter how many times this argument is given, my mind cannot be changed because I DO NOT DISAGREE ON THAT POINT.
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        Jul 1 2012: The fact that the adaptation of an autistic person is different from a neurotypical person of course can lead autistic people have problems in understanding the non-verbal cues and metaphoric language from neurotypical people.

        Did you know that people have difficulties with the asperger adaptation of understanding the literal meaning of words? they understand things wrong, they can't see when i'm using literal meanign of words, so can we diagnose neurotypical people by a lack of understanding the literal use of words by an autistic???

        you fail in understanding how adaptations work, it's not that autistic have a lack of understanding metaphoric language, it's that the adaptations are different >.<
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        Jul 1 2012: 1. How can you prove that the metaphoric language is more advanced in an evolutionary scale?
        2. Autistic people use metaphoric language too, and they understand the metaphoric language of each other easy. It's again the difference in language.

        Couple of weeks ago I was having a discussion with a "normal" person about my vegan diet (btw a vegan diet can be healthy too, most research even says it healthier).
        I said, "a diet with meat" sucks because you need to kill animals for the meat.
        Did you know what his response was? "what is the meaning of a diet with meat?"
        I tough their only exist a lettuce diet...
        And I explained him that a diet have this meaning:
        "Is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism"
        he replied: Oh, I tough it only means losing weight!

        What is your conclusion of this?
        Was I wrong in literal thinking of the word diet?
        or was he wrong with using the common definition of diet?
        • Jul 1 2012: A literal meaning is not the opposite of a common meaning. That has nothing to do with metaphoric language.
        • Jul 1 2012: Well, a brain with a capacity for understanding symbolic language and metaphoric language is necesarily one that is highly complex, so... Yes, the understanding of metaphors could be considered a useful adaption, particularly as it allows for easy, if unnuanced and occationally innaccurate, communcation of complex ideas.
          That being said, it isn't so much more advanced and less advanced when it comes to evolution. It's really more useful and less useful.

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