A previous long-term romantic partner, who is a clinical psychologist, used to jokingly diagnose me with being on the lower end of the Autism spectrum, as she thought aspects of my behaviour were consistent with Asperger’s syndrome.

You’re mistaken, I would respond. I’m a genius (or at least I have an exceptional IQ). The two share some characteristics, but also have some significant differences. This conversation happened long ago but it came rushing back to me recently when I watched the video embedded below, which I found via Twitter courtesy of Jayne.

Apart from the exposure shown in the video, which is not relevant, what I find most interesting is its demonstration of an obsessive attention and eye for detail, which I definitely relate to. It’s the first example I’ve seen that I can use to explain low latent inhibition, which I believe I possess. I certainly don’t consider myself to be neurotypical.

Latent inhibition is a ‘tendency to disregard or even inhibit formation of memory, by preventing associative learning of observed stimuli, is an unconscious response and is assumed to prevent sensory overload and cognitive overload.’

Having low latent inhibition means being unable to block out irrelevant stimuli. So like a person with autism, I see every cigarette in the gutter, every car wheel, every parallel line in a metal grate embedded in the footpath. I can’t switch it off.

Fortunately for me:

Those of above average intelligence are thought to be capable of processing this stream effectively, enabling their creativity. Those with less than average intelligence, on the other hand, are less able to cope, and so as a result are more likely to suffer from mental illness and sensory overload.

When I’m out with friends, they wonder why I keep stopping to take photos. It’s because I’ve seen some little sticker or example of street art or some other random thing that amuses me that they didn’t notice. It’s what enables me to write 2 posts a day.

neurotypical

11 thoughts on “neurotypical

  • 29 March 2011 at 12:45 pm
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    I once wrote a long and angry comment/rant about how you were very obviously suffering from Asperger’s. I then decided not to post it, for a variety of reasons (who am I to diagnose you, you probably knew it already, and anyway, what’s the point of arguing on the internet; furthermore, I was finally getting wise to your incendiary style as a way of generating more interest and interaction with your website). I’m reassured to see that other people who know you in real life (“previous long-term romantic partner”? ex-girlfriend, for the rest of us…) also feel that way.

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    • 29 March 2011 at 1:51 pm
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      Ah, but the previous partner is now more accepting of my genius. Just as ‘gender normative’ is a prerogative term that assumes one state is more normal than another, and the more informed speaker would use cisgender, so too neurotypical can be seen as prerogative and indicative of uninformed and unhelpful judgment. For me, neurotypical means ‘average’ or unremarkable rather than ‘normal’.

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  • 29 March 2011 at 4:10 pm
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    Low latent inhibition = can’t stop, won’t stop, bubbling with creativity – and the best kind of people love you for it ;-)

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  • 29 March 2011 at 7:30 pm
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    “…what I find most interesting is its demonstration of an obsessive attention and eye for detail, which I definitely relate to…”

    Same here but for different reasons. I have been diagnosed with OCD.

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  • 30 March 2011 at 12:49 pm
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    Well!
    Can I just say I’m in agreement with Rosie and your previous partner? ;)

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    • 30 March 2011 at 4:49 pm
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      Hmmm. I still have cartoon of that I cut out of the newspaper as a teenager. It depicts a young Jesus being kicked out of school of being ‘different’ (turning water into wine in the playground). I’m not remotely religious but the desperation with which society tries to define normative behaviour is mediocre in the extreme.

      Perhaps my greatest point of difference is that I am unafraid of conflict. Most people are so terrified of conflict that they humiliate themselves to avoid it, so to most people my acceptance of the inevitability of conflict is more or less pathological. I would argue that it is their perspective that is flawed, not mine. Being good at conflict is an evolutionary advantage.

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  • 30 March 2011 at 9:22 pm
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    Are you “unable to block out irrelevant stimuli” to the point where you can’t drive?

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    • 30 March 2011 at 9:50 pm
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      Of course not. In fact the ability to receive and process more information than most people means I can do things such as see potentially dangerous drivers around me more quickly than other people, and I am extremely good at scanning the environment around me and projecting (anticipating and preparing for what is ahead on the road).

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  • 30 March 2011 at 10:10 pm
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    Hmmm. I want to know how the video maker got into my brain…

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  • 2 April 2011 at 3:28 pm
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    I’m glad you posted this video … it’s one thing to try to imagine what it may be like, but to see a representation makes so much difference …

    Perhaps I have ‘high’ latent inhibition – I often notice WAY less than most people; which I’ve always thought is my brain’s way of saying it already has too much to cope with!

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