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L Lawliet

Mimicking to Learn Social Skills

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L Lawliet

When it comes to explaining Aspies social skills I often read that we mimic others. Everything we can do socially is because we have spent our whole lives mimicking. Maybe someone could clarify for me a bit more because I’ve been thinking about this.

 

Doesn’t every person learn their social skills through mimicking?

 

Kids learn the basics from parents and school peers, then they continue to learn from their school peers as they go. When they say others interact with people naturally, don’t they just mean that they have had more practice from maybe being a part of a big family or their parents being more sociable people and having a lot of visitors?

 

I really struggle with my identity and understanding who I am and where I fit because I have just spent my entire life unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) mimicking my friends, family and partners. But I just don't understand why this differs from other people.

 

I hope this all makes sense I’m literally reeling off my thoughts as I think them this morning :lol:

 

To sum up, how do we differ from others when it comes to learning social skills off others? Because surly everyone learns social skills through mimicking. Is it our brain process and the way we take in information?

 

Thanks.

 

 

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Nesf

The same thought has occurred to me, and I think you're right, all children learn social skills through imitation. I've come to the conclusion that, based on personal experience, ASD social skills difficulties come from:

 

1. Cognitive delay. Not being able to process information as fast as NTs, so becoming overwhelmed by the barrage of information coming in during social interaction. The brain learns to block out excess information and focuses on one just input (body language only, or speech only), unlike an NT who can usually deal with two or three sources of input at once.

 

2. Inability to change focus easily, which means that you don't repond as quickly to social cues, or don't notice them because of hyperfocus which you can't switch out of easily.

 

3. Inability to pick up on or respond to other people's emotions. I don't know how other people experience this, but when I'm with other people I don't feel what they are feeling and don't have natural response to laughter, sadness, anger, etc as an emotion in another person doesn't provoke the same emotion in me, where it does seem to in NTs. That's why I always feel like I'm in a glass bubble when with other people. And this is where the imitation comes in, as lacking the natural intuitive response, I have to copy the response of other people. I think that NTs don't have this issue because they literally feel what the other is feeling and respond accordingly.

 

4. Sensory processing issues which prevent effective social interaction, such as sensitivity to noise,etc, either because they prevent you from processing or cause one to be easily distracted.

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collectingrocks

What a fantastic topic!

 

I was under the impression that this was, in part, do with theory of mind and that it is innate in humans, i.e. we instinctively know, but observing and mimicking plays a big part.  

 

I was also under the impression that some people with AS (myself included) are not born with such innate skills and that we have to learn, (and sometimes over-learn) body language etc.

 

I am not a "mind reader", I really struggle sometimes when it comes to working out how people think/feel etc. How can this be mimicked?

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Nesf

What a fantastic topic!

 

I was under the impression that this was, in part, do with theory of mind and that it is innate in humans, i.e. we instinctively know, but observing and mimicking plays a big part.  

 

I was also under the impression that some people with AS (myself included) are not born with such innate skills and that we have to learn, (and sometimes over-learn) body language etc.

 

I am not a "mind reader", I really struggle sometimes when it comes to working out how people think/feel etc. How can this be mimicked?

Yes, I think you're right and I forgot to include theory of mind in my reply. I have difficulties in this area too, and this is why I appear to have rigid thinking to other people. I find it difficult to imagine how other people are feeling and what they are thinking unless I've experienced it or feel it for myself.  That's why it's often hard to understand and accept a different opinion to my own. If I'm talking to a person I may be able to work out intellectually what another person may be feeling or thinking, but because I don't process information very fast I don't realise it or understand it until later when I've replayed the scene in my mind and analyzed it. Also, I think that this is linked to the difficulty in switching focus, because to switch from the focus on my feelings and what I'm saying to what another person may be feeling or thinking during a conversation is hard and I either don't do it at all, or do it too late and the moment has gone.

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Pinky and his brain

As I have understood the diagnose, one of the differences between NTs and aspies is, that social skills are genetically encoded into the NT brain. But aspies don't have that information from birth. When we are born, we do not know what different facial expressions mean. We do not know what would be an appropriate feeling to a certain situation. We need to learn that as we get older. NT's have a headstart there, because it is already there when they are born.

 

And example I like to use is this one:

 

A mother is holding her baby in her arms and smiles and laughs.

As a NT baby I instinctively know that mummy loves me. And I can feel safe now.

As an Aspie baby I just wonder, why is that person showing her teeth and making strange sounds. Do I have to be afraid now ?

 

The difference is, that aspies have to process information that NTs do instinctively. That's why our brain gets overloaded all the time trying to handle all the input we are exposed to. The NT brain simply filters unimportant input out, and leaves only what they need to think about.

They do not have faster brains than we do, they have an input filter that removes the trash. That's why they have better performance than we do.

Edited by Pinky and his brain

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Spike Cooksley

Another thing I thought was just me!

I pick up time all the time! Unfortunately it's usually the exaggerated expressions, which doesn't help.

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Nesf

Another thing I thought was just me!

I pick up time all the time! Unfortunately it's usually the exaggerated expressions, which doesn't help.

I imitate and copy others too. I always thought that all kids had to learn it and just thought that I wasn't as good at it as other kids. I never realised that babies are actually born with an instinctive understanding of facial expression and body language.

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L Lawliet

Sorry guys it's taken me aaages to reply :lol: So what your saying is that it's not just a case of learning through copying someone, it's understanding what we are seeing as well which we Aspies can't do without extra practice?

 

It's quite amazing really that we can learn emotion at all if our brain literally can't process emotions properly to understand what they mean. No wonder we get so exhausted mimicking/acting all day. We're having to work twice as hard.

 

I feel emotion of course, but sometimes the wrong expression shows on my face. (e.g laughing when I'm nervous, smiling when I'm sad, etc.) is that because I've copied someone wrong through mimicking? If I struggle matching the correct expression to the right emotion (sometimes not always, I'm quite expressive when I want to be :P) then that must be due to my brain misunderstanding what It's seen on others...

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Nesf

Sorry guys it's taken me aaages to reply :lol: So what your saying is that it's not just a case of learning through copying someone, it's understanding what we are seeing as well which we Aspies can't do without extra practice?

 

It's quite amazing really that we can learn emotion at all if our brain literally can't process emotions properly to understand what they mean. No wonder we get so exhausted mimicking/acting all day. We're having to work twice as hard.

 

I feel emotion of course, but sometimes the wrong expression shows on my face. (e.g laughing when I'm nervous, smiling when I'm sad, etc.) is that because I've copied someone wrong through mimicking? If I struggle matching the correct expression to the right emotion (sometimes not always, I'm quite expressive when I want to be :P) then that must be due to my brain misunderstanding what It's seen on others...

I recently did an experiment on myself so guage how well I understand body language and facial expressions in films. Instead of concentrating on the words, I tried to focus on the facial expressions to see just how much I could pick up on, and I found that I was almost just a blank, I was hardly understanding anything. It just goes to show how much I rely on verbal speech as opposed to body language... and the same applies to real life conversations. And yet is is estimated that up to 80% of communication takes place through non-verbal communication. I watch other people talking to each other, and I see that they are reacting to each other both verbally and non-verbally, but I'm just a blank, especially in a group of people, I don't feel all thse emotions that they are feeling. If one can't interpret the non-verbal language, then one cannot respond to it emotionally, and I'm just a blank most of the time. Of course I recognise a smile, an angry or a sad face, but I don't get much in between. In a group I don't have time to match the facial expression to the motion, it is fleeting or subtle and passes so quickly.

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(deleted)

I think that for NTs, it's not so much a case of mimicking as it is a case of learning by observation. They learn what is standard social practice by observing others in social situations.

 

Aspies can't learn what is considered "normal" in a social situation, so they only way that they can interact socially is by doing exactly what they observed someone else doing in the exact same situation previously. If they have never observed someone in a particular situation before then that is when they tend to get confused and do the "wrong" thing, or just retreat because they don't know what they're supposed to do.

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