To say that making snap decisions has never been my forte would be such an understatement that it might make you start laughing.
I make decisions that are as intelligent and sensible as anyone else (possibly more so, in some (many?) cases). But I don’t arrive at them quickly. This is most likely because I process each option more slowly. Think of it a little bit like Temple Grandin’s mental run-through of agricultural designs before building the reality, except on a (much) smaller scale.
Everybody makes thousands of decisions every day, but they occur so fast that the person probably doesn’t even realize they’ve made a decision. Other times they’ve made the decision so easily that although they were conscious of making it, they quickly forgot about it.
Decisions such as, which shirt should I wear today? Or, I’m approaching a yellow light; do I have enough room to stop before it goes red, or do I have enough time to get through the light before it turns red? These are all decisions that most people are conscious of making.
But for me, it seems like my evaluation processes run in slow motion. I have to break complex decisions down into smaller components and answer each one individually.
For example, choosing a movie to watch at night can take 15 minutes. Because it’s not as simple as choosing a movie from the collection.
A starting point might be, which genre? Which energy level (something higher octane, or something low key)? Then, which time period? The 80s, the 90s, or something older or more recent than that?
Once those questions have been answered, we have probably developed a “short list” of three or four movies to choose from, and the decision-making process begins to look more like that of the rest of the world.
And questions that most people might not even think to ask themselves become deliberate, distinct questions in my head.
Should I chew this bite of food in my mouth five more times?
Am I getting hungry? Am I thirsty? Am I tired?
Does it hurt when I push on this spot on my upper shoulder?
Sometimes I don’t know right away. Sometimes I have to think about it for a few seconds before I can give an answer. And sometimes my original answer wasn’t correct and I have to change it. “Should I change my pants today?”, “should I wash my hair tonight?”, and “what do I feel right now?” are all examples of this.
I think that it comes down to processing–as in, my own personal slower/delayed version of processing. I’ve noticed that we, the people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, generally tend to process information more slowly. But I’ve also noticed that we tend to do it (at least a little) more carefully, weighing our options in deliberate and thorough fashion.
Through our autism spectrum lens, the way in which the rest of the world makes decisions often comes across as rash, impulsive, and reckless. The most obvious example I’ve noticed involves drivers on the road; they often cut in front of other drivers, or misjudge a light changing from yellow to red, or fail to calculate the distance between their vehicle and that of the one in front of them.
Other examples include rash judgments made about other people based on mere snippets of information, actions made on incomplete information, or reactions to news sound bites.
When I’m faced with a decision, no matter how minuscule it may seem, I take a moment to ponder, considering all potential points of view, brainstorming for all possibilities, and weighing all of my options. I’ve noticed that most of us on the autism spectrum tend toward to do this.
In fact, the world just might (would probably?) be a better place if it was just a little more autistic.