As I journey further up (not down) my personal Asperger’s/autism spectrum discovery path, I’ve come to view human nature in a different light. The grand scheme of this is far beyond the scope of one post, but I can shine a flashlight on a tiny inlet: the tendency to jump to assumptions.
I say “assumptions” instead of “conclusions” because if I really think about it, an assumption is all it really is. The story is incomplete. Nothing is actually concluded until it’s clarified, and, well, that may or may not happen.
An assumption is a closed mindset. The person already thinks they’ve got it. They’ve already made up their minds.
I’m guilty of doing this. People on and off the spectrum are, too. It happens. It’s not ideal; it causes misunderstanding and hurt feelings. But nobody’s perfect, and that’s OK. It’s what we’ve got to work with.
I’ve noticed something amusing: people on the autism spectrum jump to different assumptions than people who are neurotypical. The two groups don’t jump to the same kinds of assumptions.
In my experience (and this is just my own observation, of course), when I’ve seen people on the spectrum make an assumption, it often involves an emotional sensitivity (which is not a criticism or a bad thing; just a neutral observation). Either we’re concerned (or downright worried) that we’ve hurt someone, or we’re trying not to get hurt by someone’s comment.
Personally, one of the principal assumptions I jump to is one of self-doubt. Maybe I offended someone, or maybe I come across as “weird”. I’m prone toward assuming I did something wrong. My own assumptions can be very internalized and self-directed. Based on what I’ve seen in the autism spectrum community, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
The assumptions I’ve seen neurotypical people make (again, very generally speaking) often tend to involve more surface characteristics, such as someone’s appearance or behavior. If someone is dressed casually in the workplace, they might assume that person lacks professionalism. If someone doesn’t have or want children, the NT assumption might be that the person dislikes children. These assumptions are usually projected more outwardly, as opposed to our autistic community’s tendency to project assumptions inwardly unto ourselves.
I’ve also noticed that the two groups respond differently to an assumption they’ve jumped to. People on the spectrum, generally speaking, will try to make a preemptive effort to make ourselves clear, especially in the social media realm. Personally, I use a lot of emojis–probably to the point where I might go overboard at times–to leave no ambiguity about the meaning of what I say. And if I witness a comment that could potentially be taken badly, I seek clarification ASAP, and I’ve witnessed several conversations within the community that follow this pattern. We tend to realize that our perception is likely to be incomplete.
Since most of the interaction between autism spectrum community members takes place online, we don’t have the advantage of facial expression or body language. And, given the variation in the expression and interpretation of these elements in people across the spectrum, our mileage may vary; these aspects may or may not make much of a difference in how we perceive each other and thus, they’re less important.
Neurotypical people, on the other hand, (again, based on my own experience and again, painting with a broad brush), seem to tend to close the case, making a second assumption: that their original one is correct. Because the act of questioning their judgment seems to happen less often in the NT world, the NT who made the assumption is more likely to operate on it. Clarification is less commonly sought; the NT person is more likely to be satisfied with the assumption, which is probably how the phrase “jumping to conclusions” originated in the first place.
I’d like to boldly (but without the grandiose sense of ego that it may appear to be) correct the world (lol). Let’s recognize the phenomenon of “jumping to conclusions” for what it really is: jumping to assumptions, and nothing more.