Mindblindness vs Context blindness


On a bridge or in car, context matters

Replacing the generic term of “mindblindness,” often used to refer to people on the autism spectrum, with a more specific term such as “context blindness” has been proposed by Peter Vermeulen, PhD.   Simon Baron-Cohen created the term “mindblindness,” to refer to the deficit  people on the autism spectrum have in reading others mental states. This term was  defined in Theory of the Mind.

  In his book, Autism as Context Blindness, Peter Vermeulen further refines the term, “mindblindness” to more accurately define the differences seen in people with autism, including those with Asperger syndrome.  People with Asperger syndrome often do see context, but they do not understand how context interacts with other social cues they perceive. They give all clues including context, equal weight. Typically context use differs in importance and relevance depending on the many clues present in the situation.  Sometimes context can be ignored, but more often it shapes our communication. Missed context clues have a negative impact on all  forms of communication, from conversations to written correspondence.

People with Asperger have limited understanding of the significance of context. Therefore, they don’t give it the additional attention needed.  Although Peter Vermeulen’s theory is interesting, the reference to “blindness” continues to be inaccurate. People with Asperger syndrome aren’t blind to context. They simply don’t use their knowledge of context to interpret social interactions and clues.  Even though “context blindness” over dramatizes the deficit, and it does not describe the lack of sensitivity people with autism have understanding the relevance of context clues.


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