AQ test + my answers
If anyone's curious, here's the actual autism spectrum quotient test, and my answers, in long-winded over-explained form:
- I prefer to do things with others rather than on my own.
I'm alone the vast majority of the time, and it suits me fine. I tend to insist on transporting myself to social things; most of the time I don't bother explaining that this is because being stuck in a car with someone before doesn't really give me time to flip the social switch, and being stuck in a car with someone afterwards gets right on my last nerve. How much I like or don't like the people involved has little to do with it.
- I prefer to do things the same way over and over again.
I can adapt if circumstances change, but left to my own devices, I'll do things my way all the time. It sometimes results in conflicts, especially if I run into an instructor who has a really inflexible attitude towards learning styles. Fuck your pedagogy -- just give me the book. I get deeply annoyed if I can't do it my way, but I'm not incapable of changing.
- If I try to imagine something, I find it very easy to create a picture in my mind.
'Picture' is misleading. Vision isn't the only sense involved. I think most people get sight, sound, touch, taste and smell to varying degrees, but the part that really throws people is an explicit sense of spatial positioning, and one of motion or progression. Really handy for stuff like quantum physics, where I have a non-visual explicit sense of time that I can run back and forth.
- I frequently get so strongly absorbed in one thing that I lose sight of other things.
If I'm heads-down in something, I am not well-equipped to notice little things, like if perhaps the house is on fire. I've gotten better over time at keeping some antennae out when I'm working, but there's a reason I do most of my serious work at three in the morning, stuffed into a room somewhere, where nothing is likely to happen.
- I often notice small sounds when others do not.
Fucking hell, all the time. I used to work in a computer lab, where at the end of the day I'd go around the room and find the CRTs that had been left on when someone else turned the box off by following the whining noise. I can also just hear genuine distress calls from rats, which are normally considered ultrasonic -- it's a very piezoelectric-sounding feeeep! feeeeep! noise, like someone has let their little rat batteries get low, and they are very upset about this.
- I usually notice car number plates or similar strings of information.
Yes, numbers especially. I'm in the habit of helping myself remember numbers like PINs and IDs and phone numbers by casting out nines to make a check digit. Given the chance, I'll pick numbers that reduce to nine directly. I also get labels and sign text and snippets of audio.
- Other people frequently tell me that what I've said is impolite, even though I think it is polite.
Not so much anymore. As a kid, yes; these days I have a refined sense of things that fall into the category of "rude because they make people upset", and I don't say those. I also have a category of "things that are not usually spoken aloud just because they aren't, not because they're upsetting", and I say those, but I'm usually doing it consciously. All this goes out the window when I'm tired or horribly stressed, though. Allistic now, but I would have answered the other way as a child.
- When I'm reading a story, I can easily imagine what the characters might look like.
See above about 'visualization' being a deeply inadequate term for this.
- I am fascinated by dates.
A little bit. They stick well, but are not themselves significant unless the numbers involved happen to lend themselves to some kind of numerical tomfoolery. I thought it was the coolest thing ever when I learned my times tables -- my birthday is 9/9/81.
- In a social group, I can easily keep track of several different people's conversations.
Yes. I disconcert people, actually, by having a perfectly good conversation of my own going on one side of the table, then when I have a moment turning around to toss something into the other one I hear going on a few places down. I only seem to be able to do this live; having someone try to play music or listen to a video on a laptop while I'm watching TV in the same room drives me completely gazongas. I have come close to losing my temper at roommates over this, although I usually confine it to marching over and pointedly handing them a pair of headphones.
- I find social situations easy.
I do now, because I've discovered that I grok human systems perfectly well when left to my own devices. I answer allistically now. As a child, I would have answered the other way -- I had a lot of very bad role models who consistently told me that everything I thought was wrong, and that I was missing a lot of cues that people were conspiring against me. These people are paranoid fuckers and I no longer talk to them.
- I tend to notice details that others do not.
When I was ten, I started reading the Holmes canon. I was too stupid at that point to realize that these were supposed to be things normal people couldn't do, so I taught myself to do them anyway. I have a memory that's largely photographic and phonographic in nature, although not perfectly so. Details are interesting, and tell you a lot of things. I am deeply into the autistic spectrum in this regard.
- I would rather go to a library than to a party.
Parties are a thing I have to sort of prepare for, and libraries are a thing I can do whenever. Also, I can ignore books I don't like, but ignoring obnoxious people is a lot harder when they're right in front of you.
- I find making up stories easy.
You people have no idea how many novels I have knocking around inside my head. It also helps the Sherlocking, interestingly enough -- the challenge is coming up with a plausible narrative of someone's life that fits all of the details I already know. Usually it's pretty right.
- I find myself drawn more strongly to people than to things.
This depends on what you mean by both people and things. I'm drawn strongly to people and have an intuitive sense that they are other, separate intelligences, with other feelings and other thoughts that aren't mine, but this is why they're interesting to me -- they are a series of interacting systems I don't yet know all about. It's not depersonalizing; it works in concert with a deep sense of empathy, which lets me know why they feel the way they do, and why those feelings prompt them to do things. On the other hand, I tend to anthropomorphize sufficiently complex non-human systems. Any piece of kit that's opaque enough to have predictable quirks without any immediately obvious reason behind them gets named, and spoken of as 'wanting' or 'liking' certain things. Computers are especially prone to this.
- I tend to have very strong interests, which I get upset about if I can't pursue.
See the entire rest of this blog for some excellent examples of this. Once an interesting thing gets my attention, it becomes the default screen-saver for my brain, and I go back to ruminating on it whenever I don't need to have my mind on something else. I want to talk about it at great length, but I'm acutely aware that this drives other people out of their ever-loving minds, so I stuff a cork in it and blog a lot instead. This is one reason that having too many people around all the time makes me really antsy, in fact -- I feel I'm absolutely prohibited from letting this stuff out in person, and I have to forcibly keep my mind off it in order to make social small talk.
- I enjoy social chitchat.
Not really. I can do it, but it's boring as all get-out. I enjoy talking to people about things, but the standard 'hi, nice to see you, lovely weather we're having' is only useful for assuring other people you know the script, and I couldn't care less.
- When I talk, it isn't always easy for others to get a word in edgewise.
When I was a child, I was referred to politely as 'verbally gifted'. I have since learned the fine art of shutting the fuck up, although not necessarily very well. Someone once told me that when I drink, I talk a lot, and my first question was, "How can you tell?" I chatter incessantly when stoned; Moggie and I used to take fun chemicals when we were in college together and talk non-stop the entire night, to the point where I had a sore throat in the morning.
- I am fascinated by numbers.
I read math for fun. 'Nuff said.
- When I'm reading a story, I find it difficult to work out the characters' intentions.
No. It makes a lot of thrillers sort of annoyingly draggy; when the characters in the book are still all, 'but what I don't understand is why s/he did...' I'm just like, 'because reasons!' and skim impatiently as the protagonist takes another four chapters to get there. I'm fond of fair-play mysteries like Ellery Queen and Perry Mason mostly because this doesn't happen -- mysterious motivations are presented as a part of the puzzle, and figuring them out is both satisfying and essential to figuring out how the crime was actually committed.
- I don't particularly enjoy reading fiction.
I love well-done fiction. I have very little patience for fiction where the author was obviously trying to build something and completely whiffed it, though -- Dan Brown is headache-inducingly bad, partly because he needs his ellipses privileges taken away, and partly because his art-historian hero fucks up a bunch of stuff that even I remember from my one undergraduate art history class.
- I find it hard to make new friends.
Not really. I find it harder to find people I'd want to be friends with than to make them once I get there. Getting into other peoples' heads helps a lot with this.
- I notice patterns in things all the time.
I have a chronic and prominent case of pareidolia. I've always had it. It's very attention-grabbing sometimes, but it keeps me entertained. I'm especially prone to looking at things other people think are random decoration and going, "What does that say?" -- I have a near-perfect hit rate in picking out what's actually some kind of language and what's just doodling.
- I would rather go to the theater than to a museum.
Ambivalent. Depends on my mood. I will say I'm not much for going out to the movies, unless it's a particular film that would benefit from being IMAXed or the like. Live theater is a little different, but I'd still have to specifically be of a mind to go out and mingle with other people. On the other hand, I'd really never not want to go walk around a museum.
- It does not upset me if my daily routine is disturbed.
I don't necessarily have a routine that I have to follow the same way every day, but once I've made plans for my day I get horrendously annoyed if anything stands in the way of my executing them. The plans aren't always very specific; I'm not very bothered by things like buses and airplanes being late if I've just blocked out the whole day as "in transit". If someone is scheduled to pick me up for something at 7pm, though, I start fuming at about 7:00:59. I understand that this is my particular malfunction and I try very hard not to take it out on other people. The one exception is sleeping: If I need to get up at 10am for something, and you decide to wake me up (intentionally or inadvertently, by banging around in the kitchen without regard to noise levels) at 9:42 instead, may God have mercy on your soul.
- I frequently find that I don't know how to keep a conversation going.
Only on the phone, oddly enough. In person or online, I am a veritable font of weird and what many people consider charmingly off-kilter things. Part of being very invested in both kinesics and semantics is that if I'm carrying on a conversation with someone, I can read either their face or between the lines of what they type to know when it's not my turn to say things anymore, or whether perhaps I should go on to another category of jokes. I have neither of these on the phone, and my brain tends to make hash of audio from portable radios, so I get very discombobulated.
- I find it easy to 'read between the lines' when someone is talking to me.
I think humans have subtitles. I'm particularly fond of humans whose subtitles are either a transcription of, or an addendum to, what their mouths are putting out. I read them and use them to the point where occasionally someone has decided I can read their mind -- awkward when they try that trick without giving me context first, and I prove I actually can't.
- I usually concentrate more on the whole picture, rather than on the small details.
This is rather badly written. If it were phrased 'I usually concentrate more on the whole picture, to the detriment of the small details', then it would be a flat no; my perception of a larger pattern usually helps with the details, rather than interferes with them. The way it's written suggests that I have to pick one or the other, which I most emphatically do not. The details are for Sherlock-ing, and the holistic picture is for Cassandra-ing, both of which I do on a regular basis. I personally think they're just the same thing on two different scales, but I also think that pretty much all interactions are ultimately fractal in nature.
- I am not very good at remembering phone numbers.
I have the phone number of my parents' landline from when I was five permanently burned into my brain. Also my father's work extension. On the other hand, I spent about six months having to pull my own number up in the phone menu to give it to other people the last time I changed. I don't call myself, you see.
- I don't usually notice small changes in a situation or a person's appearance.
I do, I just usually know better than to disconcert people by mentioning them. Knowing tiny details about someone requires, for a normal human, some element of obsessive attachment or perseveration; it doesn't for me, but people don't instinctively know that, so by letting on that I know the little things, I make them feel like I've broken the social contract by investing way more energy in paying attention to them than they have paying attention to me. Then they get awkward.
- I know how to tell if someone listening to me is getting bored.
I am acutely aware of this. Signs of boredom make me extremely uncomfortable and shut me up with a quickness. I empathize too much with the experience of being stuck on a conversation I would really rather not be in to do it to other people.
- I find it easy to do more than one thing at once.
It depends on what the things are, but generally yes. When I'm doing QA work for Nokia, I'll have my work in one window, a bunch of random tabs and maybe some bloggery up in another, and music/podcasts/TV running in the background. If I try to concentrate too hard on something I don't feel requires laser-focus, I get distracted and bored and eventually frustrated, and fuck off to do something else. Or three something elses.
- When I talk on the phone, I'm not sure when it's my turn to speak.
I hate phones with a burning passion. It's partly bad associations with ringing phones from my childhood, but I especially hate having unfocused social conversations on the phone. I lack all of the cues I get from either reading kinesics or the whole gestalt language sense thing I get from text, and my brain likes to randomly not parse words over radios, for some reason. I'm okay with pizza ordering and whatnot, although it's much easier now that I can do all that over the internet.
- I enjoy doing things spontaneously.
Only when 'spontaneously' means 'when I am by myself and decide to do something without having made a plan for it the day before'. I tend to only go on group outings when there's an actual focus, i.e., 'we're going to dinner', 'we're going to see Avengers for the third time', 'we're going to sit around and drink'. It doesn't have to be much of a focus, but if I show up for idle drinking and find everyone else has decided to go to the movies while I was en route, I'm not usually very enthusiastic about it.
- I am often the last to understand the point of a joke.
No. Although I am often the first to speak up if I think your joke is stupid and insulting.
- I find it easy to work out what someone is thinking or feeling just by looking at their face.
I picked up a knack for being hypervigilant, in order that I might stay out of the way of the goddamn lunatics I grew up with. Body language is easy for me to read, and usually also easy for me to translate into words. I sometimes do it oddly, though -- I'll find myself feeling something or empathizing with something, and have to consciously kick my brain into gear to work out exactly which things are making me feel that.
- If there is an interruption, I can switch back to what I was doing very quickly.
If there's an interruption, I get very testy and will usually respond as little as possible so that I can get back to whatever it was without losing my flow. If the interruption is something I have to really stop-stop in order to handle, it's aggravating as all hell. I don't actually kill people over this, but it's a big reason I like solitude and closed doors.
- I am good at social chitchat.
Boring is not the same as difficult. It's easy to make small talk, I just don't care for it.
- People often tell me that I keep going on and on about the same thing.
They used to. I try very hard to keep a lid on it in person. Hence the blogging. If anyone points out that I'm talking a lot, I'll assume they mean it in the conventional 'I'm saying this because I mean I want you to stop it' fashion, and I instantly get very self-conscious about it and clam up tight. I had it banged into my head pretty hard as a kid that my interests are obsessive, stupid, pointless, and that nobody cares -- anyone who listens to any of it is just being superhumanly patient and secretly wishes I'd shut the hell up already. I don't know that this is really true, but unless I'm with people who specifically encourage it, I try not to vomit the contents of my brain all over everyone in hearing range.
- When I was young, I used to enjoy playing games involving pretending with other children.
Pretending, yes; with other children, no. I had very few friends when I was a kid. In retrospect, most of the ones my mother told me were my friends really wanted nothing at all to do with me, and only tolerated me because our parents jointly insisted. My pretending games weren't the standard girl ones -- I never cared at all about baby dolls or playing house, and my Barbies were always up to something much more interesting than fashion or cooking -- so I spent most of my time amusing myself. I tended to build myself a costume out of the cast-offs in the dress-up trunk we had in the den, and run around informing people what I was supposed to be. Some cooperated, some didn't. I don't think I cared very much.
- I like to collect information about categories of things (e.g., types of cars, birds, trains, plants).
I inhale information like it is oxygen. If I set about learning an academic thing, I will spend hours reading everything I can get my hands on, and cramming more and more things into my head, until the compressed wad of information hits some sort of critical density and suddenly I'm the local expert. Other people find this really disconcerting for some reason, although I've never really learned things any other way, so it means nothing much to me. The relevance of the information to my actual quotidian life has nothing to do with how fast or well I learn; I have volumes socked away about stuff I'll never get to see or do. If I'm sick or upset and trying to distract myself, I'll go binge on whatever I can find that involves a lot of information in the same place. I remember having the flu one year and doing nothing but sleeping, ingesting drugs and yogurt, and feeding most of the sci.electronics. repair FAQ collection into my brain.
- I find it difficult to imagine what it would be like to be someone else.
Not in the slightest. I'm very good at it -- I'd be terrible at predicting people if I weren't.
- I like to carefully plan any activities I participate in.
Eh, yes and no. It depends on what the activity is. I'm fully capable of having a casual party where people sit around and drink beer, or a fancy dinner party with multiple courses that need to be meticulously timed, although budget usually scuppers the desire to hold the latter. Part of the reason I don't necessarily have to plan things out beforehand, though, is that I'm very good at coming up with plans in the moment, and stating them authoritatively enough that everyone else goes along with it. I keep winding up the leader of things because I'll make a lot of small stupid decisions when no one else will. Everyone has an opinion on the big stuff, but ask a question about small things like pizza toppings or what movie to watch, and nobody feels like their opinion is important enough to impose on anyone else. I just say, "We're doing X. Objections?" and if there are no objections, we go and do X, and I don't have to sit there listening to crickets chirping for half an hour.
- I enjoy social occasions.
If I have purposely gone out with the intention of attending a social occasion, then yes, I enjoy them very much. Spontaneous social things, not so much. If I'm out by myself doing something and I run into someone I know, 90% of the time my reaction is to escape as quickly and politely as possible, even if the person in question is someone whose company I normally enjoy.
- I find it difficult to work out people's intentions.
No. In fact, one of my favorite bully-stopping tactics is to stand up and do a full psychological dissection of their motives, techniques, and ultimate goals in front of the people they're trying to manipulate. This makes them deeply afraid of me, for some reason.
- New situations make me anxious.
Mostly not. I get more weirded out going into things that are familiar enough for me to have decided that I just really, really don't like it, and want to be virtually anywhere else.
- I enjoy meeting new people.
Sometimes. I enjoy meeting particular kinds of people when I go out intending to be social. Otherwise I generally try to politely ignore humanity. Trying to introduce yourself to me on the platform while waiting for a train is kind of a crapshoot. I'm out, so I'm prepared for people to be, like, people-ing around me and maybe at me, but I'm not specifically out to meet you, so I might just smile and then go back to the Kindle.
- I am a good diplomat.
I can be, but I hate doing it. It makes me feel disingenuous to moderate things if I don't honestly see both sides. My more usual tactic is to tell everyone exactly what I think of them and let them work on that for a while. I've apparently solved a lot of problems by just flat-out telling someone something that everyone else assumed they knew, when they really didn't.
- I am not very good at remembering people's date of birth.
Sort of. If I think of a person, I can usually get a birthday associated with the thought of them. But I never look at a calendar and see a bunch of birthdays scattered across the months. The connection only works one way. Consequently, I miss most birthdays, and don't really expect anyone to remember mine.
- I find it very easy to play games with children that involve pretending.
I'm very good at it. I'm perfectly willing to work within an arbitrary system of ad hoc rules based on counterfactuals, which is pretty much what pretending is. Watching such rule systems unfold and evolve as they're put into actual use by tiny humans is rather fun. I ask odd questions about whatever framework they're building, and mostly children think it's great fun to tell me the answers they make up on the spot. I feel the same way about tabletop RPGs, although most of the humans who play those have already reached their full adult height and gotten through algebra classes and so forth.