Perspectives: Knowing Me, Knowing You; March / April 2011; Scientific American Mind; by Bruce M. Hood; 2 Page(s)
At the end of Casablanca, when Humphrey Bogart finally tells Ingrid Bergman to get on the plane back to her husband, the young mother watching the afternoon TV movie sheds a tear. Instinctively, her two-year-old tries to comfort her by offering his teddy bear to her. Both the mother and child are displaying intuitive awareness of others’ mental states and emotions.
Social intuition comes naturally to most of us, but not all. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects around one in 500 individuals (although this figure appears to be on the rise and depends largely on how you define it). In general, autism can be thought of as a disorder with three major disabilities: a profound lack of social skills, poor communication and repetitive behaviors. It is regarded as a spectrum disorder because it covers a broad range and individuals vary in the extent to which they are affected. All those with the disorder share problems with social intuition, however.