the Clever Hans effect
Dreamed 1981/4/29 by Wayan
My friend Jade the grad student asks me to take a psychological test. Hands me a videotape cartridge. I have to get a computer to play it. How do I hook up the gear, how do I program that? Have to puzzle it out step by step.
It's hard with her watching. Not that she makes me nervous. It's that I don't want to do it too RIGHT. Because with every move I make, I sense her silently shouting "uh-oh!" or "that's it!". I've always felt auras telling me people's feelings and occasionally even thoughts. It's just part of my social world.
But in this context, it's cheating--it'll give her false results.
Reading people is as normal for me as it was for Clever Hans the horse, supposedly doing sums but really sensing his audience's expectations. In the wild it hardly matters how you get the right answer, right? But in a test like Jade's, or Hans's, sensing too much may not just cheat the test-maker; it may cheat you. If someone silently shouts the answers at you, you won't learn math!
NOTES ON WAKING UP
The dream's pretty literal. Jade is a psych student, I've been her test subject. And I do feel auras, for lack of a better word. I have mild Asperger syndrome. I can't speak for all Aspies, but my senses aren't too human. I hide that, and pretend to work out answers that I really learn from others' silent cues; and then I wonder why socializing tires me out!
The dream points out I'm not socially clueless, I'm trying to ignore extra clues so I can act human. It's not just sensory overload, a familiar autistic problem; it's subtler. I hunger to be normal, so I discount my aspie senses--as if using them is cheating! Could be ethics (one shouldn't snoop), could be practicality (humans fear the uncanny), but either way I spend precious energy tracking not just what I know but what I ought not to know--if I were normal. Trying to be two people at once. Two species at once.
And yet... the dream also argues that Aspie senses, or any senses normal humans lack, can cheat both tester and tested. If cues from others' heads and hearts always guide me, have I really learned? Poor Hans had the answers yelled at him. Can horses add? Unknown! We haven't tested one fairly yet--without distraction.
Drowning in a sea of shouted answers, what skills am I not learning?
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