Monday, April 30, 2007

Asperger's Syndrome and Economics

Marginal Revolution links us to a video of Vernon Smith talking about living with Asperger's. Smith's "symptoms" describe almost every economist I have ever met, and I certainly include myself (if I can be called an economist yet). Certain professors, possibly on the west coast, obviously suffer more seriously than Smith. Here's my unofficial transcript of part of Smith's interview:
Interviewer: Do you feel that you seem strange in the eyes of other people?

Smith: Oh yes

I: How so

S: Sometimes I’m described as not there in a social situation. A social situation that lasts for a couple hours I find a tremendous amount of strain, so I’ve been known to go to bed and read

I: What led you to teaching?...

S: Teaching forced me into being more social…it’s in professional dimensions that I’m more comfortable.
The economics profession is as much a dating service and social club for Asperger's sufferers as anything.

Later in the video, they interview a doctor who claims that many people with Asperger's require help to function and succeed. But, and this is my informal understanding of people with more serious austism as well, no case is made that I know of to substantiate the idea that people with these problems are actually unhappy. I do not mean to be insensitive, and I am the first to admit that I know close to nothing about this, but I will say that, as someone who has some of the Asperger's symptoms described in the interview, I have never felt like people who have felt sorry for me or tried to change me have actually done me a positive service.

When I was at tennis camp, when I was not playing tennis, all I wanted to do was sit by myself and read...whatever. Shut up.


Anne said...

Well, there's a difference between having Asperger's and simply being introverted, which a lot of economists are. American mainstream culture tends to view introversion as a pathology, but when I lived in England, it was considered quite normal (and I, a strong introvert, was told I was nowhere near as annoying as those other Americans).

I checked in Wikipedia, by the way, and both introversion and Asperger's are correlated with depression.

JVH said...

Sure they're correlated with depression. I can come up with a thousand reasons for why that might be the case without appealing to causality...for example, only rich people go to doctors who know what Asperger's is, and rich people are more depressed than poor people because their lives are boring and they need excuses to be unhappy.