More Theory of Mind Musings, and Why You Suck at Math

If you have not heard of Theory of Mind, it’s quite remarkable:

Basically, as humans, we all have minds, or assume others have minds (!), and we have to interpret what someone was thinking or meaning based off their words and actions. This is a VERY complex data operation, which is probably why you don’t see any computers able to do it yet.

Well, some people are able to interpret or correctly guess what others mean and think much better than others. I happen to be pretty decent at it. I have this validation over 31 years of figuring out what people mean and being pretty close to guessing why things happen most of the time.

I think this is a highly right brain-oriented activity.

I know some people with genius IQ’s who have a LOT of trouble doing this. Their brains are simply not wired to process complex inputs for a correct output. This is not to say they don’t take in inputs – they certainly do, and probably at a rate much faster and higher than normal people do, the problem is they don’t know what to do with all the data once it is swimming around in their minds. They become very LOGIC-oriented as a coping mechanism, reducing the myriad data into discrete, easily-solvable functions, which many times yield simple but incorrect conclusions.

For example, I asked my housemate John, a security guard, whether he sucks at math. His answer is that he is able to take a very large problem and break it down easily, but has trouble with very simple algebra when you start with a short, easily solvable problem. He is also VERY adept at his job, which requires him to figure out what people want and why, even if they are not speaking English.

I know someone VERY intelligent, who relies heavily on people asking him questions, rather than letting him interpret what they are saying and comment back. This is a way of getting around the complexity of the data inputs.

The left brain is more adept at spatial awareness, and processing language and data like mathematics, but lacks complex interpretation skills. That’s what the right brain is for. No, I’m not a brain scientist nor can I point to any specific study that verifies what I am saying, so use your brain to figure out if it makes sense to you or not ;-)