It is a source of deep frustration for me that so often, signs are interpreted wrongly by the neurotypicals – who read meanings into them that simply are not there! And, they get indignant when others, with better knowledge of either grammar or logic (or both), act in accordance with what the sign actually says instead of what they erroneously infer it says.
Let me give you an example: outside of one of the parking lots at my son’s high school, there is a sign:
In one way, this sign is pretty clear: it is a request that only staff members enter the area.
It is not a statement of a rule, nor an order, because it includes the word ‘PLEASE’ – this clearly indicates that this is a request, something that is being asked of me…and therefore within my power to either grant or reject.
Yet, when I drove into the parking lot not with the intent to park there, but simply to drop my son off at the door closest to his locker, two different school employees told him off for my perceived transgression.
The sign never stated that non-staff members are forbidden from even entering, not just parking in the area.
Of course, I am presuming that there ought to be a comma after ‘only’ and before ‘please’. As is, the sign is a sentence fragment which indicates that the staff is in the process of pleasing some exclusive element, but does not define whom the staff are in the process of pleasing, why, or how one can get on the list of those to be pleased by the staff….much less imply any rules about the area in question!
Now, if one were to interpret the sign as meaning ‘only staff members are allowed in the area’, why are students permitted to walk there? And, for that matter, if only staff are permitted there, why would the staff members presume that their vehicles are allowed there as well? It certainly does not state that vehicles owned by staff members are permitted to be driven/parked there.
Really, think about it: it says ‘staff’ – not ‘staff and their vehicles and students who are walking but not getting out of vehicles”.
I am not being silly here – this is something of a serious issue for us, Aspies.
We take a sign – or an instruction – at its literal meaning.
We do not see any ‘implied’ other meaning – yet, we are the ones who get yelled at or laughed at if we truly follow what the sign actually says. That only ads insult to injury…
Let me give you another example, from a math test:
“Write the 3 forms of a quadratic relation that you have learned in this course this far…”
It seems obvious that if you have learned any or all of these 3 forms of quadratic relations before you started this class, they are not eligible to be put down for the answer here. In other words, if you are good at math and already knew them, the only accurate and correct answer is to leave this blank or say ‘none’!
The corollary is that if you are still ignorant of these forms because you are bad at Math and have learned nothing in this class, your answer of leaving this blank or saying ‘nothing’ is also 100% correct: the question does not ask what was taught, or what material was covered, but what you had actually learned. If you had learned nothing, then your answer of ‘nothing’ would indeed be factually correct and deserving of full marks!
Yet, if you, as a student, try to point this out to a teacher, you will not be commended for your accurate interpretation of the question. You will be singled out, put down and even perhaps punished for some trumped up ‘disrespect’ charge…
To an Aspie, this is very, very confusing.
I know – I’ve been there…
A couple of days ago, I mentioned to CodeSlinger that one of my sons was doing research in the branch of Mathematics known as ‘Combinatorics‘. His response was not only informative, it was just as passionate as my son gets when he talks about the subject.
So, for your pleasure and elucidation, here is CodeSlinger’s commentary on Combinatorics:
Spencer-Brown, G, 1969: Laws of Form, London: George Allen & Unwin.
Parker-Rhodes, A F, 1981: The Theory of Indistinguishables: A search for explanatory principles below the level of physics, Synthese Library, vol. 150, Springer.
Parker-Rhodes, A F, & Amson, J C, 1998: Hierarchies of descriptive levels in physical theory. Int’l J. Gen. Syst. 27(1-3):57-80.
Noyes, H P, & McGoveran, D O, 1989: An essay on discrete foundations for physics. SLAC-PUB-4528.