Sunday, October 21, 2007

Psychology and Libertarianism

I wrote here about "the Big Five personality traits,"
five broad factors or dimensions of personality discovered through empirical research (Goldberg, 1993). These factors are Neuroticism, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience.
My scores and my analysis of them:
Extraversion -- 4th percentile
Agreeableness -- 4th percentile
Conscientiousness -- 99th percentile
Emotional stability -- 12th percentile
Openness -- 93rd percentile
Note that "emotional stability" is also called "neuroticism," "a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability." My "neuroticism" doesn't involve anxiety, except to the extent that I am super-conscientious and, therefore, bothered by unfinished business. Nor does it involve depression or vulnerability. But I am easily angered by incompetence, stupidity, and carelessness. There is far too much of that stuff in the world, which explains my low scores on "extraversion" and "agreeableness." "Openness" measures my intellectual openness, of course, and not my openness to people.

(You can test yourself by going here.)
Those scores -- coupled with my introspective bent (typical of an INTJ) -- led me to ask myself if I display the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, which the Autism Research Centre describes thusly:
Asperger Syndrome (AS), a subgroup conceptualised as part of the autistic spectrum, shares the features of autism but without the associated learning difficulties (normal or even above average IQ) and without any language delay.

Are AS (Asperger Syndrome) or HFA (High Functioning Autism) disabilities?
  • Both can be thought of as a personality style in which the individual does not ‘tune in’ naturally to people and is more attracted by objects, systems, and how things work
  • Both involve strengths in attention to detail, and can be associated with talent in areas such as mathematics, science, fact-collecting or rule-based subjects
  • Both are disabilities only in environments where the individual is expected to be both sociable and a good communicator
What is the difference between AS and HFA?

Both share:
  • Abnormalities in social development
  • Abnormalities in communicative development
  • The presence of unusual and strong, narrow repetitive behaviours (sometimes called obsessions)
  • Average or above average intelligence (IQ)
But in HFA there is language delay; in AS there is not.
AS is more likely than HFA; I began talking quite early.

Do I have AS? To answer that question, without going to a psychologist, I self-administered the Autism Quotient (AQ), scored my answers, and read these two papers:
M. Woodbury-Smith, J. Robinson and S. Baron-Cohen, (2005)
Screening adults for Asperger Syndrome using the AQ : diagnostic validity in clinical practice
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 35:331-335 S. Baron-Cohen, S. Wheelwright, R. Skinner, J. Martin and E. Clubley, (2001)

The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) : Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 31:5-17
(Links to AQ, scoring key, and papers are here.)

What does my AQ score of 32 (out of 50) indicate? According to the second of the papers listed above,
A score of 32+ appears to be a useful cut-off for distinguishing individuals who have clinically significant levels of autistic traits. Such a high score on the AQ however does not mean an individual has AS or HFA, since a diagnosis is only merited if the individual is suffering a clinical level of distress as a result of their autistic traits. As shown in the subsample of students in Group 3 above, 80% of those scoring 32+ met DSM-IV criteria for HFA, but did not merit a diagnosis as they were not suffering any significant distress.
Hey, no distress, no AS or HFA. I'm just your typical, weird, leave-me-alone kind of conservative libertarian.

But, being introspective, I recognize my weirdness and understand that it is a poor foundation on which to build a political philosophy. That is why I scoff at anarcho-libertarians, whose solipsism leads them to believe in a never-never land of contractualism, "untainted" by broadly accepted and long-evolved social norms. (More about contractualism in a future post.)