The Magical World Theory

From Spectrum News, in the post For people with autism, unforeseen events come as no surprise, a reference to the “magical world theory” of MIT professor Pawan Sinha:

To a person with autism, it seems as if they live in a magical world where things are happening seemingly without cause,” Sinha says. “If everything is magical, then even the truly magical things would not be seen as too out of the ordinary.”

I’m wary of almost all autism research, not because of its veracity, but because, as a supporter of someone on the spectrum, it generally proves unhelpful to me in that role. But I like the way that Sinha’s theory lyrically expresses an approach to autism that is much full of possibility as of challenge.

In the abstract of the paper underlying the theory, Sinha presents a slightly more technical explanation:

With compromised prediction skills, an individual with autism inhabits a seemingly “magical” world wherein events occur unexpectedly and without cause. Immersion in such a capricious environment can prove overwhelming and compromise one’s ability to effectively interact with it. If validated, this hypothesis has the potential of providing unifying insights into multiple aspects of autism, with attendant benefits for improving diagnosis and therapy.

Stated this way it makes me think that “immersion in a capricious environment” is something that describes the modern condition for all of us; in this light, the diagnosis and therapy that might result may prove universally useful.


Oliver (FS)'s picture
Oliver (FS) on November 13, 2020 - 04:17 Permalink

It sounds like a feel-good movie theory of autism, ala Amélie. Still, I suppose it could be right on the mechanics, even if not on the exact proportion of delight in store