What would it be like to always tell the truth and assume that everyone else is doing the same? Autistic minds have difficulty lying and detecting deceit, according to an article by Simon Baron-Cohen, author of the MIT Press books, Prenatal Testosterone in Mind and Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. Here is a small excerpt from the article that appears in the Spring 2007 issue of In Character:
In moral terms, honesty is without doubt a virtue, and dishonesty is a vice. But in social terms, absolute honesty can lead to trouble, risking causing offense to others who may not want or need to hear the complete truth. White lies may be desirable. And in biological terms, dishonesty is a sign of typical brain development, whereas someone who is incapable of dishonesty may be neurologically atypical. Dishonesty is one defining characteristic of what it is to be human. It is not the only defining characteristic, but it does separate us from other animals. Some nonhuman species may have a limited capacity for deception, but humans have a flexible, unlimited capacity for deception. And since anything that is uniquely human is likely to be part of our genetic makeup, it stands to reason that we are, in a sense, built for dishonesty — and those incapable of dishonesty, like people with autism, have a uniquely human disability. Beyond having deficits in social interaction, they live with a different relationship to morality. Their experience is a unique window into the typical human mind.
Read the full article here.