Workshop with Chris Frith & Uta Frith
Chris Frith (Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London & Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, University of Aarhus): "What is special about social signals used in communication?"
We use a whole range of social signals, such as facial expressions and eye gaze direction, to learn about the world from other people. However, many of these signals are processed automatically and often without awareness on the part of either sender or receiver. I shall suggest that signals become communicative when we have the meta-cognitive awareness that they are signals. One example would be the ostensive signals that indicate that communication is about to occur. The price we pay for this special attitude to signals, is that we can perceive signals when none are intended. Such mis-attribution is typical of schizophrenia.
Uta Frith (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London & Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, University of Aarhus): "Can we distinguish awareness of feelings and awareness of having feelings? Lessons from autism."
Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder say that they are confused about their own feelings. The difficulty in identifying and describing one’s own feelings has been labelled ‘alexithymia’, and can be assessed with self-report questionnaires. Three questions can be asked: Do people with autism who have alexithymia simply not have strong emotions? Are they not aware of their emotions? Or, are they not aware of having emotions? A questionnaire study and a functional imaging study investigated this question. The results suggest that it is possible to separate three levels of emotional experience, having feelings, being aware of feelings and being aware of having feelings. People with autism are less aware of having a self that has feelings. This finding strengthens the idea that autism can mean both no self and too much self.
Participation is free, but prior registration is required.