Skip to comments.Autism May Have Had Advantages in Humans' Hunter-Gatherer Past, Researcher Believes
Posted on 06/10/2011 3:13:11 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
Though people with autism face many challenges because of their condition, they may have been capable hunter-gatherers in prehistoric times, according to a paper published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology in May.
The autism spectrum may represent not disease, but an ancient way of life for a minority of ancestral humans, said Jared Reser, a brain science researcher and doctoral candidate in the USC Psychology Department.
Some of the genes that contribute to autism may have been selected and maintained because they created beneficial behaviors in a solitary environment, amounting to an autism advantage, Reser said.
The "autism advantage," a relatively new perspective, contends that sometimes autism has compensating benefits, including increased abilities for spatial intelligence, concentration and memory. Although individuals with autism have trouble with social cognition, their other cognitive abilities are sometimes largely intact.
The paper looks at how autism's strengths may have played a role in evolution. Individuals on the autism spectrum would have had the mental tools to be self-sufficient foragers in environments marked by diminished social contact, Reser said.
The penchant for obsessive, repetitive activities would have been focused by hunger and thirst towards the learning and refinement of hunting and gathering skills.
Today autistic children are fed by their parents so hunger does not guide their interests and activities. Because they can obtain food free of effort, their interests are redirected toward nonsocial activities, such as stacking blocks, flipping light switches or collecting bottle tops, Reser said.
(Excerpt) Read more at sciencedaily.com ...
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He may have a point but I dont see it.
If he has real world cases existing in modern hunter gatherer societies he may persued me.
What color is the sky in this numbskull's world?
They had the advantage of knowing Kmart sucks before the rest of us did.
And Down’s syndrome kids wove really intricate baskets and thats why they had an “advantage”?
Ok, then...that was real science! You posited an idea that was a piece of crap. Now go back and try again for another grant./s
I suspect the author means high function autism, ie something along the lines of Asperger’s Syndrome.
It's the lone hunter thesis.
There are biologic models of this. Killer whales come in a couple of varieties. First, there are the pods ~ much like any sea going mammal society, the pods cooperate in hunting, have family lives and friends, and are "friendly" to others who own very large steel hulled boats with massive engines.
Then there are the solitary killer whales. They are not friendly. They will even attack boats!
Only one problem with that........there is no evidence to suggest there was a hunter-gatherer past. The only record we have is the Bible, and it doesn’t account for it.
Not sure what part Down’s Syndrome would play in autism? They are not the same.
BTW, the Long Hunt wasn't mentioned either but we know that's how the Iroquois and other American Indians handled the winter starvation problem.
Frankly, I think somebody just forgot to write it down for you.
Land sharks baybeee, land sharks!!!
It plays no part in autism. I was positing an equally absurd notion about the persistence of Downs.
One of my best friend’s son has Aspergers. I don’t understand what this author is thinking... not only does this child not read “social clues” but doesn’t fully understand the dangers around him. I have also seen children with full autism. I think the author is over-reaching.
She shares the opinion of the author.
BTW, she makes a good living with her skill since moving cattle around without panic is a major problem in this world. Her observations and recommendations have saved billions of dollars.
I doubt she's aware of con artists, but she probably would do OK in anticipating the moves of wolves.
It is not as crazy as it sounds.
People with sickle cell trait are significantly more healthy that those without the trait when living in a malaria endemic area.
The prevelance of the condition is high enough that exploration of benefits from the trait is reasonable.
I highly recommend her books to anyone interested in animal behavior, real scientific psychology, and heroic effort to overcome adversity.
That's the writer's point.
Kind of like Heidelbergensis. They were among the first to bury their dead, but their immediate past ancestors were like animals and just left their dead behind.
We have a young friend with another form of all this ~ took him 25 years to learn to count but he learned. His ambition is to get a driver's license.
He is as aware of his plight as anyone is ~ and understands his limitations thoroughly. He is exceedingly heroic and works a real man's job ~ redirecting mail in a large office building using a computer.
My kids taught him how to use DOS commands back in the early days. That enabled him to load his own video games. Nothing stopped him after that.
The other thing about Grandin is that she might not have survived alone in a hypothetical primitive setting. She turned out well because her parents and teachers worked very hard to encourage her, even though psychological "experts" recommended throwing her in an institution and walking away.
You are so right. Autism-Aspergers is the flavor of the decade for incurable romanticizers. In the previous decade the flavor was bipolar, before that, ADD. The sort of reasoning went, if some bipolars are very artistic then bipolar disorder made then so. I used to say I could make a fortune betting that those who romanticize bipolar disorder have never had to see it in a loved one. You put it a lot more succinctly.
Having a daughter who has chromosome deletions commonly found in Autistic children, makes me wonder if there may be some truth to what is being said. My theory has always been this is an evolution process. Since we now have the capability of chromosome testing, multiplications and deletions that have shown up in Autistic cases does make the point that Autism may begin at conception. With the number of cases, I believe in S. Korea there are 1 in 56 children diagnosed with Autism, it raises the question is Autism going to be the new norm eventually. What scares me is how prepared is the World for these children? On my experience it seems not very. These children are a gift from above with extremely intelligence and probably carry the key to cure many of the worlds problems. Maybe they are the healers of todays messed up World.
I’m not saying humans didn’t engage in hunting. That would be absurd to say otherwise. But to suggest that autism somehow gives advantages as it (theoretically) did during an era of human history where humans where just a hunter-gather species is likewise absurd. The implication is that autism is a remnant of the evolutionary process....and I don’t buy it.
look at post 17
There are still a few pockets of hunter-gatherers so they still exist. The inhabitants of the Garden of Eden were hunter-gathers. Because they didn't know any better their idea of paradise was eating fresh worms from a stick. The Garden of Eden was not our modern idea of paradise.
Wait...I thought the mercury in all of the vaccines caused autism. Then they supposedly removed all of the mercury and the prevalence of autism went up, so it was the aluminum or squalene in vaccines. So they supposedly removed them, but the CIA/NSA/Bilderbergers/CFR really kept it in and just isn’t admitting it.
Let’s look at it a little differently. Would you say that present day society, with gangs, criminals, just plain evil, is stronger today then any time really in our history? I believe so. Autistic children are total opposite of todays world. Is it possible that the evolutionary process is correcting the evil bad link and replacing it with good?
A study just came out that 90% of children diagnosed with autism actually have LYME disease. Many doctors have no idea that lyme disease is the number 1 infectious disease in the world. Tests are not very accurate for lyme disease, so you must see a lyme literate doctor, and there are not very many of them. Google lyme disease and autism to get many articles on the subject.
I did not suggest that it was.
I merely suggest that his hypothesis is testable. There are hunter gatherer societies in the modern world.
I do not see any individuals with but the mildest case of autism being able to survive in a hunter gatherer society. An individual with Asperger syndrome may be able to function in a hunter gatherer society but I very much doubt that a child with Retts disorder would survive in to adulthood.
Such a theory while interesting is not persuasive with out real world examples.
That’s a horrible explanation. Autism is a major disadvantage for the person who has it.
It’s more likely that our bodies are going crazy in response to some unusual insult. Things like bad diet.
agreed!!! This is downright nuts! Our granddaughter is autistic, my nephew, and our 32 year old son!
BEYOND STUPID I say!!!! Beyond stupid!
I want to tell you something my daughter has many markers of Autism and she is by no means disadvantaged. She sees people for their good, does not judge, easily forgives, is always happy and content, is that disadvantaged? I wish I had a quarter of what she possesses. Her qualities are what every one she have. The world would be much more peaceful and happy.
Please explain how genetic deletions and multiplications do not create Autism but a bad diet does? I am waiting for your expertise.
Your daughter must have a mild form then. It is indeed a disadvantage to be unable to see things like social cues.
Sure, genetic deletions do exist in autism, but are they the cause, the symptom or both ? Something has changed in the last 20 years that has resulted in an increase in autism. No one really knows for sure what that is.
Give me a high function obsessive-compulsive Aspergers person the next time I go to pick blueberries and blackberries. I have gradually come to the conclusion that my father was high function Aspergers. Once set on a task he worked non stop. At age 80 he was complaining that he could no longer work with me an 8 hour day on renovating projects.
I took care of my late husband as he was failing with Alzheimers. I have a hypothesis that there was a biological advantage to the Alzheimers gene in primative, especially northern, societies. Before it got really bad he passed through a phase where when he got hungry he would leave the house and I would have to run after him to bring him back as by that time he could no longer find his way home. I had to bring him into the kitchen as I quickly fixed food and feed him nibbles so he wouldn’t get up and try to leave. I had read stories about how elderly Indians during starving times would wander off into the woods and die so there was more food for the tribe. I now wonder if they were in the middle stages of Alzheimers, and just woke up at night hungry and went off looking for food and couldn’t find their way home again. This would have a survival advantage for their children and grandchildren.
At that stage I found that my husband could still do useful things if they were a continuous action like sweeping the sidewalk. I imagine that things like knapping flint arrows, or weaving baskets, or molding pottery would be similar. He could also do things if he was asked, like carry grocery bags. He loved to work and we built a small cabin in the country. We had no power there. I would start a saw cut in a timber and he would finish it for me. He would hold wood in position while I hammered. The only time I had a problem was when I was repairing the roof, and since he could not see me he kept trying to walk off with the ladder;-). Caring for someone with Autism or Alzheimer’s is a trial, but there are positive things that can be done if we look carefully.
What a great story, thanks!
Another example is extreme dental dysplasia ~ particularly when it's associated with missing teeth (that just never came in).
Turning your premolars sideways gives you an extra cutting edge for eating lots of raw meat ~ losing those teeth lets them turn easily, and also frees up some space so all your others can turn their best edge the most advantageous way.
The Sa'ami, who've been living all the way up to the Arctic for the last 14,000 years have an 18% incidence of the situation where teeth just don't come in.
Better diagnosis ~
Better diagnosis ~
That’s interesting about the missing teeth. I, on the other hand, have a son who had 6 wisdom teeth. When we went to get them pulled they wanted to know if he had any Eskimo blood. His father had a great grandmother who was Canadian Cree Indian. I suppose the Crees could have wandered far enough north to encounter some Eskimos.
My daughter is 19 years old and is presently in a school that specializes with children and young adults with Autism. She will be in that school until she is 21. Don’t know if I consider that mild, but maybe you do. In a world that is socially so messed up, is it a disadvantage to not be able to pick up on “social cues”? I have witnessed my daughter and her Autistic friends in an academic environment as well as social environment, some being in our home for parties. They are laughing and understanding each other, most of all they are comfortable and very happy young adults. Totally unaware of social cues that make most people of their age in present day society anxiety ridden. I find my daughter’s inability to be an asset.
My daughter was seen by a pioneer genetic physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He told me that these deletions or multiplications are there in the embryonic stage by the division of the 8th cell. That makes me think, what could all the mothers’ be exposed to that has cause this, or is simply evolution. If nature has decided that the world needs to be fixed and this is the way to do it, why is that so “horrible”? We need to change not them.
http://www.sharecare.com/question/are-wisdom-teeth-becoming-obsolete An explanation about the “why fors” of Wisdom Teeth.
God Bless You. Beautiful stories. God sent you a message and you understood. I believe many do not and that is really sad.
Doesn’t account for it. For instance Somali people have 1-in-28 autism rate in Minnesota, which certainly was not true in the previous generation.
Sickel-cell anemia & malaria.
So she’s not seen the Real World yet. Sorry if this upsets you, but it is a disadvantage, to some extent.
I wonder if we’d see differences in someone’s genes before and after the autism presents itself. A lot of parents see normal development before the child becomes autistic.
Sounds like the rate of autism has declined among the Somalis.
Sorry, it’s definitely increased. Autism isn’t common at all in Somalia.
You and I differ here. I don’t think you really understand what I am saying. She does see the Real World but differently then you and I. That is a good thing.
How can the gene change if it is present almost at the time of conception? Don’t think you understand genetics. Like you said the biggest inability with Autistic children is social adjustment. Most children’s social behaviors are not evident until 2 to 3 years old, usually the time discovered for Autism. I believe it is there the parents just are not looking for it or see it. Just wondering what your background in Autism is?
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