ASD Do some cultures have more Asperger traits ?


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I recently found out that I share many traits of characters with Aspies (people who have Asperger's syndrome). This includes being more honest, outspoken, rational, logical, analytical, perfectionist, conscientious or persistent. My mind also seems to work in a similar way. I am not a big fan of metaphors (although I understand them), I place more value in acquiring knowledge than sharing feelings (although I have no problem identifying and expressing my emotions unlike Aspies), I am individualistic and prefer using my own methods than conventional ones, and I am more of a visual thinker with an excellent long-term memory, especially for facts. I am not an Aspie because I do not have the communication, emotional or motor impairments that define the syndrome. I also dislike routines and have a very wide range of interests. But apart from that, I feel very close to the Aspie mindset.

I have been fascinated with cross-cultural psychology and comparing cultures since my late teens, and have had the chance of travelling extensively and of living/studying in eight countries and learn six foreign languages. It now dawns on me that some linguistic groups, notably the German and Japanese ones, have quite a few cultural traits in common with Aspies and me, which may explain why I have always felt attracted to these cultures.

For example, both German and Japanese cultures are renowned for their perfectionism, conscientiousness, honesty, rationality, but also their liking for structure and organization. While Aspies may not always have good organizational skills, from what I read they do need a more structured and organized environment in order to perform well. In these regards the Swiss may be even more Aspie-like than the Germans.

Aspies are also know for their formal, literal and somewhat pedantic way of speaking. That would apply to German speakers too. The Japanese can be quite formal and are very literal (metaphors are very rare in Japanese), but I wouldn't call them pedantic as they like to keep vocabulary fairly simple.

Furthermore, both German and Japanese speakers are known for their higher than average dedication to learning and acquiring knowledge, but also for their emotional reserve and their less spontaneous communication and interpersonal skills, which are another characteristic of Asperger.

The German are also quite outspoken and will often prefer to tell people the truth rather than tell a white lie, sometimes in a way that could be perceived as tactless by people from other cultures. Such behaviour is one of the telling signs of Asperger.

The Japanese are much more tactful and considerate of other people's feelings, and will often lie and hide their opinion to avoid hurting other people's feelings or to avoid conflict. That is the complete opposite of the Germans and Aspies in that regard. However the Japanese are often unusually shy and reserved, and tend to be poor communicators, which are another facet of Aspergerness.

Finally, Aspies tend to abide very strictly to rules (as long as they are logical) and routines and feel very agitated by people who don't respect them. This applies also to punctuality. Aspies have a very low tolerance for being disturbed when they are busy (a sort of tunnel vision) and will not appreciate if someone shows up early or late for an appointment. In every respect this could be a description of German or Japanese culture too.

It's all in the gene pool

Since Asperger (and autism) are essentially genetically inherited and traits tend to run in families, I wouldn't be surprised if the German and Japanese gene pools had a greater number of alleles associated with Asperger traits. Cultures typically develop from tangible traits of characters found in the population, which are influenced by the genetic variants found in that population.

When I checked the list of famous people suspected of having Asperger or high-functioning autism, I struck me how many of them were German speakers: Mozart, Beethoven, Bruckner, R. Strauss, Nietzsche, Carl Jung... Most of the others were of English descent, who are also essentially of German and Danish descent, but with mixed Celtic ancestry like the Swiss and South Germans. Interestingly there are very few Scandinavians, Dutch and North Germans in the list of famous Aspies. Most are actually South German or English, as if the Germanic and Celtic populations each brought different genetic variants that contribute to the Aspergerian personality.

It would appear that Ashkenazi Jews also have a considerably higher proportion of Aspie traits, and indeed many famous people in the above list are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (Einstein, Mahler, Kafka, Wittgenstein, Steven Spielberg, Mark Zuckerberg). Yet I did not find any non-Ashkenazi Jew, which could mean that the Ashkenazi integrated Aspie-like traits through genetic introgression from the German population. And indeed most of the Jews displaying Aspie traits have German surnames, not Slavic ones (Kafka is an exception, but the Czech Republic is by far the most Germanic or all Slavic countries genetically).

What surprised me is that I couldn't find any famous Aspie from Romance-speaking countries, and hardly any from Scandinavia, Ireland, Highland Scotland, Wales, or Slavic countries. In Europe, it really seems to be rather specific to Germanic countries with a Celtic substrate.

As for Eat Asia, the Japanese aren't the only ones with Aspie traits. The Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese seem to share many of the basic character traits. The main difference is that the Japanese tend to be more shy and more considerate of others' feelings, while the Chinese and Koreans in particular are more outspoken and direct like the Germans. It's probably no coincidence that the Koreans consider themselves to be "the Germans of Asia" (although many Westerners more readily associate Germans with Japanese, being more familiar with Japan).

Checking for famous Aspies on a Japanese website I found that a surprising number of celebrities that have been diagnosed or are suspected to have Asperger. This includes:

- Prime Minister Naoto Kan (in office in 2010-11)
- the present governor of Tokyo Yōichi Masuzoe
- the creator of Pokemon Satoshi Tajiri
- the baseball player Ichiro Suzuki (famous in the USA)
- the baseball player Hiromitsu Ochiai (the only player to receive the prestigious triple crown batting award three times)
- the judoka Satoshi Ishii (gold medalist in Beijing 2008)
- the entertainer, singer (of SMAP) and actor Tsuyoshi Kusanagi (one of the most famous TV personality in Japan)
- the musician, singer and actor Gackt

and among historical figures:

- Oda Nobunaga, the warlord who initiated the unification of Japan in the late 16th century
- Sakamoto Ryōma, one of the most famous samurai of the Bakumatsu period who supported the the Meiji Restoration.

It is also amazing that people with Asperger, or at least Asperger traits, manage to get elected as prime minister or governor in Japan. That is probably because the Japanese value many of the Aspie traits of character. I cannot imagine anything like that happening in Latin countries, and least of all France and Italy, where the culture is rather intolerant of Aspie traits and encourages strong displays of emotions, public affection, and a high degree of flexibility regarding punctuality, schedules and rules.
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No objections about Japan, but the others? I don't really know if Vietnamese are worth mentioning, due to their country's current condition and the French influence exert on them. Also, Chinese and Koreans? According to my experience, both folks are not so comparable to Germans. Yes, they are quite smart and in the case of Koreans, might also work hard as well. But that's it. They have also shown some slack attitudes, and I'd Koreans are more comparable to Americans than Germans.

Vietnam is still recovering from its communist past. I am only looking at traits of character found among the population (and adjusted for development), not attributing anthropomorphic traits to the country's political and economic systems.

Let's look at it this way. North and South Korea have practically the same gene pool and cultural traits based on language (i.e. if we exclude traits linked to the political and economic system). Yet their economy is completely different. I am not saying that economic success is due to Aspie traits. It's probably not a coincidence that in a capitalist system a population with a lot of people presenting Aspie traits will perform better. But if the economic system isn't capitalist in the first place, then it won't help. I have read that Aspies are natural capitalists because they think rationally and let emotions aside. That's why the Silicon Valley is so eager in recruiting people with Aspie traits.

However if you go back in history, Aspie-like cultures were not always the richest or most developed. That's a recent occurrence from the last few centuries. In fact, if you look at ancient Rome or even Renaissance Europe, people who were flexible to the point of being unscrupulous, who took advantage of others, stole, embezzled, cheated, turned to piracy (look at how England got rich from attacking Spanish ships), etc. were often more successful than the honest and rational Aspies. That's only because our society has become more peaceful and laws are better enforced, and because intellectual skills are becoming much more valued that Aspies now have a chance. Maybe that's also why there is currently a changing attitude toward the Aspies , who are finally becoming popular and cool in the collective imagination thanks to Hollywood sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory, Community, or Silicon Valley. For centuries nonchalant bad boys were seen as sexy because historically they were the ones who were the more likely to succeed. But that isn't the case any more. Bill Gates, the world's richest man for the last 20 years was a nerd at school and is probably an Aspie. That's also the profile to get a good job nowadays. That's what is fascinating about evolution. Traits that were once desirable and selected for can suddenly become irrelevant and undergo negative selection in favour of traits that were undesirable before. Things change all the time.
Well, if that's the case, the current World-top countries are actually performing in a more acceptable manner, in my opinion, than ancient successful countries. They are actually performing in a way that most if not all cultures find the ideal. Maybe it's not wonder that ancient powers eventually fell down, due to their approaches.
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From Ireland, and whilst I have not checked properly myself, according to Professor Micheal Fitzgerald [psychiatrist] he states the following to have likely been Aspies....W.B.Yeats and Éamon de Valera.

Several thousand Irish are estimated to have AS... approximately nine times more men than women. It is hard to be more precise regarding figures at the moment..sorry.
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From Ireland, and whilst I have not checked properly myself, according to Professor Micheal Fitzgerald [psychiatrist] he states the following to have likely been Aspies....W.B.Yeats and Éamon de Valera.

Several thousand Irish are estimated to have AS... approximately nine times more men than women. It is hard to be more precise regarding figures at the moment..sorry.

There are surely Aspies in every country in the world. But the proportion and their acceptance by society may differ widely. The hypothesis I was trying to develop here is that some countries/cultures have a higher incidence of genes influencing autistic or Aspie traits in their gene pool, and that therefore a lot of people have some of these traits without being autistic/Aspie, but that overall it does influence the nature of that culture. Cultural were Aspie traits are common and valued (Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and now that I think of it perhaps England and Finland too) may be more accepting of Aspies and therefore allow them to thrive, whereas in other cultures they may just be discriminated against. That would explain why famous Aspies almost exclusively come from such Aspie-friendly cultures. The only exception is the USA, but that would be because it is an extremely cosmopolitan country with many subcultures and niches and that practically anyone can find a way to thrive in such environment.
From Ireland, and whilst I have not checked properly myself, according to Professor Micheal Fitzgerald [psychiatrist] he states the following to have likely been Aspies....W.B.Yeats and Éamon de Valera.

Several thousand Irish are estimated to have AS... approximately nine times more men than women. It is hard to be more precise regarding figures at the moment..sorry.

Interestingly enough, Éamon de Valera was born in the USA and was reported by his (Irish) mother to be half-Cuban. Cuba (as well as much of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean) is big on social relationships and not so much on rigid rules.
Hello All, very good initial article , please let me share some thoughts from my experience (I'm Aspie and my boy is Aspie too).
I'm born in Transylvania , place with strong ancient Scandinavian / East Germanic (goths,gepids) and Central and East Asian (huns , avars ,cuman, Mongolian) background , so the theory with German/Asian origin is probably more accurate than celtic / german , because the goths , heavily mixed with huns,avars settled in South Germany,Austria,Burgundy after being expelled from Italy , also Transylvania and Pannonia . About Ashkenazi , please don't forget they arrived in Europe with the Khazars , also an Asian steppe warriors . Regarding the Danes & English , the percent of Q haplogroup is also significant , from hunnic mix with Danes and please don't forget Denmark in the Middle Age was called Dacia ( same region as Transylvania) , probably a gothic migration to the north , if we read Dudo of Saint-Quentin - Historia Normannorum , written around 996-1015 AD.
It is also true , for me , working in Finance in a multinational company , I always had problems in communication with Latin Countries speakers and communicated quite ok with Germanic peoples and also with Asians (mainly Chinese ).

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