This caught my eye because I may have mistakenly identified myself as psychological profiling “savant” in the NH aspergoid inventory of traits. This deserves investigation.
A savant is someone who is or appears to be exceptionally good at one or a few narrow skills, without having the general intelligence to put that skill to practical use or even understand what he or she is doing. Savants are mostly retarded, and often have autism in combination with retardation. It is a mistake though to believe autism often goes with being a savant; only a small percentage of autistics are savants. A cow is an animal, but not all animals are cows. Autistics do have “circumscribed interests”, but that is no reason to qualify them as savants.
A savant is never a genius, gifted or prodigy.
Genius, Gifted, Prodigy, or Savant?
While I may not be a genius, and often describe myself as “retarded” in an absolute sense (though “gifted” in the relative sense of being “less retarded” according to my understanding of things), I am certainly not among such people as are obviously described here. But I certainly have evidence to suggest either savantism or a savant-like ability in this area.
Here’s a story, for illustration. Yesterday, a man sat down next to me and began explaining all sorts of crazy nonsense. In short, he’s descended from The Prophet (I asked- he’s Ethiopian), probably related to Rihanna, thinking about becoming an Army sniper, and whatever else was going through his mind at the moment. After a couple of minutes, I told him his therapists had misdiagnosed him with schizophrenia, and he actually had manic depression (Edited: I incorrectly said BPD, thinking this was short for Bipolar Disorder). This will have no real-life consequences, because he had never heard of it and didn’t seem much interested in effective treatment, regardless of life history.
I can trace back the evidence and rationalize this diagnosis via evidence from the conversation, but I had made it before this evidence had come to light. My pre-existing diagnosis informed the line of questions I later used to confirm it. I have not been able to turn this intuition around on myself, or explain how I do it, or consciously call upon it. Because it has many similarities to the sort of intuition I use to visualize larger systems, I usually assume it is the same bundle of neurons running operations on a different data type in some sort of hacked-together compatibility mode.
But it could be different. I’m reminded of Stephen King’s writing style: he invents characters in his mind, puts them in an extraordinary situation, and “watches” events play out (merely writing as he does so). Maybe this is related to the amygdala-stimulating hobbies of his youth? It may even be exactly the same sort of general social savantism we see expressed by the white people we imprecisely call “cro magnon”. Lacking general intelligence or capabilities for abstraction or ratiocination, they are able to form impressively precise “theories of mind” at the preconscious level with a single glance (in a qualitatively different way than the rule-based method I’ve previously described). Afterward, they are obviously unable to explain their phrenological instincts and such, given the incapabilities mentioned.
As an example of one variety of this social savantism, here’s another story. I saw a lady who reminded me of the rare “Temple Grandin” archetype of high-ability, high-creativity, high-testosterone females who are capable of real contributions to male-dominated fields like the physical sciences (other examples are lflick and a former physics instructor, but not Marie Curie). Figuring that YOLO, I asked her a couple of questions to confirm the intuition. I was able to do this “typing” at a glance, even though I can’t explain logically how to categorize people into “archetypes”, or which of her traits tipped me off (she actually had a high, feminine voice, which shocked me- testosterone may not be as important as I’d thought).
Anyway, this ability seems to be latent in many people (being highly adaptive), but in my case (and Stephen King’s) it’s combined with a particular talent for seeing the way a person’s mind works through their written words, music, and so on, and the ability to predict long-term, abstract trends in thinking (rather than reactive, situation-based simulation). So maybe I’m a rarity.
In any case, I have no conclusions to share at the moment. I don’t think I have the intelligence or philosophical training required to disambiguate this sort of problem. Just putting down some thoughts.