EM-Theory as a minimalist program for global cognition: autism as case-study




Sheppard, Joseph

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Autism poses many internal challenges, from increased sensory overwhelm and cognitive inflexibility to navigating co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety. In addition, Autistic persons may use different internal working models to transact with other agents in the world. These population differences may result in empathy gaps. How do scientists minimize the resulting psychological distress associated with these challenges and empathy gaps? A psychoeducational program for global cognition was developed that attempts to integrate psychological research to design a prosthetic internal working model. The result is EM-Theory (Elemental Model), a 4x4 (sixteen elemental module) psychoeducational matrix called the Skew Metric. EM-Theory may evoke increased psychoeducational insight into the mechanics of cognitive architecture in a manner that is always accessible because it is optimized for limited capacity visuospatial working memory. It is hypothesized that an increased understanding of cognitive mechanics may increase capacities to self-regulate psychological distress. Emphasis was placed on four reportable elemental modules as a significant cause of psychological distress. A small conceptual study was conducted with 10 participants with autism spectrum differences (ASD) and ten participants from the typically developing population (TD). Measures were taken to capture attributes of psychological distress from four reportable elemental modules (worry, rumination, distraction from mindfulness, and loss of mental vigilance), as well as measures designed to capture each ASD participant’s relationship with internalized narratives implicating their autism. General conclusions were not drawn from this small sample study. However, individual differences were described as a proof of concept on how a quantitative test may be further developed to provide accurate and meaningful feedback to assist beyond introspection.



autism, neurodiversity, mind wandering, Minimalist program, psychological distress, internal working model, theoretical psychology