Friday, February 3, 2017

Game Show Therapy

Last week Ethan and I were attempting to watch the Pro Bowl, but after realizing it was a joke of a football game we began flipping through the channels and stumbled upon a game show. This one was called "To Tell the Truth" or something like that, and featured a number of B-list celebrities attempting to guess which of three guests were telling the truth about themselves.

I'm pretty sure this is a remake from a game show about a zillion years ago. Essentially it consists of a statement like, "I once survived falling out of a boat and treading water for 24 hours before I was rescued." Then three people come out and get quizzed by the celebrities who try to guess which person is telling the truth.

"I think it's the third guy!" Ethan called out. I think in that round they were trying to find out which person jumps out of airplanes.

"Why?" I asked him.

"Because of the way he said, 'um,' before he answered," Ethan replied.

That's when I had the epiphany that this kind of show was ideal for people with autism who want to learn more about how to "read" others. What could be better? The whole point of the show is to draw a conclusion based not on what a person says but on other things you can infer...things like body language, tone of voice, the demeanor of the person, etc. It's about following your instincts, about paying attention to not just the words but the context of the words. The guy who fell out of the boat, for example. As the story went, he was fishing alone when it happened. So one of the celebrities asked each one if they liked fishing, and one said he'd only been fishing one other time. So of course that made people suspicious. Who goes out fishing alone in a boat having only gone fishing once? someone asked.

It's a game show, but this is high level stuff here. This is a more advanced version of what Ethan is starting to have to do in school -- read about certain characters and explain why they behaved the way they did, or what you can predict about a character based on their prior actions or things they've said or thought.

We watched for a while. I tried to explain the way the way a person who's providing a higher-level of detail about the subject might be more likely to be the one telling the truth rather than one who provides more vague answers. Only, it gets more complicated than that, because one strategy is to ACT like you're the one telling the truth by giving a lot of detail to make yourself sound knowledgeable.

And then there was the person who completely stumbled over her words and acted like a total failure, who ended up being the one who actually WAS telling the truth (about not only being a twin married to a twin and having twins). So this wasn't an ideal set-up, except maybe to show that people are unpredictable, and that sometimes the person who seems so confident is actually lying, and the one unsure could indeed be the truthful one.

When all was said and done, Ethan scored better than I did, getting two out of three guesses correct. It could have been just luck, who knows? I'm not really a fan of game shows, especially ones with annoying celebrities (Hollywood Squares? Aaaaarrggh!). But this one stimulated conversation and got both of us thinking. I'll take that any day.

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