drawing by lonelysandwich
In 1996, Jeff Bigler observed that there appeared to be a "tact filter" that was operated in different directions by "nerds" versus "normal people:"
All people have a "tact filter", which applies tact in one direction to everything that passes through it. Most "normal people" have the tact filter positioned to apply tact in the outgoing direction....
"Nerds," on the other hand, have their tact filter positioned to apply tact in the incoming direction. Thus, whatever anyone says to them gets the appropriate amount of tact added when they hear it. This is because when nerds were growing up, they continually got picked on, and their parents continually drilled into their heads statements like, "They're just saying those mean things because they're jealous. They don't really mean it..."
So, nerds need to understand that normal people have to apply tact to everything they say; they become really uncomfortable if they can't do this. Normal people need to understand that despite the fact that nerds are usually tactless, things they say are almost never meant personally and shouldn't be taken that way. Both types of people need to be extra patient when dealing with someone whose tact filter is backwards relative to their own.
Fascinating way to put something I'd never thought of in quite that way before. I've often wondered whether several of the most technically gifted folks I know have a touch of Asperger's, but this more "nurture"-based explanation is a thought-provoking alternative.