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Peoplewatching: A Good Book about Normal Human Behavior for Autistic Adults to Learn From

Updated on November 24, 2015

Normal human behavior explained and analyzed - a wonderful tool for autistic adults.

As an autistic person, many aspects of human behavior and culture do not come naturally to me. What the average person knows or learns instinctively, the autistic person must learn through study or miss out on a world of human interaction.

Some aspects of non-verbal communication are so vital that unless a person with autism can imitate them with some degree of accuracy, he or she will encounter severe difficulties - in getting a job, in keeping a job, in workplace advancement, in courting a mate, and in maintaining relationships.

The book that changed my life and finally put all of the human behaviors I was trying to mimic into perspective is Peoplewatching by Desmond Morris. Morris is likely not an autistic person himself, but a scientist who has examined human behavior as a scientist would examine the behavior of any animal. He explains it all in clear language and does not flinch from uncomfortable facts.

DISCLAIMER

I am not a therapist or medical professional, simply a person who has a high-functioning type of autism sometimes called Asperger's Syndrome. I am recommending this book only as an autistic person who has found it to be an immensely useful resource in understanding other people and in making myself understood. In no way should this advice be construed as replacement for professional medical advice or psychological counseling.

This book is NOT about autism, but about normal human behaviors.

Source

Why Aren't There More Books for Autistic Adults to Learn About Human Behavior from?

Since non-autistic people instinctively or near instinctively know or learn standard behavior such as eye contact, tone of voice and body language, there isn't much material aimed at teaching those behaviors.

We are extremely fortunate that some people have wondered why human beings do the things we do. Because of this, scientists have analyzed thousands of behaviors common to almost all human beings.

Peoplewatching is a book written by one such scientist.

image by Benito LeGrande, SXC
image by Benito LeGrande, SXC

Peoplewatching Explains Why as Well as What

The beauty of a book written to explain why people do the things they do is that not only does the book describe behaviors and the circumstances in which they occur but it attempts to explain the reasons behind them.

I have found that I learn things much better when I know the reasoning behind what I'm learning. I believe that this is pretty common and a useful learning or teaching strategy for people, with or without autism.

Peoplewatching by Desmond Morris

Please note once again that the book is not about autism, I'm recommending it to people who have high-functioning autism.

Several people have bought and returned it, upset that it's not about autism so I've added a few statements on this page. Fortunately, most folks will take that 'for' in the title to mean 'for' and not to mean 'about' but I figured I'd mention it a few times, just in case.

Peoplewatching
Peoplewatching
Peoplewatching is the book that (finally!) describes normal human behaviors and attempts to explain why people do the things they do.
 
Source

Peoplewatching Explains Things People You Know Can't or Won't Explain

Peoplewatching is a great book for adult autistics because it unabashedly examines, defines, and analyzes normal human behavior all laid out in an engaging book easily understandable to the layman. It touches on topics many people are unaware of and it plainly explains behaviors which many people might be reluctant or too uninformed to explain to an adult friend or family member.

Not only does it examine behaviors such as eye contact and tone of voice in regular social circumstances, it examines behaviors that relate to love and sexuality as well. That's right, you can learn about things like flirting with (and noticing romantic interest in) potential partners from this book!

I would strongly recommend Peoplewatching by Desmond Morris to any adult struggling with autism or Asperger Syndrome. It has cleared up a lot of things for me such as how much eye contact is normal and what kind of things I may be doing that might make someone think I'm flirting with them if I'm not.

A Pocket Guide to Manwatching - A smaller version of Peoplewatching

The pocket version is also not about people with AS, but about neurotypical behavior.

Pocket Guide To Manwatching
Pocket Guide To Manwatching
This is basically a condensed version of Peoplewatching. It's a bit of a trade-off. This book is far more portable but I find I do miss some of the big photos and illustrations from the full-sized version.
 

Peoplewatching is not about autism but about normal human behaviors.

Do you think Peoplewatching by Desmond Morris could be a useful tool for adults with autism?

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