29 April 2014

Autism, Rumors, and Word Association

Five years ago, having learned that 'April is National Autism Awareness Month', I posted on Chess and Autism. I was reminded of that post earlier this year in an article on Chessbase.com, VG Interview with Magnus Carlsen, which contained a relevant paragraph.

9 About the rumors • Many years ago someone actually asked me if I suffered from autism. I thought the question was stupid, so I replied "well, isn't that obvious?" That was silly – I'm obviously not suffering from autism. Later I realised that not everyone shares that view, and I probably shouldn't have made that thoughtless remark. I feel I'm miles away from anyone with autism. I consider myself to have normal social skills and to be functioning normally.

This was followed by a brief mention of IQ and the comment,

Another word associated with you on Google is "girlfriend".

As for 'word associated with you on Google', this might mean the dropdown list that Google suggests when you start typing a query. It might also mean the following suggestions appended to the results for 'magnus carlsen'.

It's curious that the search for 'magnus carlsen autism' has as the first result the 'VG Interview' mentioned above, but the second and third results -- from cbsnews.com and wikipedia.org -- don't include the word 'autism' in any of its forms. Where do these 'rumors' get started? Is Google inventing associations in response to a frequent query?

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