Kick-Off Event: A Special Case of Perception

Last Monday, 17 October 2016, the Bucerius Rational Think Tank, our local sub-entity, held its Kick-Off Event at Bucerius Law School. This was the first of a series of talks intended to shed some light on different aspects of perception, decision making and communication.

The first event of the lecture series focused on what is probably one of the most special cases of perception: We invited the autistic person Julian. The title of his talk was “My Life with Autism” and the audience was quickly drawn in by Julian’s captivating remarks. In front of a packed auditorium, Julian explained both the joys and the challenges in his life.

Why did we invite Julian? Apart from the obvious reason, namely Julian’s charming character and good looks, we decided to kick off our lecture series by focusing on perception as such and we found that Julian’s views were extremely interesting. According to one statistic, autism is estimated to affect globally 21.7 million people as of 2013. Nonetheless, there are widespread misbeliefs in the general public when it comes to what a life with autism may look like. While our audience will already have had a general idea about this neurodevelopmental disorder before attending the event, we are quite confident that when meeting Julian for the first time many were in for a surprise. In short, everyone in the room was amazed by Julian’s account of how to see the world through his eyes.

One aspect that stood out in Julian’s talk was that the autistic brain fails to filter the information it gets: “Think about it as standing on a bridge over a highway while trying to write down every single registration plate of all the cars passing underneath your feet. This is what the autistic brain tries to do – every day, every hour, every minute”, Julian said. However, we also learned that he can block information by listening to loud music. Unlike most people, Julian is listening to songs with a beats per minute rate of at least 190. By doing this, he can shield his mind from some of the data rushing to his brain (just to give you a reference point, a typical hip hop song will have approximately 80-115 bpm).

Julian was a fascinating speaker. Although he had trouble speaking in front of a larger audience some years ago, he now spoke freely and without any ‘mishaps’. Around 200 guests were amazed by his rhetorical skills and the way he explained his individual perception. Afterwards, an engaging discussion took place in the auditorium’s foyer and the evening ended smoothly with pretzels and wine, sponsored by Bucerius Law School. We had the feeling that our guests enjoyed the inter-disciplinary conversations with people of all ages – a great motivator for organising the next event.

At this stage, we would like to thank Julian for accepting our invitation. We were truly fortunate to have him as a speaker!

The event was organised by our local group in Hamburg with the support of the Student Council of the Faculty of Law, Hamburg University (Fachschaftsrat Rechtswissenschaft) as well as the department Studium Professionale of Bucerius Law School.

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Christian Tenkhoff works as an Associate in the Trade Marks & Designs Department of international law firm Taylor Wessing in Munich. You can follow him on twitter here

Philip J. Hattemer is in his second year at Bucerius Law School. Before University, he has been trained to be a Hypnotist and partly trained in Neurolinguistic Programming. In this time his penchant for psychology led him into Rational Thinking.

(Photo courtesy of Lenny Sonner, all rights reserved)