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Conversations Without Shared Context

by A. Lester Buck III
(Houston, Texas)

Photo Credit: Mollypop

Photo Credit: Mollypop

My mother, now in her eighties, has always had one odd characteristic, becoming somewhat more common lately. On a reasonably regular basis, she would begin a conversation or a request by jumping into the middle of her context without sharing what she as referring to.

All sorts of pronouns and states and reasons are very clear in her mind, but they are completely lacking in who she is talking to. The first thing that happens is, of course, we say "What are you talking about?" and we spend a bit asking all the questions, "obvious" to her, to build our context of what she is talking about. She doesn't get mad at this, but she seems unable to ever get better at expressing herself without making this cognitive error.

This is just always the way it has been with Mom, and everyone knows to work around this. About seven years ago, we also realized she has always had some ADD, and now lacks the skills and energy to make up for her lack of focus. I guess the two issues are related.

It occurred to me that this speaking without establishing a shared context must not be unique to Mom, and must have an official name that psychologists use to discuss the syndrome. Could anyone tell me what is the term for this behavior? I'd like to read some papers that go into detail on the symptoms and possible approaches to mitigate the behavior.

Thanks a lot!

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