When I encounter something new, I immediately start spinning through the universe of possible analogies to it, like a safecracker hunting for the right combination, or a picklock feeling for something similar enough to fit, at least in all of the ways that are important (functionally). I'm one of those annoying people who are always talking about how similar music is to mathematics. And now that I've been taking calculus courses in my spare time, I think of everything in terms of limits.
I don't know when I started doing this, but I learn this way almost exclusively. Anything else is the equivalent of recreating the wheel. What it means as a practical matter is that I either pick up on things extremely quickly, or I'm a complete idiot -- a very flat learning curve, punctuated by sharp inclines. I am particularly horrible at following directions. When I eventually do learn something, it's basically because I have finally cycled through enough possible analogies to have hit on the right combination.
This one aspect of my personality has probably affected my life and personality more than any other one trait, even probably more than my sociopathic tendencies. In fact, it's sort of odd that I have never mentioned it before, I guess because I thought that it didn't have anything to do with sociopathy so why write about it here. But now I sort of wonder if this type of thinking is more common amongst the sociopathic population than the empathic population. Perhaps, for instance, because sociopaths are naturally obsessed with power and manipulation, the relationships between things take on a prominence and focus in the same way that there are allegedly many more words for snow among Inuit tribes?