Monday, January 31, 2011

The comedown

From a reader:
I have been slowly snaking my way in to my ex's life again. I am not too sure on the purpose to be honest. I like to think she is my obsession, and that I love her in the way that I can love, but I can't figure out if it is my form of love or not. I only want to destroy what she has going for her to leave her isolated. I won't want anything to do with her once she is single again. I have nothing against her current girlfriend other than the fact that she is rather weak. When I make this about myself I'm a little insulted that she didn't snag on to someone better, stronger. For pleasure I have been that "friend" she needs to talk to. I listen to her complain about her girlfriend's many afflictions and weaknesses, and humor her as she compares herself to "sociopaths", and how she has recently began to lack compassion, and takes pleasure in mentally breaking some of her roommates (so she says). I am being patient and humble, but I am afraid I moved in too soon. Since she read up on your blog, and did her own research, and called me out a while ago, I admitted to some things, and now she has become paranoid with every move I make. Even when I am being sincere (hardly, but there are times), she takes it with high caution, like I am a tempting mermaid that will drag her into the lagoon should she step too close to the shore.

She's very paranoid. She never answer my questions, but this is normal between us. HUGE power struggle. She thinks I am playing games when I am not, and she keeps things from me in order to control the situation. I, in return, give in to allow her that control, only for her to open up later. To be honest, I never saw what I did to her as that damaging. I don't recall ever demeaning her so bluntly. To me she sounds like the typical victim that found a title to blame all of my characteristics on, and she leaves with nothing wrong on her end. She's taking all of what was true between us, and now fabricating it in her mind as a long abusive relationship. I guess I will never truly comprehend what damage I may have done because I don't think I caused any. She's just too fragile. I will admit in this case, her paranoia is not biased. I don't have any good intentions for this in the end.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sociopath quote: show it

Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.

Margaret Thatcher

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Guest posts

I'm going on vacation soon. I'll basically be off the grid for 2-3 weeks. I need people to guest post while I'm gone. If you're interested, or you're interested in sending a single post for me to publish during that time, let me know within a week.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A modest proposal

From a reader:
I have a proposal. I've been reading your blog intensely since I found it, and I'm fascinated.

I'd like to interact with the community that formed around SocioWorld by suggesting a few subjects to your posts and have the community participate. Here's just a hypothetical situation: you start a subject, like, say, "love", starting off with a definition and then invite people to say what they think. So there you have it: a big "room" full of people giving insightful feedback.


Do sociopaths experience love? What is this "thing" people keep talking about all the time? Is there a definition? Love obviously means many things in many contexts, so we can try to pin one context and work around. Consider Paul's definition:

4 Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;

This is pretty deep. I gather from SocioWorld's readers they can feel attached and caring towards others. I also have a strong impression they can quickly detach, but also feel loss if the detachment was involuntary. Richard Kuklinski the iceman said, "I'm probably the loneliest person in the world". Kuklinski himself had a family he felt very protective of. The only time he could remember he put his trust in someone was when he gave his wife a knife, turned his back and said it was the only chance she'd have to end his beatings. He said he was aware of what he did to her and that what he did was bad for her, and it was the only time he gave someone a chance.

All in all, it's amazing how one "side" has a hard time grasping the mindset of the other. This is why I'm goddamn curious to see how nuts people will say Paul is.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors

Has anyone heard of this book or read it? From wikipedia:
Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors is a book written under the pseudonym Rex Feral and published by Paladin Press in 1983. It has been claimed that the book started life as a detailed crime novel written by a Florida housewife, and that the format was later changed to appeal to Paladin's reader base. The book portrays itself as a how-to manual on starting a career as a hit man, fulfilling contracts.

Existing copies at Paladin Press were destroyed after the book was found to be used as a guide during a triple murder in 1993 (see below), but it can still be found online or can be purchased used from independent sellers. It is believed that 13,000 copies were sold, although Reason Magazine estimates there are 20,000 copies of the book in existence.
What I don't understand is what could this book possibly say about performing contract killings that you couldn't sort of piece together yourself? It's not like the Anarchist's Cookbook, where you could find detailed recipes for bombs that you might not otherwise find elsewhere or be able to divine yourself. But allegedly this book was so detailed and helpful that it was found to have aided and abetted a triple murder:
In 1993, a triple murder was committed in Montgomery County, Maryland, by a man who claimed to have used the book as his guide. James Perry, who had been imprisoned for violent crime, was caught, convicted, and sentenced to death. He had been hired by Lawrence T. Horn, who sought to receive the proceeds of a trust fund that resulted from his ex-wife's suing a hospital over injuries to their son. The families of Mildred Horn, her son Trevor, and her nurse Janice Saunders sued Paladin Press, the publisher of the book, claiming Paladin Press "aided and abetted" the murder. The suit, Rice v Paladin Enterprises, claimed that Paladin Press had a share of responsibility in the murders by virtue of their publication of a book that, by Paladin's own admission, could be used by criminals and would-be criminals in the solicitation, planning, and commission of murder for hire.

In November 1997, a U.S. appeals court ruled 3-0 that Hit Man was not protected by the free speech/free press clause of the First Amendment and thus Paladin Enterprises could be held liable for a triple murder committed by one of its readers.

On May 21, 1999, Paladin Press' insurance company agreed to settle the case out-of-court, against the wishes of Paladin Press themselves, who were confident that they would prevail in court; however, Paladin’s insurance company balked at going to court again, figuring expenses for a lengthy trial in federal court, plus the posting of a bond in case they lost and appealed, would have cost much more than the settlement.[4] Under this settlement, Paladin's insurance policy paid several million dollars to the families of those killed by the murderer, while also agreeing to destroy the remaining 700 copies of the book in their possession and surrendering any rights they had to publish and reproduce the work. Jon Ford, Paladin’s editorial director, called the settlement "economic censorship."
What?! Censorship?! This is much worse than the Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure censorship.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trafficker to traffickest

Wow, that was quick. When I said yesterday that we were very close to passing Lovefraud on Alexa, I thought it would take at least a week or two. But last time I checked our momentum had pushed us past them. Congrats!

As promised, to celebrate this occasion I will reply to people in the comments section all day today. I have a couple meetings scheduled and have to sleep and eat, among other bodily functions, but otherwise should be relatively responsive throughout the day.

Another thing I promise to do soon is change the emo "lightning" background for the site. I used it initially because it had the best readability out of the default blogger designs, and it has grown on me a little... but not quite enough. Email me if you have any suggestions for its replacement -- preferably black and white (but mainly gray) and not too busy of a design. My frontrunners so far are the Mondrian trees, maybe this one or this one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


A reader pointed out that this site is now within spitting distance of beating out lovefraud for traffic, at least according to Alexa (which may surprise some of you who assume that she makes a living from her site). This is particularly satisfying for me because the purpose of the blog has always been to shape the discussion of sociopathy to include a more balanced representation, which we are accomplishing little by little.

When we outrank them, we'll have to celebrate. Something token, like maybe I'll actually reply to people's inquiries in the comment section for a day (by the way, my suggestion of what to say to Dexter while on the table waiting to be killed: "We've got to stop meeting like this."). Email me if you think you have a better idea.

Next step, showing up on the first page of google search results for the word "sociopath."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Scans and video games

This Daily Mail article discusses one scientist's attempt to locate the anxiety center of the brain using fMRI scans. Apart from being a welcome reminder of how little we really know about the human brain, there was also this juicy bit of moralizing:
The worst combination, apparently, is a combination of extremely low anxiety levels and ‘dubious morality’ - the stuff of serial killers and psychopaths.

Fortunately, or perhaps not, we are a long way from being able to scan potential troublemakers to see if they have the makings of a killer.

But the more we learn about the brain, and especially the more we learn what an abnormal mind looks like on a computer screen, the day when we can spot a psychopath with the aid of a video games and a scanner may one day be upon us.
Wow! That's great news! I can't wait until the days of detecting sociopaths with video games and a scanner are soon upon us. I hope the video game is World of Warcraft!

We could round them all up and intern them somewhere, maybe call the place an internment camp. Or better yet, let's concentrate them all in the same area, maybe call it a concentration camp. Let's make the brain scans mandatory to be enrolled in public school like up-to-date vaccinations, that way we'll be sure to get them all before they poison our precious youth. Better yet, let's get everyone scanned annually, just to make sure no one slips through the crack.

But you know what? This whole thing is sounding like a lot of work. Why don't you just leave all the sociocamp details to me. I'll make sure that it's all taken care of. ;)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Morning after pill for conscience

A reader writes:
I came across this article in the Village Voice. It’s about the possibility of a “morning after pill” for the conscience. This pill would prevent moral emotions like remorse and regret. As you’ll see in the article, the thought is that they’d ostensibly use this kind of medication to ease the effects of PTSD, especially for active duty, on the battlefront soldiers. After all, who wants to live with the self-imposed emotional suffering that seems to accompany killing people in a war zone? But of course, the ramifications of being able to do away with remorse and guilt with a pill will come with debate on how moral using such a pill would be. Is it morally right to deny our fighting men and women a means to effectively eradicate the most painful emotional effects of being on the front lines in a war that the nation asked them to fight in the first place? On the other hand, is it morally right to create a pharmaceutical that might turn off emotions that act as a safeguard against mankind’s less than ethical impulses? We all know such a drug would not stay within the confines of the military forever. Does science really want to, in effect, sell sociopathy in a bottle?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Second impressions

SMS message from a former seduction target attempting to reconnect:
"Of course your mind power is always dictating each calculated move.
You are like a BRAIN with a voice, and no physical body. I see no gender, only hear the words you form with breath through the almighty BRAIN."

Friday, January 14, 2011

A generation full of sociopaths

As an entire generation of narcissists is getting ready to die (baby boomers), another crop is apparently waiting to take its place. From a reader, as reported by Scientific American:
Empathy is a cornerstone of human behavior and has long been considered innate. A forthcoming study, however, challenges this assumption by demonstrating that empathy levels have been declining over the past 30 years.

The research, led by Sara H. Konrath of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and published online in August in Personality and Social Psychology Review, found that college students’ self-reported empathy has declined since 1980, with an especially steep drop in the past 10 years. To make matters worse, during this same period students’ self-reported narcissism has reached new heights, according to research by Jean M. Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University.

An individual’s empathy can be assessed in many ways, but one of the most popular is simply asking people what they think of themselves. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index, a well-known questionnaire, taps empathy by asking whether responders agree to statements such as “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me” and “I try to look at everybody’s side of a disagreement before I make a decision.” People vary a great deal in how empathic they consider themselves. Moreover, research confirms that the people who say they are empathic actually demonstrate empathy in discernible ways, ranging from mimicking others’ postures to helping people in need (for example, offering to take notes for a sick fellow student).

Since the creation of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index in 1979, tens of thousands of students have filled out this questionnaire while participating in studies examining everything from neural responses to others’ pain to levels of social conservatism. Konrath and her colleagues took advantage of this wealth of data by collating self-reported empathy scores of nearly 14,000 students. She then used a technique known as cross-temporal meta-analysis to measure whether scores have changed over the years. The results were startling: almost 75 percent of students today rate themselves as less empathic than the average student 30 years ago.
Hopefully this new generation forces empathy out of style finally, along with the résumé. Both would be a minor coup for sociopaths.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Exploring the limits of altruism

Because we've always known, deep down in our hearts, that this is true, under the headline, "Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds":
Oxytocin has been described as the hormone of love. This tiny chemical, released from the hypothalamus region of the brain, gives rat mothers the urge to nurse their pups, keeps male prairie voles monogamous and, even more remarkable, makes people trust each other more.

Yes, you knew there had to be a catch. As oxytocin comes into sharper focus, its social radius of action turns out to have definite limits. The love and trust it promotes are not toward the world in general, just toward a person’s in-group. Oxytocin turns out to be the hormone of the clan, not of universal brotherhood. Psychologists trying to specify its role have now concluded it is the agent of ethnocentrism.

A principal author of the new take on oxytocin is Carsten K. W. De Dreu, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam. Reading the growing literature on the warm and cuddly effects of oxytocin, he decided on evolutionary principles that no one who placed unbounded trust in others could survive. Thus there must be limits on oxytocin’s ability to induce trust, he assumed, and he set out to define them.

In a report published last year in Science, based on experiments in which subjects distributed money, he and colleagues showed that doses of oxytocin made people more likely to favor the in-group at the expense of an out-group. With a new set of experiments in Tuesday’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he has extended his study to ethnic attitudes, using Muslims and Germans as the out-groups for his subjects, Dutch college students.
What does it mean that a chemical basis for ethnocentrism is embedded in the human brain? “In the ancestral environment it was very important for people to detect in others whether they had a long-term commitment to the group,” Dr. De Dreu said. “Ethnocentrism is a very basic part of humans, and it’s not something we can change by education. That doesn’t mean that the negative aspects of it should be taken for granted.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Killer in the family

The families of shooters often claim that they had no idea. I wonder how much of that is true. What is certain is that having a killer in the family is often the worst thing that will ever happen to them:
The family of 22-year-old Jared Loughner reportedly returned home from a grocery shopping trip on Saturday to unthinkable news: Their son had allegedly shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others, killing six.

The family has remained silent since the shooting, barricaded from the press in their Tucson, Ariz., home. Psychologists say the parents must be experiencing devastating grief and perhaps guilt over the son's actions. But there is no roadmap for the Loughners' experience, and only a few parents have stood in their shoes.
Families such as the Loughners often choose to avoid the public view. The families of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kept almost completely silent for years. It wasn't until 2004 — five years after the tragedy — that the Klebolds spoke to the media in any depth. They told New York Times columnist David Brooks that they had no inkling of their son's intentions. Nor did they have time to grieve for their child, said Dylan's mother, Susan Klebold. (Both Harris and Klebold committed suicide after killing 13 and wounding two dozen more in their high school.) In 2009, Susan Klebold, Dylan's mom, wrote an article in O Magazine describing herself as "insane with sorrow" for months after the shooting.

"It was impossible to believe that someone I had raised could cause so much suffering," Klebold wrote. As she blamed herself for not seeing that her son needed help, the public blamed her and her husband for raising a "monster," she recalled.
After the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech, Sun-Kyung Cho, the sister of shooter Seung-Hui Cho, released a statement apologizing for the devastation caused by her brother.

"We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence," Cho wrote. "He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sociopath quote: choices

"What makes us most human is not whether we are or are not biologically driven and determined beings; but, rather, how we respond to this relative truth. The conscious choices we make in related to the dynamic, psychobiological forces of the daimonic define our humanity."

-Stephen A. Diamond

Friday, January 7, 2011

An explanation for tears

In a recent NY Times article, researchers discovered that men are sexually de-aroused from smelling a woman's emotional tears:
The researchers accidentally happened upon the evidence that women’s tears make men feel as if they have taken a cold shower.

They had assumed chemical signals from tears would trigger sadness or empathy in others. But initial experiments found that sniffing women’s tears did not affect men’s mood or empathy, but “had a pronounced influence on sexual arousal, a surprise,” Dr. Sobel said.
Why women’s tears would send a message of “not tonight, dear” is puzzling. Some experts suggested the tears could have evolved to reduce men’s aggression toward women who are weakened by emotional stress. The studies did not measure the effect on aggression, although future research might, Dr. Sobel said. Another thought, he said, is that the effect of tears evolved in part to coincide with menstrual cycles.
The research, published on Thursday in the journal Science, could begin to explain something that has baffled scientists for generations: Why do humans, unlike seemingly any other species, cry emotional tears?
It would be interesting to see what a sociopath's reaction to emotional tears is. I realize this is completely anecdotal, but whenever people cry around me I either basically ignore it, reflexively cry (the same way I would reflexively cough) or get angry at them if they are crying as some sort of remonstrance for my bad behavior. I'd like to see how that fits into the evolutionary theory of tears, or maybe the evolutionary theory of sociopaths.

Reading about these types of studies makes me realize how poorly we can explain even something so fundamental and basic as humans crying emotional tears. Perhaps because we know so little about how our world functions, it is tempting to take some new discovery and make logical leaps to explain myriad behaviors. This happens frequently with socio experiments, where each new discovery leads to a new theory of the origins and causes of sociopathy. It is a dangerous practice to draw unwarranted conclusions from limited evidence, an example of scientific hubris. As one tear scientist warned regarding the recent findings: it would be “premature to speculate about the evolutionary function” of chemo-signaling in tears, adding: “I have no doubt that it affected sexuality as they report, but I would be very surprised if it doesn’t turn out to affect other emotions in other contexts. Maybe it’s affecting some deeper, more fundamental psychological process that drives the effect that they’re reporting.”

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sociopaths and anarchists

This is sort of an interesting blog post from an anarchist criticizing the comparison between sociopaths and anarchists that Robert Hare draws in his book "Without a Conscience". The anarchist is insulted to be compared to sociopaths and actually refers to sociopaths as an anarchist's "natural enemy", but only for the same reasons that sociopaths would be a natural enemy to anyone who considers themselves a potential victim.

The article is sort of interesting and sort of wrong, but has a certain charm to it because it is written from the point of view of one abnormal mentality regarding another abnormal mentality, in a way that Pakistan criticizing North Korea's nuclear policies might seem charming. The gist of the argument:
So once we realize that, we must examine legalism both from the aspect of outer rules and from the aspect of inner rules. The Anarchist rejects only part of the former, but the sociopath rejects both. Seen from that perspective, the sociopath is seen to correspond perfectly to the concept of atomistic individualism: an individual who lives as if he is in a vacuum, making decisions in complete disregard of society or any part of society.
It's an interesting distinction to make. I don't know anything about the anarchy movement so I can't comment on that part of it, but I think he is trying to say that anarchists still have internal moral beliefs and sociopaths don't. This assertion is not quite right unless you define "moral beliefs" quite narrowly, not just excluding little rules of thumb like "eat breakfast when you can," which sociopaths definitely can have, but also excluding certain value judgments, e.g. preferring strength over weakness, which sociopaths also seem to have to some extent. And I don't think you can have a principled definition of morality that excludes those types of value judgments unless you simply define morality as "everything that I innately believe and nothing else."

My favorite part of the article, though, is this mini review of Hare's book:
I wasn’t exactly bowled over by the book itself. Many conclusions were unsupported and obviously were only adopted by Hare because they are more conducive to him getting money. There are also some logical gaps. All in all, it’s a spotty piece of writing.
He makes that comment about money as if it were a bad thing. I myself don't mind being a cash cow for psychologists, in fact if Hare gave me kickbacks or otherwise paid me off, I would stop writing this blog today and/or jump on the Hare bandwagon. Hare, if you are reading this, I can be bought. For cheap. Cheaper than you might think. Unlike anarchists, I apparently don't have any inner rules or sense of morality to prevent me from doing so.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Craigslist killer

A reader asked what I thought about the Craigslist killer (apparently there was a "Lifetime" made for television movie about him this week). I really didn't know much about him or the movie, so I read this review of the movie and was charmed by these sections:
The film delivers the story as a conventional narrative. It might have been more compelling had it been told from inside the head of either the killer or his fiancée, but Mr. Markoff, at least, apparently didn’t leave much of an explanation for his behavior.

“I’m a straight-A medical student,” he tells the police during the initial interrogation after his arrest. “I’m getting married in a month. I mean, would you guys care to explain to me why I would go around and shoot prostitutes in hotel rooms?”

They don’t have an answer, and the filmmakers don’t either; cheesy sound effects are all they can come up with to signal his switch from perfect-man mode to psychopath.

The film’s most compelling moment comes courtesy of William Baldwin, who plays the lead detective on the case. “Used to be able to tell who the bad guys were, right?” his character says to a colleague. “Now it’s all texts and e-mails and Web sites. Creeps are hiding in our own houses, and we don’t even know who they are.”
I think it is hilarious that (at least in the movie) they are blaming this on the internet rather than trying to take a serious look at possible abnormal psychology reasons for his behavior. It reminds me of the time-honored tradition of blaming bad things on demons or evil spirits rather than admitting what Joseph Conrad understood, that "[t]he belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary: men alone are quite capable of every wickedness." We have already met the enemy, we just keep forgetting about it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Aspie sex

This is a pretty funny article about aspie sex. It's worth reading in its entirety. There are some amusing commonalities between aspies and sociopaths in this area (as in most areas). Here is my favorite vignette:
I tried having lesbian sex. I answered an ad. Picture her: The professional ballet dancer who had just quit, and to celebrate, she got breast implants. And me, the aspiring professional beach volleyball player.

She spent the whole evening talking about how smart I am and how many books I’ve read and how strong I am.

I spent the whole evening talking about how hot she is.

I did not realize that this exchange meant that I had to be the aggressor in bed.

I said, “Are we going to kiss now? We can’t do this whole date and not kiss.”

She said, “I need you to seduce me.”

I said, “What? Are you kidding? Just take your clothes off. How are we going to have sex if we keep putting it off?”

She said, “It’s not like that. There has to be a game or something.”

I said, “Okay. You do the game. What should we do?”

She pouted. I did not realize it was part of the game.

I told her that we were really ineffective together and I thought we needed some guy there with us to run the show. We never did that. We never did anything.
Aspies, you are hilarious. Thanks for being you!

Lots of love,

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New year's resolutions

Every year when people ask me my new year's resolutions I tell them the same thing -- watch every episode of the Simpsons. It gives them a bit of a laugh and it gets me out of answering the question truthfully, the truth being that I never make resolutions. What's the point? I have to con and incentivize myself to do pretty much all the good things I currently do and use all of my willpower to keep my worst impulses in check. There is no room in my fully-leveraged life for trying to give up bad habits or gain new ones. In fact, I'm ecstatic if I manage to not gain any more bad or lose any good in any particular year, entropy being the universal force that it is.

This year I had a bit of an epiphany, though. Everyone makes resolutions. I'm losing out on a lot of "normalcy" points by not making a resolution list. I should just make a fake one and leave it out where people can see it and read it. For those of my intimate associates that do read it, it will make me seem even more transparent/open/normal. Right? What do you think of this for a sample list:
1. Budget better.
2. Learn to count to 10 in a new language.
3. Floss twice (!) a day.
4. Give two compliments for every criticism.
5. Laugh more.
6. Get to sleep before midnight.
7. Take a junior college intro to statistics class.
8. Exercise weekly
9. Eat more vegetables.
10. Stop grinding teeth.
Right mix of banal and aspirational? Any other suggestions? Or real resolutions?
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