Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Genetically predisposed to crime?

Yes, although that is not the full picture. From the NY Times:
Researchers estimate that at least 100 studies have shown that genes play a role in crimes. “Very good methodological advances have meant that a wide range of genetic work is being done,” said John H. Laub, the director of the justice institute, who won the Stockholm Prize in Criminology last week. He and others take pains to emphasize, however, that genes are ruled by the environment, which can either mute or aggravate violent impulses. Many people with the same genetic tendency for aggressiveness will never throw a punch, while others without it could be career criminals.
***
Kevin Beaver, an associate professor at Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said genetics may account for, say, half of a person’s aggressive behavior, but that 50 percent comprises hundreds or thousands of genes that express themselves differently depending on the environment.
The article is interesting because it talks not only about one's childhood environment, but one's current environment. One such environmental factor is marriage:
[Steven Pinker] mentioned one of the biggest risk factors leading to crime: remaining single instead of getting married, a link uncovered by Mr. Laub and Robert J. Sampson, a Harvard sociologist who was a co-winner of the Stockholm Prize. Marriage may serve as a switch that directs male energies toward investing in a family rather than competing with other males, Mr. Pinker said.
For those who are interested in improving their environment in order to maximize self control, this NY Times article about decision fatigue is good. The gist of the article is that you have limited amounts of self control, so don't waste it on unimportant things. Also be very aware of your blood glucose levels-- glucose can erase the effects of decision fatigue. It's oddly a lot of things I have just intuited about myself over the years, but still helpful to learn the science behind it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Defining normal

Before I jump into a small rant, let me say that I believe there are true differences between sociopaths and neurotypicals. I also believe that the number of people who could be classified "neurotypicals" may be an actual minority (e.g. less than 50%). Furthermore, I understand that defining someone as being neurotypical does not necessarily mean that this person is "normal" or somehow better than everybody else who is not neurotypical. Let's call those the three assumptions.

My problem with some of the sociopathy research et al. is that too often people do not account for these assumptions. We talk about sociopaths being 1-4% of the population as if the other 96-99% are normal, maybe even the opposite of the sociopath. Maybe we believe that if sociopaths have low empathy, then everyone else has robust empathy? Maybe if we believe that if sociopaths do not feel guilt, everyone else must? Maybe if we say that sociopaths frequently engage in crime, then no one else does?

It's interesting, I started this blog in part to help people realize that sociopaths are natural human variants. I thought at the time that the big challenge would be to try to showcase some of our strengths in a more positive light, that we have more in common than people maybe realize. Recently I have been thinking that the real problem is not in getting people to believe that we're better than they think, but that they are worse than they think.

The weird thing about the three assumptions mentioned at the beginning is that I think most people don't believe them, not really. Most people assume that they are that minority of "normal" people instead of thinking that they might be one of those majority of people who are a little jacked up. Equally if perhaps more troubling is that many people lament that the psychological world would label half or more of us with a diagnosis/neurosis. So what if the majority of people have a label? Doesn't that seem equally if not more probable than assuming that half of the people in the world are pretty much interchangeable in terms of brain/emotional function? I understand the urge to define normal as the way most people are, but if there is not a clear way that most people are, is it really that helpful to distort our definition of "normal" to arbitrarily include some small deviations and not others?

The appeal of defining normal as whatever you happen to be is quite convenient. No need to confront the possibility that maybe you aren't as empathetic as they seem. Maybe your conscience doesn't have quite the sway that you thought it did. Maybe you are both capable and incapable of much more than you had hoped. Maybe you have a lot more in common with sociopaths than you'd like to think. Maybe it is just one big long spectrum with only a few of us at the extremes and the rest of us huddled closer to the middle. Could it be that self-diagnosed sociopaths are just much more honest with themselves than the rest of you who sneer, "that's not sociopathic, everyone does that." Could both be true? That something could be sociopathic and that everyone does that? Or most people do that? Specifically, you -- that you sometimes do those things? Does that make you normal or me?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Manna from heaven

A funny thing about being religious is that sometimes an exploit happens so perfectly that it must be a gift from god. I like to think that if there is a god, he must be a fan.

One time I was meeting my boss for the first time (telecommuting from a different office before). I had gone to the symphony the evening before, which although it is not an unusual occurrence is also not an every week type of thing (I happened to get fantastic tickets from a musician friend of mine with connections to what turned out to be a blockbuster performance). The next morning I traveled the hour plus to the office where my boss was located. We met, I pulled out all my seduction stops, we got on the elevator to go to lunch and I immediately recognized a threesome of men from the night before at the symphony (I had noticed one of the men wearing outlandish orange frames the previous evening, and he was still sporting them the next day). I started salivating because I knew something special was about to happen (all for the sake of my boss?). I could tell upon entering the elevator that these men were talking about the performance 14 hours later and in a different city. Coincidence? That I noticed them, that we were at the same performance, that I recognized them, that they happened to be talking about the concert, that the concert happened to be an incredible blockbuster with incredible amounts of buzz? With only four floors to go until we hit the lobby, I knew I had to act quickly.

"Are you talking about the XX performance last night?"

"Why yes!" (heavy German accent).

"Wasn't it outstanding?"

"We absolutely loved it! What passion! Maybe you could help us, which concerto was it? We can't remember whether it was the second or the third."

"Oh, it's the second" (it turned out to be the third, but who cares).

"Thank you so much! You've saved us much discussion."

And then we got off the elevator. My boss gave me this astounded glance of what-the-hell-just-happened, and from then on my boss was putty in my hands.

This sounds harmless, I'm sure, maybe god would want people to succeed in their job. But would god also drop love triangles into people's lap, purely for their pleasure (as he has several times into mine)? Would god have someone unwittingly confess a harmful secret to you so you could use it against them in a clever power play? Is god in the business of giving good little sociopath girls and boys gift wrapped victims for personal consumption? Sometimes I think that can be the only explanation for it, not that I'm complaining.

Friday, August 26, 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Someone recommended that I read the book "We Need to Talk About Kevin," but I haven't gotten around to it. But, it's apparently the story of a mother dealing with the fallout of having a sociopathic son who has brought the ire of the community to the family. Luckily they have made a movie based on the book, starring the questionable Tilda Swinton:



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bisexual sociopath

This letter to a Salon advice columnist ("A bisexual sociopath wrecked my life") made me laugh out loud. The poor jilted lover goes on to describe the many crimes to their relationship in which her man engaged (the story should seem quite familiar to followers of this site). For some reason, though, this paragraph stuck out as being particularly laden with humor:
Trying to recover from the shock of discovering his secret sexual life was very difficult for me. The most scary part is that I still to this day can not think of any clues or signs that I should have picked up on to signal his activity. He was a master at keeping that secret part of his life secret. Before I found out about his infidelity, he used to accuse me of being very jealous and his favorite example would be that he should be able to call me from a roomful of naked women and I still should have faith that he wasn't cheating, I should always give him the benefit of the doubt. In the abstract, I do believe in giving a loved one the benefit of the doubt. But considering that he was rampantly cheating on me when he uttered those words, I believe that he was very cruel.
I love that part: "In the abstract, I do believe in giving a loved one the benefit of the doubt. " I think this paragraph sums up the real issues that victims have with their victimizers:
Now, I find myself wondering how he could be so loving and charming when we were together, and be so awful and cruel behind my back? Mostly, I am trying so hard not to be bitter. I don't understand why he could be so cruel to me, and now he is literally having the time of his life without me. His career is at a lifetime high, he is in the most prestigious position he has ever had, making the most money he's ever made. He lives in the best part of town, and he goes drinking and partying every night. Since he left me, he is having the most fun of his life. It's not fair that someone could treat another person so terribly and be rewarded in life. So many people think he is such a wonderful person -- he is very well liked by many, many people -- but secretly I know the truth. I, on the other hand, am trying to rebuild a life after letting him be the center of my world for the last two years. I'm in therapy, trying to make sense of how cruelly he cheated on me and how someone I loved so much could be so deceptive. It doesn't seem fair to me that he could cheat on me so rampantly, leave me in such a cold way, and now he is at the pinnacle of his life and I'm fighting just to create a life for myself.
She concludes: "I fight internally, because on one hand I want him to suffer some consequences for how he treated me and yet I know it's not right to wish ill will toward anyone." The advice columnist gave a pretty canned answer not worth repeating.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Smelling fear

From a reader:
Nervous people have sweat that contains pheromones which in neurotypical people activate regions of the brain responsible for empathy.

One psychopath interviewed by Hare's team said quite frankly: "The first thing I do is I size you up. I look for an angle, an edge, figure out what you need and give it to you. Then it's pay-back time, with interest. I tighten the screws." Another psychopath admitted that he never targeted attractive women - he was only interested in those who were insecure and lonely. He claimed he could smell a needy person "the way a pig smells truffles."

I once noticed that I could smell some girls when I walked behind them or when they walked past me and they usually have a similar scent. Nobody else could relate to me about this. A year later, I decided to walk behind a very shy girl that was attracted to me and smell her. She had this scent, and I immediately felt like devouring her, something like having sex with her or beating her, which have a similar feel. I don't understand the sexual appeal of intercourse and my entire sexuality is based off of scents and tastes.

I have a fairly even mixture of factor 1 and 2 traits but I am by no means a "primary psychopath" because I tend to be more anxious than the average person. I'm not hotheaded like "secondary psychopaths" are said to be, but rather, I set a grandiose goal for myself (#1), so I have to watch what I say. I definitely don't have the trait "callous and lack of empathy" and I get a certain feeling when someone is crying or when there is sad music playing. It's like sadness, but it's shallow, neutral, and only momentary. Anxiety and empathy both function through connections from the amygdala to regions of the frontal lobe, I think that maybe this is intact in me but some area of morality isn't since I have shallow emotions and a lack of morality.

The primary psychopath has many brain abnormalities but mine is probably quite intact, I wouldn't think that something as peculiar as pheromone hypersensitivity would happen in my brain. But it appears to exist. Have you encountered the smelling phenomenon?
M.E.: I don't think I've noticed the smell thing, but there are certain people that I suddenly feel like violating. It does generally tend to be people who have a certain vulnerability to them, typically women although not exclusively. I wonder if that has something to do with smelling them? It doesn't seem farfetched, as some people say that sociopaths are supposed to have super sensitivities, like other people on the autism spectrum. although i'm pretty impressed with your talent.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Co-morbidity

I was reading Sam Vaknin's thoughts on possible co-morbidity of narcissism with different personality disorders, including sociopathy:
As opposed to patients with the Borderline Personality Disorder, the self-image of the narcissist is stable, he or she are less impulsive and less self-defeating or self-destructive and less concerned with abandonment issues (not as clinging).

Contrary to the histrionic patient, the narcissist is achievements-orientated and proud of his or her possessions and accomplishments. Narcissists also rarely display their emotions as histrionics do and they hold the sensitivities and needs of others in contempt.

According to the DSM-IV-TR, both narcissists and psychopaths are "tough-minded, glib, superficial, exploitative, and unempathic". But narcissists are less impulsive, less aggressive, and less deceitful. Psychopaths rarely seek narcissistic supply. As opposed to psychopaths, few narcissists are criminals.

Patients suffering from the range of obsessive-compulsive disorders are committed to perfection and believe that only they are capable of attaining it. But, as opposed to narcissists, they are self-critical and far more aware of their own deficiencies, flaws, and shortcomings.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Song: Easy to be Hard

This is one of my favorite songs portraying a typical narcissist. I used to watch this when I was young and identify with it. As I was explaining to a reader recently about child sociopaths: "a typical combination is a sociopath child of a narcissistic parent -- I think that's because the sociopathic child quickly learns to resent and distrust the narcissist's histrionic displays of emotion and is forced to fend for himself."


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cult of empathy

From cultureofempathy.com:



It's hard to watch these things and not think that empathy is some elaborate hoax, meant to lure people into cult like behavior.

Similarly: www.facebook.com/groups/efdinnergroups/

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sexual sadism (part 2)

(cont.):
Until I met W, I spent my whole life lusting and obsession after various girls. I had huge crushes, where I was willing to devote my life to them, but they didn’t even notice me. I asked S out in high school, but she wasn’t even remotely interested in spending time with me. I didn’t really understand how people ended up hanging out together. The one cunt that did notice me in the Navy was married, and was fucking around on her husband while she was friends with me. I was in love with her, but she was a disgusting piece of shit whore. I should have known better.

I still have no clue how people end up hanging out together. Now I have a job, and everybody I know, I met through work. I don’t meet people outside of work, because I have no idea how people meet each other, or what a normal social script is even supposed to look like. I envy the sociopath, because, they learn that they don’t know, and they learn to mimic these retards living around them. I’ve gone thirty-five years, just thinking I was shy; whereas, even if I was completely uninhibited and extroverted, I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to play this social game.

So, full circle, I’ve been denied proper access to sex and friends my entire life. I don’t even think I really care about friends anymore. I’m over that. Sex still pisses me off though. When I see all of these whores running around, playing the same stupid games, throwing their bodies around to every stupid douche bag that pushes their buttons, it just disgusts me.

First, I want to hurt them. I want to hurt them, because their behaviour is disgusting. I want to hurt them, because they hurt other people. Even if they’re not doing it consciously, it’s in their biological makeup to make stupid decisions, and ruin their life and other people’s life. I want to hurt them beyond anything their mind can imagine. Even prolonged torture, mutilation, and murder isn’t enough. I want to rape their dirty fucking souls.

Second, I want to control them. They go through life wielding this godly power. Sex is one of the core biological reasons we exist, and we have strong biological urges to reproduce. Controlling the world’s sex is like controlling the world’s food. Restricting sex is unacceptable. Lions fight over a mate and then rape the shit out of that bitch. Our society says that it’s unacceptable to make people do things they don’t want to do, but my conscious tells me that her power is unacceptable. I want to tie her down, hold her down, force her, and control her. She’s nothing. She didn’t earn that power that she mistreats. She’s a worthless piece of shit, and needs to be raped and murdered.

Finally, I want to rape her. I not only want to rape her to hurt, degrade, and use her, but I also want to rape her for sex. She’s denied me of access to sex my entire life. There was plenty of opportunity for me to mesh with society, make friends, and date women, but they wouldn’t have it. Instead they spread their legs for other dip shits. And, our “moral code” says when some stupid cunt decides to mate with ten worthless incompetent half-wit retarded shit-brains, we need to respect her rights and her sexuality. Well, fuck her rights. It’s my right to shove my cock up her ass repeatedly until I shoot my cum into her bowels. It’s her right to struggle, but that’s about it. Society can back the fuck off.

So, you think your ten year-old daughter is “innocent.” Not in this world. Unless she’s a complete and utter social reject, she’s part of the problem. Might as well be proactive, and rape the little bitch right now.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sexual sadism (part 1)

From "a source":
After craploads of introspection and reading up on psychology, it finally came to me. It’s ironic really, because I didn’t learn enough about myself, or even people in general, to figure out what’s wrong. It just finally occurred to me, and I can see that it fits into all of the theories, my personality, and is absolutely right.

Our culture is absolutely fucked up. Girls and women hold all control of sex. I’m not sure if we’re organically broken, or if it’s just our social structure, but, from the first interest in girls, we’re expected to pursue them, and they’re expected to reject us. There’s this social script that’s inherent in the “rape culture” philosophy. Men are expected to pursue that piece of ass mindlessly, and women are expected to reject them. Beyond that, there’s this other social script - “the game” - that women play, where they measure up their potential suitor. I don’t even think it’s necessarily conscious, because, as much as I detest women, I find it hard to believe that they’re really that fucking stupid.

I’m a perfectly healthy man. I’m stronger than a lot of other men, more intelligent, more competent, I think I’m reasonably good looking, and I’m very well endowed. None of that matters though. Somehow, women go for men that fail on a comparison on multiple accounts. They choose their mate based on some sort of unintuitive social ritual, that if I understood, I would explain

There are things like rejecting a woman, or pretending to be uninterested that make her even more interested. There’s a way of having a conversation where it just flows. Women subconsciously measure a man’s performance in bed by his dancing and posturing. If only they knew how fucking stupid and wrong they are.

I don’t know what happened with me. I’ve always had a strong sex drive, but I got fucked over socially. I wasn’t even “in” in the reject crowd. All girls rejected me, and most rejects rejected me. People made fun of me, laughed at me, picked on me, and all the girls that I lusted after were either repulsed by me, or didn’t know who I was. Even the girls that were “friends” with me, wouldn’t have sex with me. Meanwhile, they went around whoring themselves out to whatever man played this fucking dumb-ass social flirting game. They sucked his cock, guzzled his cum, and opened their legs like the dirty little whores they are. I’ve been available my whole life, but the only person that ever chose me as a mate were paid prostitutes, and my wife, who is emotionally and mentally fucked up beyond comprehension.

This is the reason I don’t care about people. Why the fuck should I? Everybody wheres a mask. I want to rape and murder people, and I pretend I’m “normal.” Normal people wear a mask where they pretend they’re friendly and honest; whereas, they’re really deceptive, insecure, and emotionally hostile.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tautology

A reader asked me if there is any definitive way to tell whether somebody isn't a sociopath. I took the opportunity to preach:

The diagnosis of sociopathy is useful, but only to the extent that people understand it's limitations. The main limitation is that we cannot identify it by its root source, we know it only by its symptoms/characteristics.

I like to use the analogy of determining someone's religion. How might we determine that someone we met at a cocktail party is Catholic. Let's say they have an Irish last name. We know (or think we know) that Catholicism is a very common religion in Ireland. Let's say that the guest is married. We think that marriage is valued in that religion, culturally and doctrinally. This man starts talking about his 5 children. We have met other Catholic people who have a lot of children and think we remember something about the Pope being anti contraception. Some of our new acquaintance's children are named things like Mary and Joseph, not just biblical names but particularly Catholic sounding names to our ears. He makes mention of being involved in various charities. Catholics seem to be charitable people because they have all sorts of relief organizations and hospitals.

This is the sort of datamining and coming to conclusions that we do everyday (sociopaths more fluently than empaths). After we have concluded that there is a decent likelihood of our new acquaintance being Catholic, we can bring up things to which he might respond well (family, purity, etc.) and avoid topics that he might find offensive or incendiary (child molesting priest scandals or abortion).

What have we actually done? We have taken a list of characteristics and put our new friend in a particular category based on those characteristics: Irish last name, married, 5 children, Catholic names, charitable. We wouldn't be that surprised if he turned out not to be Catholic -- it's certainly possible for people to be all of those things and not be Catholic. Nor would we expect every Catholic person to manifest any or all of these traits.

These traits are not definitive. Catholic does not equal Irish, big family, bible names, and charitable. But some of them get at traits that we would consider definitive, such as the doctrinal belief of procreative sex or the importance of love for fellowman--they are the manifestation of beliefs that are definitively Catholic.

If we had to, how could we conclusively prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this man is Catholic? Perhaps if he were baptized, but what if he lapsed or converted to another religion? Would that count? What if he had the exact beliefs but was never baptized. What if he was baptized, attends mass with his family, but doesn't believe?

It is so difficult to define what it means to be "Catholic," and the definition might expand or contract for certain contexts. For instance, we might use a broad definition when we are examining the influence of Catholicism in a community, narrow when considering who could be appointed to high positions of church leadership. But for most purposes we are content to accept people's subjective self-identification.

Like the label "Catholic," the list of sociopathic characteristics literally come from researchers' collective observations about what traits tend to be shared by sociopaths. Recent brain scans and other studies suggest a link between these characteristics and something more "definitive" and unique about a sociopath's brain. But it would be a mistake to conflate the list of characteristics of a sociopath with the definition of sociopath, just as it would be a mistake to assume that all Catholics would share the exact same traits -- or that having a certain list of traits is what makes people Catholic.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New sociopath (part 2)

My response:
I find that most sociopaths are not sad at the thought that they might be one. You could also be BPD, but you might just be a young teenage socio girl in a sorority living in the narcissistic generation that you belong to. Does criticism hurt your feelings?

If you are a socio, learn to use your drives for power to help you keep self control. For instance, it bothers you when you weird people out because you lose power over those people, right? So let the part of you that craves power lead you to a better choice, e.g. keep people wanting more by being less available. Read the Art of Seduction and 48 Rules of Power.
The reader:
I don't know if I could be BPD, however, I do play different...personas? with different people. Being in a sorority has nothing to do with anything though, as I just recently joined one. I just think I'm a socio because I manipulate people instinctively.
Since I sent this email I've been really analyzing my present behavior. I realized how much I watch other people's faces, trying to see if their feelings are sincere or just being fascinated by the way they react to things. I sometimes even try to replicate their faces. People always give me strange looks when someone is crying because I ask why or become irritated by it. I hate being criticized, mostly because I don't think other people deserve to judge me and because I see their flaws clearly and accept them, so why can't they do that for me? It seems unfair.
I always feel extremely powerful when people pay attention to me or treat me in a special way. For example, the boy I'm dating now sees me as his only confidante and that's why I like him, even when his depression gets irritating because he harps on how he wants to kill himself. I always pretend to them that they're special to me and that they're the only ones I can come to for certain things and that I really appreciate them. Another thing is that I've lived apart from my family for my entire life and people ask me if I miss them and I say yes, because it's what is expected. I find questions like do you miss them or who's your hero or things of that nature stupid. I don't miss anyone, I miss the things they could be doing for me or the entertainment they could be providing, as I'm constantly bored.

I make mistakes in my reactions to things sometimes. My girlfriend (I'm "bisexual") cheated on me and I was more concerned about whether I looked stupid or not in front of her friends instead of the fact that she "betrayed" me. I didn't really care and I was only dating her because I liked the attention we got or the reactions I got when I told people I was dating a girl.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New sociopath (part 1)

From a reader:
Hi, I'm beginning to question whether or not I'm a sociopath. I've been called observant and perceptive and adaptive and bright all my life and up until now, I've just been puzzled by this. I remember having a friend who I would convince that he didn't need to see my parts but would get him to let me touch his all the time, even though he didn't want to. He followed me around all the time. I remember that my grandmother, who everyone said doted on me a lot, died but when she did I didn't ask any questions I just assumed she was gone somewhere yet I didn't care. I stole almost two hundred dollars from my aunt and never felt guilty when I was caught. I also stole at least twenty dollars from my elementary school every week so I could eat. Anyway, this stuff isn't really important.

I just need help, a mentor if you will, in controlling myself better. I can't control my anger or annoyance very well and I can't get myself interested in "normal" things that other teenage girls do, like posting pictures together and all that stuff. I can't control my initial reactions of being confused or annoyed when people want to be affectionate with me or say they love me. Until recently, I've been very distrustful of people because I thought they all thought the same way I do, using every single word or action to try and get something from me but I'm starting to get over this. I had to stop smoking pot because I would get so sucked up into my head plotting that people would get weirded out and I wouldn't be doing "normal" things. Which is something else that angers me uncontrollably is when someone points out something I do and says how weird it is, I get very defensive and angry and end up looking suspicious. Anyway, another thing I have a problem with is attention. I literally can't control myself, especially when drunk or on MDMA, from seeking attention or approval. I constantly message people on facebook, sometimes who consider me a friend, sometimes those who consider me a distant friend, sometimes people I want to sleep with...I can't help it and I get so angry when they don't answer or stop answering or I just weird them out. Is there anything you can do to help me with control? Is it because I'm young? I'm not in the mood to lose the people I just got to be my friends and start all over again, I'm in college and in a sorority so I have several roles to play.

Anything you can do to help would be great. And also if you think I'm a sociopath? It doesn't bother me in no way to think I am, instead it makes me feel excited. It actually pulled me out of months and years of wondering if there was something wrong with me as a result of most of the people in my family resenting/hating me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Emotional moral judgment

This was an interesting (although sometimes confusing) overview sent to me by a reader of some of the recent work that researcher Jean Decety has been doing on moral judgment (Decety is teaming up soon with our favorite brain scan-ologist Kent Kiehl for more brain scans of male psychopathic prisoners).

The most interesting assertion in the article was: "Negative emotions alert people to the moral nature of a situation by bringing on discomfort that can precede moral judgment, and such an emotional response is stronger in young children, he explained." Apparently children's moral judgment is not just preceded by a negative emotional response, but is essentially a negative emotional response: "For young children, the amygdala, which is associated with the generation of emotional responses to a social situation, was much more activated than it was in adults."

The emotional moral judgment of the child evolves as an adult to be tempered by the "dorsolateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortex — areas of the brain that allow people to reflect on the values linked to outcomes and actions." So while children are assuming that every bad act is malicious, adults are able to recognize and discount accidents and find nuance in levels of maliciousness.

I hadn't realized that moral judgment starts out as an emotional reaction in both adults and children (and remains an emotional reaction in children). It makes sense that sociopaths would have a comparatively blunted sense of morality, assuming that they either do not feel this emotional impetus or feel it less, which is certainly the case with me -- I have never felt moral outrage. My friends joke that I wouldn't be able to smell a lynch mob coming.

I have mixed feelings about the emotional component of moral judgment. On the one hand, I understand how nature reinforces important functions with emotion. On the other hand, emotional moral judgment also enables people to do really horrible things to each other for little to no provocation.

Do any empaths want to defend their way of doing things, i.e. argue that emotional moral reason is better than unemotional moral reasoning?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Moral secularism

As a follow up to the previous post on morality, this was an unintentionally hilarious USA Today article about how secular moral judgment is so much better than religious moral judgment. I'll leave it to the truly interested, but here is just a sample of the specious reasoning:
Should we be afraid that a morality based on our genes and our brains is somehow inferior to one handed down from above? Not at all. In fact, it's far better, because secular morality has a flexibility and responsiveness to social change that no God-given morality could ever have. Secular morality is what pushes religion to improve its own dogma on issues such as slavery and the treatment of women. Secular morality is what prevents ethically irrelevant matters — what we eat, read or wear, when we work, or whom we have sex with — from being grouped with matters of genuine moral concern, like rape and child abuse. And really, isn't it better to be moral because you've worked out for yourself — in conjunction with your group — the right thing to do, rather than because you want to propitiate a god or avoid punishment in the hereafter?

Nor should we worry that a society based on secular morality will degenerate into lawlessness. That experiment has already been done — in countries such as Sweden and Denmark that are largely filled with non-believers and atheists. I can vouch from experience that secular European nations are full of well-behaved and well-meaning citizens, not criminals and sociopaths running amok. In fact, you can make a good case that those countries, with their liberal social views and extensive aid for the sick, old and disadvantaged, are even more moral than America.
Sweden and Denmark are secular? The Church of Sweden was the state church until as recently as the year 2000 and the citizenry still pays a "church tax" which can be as high as 2% of their income. I don't think now is a good time to talk about how secular the Scandanavian countries are with the recent religiously motivated massacre in Norway. In fact, that massacre is a cautionary tale for all moral zealotry, religious or secular.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Facebook espionage

This was an interesting NY Times article about how the U.S. government is looking to expand it's intelligence and counterterrorism groups into social networking:
As social media play increasingly large roles in fomenting unrest in countries like Egypt and Iran, the military wants systems to be able to detect and track the spread of ideas both quickly and on a broad scale. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is soliciting innovative proposals to help build what would be, at its most basic level, an Internet meme tracker.

It would be useful to know, for instance, whether signs of widespread rebellion were authentic or whether they were being created by a fringe group with little real support. Among the tools the successful seeker of government funding might choose to employ: linguistic cues, patterns of information flow, topic trend analysis, sentiment detection and opinion mining.
It's an ambitious goal, but I wonder if this type of thing is more art than science. If someone could accurately predict future trends with a $42 million piece of software (the amount the U.S. government is putting up to sponsor research in this area), then I'm sure that someone would be putting the software to a more lucrative, business or stock related use. The only people who seem likely to volunteer to do such an ill-fated project are the ones who either (1) know that they'll never come up with the software anyway, but don't mind getting paid to spin their wheels or (2) double agents who know that they'll come up with the software and will sell the U.S. government out. But that's the problem with big government is that the bigger it gets, the harder it is to tell what's going on -- right libertarians?

A better use of funds might be to hire young sociopaths to monitor social networking sites and push people into doing one thing or the other. Of course, they could always go "bad" and engage in behavior counter to official policy. Easy solution! Just hire sociopaths to monitor those ones, and so on.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Reality TV casting call

I was asked to post this:
I am working with a major production company and TV network for a show about people who are living a double or secret life and need help getting their life back on track. We are very serious about finding the right people and we will handle all applicants with the utmost respect and sensitivity.

As your blog deals with lying and deception I was wondering if you would mind sharing this message with your network. For more information about the project please go here: http://www.doublelifecasting.com

Please feel free to respond with any questions.

DOUBLE LIFE
Do you feel like you’re living a lie? Are you keeping a secret from
your family and friends that is causing your life to spiral out of
control?

Do you want to make a change and are you ready? We can
help. From the Executive Producer of the acclaimed documentary
series, “Intervention” comes a new series about people who are living
double lives.

We are searching for people who are tired of keeping their secret
from their family, friends, and loved ones. We are only looking for
people who are genuinely interested in finding healing in their lives.

The goal of this transformational series is to help people rebuild
and heal fractured lives. This is a documentary series that is non-
exploitive and will treat each participant with extreme sensitivity.
Participants will be offered the choice to consult with a therapist
during production.

*If you are interested in applying, please send us an email at
doublelifecasting1@gmail.com or if you are unable to email call us at
818.728.4147. Please briefly tell us about yourself, the nature of
the double life you are leading, who you are keeping this secret
from, how it has affected your life, and why you want to stop
living this lie now.

Please include your phone number, as well as the city & state
where you live. Please attach 2 jpegs of yourself.

We look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Changing it up

From a socio reader:
I really like to change up. I change up constantly and when I do, I change everything. The funny thing is the people closest to me see it sometimes (I like to stay at the person I was when they first met me so I seem consistent). A good friend of mine that I put in charge of my well-being told me that when I speak to people I change personalities almost to every person I talk to. Sounds like I'm a fake person. So be it. I guess that's why i like to talk to people on a individual basis instead in large groups. Sometimes I think i dont know who i really am. I do know though. I'm a game that's constantly running.

Have you ever been passionate about what you hold to be true? Have you ever developed your own ideals that you value so much that the people around you start to believe in them and adopt them for themselves?

My close friends I put through a lot of shit. When they first hung out with me I would mirror who they needed me to be so they saw me as a leadership figure then I would start hammering in my value system that's helped me survive out here in the struggle. It's not a morality system but more of the dos and don'ts of the game.

People say I'm very black and white and they are right. I want things done and I want them done my way. I will go pretty far to get my way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Handling sociopaths

The same guy from last post also suggested some ways to deal with sociopaths. Things that don't seem to work are"Insight-oriented, emotion-based therapy should not be provided for offenders. Making punishment more severe, or trying to "scare 'em straight" are also ineffective." Things that seem to work better are: "Effective programs [which] teach offenders something useful -- academic, vocational, social or personal management skills. Effective programs are firm but fair." He also mentions the possibility of pharmaceutical solutions in the future, including possibly lithium for violent offenders. His main suggestions, though, are for people that deal with sociopaths:
If they knew how to recognize psychopaths, and how psychopaths operate, people might better protect themselves and reduce the harm psychopaths cause.

An important part of such education would emphasize that people should not trust their intuitions and impressions of strangers, and should rely instead on reputations earned over time. The more that people did that, the harder it would be for psychopaths to exploit others. Theoretically, at least, young women comprise the group that would benefit most from such "anti-psychopath" training.

The idea that psychopathy is not a disorder but is instead an adaptation leads to this notion of "anti-psychopath" training which is a way of reducing the environmental niche for psychopathy. What else would make that niche smaller? Theoretically, psychopaths should thrive when resources are scarce and when there is a lot of social instability so that people frequently have to deal with strangers.

Thus, a typical North American urban environment may be just the place to foster psychopathy not because that environment causes psychopathy directly, but because such an environment provides a large niche for its expression.

Conversely, social policies that increase social and economic equity, and enhance family and community cohesiveness, while decreasing social isolation and anonymity might be exactly those that make it difficult for psychopaths to prosper. Over generations such policies might actually reduce the incidence of psychopathy.
This sounds like an argument for conservatism to me. Anyone else?

More on "America's hidden infection":

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Psychopath = adaptation, not disorder

A reader sent me this discussion of psychopathy as an adaptation:
A disorder, by definition, is the failure of some physical or mental feature to do its natural, evolved function.
***
Research on psychopaths shows big differences in the ways they act (impulsive especially in the presence of rewards), process information (unaffected by emotionally powerful information), and learn from experience (resistant to punishment). These have been thought of as defects, but it is just as possible they are adaptations that underlie a life long aggressive, cheating, and manipulating strategy.
What is the new scientific evidence that suggests that psychopathy is an adaptation and not a disorder?
[O]ther researchers have discovered that violent people have high rates of particular types of medical problems in their histories -- obstetrical problems (toxaemia, Rh factor, maternal substance abuse, etc.), and perinatal difficulties (e.g., prematurity, low birth weight, severe fetal distress). Such problems are also associated with schizophrenia. These findings suggest that violence can be the result of problems in very early physical development, and that schizophrenia is a true disorder of neurological development. (It is interesting that people with schizophrenia are not especially violent, however.)

What does our adaptation theory say should be found in the prevalence of these medical problems among psychopaths? Because the theory says that psychopathy is not a disorder of neurological development, psychopaths should have fewer of these problems than other violent offenders. And that is what we found. If psychopathy were an extreme disorder (and knowing that these problems are associated with violence), one would predict that psychopaths would have high rates of these problems, but we found the opposite.

We also tested our theory with another measure of developmental stability -- fluctuating bilateral asymmetry. That is a polysyllabic way of saying, the degree to which the left side of the body is exactly the same size as the right side. In all species, the two sides of the body are genetically programmed to be the same size -- symmetrical. The amount of difference between the two sides, asymmetry, is a measure of the instability in a person's development. Again, violent individuals have been reported to be asymmetrical as have persons with schizophrenia. What about psychopaths? Our research showed that violent offenders who were also psychopaths were more symmetrical than those who were not psychopaths.

Again, although psychopaths are the most dangerous offenders, they do not have signs that their neurological development has been disrupted. From a medical point of view, they appear to have had healthy development compared to persons with schizophrenia or mental retardation.

Of course, our theory definitely says that the nervous systems of psychopaths must be different somehow. But that difference should not, according to the theory, look like damage. In fact, attempts by other researchers to find signs of damage in psychopaths using neuropsychological tests or fancy imaging methods (CT, PET, MRI scans, etc.) have not panned out.

So far at least, it does not look as though psychopaths have damaged brains, even though it does appear that their brains are different.
Interestingly, the author of this article (Grant Harris) was one of the researchers of the famed failed Social Therapy Unit at Oak Ridge from the 1960s-70s, through which we learned that having psychopaths sit around and talk about their feelings actually seems to make them worse, not better. Even then Dr. Harris acknowledged that psychopath doesn't seem much like your typical disorder: "Unlike virtually every other mental disorder, however, where the existence of the problem is inferred from difficulties experienced by the patient, psychopathy is a disorder whose negative effects accrue more to those who come into contact with the psychopath than to the patient him or herself."

Ha.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rupert Murdoch: Narcissist?

A reader sent this great profile on Rupert Murdoch from the Economist, detailing how he couldn't quite bring himself to remain penitent and remorseful amid jeers and other provocations directed at his ego:
"THIS is the most humble day of my life," Rupert Murdoch told members of the House of Commons, after the media, culture and sports select committee summoned the global media tycoon before them to explain the phone-hacking, police-bribing, politician-bullying ways of his British press titles. Having established his humility, Mr Murdoch then spent more than two hours telling the MPs that he was—in essence—much too important and busy to have known what his feckless underlings were up to.
***
Some have written that Rupert Murdoch came across as a frail, diminished figure, comparing his appearance to the final moments of the Wizard of Oz. I disagree. Thumping the table with the palm of his hand for emphasis (despite nervous signals from his wife to stop) Mr Murdoch showed flashes of something I can only describe as raw power, notably when any MP seemed about to patronise him.

Thus when an MP suggested employees had kept Mr Murdoch in the dark about the phone-hacking scandal, Mr Murdoch came to life, growling:

Nobody kept me in the dark, I may have been lax in not asking, but [the News of the World] was such a tiny part of our business.
And during questioning by MP Louise Mensch:
Mrs Mensch, looking and sounding like a clever young prosecution barrister, reminded Mr Murdoch that he had said Les Hinton, a former chief executive of News International (News Corp's British newspaper subsidiary), had resigned because he was the "captain of the ship" when wrongdoing took place. Is it not the case, sir, that you are the captain of the ship, she asked the elder Mr Murdoch? The magnate's pride seemed piqued, and he rose to the bait. "Of a much bigger ship," he rumbled.

Mrs Mensch did not blench. "It is a much bigger ship, but you are in charge of it. And as you said in earlier questions, you do not regard yourself as a hands-off chief executive, you work ten to 12 hours a day. This terrible thing happened on your watch. Mr Murdoch, have you considered resigning?"

"No," said Mr Murdoch.

"Why not?" said Mrs Mensch.

"Because," Mr Murdoch replied. "I feel that people I trusted, I'm not saying who, I don't know what level, have let me down. I think they behaved disgracefully and betrayed the company, and me. It's for them to pay. I think that, frankly, I'm the best person to clear this up."
To me, this is classic narcissist. He hates that anyone, even the highest levels of government or law enforcement, would dare impugn his moral character and his infinite wisdom about how the world should be run. If you're a narcissist, the saddest part about being surrounded by idiots is that they don't realize how much stupider they are than you. I can almost guarantee that he feels absolutely no remorse, not even that he was caught. Probably the only thing he regrets is that he lives in a world in which morons elect imbeciles, who then try to keep the real movers and shakers from getting on with important business.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

willPOWER

A reader asks:
I've been reading your blog with considerable interest for the past few months. I'm an empath, but I have a strong interest in understanding the sociopath purely because I find the idea of them interesting, so I've read most of the texts I could find. What I would be interested to grasp is the sociopaths response to discipline. Much of what I've read suggests sociopaths typically would avoid pursuits which require impulse control/dedication etc. such as a diet, goal setting, pursuing a degree or working hard generally. It would be great if you can provide some idea of how a sociopathic individual perceives discipline, and delayed gratification. I find it hard to reconcile the idea that sociopaths will do anything to get what they want, with the idea that they are very poor at controlling impulses and dealing with delaying gratification. I ask this question as I'm fairly sure I've encountered a few sociopathic individuals in work settings that have been extremely hard working, disciplined and dedicated to the task.
My response:

Good question. I think your intuition is right, that some sociopaths are clearly able to discipline themselves enough to accomplish longterm goals. I myself always brag about having fully funded my retirement by the time I was 30. I didn't do it as a feat of self control, though, I did it because I love making money and my employment and community has various benefits to incentivize retirement savings that would be silly to not take advantage. The pleasure in retirement savings for me then is to play the game so much better than everyone else is -- and so seemingly effortlessly! In fact that's my main interest/love about money: that so many people want it but can't figure out how to get/keep more of it. It makes any wealth making you do look almost like magic -- very powerful image to project!

So maybe then the real distinction is not that sociopaths are more weak-willed than empaths or vice versa, but that they're both weak-willed in their own unique and predictable ways. Empath weaknesses appear egregious to sociopaths because they seem so obvious and easy to avoid, whereas sociopath weaknesses seem abhorrent to empaths because they find it so shocking that anyone would even consider behaving in that way. It makes perfect sense then that empaths would look weak to sociopaths and sociopaths look like monsters to empaths.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gender and sociopaths

A socio leaning reader writes a little more on being trans and gender identity:
Hello,

I've been browsing your blog for awhile now, and just yesterday stumbled upon an entry about a transwoman and her experiences as a sociopath, and how the two were related.

This made me think. I am a transman (20 years old and one year into my transition), and have identifyed as a sociopath for years. As time goes by, I can't help but think that my so-called "gender dysphoria" is just something for me to play with for the time being.

I have never felt as if I were one gender or the other. I cannot remember having that painful, consuming feeling that people describe as gender dysphoria. In the frankest possible terms, my transition began the day that I deciced it would be interesting--fun, even--to be a male.

I took to the role quickly and flawlessly, and despite having been an extremely feminine girl (and, for what its worth, a now feminine man) I was able to convince everyone around me that I was always meant to be a male. My parents have even come to recall instances in my childhood to justify this behavior.

Gender transition is a long, tedious process. It takes years. While it does not demand my full attention, it is always convinient for days when I find the boredom unbearable.

Despite never feeling like I had a need to transition, like many of the transgender people I've come into contact with, I have never regretted what I've done. I've sunk about a thousand dollars into this, watched as my face slowly became more masculine, and watched my friends and family struggle to accept this drastic change. And I love it.

I feel like I've created my most flawless persona yet. It's an accomplishment, in my eyes. And why wouldn't it be? I've had to convince dozens of people--even a trained gender-therapist--into believing that I experience a rather intense aversion to my assigned gender.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Companionship

A reader asked me how I feel about companionship and how far I would go to maintain someone's companionship. I responded:

I have a hard time answering hypotheticals, but companionship for me is probably like vitamin c. It's necessary and if I don't have enough I can start showing the signs of mental and emotional scurvy. Once I get it back, I show no lasting damage from the deprivation. I get most of what I need during my daily interactions. Finally, in high doses it is toxic. If I find a good steady source, particularly if it gives me a large dose of my other essential nutrients, I'll work pretty hard to keep it. Like a farmer!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Research help

I was recently contacted by Willem H.J. Martens, a psychiatric researcher known to many of you as being the source of some of the most insightfully sympathetic and understanding portrayals of psychopaths in the academic literature. He is author of, among others, "The Hidden Suffering of Psychopaths" and "Emotional Capacities and Sensitivity in Psychopaths." He is writing a book on psychopathy and is soliciting more examples, histories, and illustrative stories ("self-reports") from psychopaths (either diagnosed or self-diagnosed), particularly regarding certain diagnostic criteria. From Dr. Martens:
I am Willem Martens, psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and chair of the "W. Kahn Institute of Theoretial Psychiatry and Neuroscience." I have published on psychopathy in many international journals. I am a psychopath myself, which became obvious during my study and work. My PhD trajectory was a horrible road with numerous conflicts. I spoiled three teams of promotors in three universities. But, I graduated on a controversial study on the correlation between remission and maturation in psychopaths (only 14 of 667 cases). This idea was inspired by the life of my brother, a very gifted and charismatic person who did all the things which were forbidden. Suddenly he changed after a series of impressive incidents. My psychopathy and my childhood experiences gave me an advantage during my work for decades with psychopaths in forensic settings, I understood them and they understood me.

I'am writing a book on psychopaths's reflections on their personality features, condition and characteristics. The intention of this book is to form a counterbalance against the existing superficial, incorrect and incomplete theories of and viewpoints on psychopathy and sociopathy. This internet forum provides a huge amount of valuable and revealing information. However, with regard to some topics (diagnostic features of the PCL-R; psychopathy checklist of Hare) I need responses in order to make my book complete and convincing because it must cover all the topics of the PCL-R and related references.

I need more self reports for the following traits. If you are a sociopath and manifest one or more of these traits, please contact me at martens_92 at hotmail dot com.

1. Glibness/Superficial Charm
2. Grandiose Sense of Self worth
3. Need for Stimulation/Proneness to Bored
8. Callous/Lack of Empathy
9. Parasitic Lifestyle
10. Poor Behavioral Controls
12. Early Behavioral Problems
14. Impulsivity
16. Failure to Accept Responsibility for Own Actions
17. Many Short-Term Marital Relationships
18. Juvenile Delinquent
19. Revocation of Conditional Release
20. Criminal Versatility.

Please provide self-reports rather that theoretical visions.
I believe that this is very important work, so I may be updating or reminding you periodically to contact Dr. Martens. I hope that through our extensive collective cooperation, the book will more accurately depict the realities and spectrum of the psychopathic experience.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vigilantism

I've recently had experiences where I was nice to someone, a stranger or someone I didn't think mattered, and then had them show up again in my life in another context, or turn out to be a connection I needed to a third person, or I ended up developing a crush on them. I used to be less careful about being nice to strangers, but have learned that it frequently pays off, particularly very visible kindness to strangers.

Behaving better when people are watching turns out to be a trait that everyone shares. In this Ars Technica article covering a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences issue dedicated to human cooperation.
Some studies do find that we empathize with the plights of others, and just want to help out. Participants in one study saw a worker getting a series of electrical shocks. When told that they could reduce the number of shocks the worker got by volunteering to get shocked themselves, most volunteered for the jolt. The response was the same whether the participant would continue to see the worker after their decision or not, indicating that they weren’t just trying to make the unpleasant situation disappear. Instead, the researchers suggest that the participants wanted the best for the worker.

However, studies show that the prospect of someone else watching—even if it’s just a drawing of a pair of eyes—makes us more cooperative. Similarly, when participants in the Ultimatum Game are told that their offers will be made public, they tend to offer a greater proportion of their cash. Clearly, our motives aren’t all selfless.
Why are people worried about a pair of watching eyes? The article answers that unlike the rest of the animal kingdom "we are the only species that seems to be offended by inequalities that we aren't affected by, and as far as we know, we're unique in our liberal use of punishment." In other words, we're worried about rampant vigilantism.

And there will almost always be a pair of eyes looking out for misbehavior, if not a vigilante, the victim himself. The truth has a way of getting out. I used to be more reckless when I was younger because I didn't have much to lose if people discovered that I am black hearted. My current life position makes negative behavior more difficult for me to explain away, so I just default to being courteous to most people, and obsequiously charming to some.

If vigilantism doesn't scare you, google "necklacing."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm not an addict

People have suggested to me several times that drugs might enhance my ability to "feel," particularly MDMA or cannabis. I haven't tried either, but even if I were to feel different things I think my brain would reject them as not coming from me. Already when I have emotional hallucinations, I basically ignore them as being quirks in my brain chemistry, like you might ignore voices in your head. I think the same would go double for narcotics, particularly if I knowingly consumed them as opposed to be drugged.

Sociopaths are supposedly prone to addiction. I can sort of see why that might be true for some--chronic boredom would mean self medication in some form or another. I have never been drawn to narcotics, though, in fact I would say that I affirmatively dislike them because they hamper my brain function/control. Not only do I not like narcotics, a recent study, discussed in this NY Times article, suggests that sociopath's brains may make them particularly unsusceptible to addiction. The article first discusses how addicts tend to have an underactive reward system in the brain:
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has shown in several brain-imaging studies that people addicted to such drugs as cocaine, heroin and alcohol have fewer dopamine receptors in the brain’s reward pathways than nonaddicts. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter critical to the experience of pleasure and desire, and sends a signal to the brain: Pay attention, this is important.

When Dr. Volkow compared the responses of addicts and normal controls with an infusion of a stimulant, she discovered that controls with high numbers of D2 receptors, a subtype of dopamine receptors, found it aversive, while addicts with low receptor levels found it pleasurable.

This finding and others like it suggest that drug addicts may have blunted reward systems in the brain, and that for them everyday pleasures don’t come close to the powerful reward of drugs.
In contrast, there is research that suggests that sociopaths have an overactive reward system, which would presumably make them largely immune ("aversive") to at least certain substance addictions.

Interestingly, the article cites the borderline personality disordered as being particularly susceptible to addiction ("People with borderline personality disorder, who struggle to control their impulses and anger, often resort to drugs and alcohol to soften their intolerable moods."). Is this possibly a way to distinguish between the brains of sociopaths versus those with BPD for purposes of diagnosis? If so, it might be a step toward ending the gender stereotype for sociopathy and BPD.

In any case, those facing drug addiction problems can always rely on Vermont addiction services or other similar programs across the United States for treatment help.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Limitless

A few readers had suggested I watch the movie Limitless for being sociopath related, and I finally got a chance to watch it on a plane. It is a pretty fun movie, particularly when he first becomes genius smart. They don't really explore how he changes emotionally with all of his brain changes, which is too bad, but it's not really that deep of a movie. Here's the scene that probably shows the sociopath angle the best:

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