Thursday, March 12, 2020

Knowledge vs. Understanding

One thing I hear a lot from people is that sociopaths know right and wrong, i.e. if you asked them to say what is the right thing to do in a particular situation, they'd more than likely give you the "right" answer. Consequently, the argument goes, sociopaths are responsible for all of their actions to the same degree as a normal person. I've tried to use the analogy before of how most children understand the "right" answer regarding stealing, hitting, not waiting their turn, not sharing, etc. but that we don't expect them to have the same capacity to behave well as we would a neurotypical adult. I think this difference between knowing something and understanding something was illustrated well in this video.

On the positive side, just like this guy learning how to ride the messed up bike, I think that sociopaths can learn to perspective take (which is basically empathy) and to learn to think more of others and other "good" behavior (or behavior which promotes "good" actions). I actually think the bike analogy is really good because like the hard wiring we have regarding riding a bike, the sociopath got hard wired at a very early age -- hard wiring that is very difficult to ignore or bypass. Just as the man describes needing to concentrate the whole time while riding the messed up bike and if anything should happen to distract him, he crashes, even a sociopath that has learned the "good" behavior mentioned above will likely socially or morally "crash" if there are too many other things taking up his or her cognitive load. I do think with practice the sociopath can get better and better, like learning a foreign language, but we should not expect sociopaths to just understanding good behavior automatically, just like we shouldn't expect a normal person to understand how to ride the messed up bike automatically. 


  1. i can be good in theory. in real life it is never intuitive so i just do whats good for me

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  2. If a nihilist admits he understands morals, what does that mean? If a socio is the most law-abiding person in town (for practical reasons, to avoid bad reputation, fines & prison), what does that mean?

  3. Impressive analysis and what an excellent allegory. I concur with this theory as it fits th facts, what we know of sociopathic behaviour and experience as related in your book.

    Behaviours seens as instinctive for empaths are leaned for sociopathic personalities.

    Perspective as empathy yes again this rings true. Seeing how "better" behaviours are seen as good and right that are rewarded. As opposed to bad which resulted in punishment. And yes getting it wrong "crashing" as with the wayward bike. I would add the way "normal" kids seemed to always effortlessly get it right even when they said some action was "wrong" would be very confusing.

  4. Socio people do not have trouble recognizing other socio people. They have a problem with separating the narcis from the psychos. Often they follow this rule for that problem solving: If it´s loud & slightly deluded: narci, if it´s cold & aloof: psycho.

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  7. Does a stranger "scientist vs. alien"-relationship exist than the psychopath authors and the psycho? One side filled with disgusted researchers and on the other haughty creatures with a "disease" they cherish?

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  9. I have a theory that socios may fear the supernatural as much as most nonsocios do. Would a socio spend a weekend in a dark & shadowy "haunted house" with only a flashlight as lamp? Or would this somehow seem...scary, even to them?

  10. The supernatural is superstition. Can be very useful in our dealing with each other as humans. But has no basis in fact. Could the right circumstances cause concern at a given location. maybe. Sociopath more likly to be fake clairvoyant for money using supernatural.

  11. Zodiac Scorpios often believe they come from "another place". And if that is correct: what else does?


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