Re: Sociopaths

1

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the scene from The Shining is, maybe not completely and totally fabricated, but embellished enough that it took me out of the narrative.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 1:20 PM
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Once somebody starts to ignore the signs closing the escalator, you can't put anything past them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 1:28 PM
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I concur. Less genuine than a letter to Penthouse.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 1:30 PM
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Reads like a narcissist, if anything.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 1:41 PM
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Also, it seems absurdly identifiable, unless some significant details are false (not that a sociopath would have a problem with lying). The Mormon thing in particular--how many female, junior law-prof Mormons could there be in the country? Not that many.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 1:49 PM
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Indeed, the author was identified by house of creeps Above the Law.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 1:57 PM
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Credibility-wise, this piece reminded me of Pen/elope Tru/nk.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 1:57 PM
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I kind of like the idea of "house of creeps" becoming permanently attached to Above the Law, like fleet-footed Achilles or whatever (or "eclectic web magazine Unfogged").


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:06 PM
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This piece seems quite credible to me. It's full of weird details that wouldn't be worth making up and would mainly be interesting to someone who had lived them. I stared at someone who chewed me out for getting on the wrong escalator! My supervisor was so impressed by my sharp comment on an elevator with some handsome men that she sort-of confessed she might have a crush on me! And then let me get away with a 3 week sick leave that I might or might not have deserved! Who makes that kind of shit up? The details of her childhood were strikingly realistic also in that not-really-colorful-but-genuinely-awful kind of way. I get the impression here of a quite messed up person who is telling the truth.

Contrary to her self-portrayal as an evil genius she seems more like a troubled narcissist with a talent for self-sabotage -- the easy identifiability of the details of her story would fit into this.

It does remind me of Penelope Trunk a bit as well, but I always thought Trunk was rather compulsively self-revealing about the actual details of her life.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:07 PM
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Wait, you're saying that Psychology Today, which previously I had mostly associated with on-the-veldt spouting ev psych hack supergenius Satoshi Kanazawa, might not have the highest editorial standards INTERROBANG


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:08 PM
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Sociopaths were more successful homesteaders back on the veldt.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:17 PM
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10: right? Even the title of that site is lie.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:17 PM
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Is big lie! Big!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:17 PM
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The author, once revealed, turns out to be a friend-of-a-firnend (Acquaintance-of-a-friend, perhaps?). They say that she's definitely a bit off, but couldn't really enlighten about the rest of it.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:19 PM
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I'm okay with firnends, but I stay away from their friends.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:26 PM
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I agree with the smells-like-Trunk party.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:28 PM
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Oh hey I know (slightly) the person whom this is supposed to be. I wouldn't have said any more sociopathic than most people I encounter, but maybe that's the mark of the true sociopath.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:40 PM
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This now strikes me as kind of sad.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:43 PM
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19

Not knowing anything about the relevant science or art or whatever, what distinguishes a non-violent, non-exploitative, high-functioning sociopath from someone on the Asperger's continuum who is a little grumpy?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:49 PM
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high-functioning sociopath

The first one's a BBC Sherlock fan?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 2:55 PM
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21

I recently read that book The Psychopath Test, which was amusing and left me with the inpression that there isn't any such well-defined thing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:01 PM
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-n+m


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:01 PM
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I didn't read the book, but I read articles about it and got the same impression -- that psycho/sociopath has been used to mean "Someone who's fundamentally different from the rest of us, whoo, boy! Stone cold emotionless pure evil, setting cats on fire right and left." And in practice as diagnosed it's much less clear.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:04 PM
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I mean FFS what kind of idiot thinks she's going to stay anonymous? And she just took a job at BYU? WTF? Very odd.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:10 PM
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FFS, BYU, WTF, LOL. NBD.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:13 PM
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OMG BBQ.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:13 PM
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It's not totally clear to me that ATL got the right person, btw. If they did, based on the article, I'd say the main mental illness isn't sociopathy but a desire to enliven a basically ordinary mediocre life with delusions of grandeur. Which I guess was Heebie's original point.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:13 PM
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FFS... Establish your identity!
BYU... You are the Psycho!
M O U S E.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:14 PM
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I hate you all. Cry.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:15 PM
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ATL BFF MIA, BTW.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:15 PM
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Not that I'm a stranger to delusions of grandeur, by the way, I have a whole program for my authoritarian-redistributionist dictatorial regime worked out. Maybe I'll write an article for Psychology Today.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:16 PM
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I can just see the networks of underground blackmarket breadleggers evading your stormtroopers. Because bread is the taste of civilization! You can kill us all, but you can't take our pasta salads!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:18 PM
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Which one is this article by, is it Flanagan or Tsing Loh?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:18 PM
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Honest to god that would bring it up a notch. That fucking site.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:19 PM
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32: "hit right in the breadbasket" takes on a terrifying literality.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:20 PM
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ATL BFF MIA, BTW. BOAC.
Didn't get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had a dreadful flight


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:21 PM
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NBD. Notre Big Dame.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:22 PM
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re: 21

The author of that is a friend of a (very old) friend. Something I only found out recently: 'wtf, I didn't know you knew X'. Hitherto I'd largely thought of him as a guy with a really strange voice on the telly, who writes about interesting stuff (when he wasn't writing about himself for the Guardian).


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:36 PM
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38: I plowed through all his books, recently. Very fun. Does have a weird voice. Over here he turns up on This American Life occasionally.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:38 PM
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40

I love Ronson. The Men Who Stare at Goats is also a super fun read.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 3:44 PM
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41

Strange voice = Welsh.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 4:27 PM
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42

This sounds like maybe one of those things that would be like taking work home with me to read. (I am halfway through "Give Me An Oscar For Playing Crazy Playbook" and not sure I'm watching the rest for similar reasons. I don't know whether this is a tribute to them having accurately re-created the unpleasantness of being around people with inadequately addressed mental health issues or if it's just not an enjoyable movie. I truly don't.)


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 4:35 PM
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re: 41

Not so much the accent as the way he phrases, and also the pitch of it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 4:51 PM
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This reminds me of a weird phase I went through--intermittently--during adolescence, when I was discovering that, hey, people were sometimes dumber than me! and hey, people were sometimes attracted to me and did things for me! and hey, I can manipulate people and watch how they behave! It was a hell of a rush, during the brief spurts of time I remember.

Fortunately, my family members were all at least as smart if not smarter than me, and I was actually capable of empathy, so it didn't last. Also, I felt tremendously guilty about it afterwards, even as an adolescent.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 5:32 PM
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45

For our older commenters: RIP Ray Manzarek.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 5:33 PM
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45: There goes our hope for a Doors reunion.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 5:56 PM
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Or any more awesome X albums.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 5:59 PM
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48

You'll never win, Killface!


Posted by: Opinionated Awesome X | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 6:03 PM
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49

God that sociopath piece is awful. Whatever she is, she's a sad person. Agreed with trapnel.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 6:30 PM
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An image sprang to mind: my hands wrapped around his neck, my thumbs digging deep into his throat, his life slipping away under my unrelenting grasp.

Doesn't everybody do that at least occasionally? That is, the imaging, not the strangling.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 6:39 PM
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51

Wait not the strangling?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 6:41 PM
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52

That, no (in case anyone was concerned).


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 6:41 PM
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53

Asking for a friend.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 6:41 PM
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54

53 - Cheryl Tunt?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 7:11 PM
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55

Carol!


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 7:17 PM
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56

||
Speaking of sociopaths, what the hell is wrong with people in Florida anyhow? This latest anti-gay outrage is just repugnant. Why would you want to live in such an irredeemably fucked up place? I know, I know, next week it'll be Texas again, and Arizona the week after that, but there's just something about Florida.
||>


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 7:27 PM
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56: In the fucking West Village of NYC we just had two gay-bashings in about a week. One man was shot dead. Granted, here, everyone is shocked and furious, and the leading mayoral candidate (Christine Quinn, an out partnered lesbian) led this evening's demonstration against homophobia. Still, the violence can happen anywhere.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 7:40 PM
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57: Yeah, I did see that those things had happened. It's a bit more of an aberration however, and of course the West Village is just a hop skip and a jump from all kinds of other places where people are known for their intolerance. So, yeah, people are fucked up everywhere.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 7:42 PM
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Contrary to her self-portrayal as an evil genius she seems more like a troubled narcissist with a talent for self-sabotage

This.

Does your average sociopath self-identify as a sociopath, I wonder? Does a self-professed sociopath's concern and anxiety over her self-diagnosed sociopathy serve to undermine, if not nullify, her very self-diagnosis? And will I find the answers to these questions in the pages of Psychology Today, where commonplace observations such as, say, 'human infants prefer smiling faces to frowns and scowls' are routinely passed off as the carefully calibrated results of a serious and deeply-probing inquiry into the science of the human mind?

57: Truly shocked by this. So, so awful, and outrageous, and deeply depressing. I honestly (and obviously naively) didn't expect to read of this happening in the West Village, fer god's sake.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 8:33 PM
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60

Oh god, this article has such a resounding air of bullshit.

Yeah, venture capitalists are totally queer for Rakhmaninov.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 8:50 PM
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I wouldn't have said any more sociopathic than most people I encounter, but maybe that's the mark of the true sociopath.

Thank you, Tuesday Addams!


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 9:02 PM
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62

There's a Tuesday Addams now?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 9:11 PM
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63

Do I mean Wednesday? I have sabotaged my very hilarious joke.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05-20-13 9:56 PM
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64

Tuesday Weld, Wednesday Addams.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 4:16 AM
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65

Didn't we have a thread, or a thread diversion, about Ronson's accent just a couple of months ago?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow` | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 4:20 AM
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">http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thursday_Next"> Thursday Next.

I've seen Ronson talk a couple of times and he didn't sound odd to me, as far as I remember. Maybe he sounds weirder on tv/radio.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 4:50 AM
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God almighty, I don't think I've ever managed a link correctly on this phone. Maybe I should check before posting.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 4:51 AM
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re: 65

Yes, I remember it coming up. I think I said I thought/assumed at the time he was northern, rather than Welsh.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 5:18 AM
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21: I use some work by Robert Hare, the author of Hare Psychopathy Checklist, in my ethics class. I think psychopathy is pretty well defined for a psychological diagnostic category. It specifies not just a pattern of destructive behavior, but a very particular set of emotional an interpersonal traits. The most prominent is the inability to feel emotions of shame or guilt.

Both psychopathy and autism spectrum disorders share a difficulty relating to the emotions of others, but the similarity pretty much stops there. Psychopaths can get a superficial sense of other people's emotions from external cues, even if they don't empathize with those emotions. Psychopaths own emotional lives are shallow, but follow recognizably normal patterns. Autism spectrum people have trouble even reading external emotional cues in others, and have radically different interior lives.

Psychopaths also have a completely undisturbed ability to think abstractly, form long term plans, and things like that. This is part of what makes us think they are more culpable for their bad actions. On one level, at least, they know exactly what they are doing.

I'm fascinated by the fact that some failures of the moral emotions are considered character failings and others are disabilities. The patterns of these are more complicated than you would think.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 5:30 AM
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Tuesday Weld, Wednesday Adams, Thursday Next, Man Friday, Baron Samedi. Sunday and Monday are stumping me.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 5:41 AM
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70: I guess you could just default to the respective characters from The Man Who Was Thursday.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 5:44 AM
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Sunday and Monday are stumping me.

Susan Sontag of course and, um, investment banker Tom Montag.



Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 5:47 AM
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19: It's the difference between having difficulty reading, and not being moved by the story, I think.

Aspies are more likely to have trouble reading others' emotions, but often want very much to connect. Sociopaths can read others just fine, they just don't automatically empathize.

Sociopaths also have difficulty empathizing with their own future selves, which is why they can appear less risk-averse than neurotypicals.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:00 AM
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My future self better not be an asshole like my past self.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:02 AM
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Who makes that kind of shit up?

Who makes up stuff to make themselves sound (in their eyes) cooler and more badass? Is this a joke?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:02 AM
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Bill Mondy?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:03 AM
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Sunday and Monday are stumping me.

Famed evangelist and baseball player Billy Sunday, and famed baseball player and flag defender Rick Monday. It's almost like you're not American at all.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:05 AM
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Bottled up
Envy and wrath
Don't make
You
A sociopath
Burma Shave


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:08 AM
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Or any of the human inhabitants of the world of Fables, who are known somewhat racistly as Mundies.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:08 AM
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It's the difference between having difficulty reading, and not being moved by the story, I think.

That's a great way to put it. I'm stealing that for my class.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:14 AM
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re: 73.last

Why 'neurotypicals'? Do we even know that, say, sociopathy/psychopathy has a neurological explanation?*

* except in the very loose sense that all of our behaviour and personality traits are ultimately grounded somewhere in our biology/neurology.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:24 AM
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My assumption about sociopath-person - assuming that she is writing to some degree naively and thus revealing something that relates to her actual interior life - is that she sounds like someone with a lot of bottled up rage and ambition that she could not/cannot express the ways that she wanted to. I was struck by the way that she must have been so terrifyingly powerless as a child and how the fantasy self she describes in the stupid article is very powerful, swift, secure, unhurtable, superior. It is very interesting to me that her "revealing anecdote" about the worker she wanted to strangle was basically "I got really angry at someone who had very little power over me and thought about killing him". To me the key bit is "I got really angry at someone who had very little power over me".

Who makes up stuff to make themselves sound (in their eyes) cooler and more badass? Is this a joke?

Someone who hasn't been able to express anger or exert power in the moments when she needed to do so, and who is stuck reiterating weird and harmful versions of those situations! And because it makes one feel bad to say "I flipped out on some municipal worker because I can't flip out on my dad, my dean or the various people in the past who hurt or failed me", she dresses it up as "I flipped out because I am a cool, special, different person unlike you lesser mortals." I bet she reads (or has read) Ayn Rand. Poor kid.

Anyway! I can recommend a really good Minneapolis therapy practice if she would like to commute out here and get her head right.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:30 AM
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I add that this may be sociopathy, who knows? I get all that pop-science-plus-DSM stuff confused anyway. But if it is, then sociopaths are much less scary and much more to be pitied than one had assumed.

At least in my experience, people who continue to manipulate others a lot into adulthood are people who have no skills or confidence in their ability to get their needs met by direct requests and ordinary ways of interacting.

Honestly, she just seems like a very damaged person - what a waste of intelligence and talent.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:33 AM
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I was just listening to the audiobook of The Sociopath Next Door and the author does not seem to fit the pattern very well. She may be psychologically broken in some sense but not in that particular one.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:36 AM
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If she applied herself, she might have made a name as the Escalator Killer or something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:37 AM
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86

Another thing that interests me that maybe everyone else has already discussed: the zeitgeistyness of sociopaths and psychopaths. (Or at least the fantasy version of them - I mean, that whole BBC Sherlock business isn't bizarre because Sherlock is a high functioning sociopath, it's bizarre because fandom thinks that is so cool.)

I mean, what is up with that?

Also, for that matter, the zeitgeistyness of serial killers treated as basically positive figures. (That Dexter show? It makes me feel old because I just do not get it.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:48 AM
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re: 86

Kotsko wrote a book.

http://www.zero-books.net/books/why-we-love-sociopaths


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:54 AM
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Conveniently, it isn't a very long book. However, it really doesn't go into serial kilers, IIRC.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:56 AM
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sociopathy/psychopathy has a neurological explanation?

We know it correlates with diminished activity in the ventro-medial PFC, amygdala, and paths connecting the two. this is the press release for a study on this topic.

Has someone linked to this video here before? A neuroscientist gets his own brainscan mixed in with the scans from a bunch of psychopaths, and makes a shocking discovery. It might also be in the Penelope Trunk category, though.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:58 AM
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There are certainly times when not feeling guilt or shame or empathy would suit my situation quite well. Like when I feel excessive guilt or shame. Which is more often than I'd like. I can see the appeal of sociopathy, especially if you could turn it on and off. In practice I see sociopaths as verging on subhuman, which is a bad path to go down, but I can't wrap my head around someone being part of the realm of people towards whom I should feel empathy (ideally the entirety of the human race) who does not reciprocate.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 6:59 AM
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89.1: nng sorta. Not exactly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:04 AM
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House of creeps, indeed.

Destroying her career to enhance book sales? I don't know much about the book business, but it doesn't seem as if authors really make enough for that kind of thing to make sense. Maybe she should homestead instead.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:08 AM
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86,87:Also zombies, vampires, werewolves

"Broken Social Contract" is close, but a little kind and generous.

Usually social fears like this, I think, involve some kind of projection. Or something. Aren't conservatives kinda...mindless?

Shinsekai Yori folks.

Just anime art, but got my mind working harder and clearer about empire, its rejects and discontents more than any ten academic books. You got slaves, you got berserkers, you got paranoia creating its enemies...all in a intellectual green utopia of liberal non-violence, egalitarianism, feminism, art.

Privilege leaks blood.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:08 AM
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91: I thought you might correct me, but I was hoping for more details.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:19 AM
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86/87: It don't seem to me like a new fad so much as a natural progression. Even the original Sherlock Holmes was superhumanly cold-blooded. He was a steely-eyed, cold-blooded, ├╝bermench who Would Do What He Had To Do. The stories aren't full of graphic violence if for no other reason than the fact that they aren't that kind of story, and Holmes isn't actually heartless, but then again neither are a lot of the modern characters in question - the Benedict Cumberbatch Holmes has at least one heartwarming moment, and Dexter has a lot of moments with comedy or dramatic irony about how he thinks of himself as emotionless, but in any meaningful sense clearly isn't. Between Holmes and Dexter, there's James Bond. The Daniel Craig version has played up the sociopathy, but he's killed people freely from the start.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:29 AM
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Character-wise, I thought the new BBC version made Holmes more emotional than in the books. He always was a fucker to Watson, but now he's pining over the woman and rushing off to rescue her.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:36 AM
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94: well, from that study (I think; I haven't looked at the original study) it seems like they found some difference in the white matter connecting the vmPFC and the amygdala between the two groups, although it's not really clear what (less "structural integrity"?) from the press release. They also found (probably by using what's called a resting state functional scan, although the PR doesn't specify) that functional connectivity (basically, the level of correlation) between the vmPFC and the amygdala was lower in the group that scored highly on the checklist. Those are both pretty reasonable approaches for looking at differences in neuroanatomy, so far so good. We don't really know enough about the details from the PR to say if they were smart about it (and what that white matter measure is) but I believe there's a fair amount of converging evidence for reduced connectivity between similarly matched groups of prisoners. But what's key is that these are groups of prisoners (and pretty small samples in general, for obvious reasons), who have been arrested and convicted of serious crimes and have been in jail for some arbitrarily long period of time. It could be that the Hare checklist for prisoners functions something like an IQ test, measuring the ability to plan and correctly understand the consequences of one's actions. It could be that long-term incarceration results in reductions in white matter connectivity. It could be that some other demographic factor (drug use, maybe) is highly correlated with score on the questionnaire. It's really hard to say, and prisoners are a population with lots of problems. Insofar as this study provides evidence that the checklist differentiates between prison populations with meaningfully different neuroanatomy, that's very interesting, but it doesn't really tell you anything about the etiology of sociopathy per se, just about prison populations.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:45 AM
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Oh, and I forgot to mention: it totally could be the case that the Hare checklist is measuring indications of a real neurological condition among people who are likely to commit violent crimes and get caught but measuring no such thing when administered to people who do not fit those other two (pretty strong!) constraints.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:47 AM
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...that's very interesting, but it doesn't really tell you anything about the etiology of sociopathy per se, just about prison populations.

Your effective sociopaths don't get caught.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:47 AM
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99: could be!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 7:52 AM
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It could be that long-term incarceration results in reductions in white matter connectivity.

But then wouldn't we see diminished connectivity in both groups studied?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:05 AM
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98. I thought the Hare checklist measured psychopathic characteristics. Does sociopath actually mean anything outside the vernacular sense of somebody manipulative and egocentric who we consequently dislike but who wouldn't register a blip on the Hare index?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:07 AM
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From ATL comment thread --

Isn't everyone burying the lead? Shouldn't the headline be "Sociopath admits to being a law professor?

and special relevance to Unfogged --

SOOOOOO surprised that a sociopath came out of UChicago. Doesn't that just make her an average grad?

Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:08 AM
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Even the original Sherlock Holmes was superhumanly cold-blooded. He was a steely-eyed, cold-blooded, ├╝bermench who Would Do What He Had To Do.

I don't know. A lot of the stories show him getting quite worked up. Don't get confused between "not romantically interested in women" and "cold-blooded". Holmes can definitely empathise; look at his remarks about the countryside in "The Copper Beeches". Come to that, look at the real concern he shows when Watson collapses in "The Empty House". He's certainly not wedded to the idea of justice above all; look how many criminals (even murderers) he allows to get away.

96: I think I remember noting elsewhere here that the BBC Holmes is inferior because the scriptwriter simply cannot have Holmes being outwitted by Irene Adler. Holmes has to win, every time, and make Adler realise that she's an inferior.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:08 AM
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101: maybe the high-scoring group has been incarcerated longer, was I think the part of my sentence I didn't write.

102: as far as I know they're essentially the same, but sociopath took over for psychopath because the people writing the DSM were uncomfortable with the latter. Might be misremembering.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:10 AM
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104.last: I hadn't considered it that way, but it does fit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:11 AM
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Is there a part of human personality, pathological or not, that doesn't have a neurological correlate?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:11 AM
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104.2: that's Moffat for you.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:13 AM
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Don't get confused between "not romantically interested in women" and "cold-blooded"

We've already had the "confirmed bachelor" discussion. (And coincidentally, later in that thread is the prior NPS numbers Halfordian discussion.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:14 AM
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He was a steely-eyed, cold-blooded, ├╝bermench who Would Do What He Had To Do

No. He was a guy who admires a flower and explains that beautiful flowers are proof of a benevolent deity.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:17 AM
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105.2 Ah. Who shall question the wisdom of the DSM?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:22 AM
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81: because I didn't want to just say "normal people" and it's the first alternative that occurred to me.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:23 AM
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Back to the OP -- was I the only one that thought this could be a stunt by Neil LaBute?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:29 AM
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Right, the Doyle Sherlock Holmes is much more ordinarily emotional than the BBC version: he may not be romantically interested in women, but he's certainly conventionally chivalrous and protective about them; for another example of losing it when Watson's in trouble in The Three Garridebs Watson gets shot and Holmes tells the shooter that if Watson had died Holmes would have killed him; he's friendly with Mycroft... Other than being a 'confirmed bachelor' and being a jerk to people who aren't keeping up with him, he's not all that strange.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:31 AM
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114 Pretty typical cokehead then?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:32 AM
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104.last: It's interesting -- I reread the ACD stories fairly recently (picked up a copy because I figured the kids should have access to one), and he loses, or at least the case goes sideways somehow, all the time. I didn't count, but I'd bet that no more than a third of the narratives end up with the criminal under arrest. Holmes may have been meant to be a superman, but nowhere near an infalliable one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:34 AM
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115: I suppose.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:35 AM
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On the definition of sociopathy -- I end up kind of wondering how you distinguish someone who's unable to feel guilt or shame from someone who's not cooperating with your test. It seems like a hard thing to test for among a population of people inclined to either tell psychologists to fuck off or to mess with them for fun.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:59 AM
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What about someone who doesn't feel shame or guilt about not cooperating?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:06 AM
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People who use people are the luckiest people of all.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:08 AM
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he loses, or at least the case goes sideways somehow, all the time. I didn't count, but I'd bet that no more than a third of the narratives end up with the criminal under arrest.

Interesting point. Quick check:
There are 12 stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Of these:
five involve no actual crime at all (the Scandal in Belgravia, the Noble Bachelor, the Copper Beeches, the Twisted Lip, the Case of Identity).

Of the other seven:
one ends with the arrest of a bank robber (the Red-Headed League)
two end with Holmes extracting a confession but not using it after his wrongly-accused client is found not guilty (or not brought to trial) after all (Boscombe Valley, the Blue Carbuncle)
in two of them Holmes works out what's happened but fate intervenes and kills the murderer for him (the Speckled Band and the Five Orange Pips)
in two Holmes works out what's happened but the criminals escape (the Engineer's Thumb, the Beryl Coronet).

One out of twelve!

Or one out of seven crimes, anyway.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:25 AM
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104, 110, 115: He's clearly intended to be more cold-blooded than the average person. It's not just women; his interest in crimes is at least 90 percent a matter of intellectual curiosity, rather than a sense of justice or for his client's fee. There's a scene in one short story where they go out to the country, and his first thoughts there are not about the flowers but about how it's easier to commit crimes with fewer witnesses around. He gets worked up at some things, but not nearly as much as Watson or other "normal" people, and often not at the same things.

I don't think the original was every bit as emotionless as the current BBC version, and I guess I could have been clearer about that, but the new version's mental state really does owe a lot to the original.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:26 AM
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I think he was a little flippant to the guy without a thumb. IIRC, he was all, "it's worth it because now you have a great story."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:27 AM
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There's a scene in one short story where they go out to the country, and his first thoughts there are not about the flowers but about how it's easier to commit crimes with fewer witnesses around.

Yes, but that's not a sign of lack of emotion. It's in The Copper Beeches, and he gets quite worked up about it:
"Good heavens!" I cried. "Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?"
"They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."
"You horrify me!"
"But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard's blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser."

He's getting worked up about it because his client, the lovely Violet Hunter, lives out here and he's starting to think that she's in serious danger.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:31 AM
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122. All that. Which is why he's more commonly interpreted not as sociopathic but as somewhere on the spectrum. Which works for me.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:31 AM
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I think he was a little flippant to the guy without a thumb.

The guy without a thumb was an engineer. It's worth sacrificing a lot more than that to make an engineer an interesting conversationalist.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:32 AM
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124: That monologue was probably the inspiration for Deliverance.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:33 AM
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Thud of a Drunkard's Blow was my favorite Jethro Tull album.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:34 AM
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125: Someone who makes a living interpreting wildly subtle cues to figure out how people are likely to behave seems unlikely to be on the autism spectrum -- what Holmes does should be more, rather than less, difficult for someone with autism, no?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:37 AM
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129: I don't know. I'd think that somebody who had to expend some considerable effort to learn ordinary social cues might gain a skill that allows them to perceive details that other people never do notice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:44 AM
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(And of course ACD wasn't necessarily drawing with perfect realism or consistency. You get the initial description of how Holmes is astonishingly ignorant on irrelevant topics, and then throughout all the rest of the stories he's solving things on the basis of completely random bits of knowledge that look like the definition of irrelevancies.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:47 AM
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130: I can see your thinking, but in practice people on the autism spectrum don't tend to be able to compensate by developing unusually strong social/emotional insight on an intellectual, rather than an intuitive basis. Mostly, they end up in areas where social functioning is less important, and working around a certain amount of awkwardness. Which makes it hard to say what it would mean for ACD's Holmes to be on the spectrum -- autism spectrum wasn't a concept ACD had, Holmes isn't a very recognizable portrait of actual people on the spectrum ACD might have known, what's left?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 9:58 AM
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Mostly, they end up in areas where social functioning is less important, and working around a certain amount of awkwardness.

That's true of huge numbers of people who aren't on the spectrum, including some, uh, guy I know.

I'm not really trying to diagnose Holmes or put modern categories back there. I just think that ACD was clearly drawing Holmes as somebody who viewed society from the outside, even if he was not an outsider, and that outside view (mostly because of the very clinical nature of it) was how he gained much of his insight.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:04 AM
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That's true of huge numbers of people who aren't on the spectrum, including some, uh, guy I know.

Mmm. I have no personal reasons whatsoever for pointing out that not everyone who might be described as on the emotionally cold side and a little peculiar generally is diagnosable, fictional or not.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:05 AM
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On the definition of sociopathy -- I end up kind of wondering how you distinguish someone who's unable to feel guilt or shame from someone who's not cooperating with your test.

With a Voight-Kampff machine of course.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:10 AM
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Focusing on individuals like Holmes or the writer of the article is a sure sign of a sociopathic culture one that can't even imagine a truly social discourse, social health, or social pathology because of the solipsism of its atomistic individual atmans. Such cultures are narcissistic and projective.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:25 AM
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It's LB's fault. I think too highly of myself to ever allow me to develop narcissism.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:29 AM
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I mean, you can't even start with the "sociopathic" without a social context that defines its antisocial characteristics. Social mores are where you start. If you start by assuming:"Well, we are all maximally empathetic, so anyone with deficient empathy is a sociopath."

Check out, ohh, hedge fund traders, drone killings, bad healthcare, 3o% of Americans needing foodstamps to keep from starvation...

...and the serial killer without empathy is the social norm. The generous and kind person would be the sociopath.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:31 AM
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The designations of sociopath and psychopath exist to label people who are unfeeling and cruel in ways that are deviant and not socially approved. People who are unfeeling and cruel in socially approved ways are just your neighbors.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:38 AM
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You tell 'em, bob!


Posted by: Tywin Lannister | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:38 AM
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Do you know why you enjoy Don Draper? You are all narcissists. Oh, you think you are not? You are. And let me tell you what else. Long walks on the beach? Narcissists. Jello pudding pops? Narcissists. The laws of thermodynamics? Narcissists. Lamp? Narcissist. Single-celled organisms living next to tube worms 10,000 feet beneath the surface in a heat vent in the Sea of Cortez? Narcissists.

You don't want to hear these hard truths, but I will tell them to you.


Posted by: Opinionated Last Psychiatrist | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:41 AM
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141 made me laugh

Back to reading about the flattened elementary school for me. Still got nasty storms around these parts today.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 10:46 AM
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bob, would you prefer for a browser plugin that reads your comments aloud over a breakbeat to use the voice of James Earl Jones or of Beavis?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 11:04 AM
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Psychopaths also have a completely undisturbed ability to... form long term plans

Well that eliminates just about everyone I know.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-21-13 8:05 PM
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The Cossacks were notoriously unable to imagine a truly social discourse, social health, or social pathology because of the solipsism of their atomistic individual atamans.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 3:35 AM
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They would crush their enemies and leave them floundering in the slipstream of their atomic individual ottomans.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 3:38 AM
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Particularly adept Cossacks would receive a hedonistic individual attaboy.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 3:39 AM
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The Russian Empire was founded by (mostly democratic quasi-military) Cossacks who broke from the Don and Dnieper river valleys in Eastern Europe in the 1600-1700s, performing little pogroms of various groups with their horses in each others yurts.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 5:18 AM
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who broke from the Don and Dnieper

Enough about fucking Mad Men already.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 5:41 AM
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148: I thought it was vodka, Frotteurism, and the knout.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 5:51 AM
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Knut forever!


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 5:55 AM
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Dnieper? I barely dknew her!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 6:10 AM
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OT: Was Dean Martin ever fully conscious? In The Silencers he acts like half his body weight is Quaaludes.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 6:38 AM
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Someone who makes a living interpreting wildly subtle cues

"Wildly subtle" is quite a phrase.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-22-13 6:54 AM
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