What makes a psychopath?

  • #36
marcus
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selfAdjoint said:
FBI's conclusion on Columbine: http://slate.msn.com/id/2099203/ [Broken]

this is especially instructive because it reports a process of real people diagnosing a real person----with some uncertainty and the mess that goes along with reality

Harris was good at apologizing! He wrote a sympathetic letter to someone he was caught trying to rob, that sounds like sincere remorse, but his diary at the same time shows contempt and sense of entitlement and superiority. It is interesting. Here is some bits from the article:

----quote---
"In popular usage, almost any crazy killer is a "psychopath." But in psychiatry, it's a very specific mental condition that rarely involves killing, or even psychosis. "Psychopaths are not disoriented or out of touch with reality, nor do they experience the delusions, hallucinations, or intense subjective distress that characterize most other mental disorders," writes Dr. Robert Hare, in Without Conscience, the seminal book on the condition. (Hare is also one of the psychologists consulted by the FBI about Columbine and by Slate for this story*.) "Unlike psychotic individuals, psychopaths are rational and aware of what they are doing and why. Their behavior is the result of choice, freely exercised." Diagnosing Harris as a psychopath represents neither a legal defense, nor a moral excuse. But it illuminates a great deal about the thought process that drove him to mass murder.

Diagnosing him as a psychopath was not a simple matter. Harris opened his private journal with the sentence, "I hate the f---ing world." And when the media studied Harris, they focused on his hatred—hatred that supposedly led him to revenge. It's easy to get lost in the hate, which screamed out relentlessly from Harris' Web site:...

...It rages on for page after page and is repeated in his journal and in the videos he and Klebold made. But Fuselier recognized a far more revealing emotion bursting through, both fueling and overshadowing the hate. What the boy was really expressing was contempt.

He is disgusted with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he's not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority. It may look like hate, but "It's more about demeaning other people," says Hare.

A second confirmation of the diagnosis was Harris' perpetual deceitfulness..."
--------end quote----
 
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  • #37
zoobyshoe
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selfAdjoint said:
FBI's conclusion on Columbine: http://slate.msn.com/id/2099203/ [Broken]
Jenn-ucsb is right, though. What used to be called psychopathy, sociopathy or dysocial personality disorder, is now officially called Antisocial Personality Disorder. It's funny to see this FBI expert using the old fashioned term.
 
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  • #38
marcus
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zoobyshoe said:
Jenn-ucsb is right, though. What used to be called psychopathy, sociopathy or dysocial personality disorder, is now officially called Antisocial Personality Disorder. It's funny to see this FBI expert using the old fashioned term.

Dear taxpayer your child was just shot and killed at school by an Antisocial Personality Disorder or, as we in the profession might say, a severe case of "APD"...
 
  • #39
selfAdjoint
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Harris himself used the term of art "Natural Born Killer". Which of course assumes an aetiology that hasn't yet been proven.
 
  • #40
zoobyshoe
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marcus said:
Dear taxpayer your child was just shot and killed at school by an Antisocial Personality Disorder or, as we in the profession might say, a severe case of "APD"...
"Dear taxpayer your child was just shot and killed at school by a psychopath."

Hmmm. Doesn't seem to me the problem with this note is the terminology used, either way.

Your point seems to be, however, that if this FBI representative spoke to the public and media using the currently designated medical term for this condition, the media and public would find it to be too neutral considering the outrageousness of this killing spree. Is that what you were indicating?
 
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  • #41
selfAdjoint
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It seems to me that the point is not so much to "speak to the public" but to understand the conditions, with the hope and aim of detecting future killers before they kill. In that context, the least disturbing name possible is preferable. "Dr. Principal, we have detected that one of your students suffers from APD and is at risk for murdering people."
 
  • #42
the number 42
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Isn't this a little disturbing though? We are trusting psychiatrists to be what Laing called an elite police force i.e. to judge whether someone is morally sound or not (APD used to be called 'moral insanity'). Thus: "Dear Mrs Wilson, you son has passed his SATs but failed his DSM. He shows signs of nascent APD and will be removed to a special school for the potentially criminal for the rest of his (un)natural life. Yours etc."

I've heard that if you gave a risk taker e.g. fireman the MMPI-2 (like the DSM, designed for use with clinical populations) they would likely be diagnosed with APD. Can someone enlighten me on this point, please?
 
  • #43
selfAdjoint
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I don't know about your example of firemen and the MMPI, but there's research showing that individuals with APD are a plus in combat units, although you don't don't don't want all of the soldiers in a unit to have APD.

The original MMPI was calibrated on Minnesota farmers during the 1940's, not on college students.
 
  • #44
the number 42
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Sounds about right. I don't suppose empathy is a plus when it comes to bayonets etc.

Re: normative data from farmers, I have cheated and looked up the original MMPI manual. Apparently there were 250 precollege & college students, as well as an older group supposedly representitive of a cross section of the Minnesota population, giving a total of 950.

But get this: in the Handbook of Psychological Assessment (Groth-Marnat 1997, p.245), it says (referring to the updated MMPI-2) that "Normal persons who are graduate students in the humanities and social sciences often have somewhat elevated scores" on the Psychopathic Deviate scale! Ahh! At least it doesn't mean I'm mad, technically, just bad and dangerous to know! Also "normal persons who are extraverted, risk takers, and have unconventional lifestyles (skydivers, police officers, actors) are also likely to have somewhat elevated" scores.

I think it just shows you have to be a bit careful in labelling people, especially with terms like 'psychopathic deviate', or even PC terms like APD. I recall that a few years ago the UK government were trying to make it law that people with APD would be sectioned whether they had committed a crime or not (or something similar). This sounds okay if it means keeping potential murderers off the streets, but not if it means locking up all the social sciences graduates, skydivers, policemen (!) and actors. With the possible exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
 
  • #45
selfAdjoint
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I wonder why they limited themselves to grad students on the MMPI-1 update? The test has been severely criticised as not properly calibrated for various urban populations, you would have thought they'd try to cover that. Money, I supose?
 
  • #46
the number 42
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I doubt money is a problem for these guys. They charge a small fortune to use their materials.

But the thing that is worrying is that a lot of people swear by 'top-brand' tests like the MMPIs. And once you get branded APD, even momma aint going to want to know ya, even if you do have a social sciences degree.

But I'd like to make clear that I am all for the DSM, MMPI etc; its just that I get itchy when people seem to slip into the lazy habit of treating profiles as if they are the infallible truth. And we all know that only tarot readings are infallible (stir stir).
 
  • #47
Jenn_ucsb
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selfAdjoint said:
I wonder why they limited themselves to grad students on the MMPI-1 update? The test has been severely criticised as not properly calibrated for various urban populations, you would have thought they'd try to cover that. Money, I supose?

Yep, you guessed it. Money (and laziness). Clinical and counseling psych grad students usually are asked to take the MMPI as part of their assessment training, particularly in Minnesota ;) . Their scores are confidential, but used for free research. Everyone benefits...kinda.
 

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