I met at least two. Both were extremely vivid people, and deeper contact with them, when they turn off their cloaking field, was baffling: it was a bit like communicating with an alien.
In any case, these people were really, really far from being dull.
Those tho, were high functioning, highly educated people. I don't think that psychopathy tells the whole story about anyone - there's more to one's personality than psychopathy or absence of, and that one shouldn't be tempted to generalise such experiences.
It boggles my mind how anyone can write such nonsensical rambling comments while at the same time coding a 64 bit operating system from scratch.
We know he's there, he surely knows he's hellbanned, and he knows we know he's there. He's both the best and worst argument about hellbanning as an effective form of moderation.
Long, but worth the read.
Actually just go through the his submission history and randomly click a few links: https://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=losethos
You can actually see his condition gradually getting worse over months and years. I wonder if he would have turned out differently had we embraced him - and helped him?
This is one of the reasons why hellbanning is such a bad idea, leaving the poster to believe that everybody is actively ignoring him instead of just not being able to see him/interact with him.
Making regular healthy people waste a lot of their time posting content and feeling totally ignored is bad enough, subjecting people with mental health issues to that is even more unethical.
I'm offended by the thought and the idea that we should just ignore our ill. What if the person suffering from the mental illness was your brother or sister? Think about if it was you, and no-one reached out to you - how would you feel?
If a person does not go out of their way to do the things you listed, I do not consider that a moral failing on their part. Especially if the cost to them is more than the benefit to the other person.
If you keep jumping on bullets, sooner or later you run out of flesh.
It should be blatantly obvious that, were the situation different, I'd feel differently.
Not everything is a moral crusade, Internet warrior.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ramble. I have no criticism or suggestions to offer, just vague frustration and helplessness. But it does frustrate me, it's something that's been on my mind a lot of times, so thanks for the opportunity to say it, FWIW.
I think people are taking this the wrong way. A psychopath is not someone who is suffering a heavy mental disability who you should hug and comfort. Whether the personality type is a disorder or an innate talent/ability is up for debate.
A psychopath is a cold calculating personality type unburdened by empathy and certain emotions. These types of people are generally portrayed as super human by hollywood. Classic example: James Bond.
> Whether the personality type is a disorder or an innate talent/ability is up for debate.
Well, if it's the inability to feel empathy, remorse, and other things, shouldn't that be obvious? For me it's not a special talent of a dead person that they don't have to eat, or of Eliza that it's not really sentient. That lack in one area can lead to overcompensation in other areas still doesn't make it a special talent, it's just the expected result of practice. Everybody can be cold or calculating - to my understanding the the difference between that and a psychopath is the ability to NOT be cold and calculating. If being calculating is all that's on your palette, you get real good at it. This is my non-educated guess, anyway.
At any rate, you misread my comment, read it again, taking the post it's in reply to into account :)
When people stop providing value and start requiring value instead, their perceived societal value drops dramatically. In a way it's completely logical, but it's also really heartless.
AFAIK some of his comments are auto-generated. Markov chains from the bible.
I had a schizophrenic guy send me regular e-mails for about two months. For reasons still unknown to me, he decided that I was the one person in the world that he could trust.
The first e-mail was very short and looked like spam. It was a brief note about how the death of some professional wrestler wasn't an accident. Then they got longer and longer, and finally he started writing his messages out by hand, scanning them, and e-mailing me the scans.
This revealed something really interesting. He was scanning these things at work. He had what appeared to be a regular 9-5 office job at a large company, and he managed to keep a lid on things enough to hold down that job while writing pages and pages of paranoia to me and scanning them on the office multifunction machine.
The most interesting/amusing/sad part of all of this was a single handwritten page sent a day or two after one of the multi-page manifestos. It said, paraphrased, "I screwed up when I sent you that last e-mail. After I scanned the note, I tore it up as I always do, but this time I wore my glasses. I believe they read it." Evidently, this fellow believed he was under such pervasive surveillance that they (whoever they were) could see things through his own glasses. The elaborate procedures he went through to send me notes were apparently worked out to circumvent this stuff, but they required good operational discipline which he couldn't always handle. Or something like that! It clearly made perfect sense to him.
After a couple of months, I tracked the guy down with the help of some friends and got in touch with the local police so they could check on the guy, as he was clearly getting worse and I didn't think he'd be safe. I didn't hear anything after that until a couple of months later when a brief e-mail arrived from a relative that basically said, "Sorry about him hassling you, he's back on his meds now."
So, a happy ending, I guess. And certainly one of the most interesting things that's happened to me online.
This story makes me think of the portrayal of John Nash in a beautiful mind.
>"Sorry about him hassling you, he's back on his meds now."
>"Sorry about me hassling you, I'm back on my meds now."
And maybe you shouldn't be so offhandedly judgmental. I actually called a suicide hotline in the area first (the only mental health service I could come up with) and, after I convinced them that I wasn't suicidal, it was their suggestion to contact the police.
But yes, I guess it was terrible that this poor guy got help and got his life back on track.
To me, that seems to be the hallmark difference between hypomania and "real" mania, and what makes the latter more dangerous and scary-- the loss of insight into the condition, or that there even is anything amiss.
It hasn't reoccurred, but i'm now very aware that what I experience as reality is completely subjective to how my brain is functioning. Anything I experience right now could be a different version of reality. But at the same time, now that i'm aware it has happened, I can keep that in mind and consider it in the future. I have to believe that different forms of mental illness allow for the same kind of self-awareness, but it depends entirely on what parts of their brain are functioning (like if they can control their emotions and think clearly, which is hard enough for "sane" individuals already)
This is a big part of why schizophrenia is so hard to treat. With other disorders like OCD, patients generally do know they are unwell and are willing to accept treatment to improve it. With schizophrenia, patients are often rigidly convinced they are already healthy and refuse to be treated. They are incapable of understanding that they have an illness.
There's a big difference between the three. The first, the ones who know and care about it - you probably won't even notice he/she is suffering from it, unless they tell you. The others.. yeah.
Source: used to be a med student and a trained hospital sitter.
Comments like this show exactly how poorly our culture handles mental illness. Imagine if someone had said, "It boggles my mind how anyone can be deaf while at the same time coding a 64 bit operating system from scratch."
He isn't stupid, he's schizophrenic. Aside from his disease, all of his other faculties are as fine as yours and mine.
Schizoprenia on the other hand impacts the exact same faculty that is the most important one for programming, the brain. I don't think it's ignorant to be fascinated over how his illness so severly impacts his though processes while writing (and living), but apparently not while coding.
This is especially true when he is in racist mode, unfortunately.
I hope there is some way he can get help.
Like many other mental disorders, schizophrenics alternate between total detachment and relative sanity. Also, many schizophrenics maintain their full intellectual horsepower even when affected.
Schizophrenics can also go into remission late in life (after 50) and reach a point where, at least with medication, they're relatively unaffected. Spontaneous remission isn't common with SZ but it does happen.
FWIW, from what I've read (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/10/081110fa_fact_...) there were (at least) no therapies or treatments that reproducibly help psychopaths:
The psychiatric profession wanted little to do with psychopathy, for several reasons. For one thing, it was thought to be incurable. Not only did the talking cure fail with psychopaths but several studies suggested that talk therapy made the condition worse, by enabling psychopaths to practice the art of manipulation. There were no valid instruments to measure the personality traits that were commonly associated with the condition; researchers could study only the psychopaths’ behavior, in most cases through their criminal records.
And now there are, at least in the sense of reducing criminal behavior:
In a landmark 2006 study of a specialized talk-therapy treatment program, conducted at a juvenile detention center in Wisconsin, involving a hundred and forty-one young offenders who scored high on the youth version of the checklist, Michael Caldwell, a psychologist at the treatment center and a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, reported that the youths that were treated were much more likely to stay out of trouble, once they were paroled, than the ones in the control group.
But note that the linked article is from 2008. Perhaps things have changed since.
This depends largely on one's idea of "help". Nobody is going to cure psychopaths any time soon, but I'd be surprised if one can't (reproducibly) help them channel their drive into something productive.
researchers could study only the psychopaths’ behavior, in most cases through their criminal records
It's a fascinating disorder, really, in that the most severe cases are difficult to detect so long as they do not make mistakes.
To her, she had a problem: something was in her swimming pool, and it had to be removed from the pool so she could keep it clean. She tried to remove it, but it kept swimming away. So she drowned it, collected it, and cleaned the pool. The creature's pain never entered into the calculation for her.
The best analogy I can think of are open-world videogames. When you play Grand Theft Auto, are you being "cruel" to civilians? They aren't alive and don't have any feelings, so you may have no problem  doing seemingly cruel things to them to see how they react. You're not necessarily cruel, you're just curious how that world works.
Sociopaths see the world in a similar way that you see Grand Theft Auto.
 I'm empathetic enough that I feel empathy even for completely non-sentient characters in videogames. So I tend to be a goody-goody even in digital worlds.
I transferred into his location so I was new. He took it upon himself to be my friend and mentor. The first few months were fine. I go along with everyone and did a good job. This was his information gathering phase. I'm an open person so he learned a lot about me before the red flags went up.
He slowly began praising me, saying I was uniquely qualified for the job and the other guys weren't doing it right. He and I would show them how it was done. His charm and intelligence won me over and I was very flattered.
Simultaneously, he began turning everyone against me, making me dependent upon him. Feeling isolated, I found myself drawn closer into his orbit. I began suspecting him, but I found myself drawn like a moth to a flame to his charisma, praise and intelligence.
He had all the people in positions of authority fooled, so they trusted him. He began telling them without my knowledge that I wasn't very good at my job but he would look out for me.
If I deviated from what he wanted, no matter how small, his punishment was severe. I went to the authorities about this but they just shrugged their shoulders.
When I realized what was going on and being a computer person (this was when I was taking a break from a programming career), I managed to delve into the computer system and show with facts how he was cheating and how I was actually doing as well or better than the others. He responded by convincing them my computer skills were dangerous. They restricted my access to the database. He received a minor punishment because he was popular.
By cheating (and actually breaking the law in some cases) he managed to receive outstanding performance reviews. When the big bosses came to town he was recognized for his outstanding performance. He made sure to tell them I was a basket case that he was trying to bring along.
I began asking around about him. I found out he always wore long sleeve shirts to hide his prison tattoos. I foolishly thought I could fight him, so I found other ways to bring his cheating to light. This went no where because the other employees and management were afraid of him.
When he couldn't beat me outright, he enlisted a confederate to sabotage my work. With my guard up, I became very adept at justifying my work and proving I wasn't in the wrong.
I began noticing how he faked emotions. For example, he was essentially humorless, but he could fake a laugh that when you thought about it, was obviously fake and looked maniacal.
I became worn out, depressed and sick. I left the company. They all thought I was a "nice guy" and said they liked me and I believe they meant it, but thought it was to bad I wasn't up to the job. This was his end game, for the simple fact that he liked the company to be short handed so he could collect more over-time. I believe he actually liked me, but he liked the money more.
To answer your question: The psychopaths I've met are charming, intelligent, popular with people in authority. They get a free pass that others get punished for. You'll see how they cheat but never get in trouble for it and notice how other people are afraid of them. They have a way of working their way into control of any situation. They are very dominant, but in a charming way. They are usually what is called the 'alpha male.'
I'd say the big warning signs are cruelty, a repulsion of weakness while also finding it irresistible, rapidly changing tactics (sometimes within seconds) that shift between dominance and attempting to garner empathy that begin to appear shallow after the first few salvos, highly manipulative to ends that don't really matter, and always "clever".
So, the 130 IQ (+2 sigma) psychopaths are probably intelligent and self-aware enough to hold their "evil" tendencies in check and to succeed.
On the flip, the 70 IQ (-2 sigma) psychopaths probably do not have the self-insight to understand "why" they feel the way they do. Their impulse control will be much smaller, and they are much more likely to indifferently hurt people, commit crimes, and act on impulse.
I think we mostly are in agreement; I think the impulsive and antisocial tendencies of the psychopath are often self defeating and only the very intelligent navigate life successfully. We end up having a selection bias because we are likely to cross paths only with the latter subtype, so we end up believing that all psychopaths are superintelligent and verbally dazzling, while probably the majority of them is badly dull.
Judging by the comments here, the letter has done just that. One comment below notes that "Jeez, that's the single most interesting, insightful, and well-written piece I've read on the internet in a long time." Others are expressing a desire to meet the author or expressing how they can identify with the author. It's incredible to see just how effectively this letter resonates with the people who read it.
Don't get me wrong: It's both impressive and admirable that the author was able to not only admit that he needed therapy but to press on long enough to make therapy work for himself in an effective manner. I don't want to downplay his accomplishments. However, it is still interesting to dissect and observe all of the persuasiveness of the letter and the fluidity with which the author transforms psychopathy from a very difficult personality disorder into somewhat of a super power that the reader can't help but envy by the end of the letter.
As you read the letter and experience strong feelings of empathy for the author, consider his own poignant words at the end: "In the end, psychopaths need to be given that very thing everyone believes they lack for others, empathy."
The letter begins with the psychopath distancing himself from the traditional destructive psychopathic traits in the most admirable and self-aggrandizing way possible: He went against all odds and admitted himself into treatment, where he claims the health agency had never seen someone of his nature walk-in before and he was too incredible of a case for anyone but the highest-ranking therapist to handle.
He continues by setting up various straw-man caricatures of psychopathy ("cartoon evil serial killers" and the CEO who prizes profits over people) and knocking them down one-by-one, leaving the reader feeling guilty of possibly embracing those stereotypes at one point. With the reader feeling a bit guilty, empathetic, and as if the author's condition is simply misunderstood, the author has set the stage to rebuild the reader's view of psychopathy in a way that benefits the author.
Toward the end, he even goes so far as to put words in the reader's mouth just so he can turn around and undermine the very caricature of a psychopath he suggested you might hold : "Such as statement might tempt you to say 'well obviously you're not a real psychopath then'. As if the definition of a psychopath is someone who exploits others for their personal power, satisfaction or gain."
The rest of the article explains the author's psychopathy the way the author wants you to view it: As "a highly trained perception, ability to adapt, and a lack of judgment borne of pragmatic and flexible moral reasoning." He goes on to say that he "enjoy[s] a reputation of being someone of intense understanding and observation with a keen strategic instinct." At this point, the author has completely distanced his psychopathy from the purely negative caricature he painted in the first half of his letter. Who wouldn't be envious of such incredible, valuable, and morally-neutral abilities as he described them?
I've read the letter several times over, and I'm still amazed at how effective it is at garnering empathy from the reader and cultivating a sense that the author is an impressive individual who has triumphed over adversity after a great struggle. And it's true that overcoming your own objections to seek, and stick with, treatment for such a severe personality disorder is both impressive and admirable. His points about the general public's misunderstanding of true psychopathy are equally true, although he crucially omits any and all explanations of how psychopathy can actually be dangerous and destructive to others. It's an incredible piece of writing, and incredibly persuasive and manipulative in a way that I'm sure PR and marketing teams everywhere would be jealous of.
It was the literary equivalent of the cup-and-shell game. I saw the con happening right before my eyes and still got duped. Brilliant writing.
(Note: I refer to it as a con, but only for convenience. I don't think it's necessarily negative to leave the reading thinking exactly what the author wants you to think. The process C undertook for doing so was simply so well constructed that it didn't dawn on me that I was being expertly manipulated until tomstokes pointed it out.)
The most striking thing, in retrospect, is the manipulative talent they have, and how relentlessly and patiently they are to go for the "long con".
In my case, I happen to be very talented at programming and computer science. The psychopath (who has no particular scientific talent) I refer to found me, and basically befriended me and over time convinced me to work some 100+ hour weeks on an entrepreneurial project building prototypes. This would ordinarily be fine if the profit was split evenly, but only in retrospect did I realize the disparity of my persuaded reality from their distortion field versus actual reality -- i.e. this person took 100% credit for my work, and was sure to leave no evidence that I did anything so there was nothing I could do.
But that's not even the persuasive part. The persuasive part was when I brought this up with my "friend", saying "hey so I noticed you're taking complete credit for this with no mention of me" or something of that sort. I don't even remember the details, but this person masterfully diverted attention in such a way that I found it not important, and thought about other things.
Ultimately over time, I noticed all the little disparities (lies, deception, hints of absolute lack of remorse) and had a pretty good suspicion that this person was a psychopath. It was only when I caught him in a completely undeniable lie that it all exploded.
The excuses given when confronted were pretty impressive at the time, but I'm not stupid, and it was pretty clear he was struggling to come up with answers when confronted. The strangest thing though was despite me having hard and undeniable evidence, to this day he would refuse to admit the lie, and in fact tried to convince me to apologize for slandering him (despite him knowing very well I have conclusive evidence).
Then I let on I knew he was a psychopath. The change in personality was dramatic, creepy, and like something out of a horror movie. You don't know this person, but normally he has a very persuasive, seductive (in a non sexual way), and extremely socially charming and polite personality. When you're around him, he makes everyone feel good about themselves (part of his strategy to get people to follow him and do what he wants is making them addicted to feeling good about themselves around him).
But after he knew I knew, things were different. The attitude DROPPED completely. He had a stone cold expression, no emotion in his voice, and the coldest eyes and voice tone you could imagine. There was only one emotion he showed when I revealed I knew, and it was terror. Deep, deep terror he was struggling to conceal. This made the situation all the more creepy, because this person is characterized by being completely fearless (as is typical of psychopaths), but I suspect if it's one thing that scares a psychopath, it's being found out -- which btw is why this article from the OP is so remarkable (though no doubt it's just an attempt at manipulation, if you know anything about psychopaths). But beyond the terror you could see, there was nothing -- just pure cold and calculating rational self-serving thought. He immediately terminated a multiple year "friendship" without even a thought, and distanced himself from me after he realized I could not be persuaded and distorted into thinking I was wrong and imagining things.
Since then we've crossed paths only a few times, and you can tell he's still afraid of being revealed. He's doing well though in business as you would expect of a psychopath, climbing the social ladder very quickly to a future of possible fortune.
I should add that it is indeed a common misconception that psychopaths are cold blooded killers. The reality is in some ways much more scary. The stupid ones perhaps kill, but they eventually get caught. The smart ones are leeches on society, who have no regard for anything but their own animalistic desires of power, control, and inflated ego.
Also, having been "friends" with a psychopath gives an interesting perspective on other well-known figures. Though I never met him, I am convinced Steve Jobs is pretty high on the psychopathy spectrum. What's interesting is that Jobs accomplished something valuable to society, though not without leaving a trail of damage in his wake. The psychopath I met also has a strong motivation to make an impact in the world, to be known almost as a hero, no doubt to satisfy desires of ego and power. So perhaps society's social structure can work for good and turn the desires of a psychopath towards good (but unfortunately it can also work in reverse). So in a way, I think psychopaths aren't all inherently leeches on society if what they accomplish is positively impactful to it.
But you see... the scariest part of having encountered a psychopath is it's sometimes very difficult to know if that last thought is my own, or something I was persuaded to think.
Anyway, reading these comments I'm reminded of a friend, -- Jake, shall we call him. Jake has severe autism, but he is an incredibly smart guy and an excellent programmer. He's of old age now. He's completely broken... and he says the reason he's broken is no-one ever saw him as a friend, only as a worker they could use. Every other business person saw him as a tool that could write good code, and not complain about a shitty (or no) salary. I got to know some of the people who'd employed him... they were... well, just normal people, they were not psychopaths. I'm betting that a lot of people who're right now commenting on this article, and calling him are evil are possibly the people who'd use Jake just like psychopaths supposedly use mentally normal people. The power differential of a normal, average human being and Jake is comparable to the power differential of a psychopath and a normal, average human. Psychopaths see the weaknesses that can be exploited in normal people; normal people see emotional weaknesses in Jake - and they realize they can make him do whatever they want to, and he'll be helpless and voiceless in the end with you having gotten what you'd wanted from him.
You can no more teach a psychopath to be caring and empathic than you can teach someone with autism to implicitly understand social context and facial expressions. However, a psychopath will be thrilled to find someone who thinks they can "convert" them, because they can use this to their advantage.
On the other hand, I say some people over-demonize psychopaths though because they assume they're all on the extreme end of the spectrum and all with the same traits. For example, some autistic people can recognize facial expressions masterfully, but fail at other things. Similarly, not all psychopaths are alike or have the same motivations or methods.
If you read my post again, you'll note that I am admitting to the possibility that psychopaths can contribute positively to society, but only in as far as society arranges a cost/benefit system where positive contributions are rewarded more than negative ones.
However since there is really no scientific evidence a psychopath can truly change, you should not find it unsettling that we hold a non-scientific, subjective, anecdotal, and self-reported essay of change on the part of a psychopath with pessimism and doubt.
He will not attack you in public unless he has public on his side. Thats what makes a psychopath so horrible.
He will fuck you over then he will convince everybody else that you fucked him over.
Psychopaths are Varelse in emotional sense.
Unless you willingly let him fuck you in the ass again, then his psychopathic strategy will no longer work on you, and you will at least not cooperate, and possibly retaliate resulting in a net loss. In fact, this is extremely likely because it's in your incentive now to disincentivize him from further fucking you because you want to send the proper signal.
Psychopaths look at the world differently than we do, they are highly rational and self motivated, but that doesn't need we need to fear them, hide from them, avoid them, or try to lock them up. There are more ways to deal a person like this.
It's hard though to differentiate true psychopaths from those who simply share a few traits. When I read about psychopaths, I tend to find common traits within myself. I can't tell if I'm a psychopath or not. Are those who desire power, control, and inflated egos always psychopaths? Or do psychopaths just happen to always have that in common? Regarding myself for example, I may dream big and make promises that take time to meet, but I'm not a liar and I don't actively manipulate people for selfish gain; and I do crave power, control, and prestige, but not for the sake of it; I just know that those three characteristics are required to make some kind of real impact on the world that truly improves lives; and I've come to realize that if I want something to be done, I can't always rely on others to do it, so being in a respectable position of power and control is almost certainly required. Does that make me a psychopath?
When a normal person gets into a dispute, they worry about saving face and moral obligations, instinctively comfort (or maybe attack) the other person, etc, in an "I-Thou" situation. But a psychopath just sees a dispute as an "I-It" situation, like seeing a puddle on the sidewalk, something to casually (or carefully) navigate around, or (in the worst case) plow through and brush off.
No. I, and I suspect most ambitious people, also desire power, control, and have inflated egos to some extent. Psychopaths are still human (though broken) and also have these traits, but since they lack other traits like compassion, generosity, etc., the former tend to show through more.
One thing you can say about the human mind is that there's nothing binary about it.
No, that's a narcissist. Afaik psychos aren't attaching that much emotional involvement to their public persona. They might be annoyed if sussed out, but that's about it.
Edit: BellsOnSunday: I'm responding in an edit because for some reason HN doesn't allow me to reply directly to your post.
"Deep, deep terror" does not imply "strong, outwardly expressed terror." By "deep" I meant it was well concealed, deep rooted, and rarely encountered whatever it was. If you replace the word "terror" with "unsettled loss of composure", the sentiment remains the same. The latter is perhaps more accurate, the former takes less words and is what first came to my mind when initially describing it.
> There was only one emotion he showed when I revealed I knew, and it was terror. Deep, deep terror he was struggling to conceal.
> I must admit the "fear" I thought I detected was subtle at best
you seem to have got a bit carried away in the telling of your story (which sounds to me like a rather standard one of someone taking advantage of another in a business situation).
Everyone is afraid of something. Psychopaths are still people. If you believe someone is fearless, it's a safe assumption they either hide their fear (when they feel it) extremely well, or you simply haven't encountered it yet.
That is, are they less afraid of car crashes and drowning, or just less afraid of pissing people off (because they don't care about other's personal needs, and because they can easily "fix" a relationship with the advantages of deception)
Did you think about telling anyone or did you even tell anyone, so that maybe others don't have to go through the same thing you did?
It is insane how memories can be overwritten. I can write at length on this, I learnt it from videoing her talking to me. They have total frame control and will keep switching subjects away from facts.
I never confronted her to tell her that I knew who she was, but she did warn me indirectly. She showed the 'psychopath face', if that means anything to anyone...
> "Don't mess with me."
I heard this exact phrase, he said it right to my face. I didn't think at that moment that I'm posing any threat. Perhaps the guy overestimated me.
To me, it's far more dangerous to confront someone who is a master manipulator and expert at knowing how to do so subtly and undetectably, versus someone who throws around angry threats. The latter is almost harmless, unless it's backed up by the former.
Apart from his feelings he didn't have feelings? I appreciate you telling your story and I realize you were taken advantage of, and he treated you unquestionably bad, but painting this person as completly unhuman is not very helpful.
It seems to me that the things you describe here is an extreme end of human nature, but in way outside human nature. The best laws of physics are the one that are valid from all perspectives, so it is with the laws of human nature. Having a completly ad-hoc theory for someone elses behaviour is not emphatic or useful.
The trouble with much of this discussion is that, apparently, once classified as a "psychopath", all bad behavior is typical and all good behavior manipulative.
Furthermore, though, minds are assembled of, and driven by, complex and messy mechanisms: "lack of remorse" means what, exactly? Lack of feeling? Or, perhaps, the person feels it but chooses to ignore it? Are they ignoring it for self-serving reasons? What if those "self-serving" reasons are necessary because of the job one has (e.g., military)? Similarly, "lack of guilt" means what, exactly? Is it lack of learning what things one should feel guilty for? Is "feeling guilt" a learned skill, or does its ontogeny happen "all on its own"? (whatever that means; but in any case, we cannot have had the capacity to feel guilt "since conception")
You say you don't necessarily mean "con", but "manipulated" definitely implies you feel you were led to believe something likely false that you wouldn't have otherwise via trickery, etc.
The letter may have no long-term purpose, but it might be written that way because the author is so used to this way of thinking.
Despite his intent, I believe that I left the letter thinking exactly what it was designed to make me think. Therefore, the actual mechanics of the letter (which were outlined well by tomstokes, in my opinion) were excellent at eliciting what I assume is the intended response. This is akin to successful manipulation, but may not necessarily be from a place of malice on the part of C. However, C's changing my opinion of psychopathy does in fact place him in a more advantageous position if the two of us were ever to meet, thus I was manipulated.
Judging by the comments here, the parent's been pretty successful. One comment below notes that "What's brilliant about this letter is how easily I stepped into it." Others are calling the parent's analysis "fantastic". It's incredible to see just how effectively this parent comment resonates with the people who read it.
Don't get me wrong: It's both impressive and admirable that the parent was able to not only paint the original author's analysis as manipulative, he was able to build such a persuasive and fluid dissection of it. What's truly amazing is how the parent transforms the original author's letter from an anonymous insightful expression to a vile manipulation of the reader that the reader can't help but feel fooled by the end of the parent's comment.
As you read the comment and experience strong feelings of guilt about having been manipulated by a psychopath, consider this: You can paint pretty much anything effective as a psychopath's manipulation. For an author to be effective, she must portray her beliefs as effectively as she can. Discrediting the words of any person - psychopath or otherwise - on grounds of them being capable of effective manipulation serves little purpose and just perpetuates a stereotype.
As I stated below, the article more or less claims the author has magical supper powers. He overcomes the great internal struggle (with some help from the great expert) and ultimately chooses to use his powers for the good of the world.
The comment isn't transformative when the article is taken at face value- self aggrandizing.
If your position is that all convincing self-accounts by psychopaths are themselves only convincing because the psychopath is somehow 'tricking' you, then you can take that statement and s/psychopath/any group you care to name/ and you'd never know the difference.
Don't believe me? Try substituting various bogeymen of the twentieth century: crack dealers, pedophiles, etc. You see what I mean? It always works: You shouldn't trust what pedophiles say because, well, they're pedophiles!
Generalizing, there's always a reason why someone's supposed perfidy makes them an untrustworthy speaker, and that's a problem.
One floor down, what's going on is 'begging the question' -- not in the colloquial motivates-the-question sense, but in the sense that you are assuming what you set out to prove (circular reasoning).
CLAIM = C is a psychopath; therefore, don't trust him when he says C is good.
CLAIM' = X is a Y; therefore, don't believe X's claim that Z.
But there's still an implicit claim hiding! In fact, it's the value of Z. Let's suss it out:
CLAIM'' = X is a Y; Ys are untrustworthy; therefore, don't believe X when X says that Ys are trustworthy.
There you have it: a textbook case of circular reasoning. That's the sort of thing C is talking about: people get so emotional when they think about psychopaths, they fail to hold themselves up to the same standards for rational discourse at which a psychopath ironically excels.
Your logic chop fails because one of the elements of psychopathy is being a convincing liar.
"Does my bum look big in this"?
"Hi, wow you look great...."
And so on.
Humans lie. If they didn't, they'd be in constant conflict.
Reading the top parent of this thread was very interesting because he was thinking in exactly the way I had been conditioned to think at that time in my life.
When a person in your life lies to you or manipulates you, you will certainly begin to question the value of other interactions from that person. Once you have confirmed that the person has a personality type that makes them particularly likely to lie or manipulate (compulsive liars, psychopaths, criminals, what have you), you must be careful about your interpretation of any communication. But here's the real difficulty: If a psychopath is trying to manipulate you and knows that you are conscious of it, the manipulations morph. They adapt to your particular defense. In the institutional setting, they're in it for the long haul so they don't mind missing a couple times. In fact, getting caught is often part of the manipulation.
I wandered off my initial topic here so I better wrap it up.
Certainly lots of paedophiles are terrible liars.
Thus you can't debunk him just by saying "Don't believe him because he is a psychopath is insufficient".
If you want to pin all of his logic on that baseline theory (which would be stretching it), then your replacement no longer works, as crack dealers aren't known for being persuasive and manipulative in words in that way. Similar for most other distrusted groups.
But we are both just conjecturing :).
He made no such generalization. He simply talked about this one self account.
See, I positioned myself for not getting it quite right -- I can say, "this means I'm probably less psychopathic than you."
Once you see that, the material of the letter takes on a different aspect. Even if it weren't from a psychopath, it would be enlightening.
(I have other issues with your use of naive logic based on non-probabilistic propositions, but you may be doing that to dumb it down for the audience.)
In fact, why this young man's treatment likely exacerbated his psychopathic acumen, is because it gave him an entirely new language to dissimulate with. Why the psychopath is untreatable, is because it is a "lying" disorder. The essence of psychopathy is profound dishonesty. It is an inversion of meaning, an inversion of the order, where good becomes bad and bad becomes good. Where kindness is reformulated through the process of the ultimate lie, which is a perversion in the thinking processes. Evil triumphs. It is strong and good. The psychopath has only the machinery of perverse reasoning to use to cogitate reality. Thus he lies not only to others but necessarily lies to himself about himself.
Because of this endogenous dishonesty, he is intrinsically incapable of telling the truth. Thus he cannot accurately self-assess. He can never formulate a truthful thought due to this profound mental perversion that is the hallmark of this disorder. He has only acquired more slick, refined and better labguage to dissimulate others as a "treatment success." Thats why so many of you were duped into feeling empathy for him. He is simply pulling for it in you, but he has no empathy for you. It is all just a game for him. There is nothing genuine about his letter. Feeling empathy for a psychopath is a fools game. That is like having the profound mental perversion that is the hallmark of this pernicious disorder. He only coopts new slicker, more refined language as a "successfully therapized".
I disagree: People who believe their own lies eventually get caught off guard by the discrepancies between their lies and life. That leads to their downfall.
Unless you believe that your motivational orientation is made of some magical pixie dust handed down by the Holy Ghost, you should keep in mind that your instincts, your sense of morality and right and wrong and all those gut feelings are engendered by a truly massive utility computation; your feelings of selflessness as you drop the coins in the bell ringer's jar, your protectiveness toward your children, your lesser protectiveness toward your more distant kinship relations, all of it is equivalently cold-blooded. It's just dispersed enough that you don't see it for what it is.
So when you stop talking to your friend because he's annoying, or you don't give money to that homeless guy because you've already gave enough money, and maybe he's a drunk; and you buy a nice present for your nephew but not your coworker's kid, and you think it's best that your grandmother died because she was suffering so terribly, you're a psycopath, too. There's just a lot of epiphenomenal stuff larded on top of it.
Instead, reading it gave me the impression of somebody obsessed with themselves - somebody with a superiority complex. Nothing more, nothing less, and I've met plenty of people who have that in different amounts. But maybe that is what psychopathy is?
I hope not because I had a similar reaction to the letter.
Made me wonder if this person is indeed changed, or if there's a just new manipulation game underway.
You might be right, but you seem to accuse the writer of a hidden agenda because he tries to gain the sympathy of the reader. If he didn't try at all, would you see callousness and cold detachment (and therefore a psychopathic trait) in this? What would constitute for you a honest, non-manipulative account of the same facts described in the post? How should it have been written to be consistent with the 'psycho no more' scenario?
If it's true, that is. Pathological lying is a part of Hare Psychopathy Checklist. The entire article may well be totally made up.
Also, maybe I am wrong, but I don't think there are people who "just are" psychopaths? I mean, if it's chemical/hormonal, it could theoretically fixed that way... and if it's not, then it might not be "fixable", but it's not magic either, and layers and layers and layers of defense, redirections and rationalizations are expected. Nobody wants to accept that the center of their pearl is some banal, useless, accidental piece of dirt someone else or the wind put there. But that's usually what it is, I think. And pearls can kill, they're not pretty at all. They're like a scab turned cancer.
I agree that considering psychopaths as some spooky "other" is silly, it's all a matter of degree, and I guess we only call it psychopathic once it crosses a threshold. That is, I doubt anyone here can claim they never used someone, or calculated more coldly than they let on, or looked down on sentimentality when they didn't feel sentimental about a particular thing. Or maybe I'm projecting, I don't know. I know putting others down because I felt crappy, and for me that letter sounds like a much more elaborate and Machiavellian version, but still kinda the same.
TL;DR: The thing about the powerful is that they're not, that's why they need power, and of course the alligator part of the brain gets real good if that's all you use. Use your mammal brain to see what a small achievement that really is.
Also a fantastic example of why real world psychopaths are so dangerous. Most don't kill or commit any serious crimes. They just win people over and draw them in, smoothly and very easily. Until it is to the psychopath's advantage (or impulse, really) to use, hurt, and leave others behind them.
Here's something even more fascinating, and surely much more controversial - now re-read that letter, and try and count how many times you hear in it echoes from Ayn Rand's characters, or from the writer herself.
I was actually waiting for a reveal of something like, "And I discovered the reason I connected with the top therapist so well was because she was a closet psychopath!"
(IANA psychiatrist, needless to say)
In fact, I suspect that most people who flaunt their psychopathy on the internet are in fact narcissists. The two psychos I've met in my life couldn't have cared less for attention from the public at large or validation of their struggles. I can't really imagine them writing an open letter about their condition, an act that doesn't provide tangible control, or money, nor damages an enemy. On the other hand, narcissists needs validation and attention and writing an open letter is attention-seeking behaviour (which we are involuntarily feeding).
Nah. I'm kidding. I'm just generally distrustful of words and people that utter them.
Think about the similarities. A good entrepreneur/venture capitalist should be:
-Ruthless, selfish, unsympathetic
-Capable of manipulating, good at acting, great at selling a concept and convincing others to drink the kool-aid
-Unfazed by negative outcomes
-Unaware of (or at least, unfazed by) social norms and the status quo
-Creative, capable of thinking radically differently than everyone else
I've seen this comparison a few times, and now I can't seem to find any of the articles that I have read.
In my mind, everyone who is devious is creative, but not the other way around.
For all we know, he could have given us a 100% spot-on description of psychopathy, or he could be lying through his teeth - without experiencing his life, we have no way of knowing the difference.
I suppose this is possible for /any/ self-description of the internal state of a human mind, but this particular condition obviously muddies the water to an extreme degree.
As a "reformed" psychopath, the article is all about him, his abilities and how he should be treated. Further, he claims that he sees "weakness", as if everyone he has or could have manipulated and screwed over was "weak" (instead of being someone who trusted him, which could theoretically be the same, but in practice most people would consider different), and he has just learned to control himself and not exercise his superior strength.
In reality, a psychopath is indirect, delusional and self-centred, and they will lie, subvert, cheat, steal and abuse to get their way, but rarely ever seek out true weakness in themselves (unless you count covering emotional vulnerabilities artificially) or make a stand for anything. For being a "strong" person obsessed with finding "weakness", you can pop the bubble of a psychopath simply by showing his network of followers and clingers exactly what he is...psychopaths are a strange mix of selfishness and deluding and changing themselves to fit in. They preach to others, put others down and castigate the flaws in others, but the second you put irrefutable evidence of the psychopath's incompetence, weakness or maliciousness in the open, in a way that everyone believes, he will have a meltdown and flip out. It's kind of like people who hang out on Internet forums, rise to the top of the ranks by spewing mindless platitudes and bullshit, who pretend to be rational while criticizing others mercilessly, and then when someone outs them as incompetent, malicious or even maybe just wrong, they throw a big fit and implode.
Finally, he talks about how his psychopathy gives him superior "strategic" abilities, but in reality, psychopathy actually limits long-term thinking and planning. They actually tend to be very impulsive, and one of the key tenets of psychopathy is a short-term, parasitic lifestyle.
He used the piece as a selfish exercise to bolster himself, paint his actual or potential victims as weak, and did it all with absolutely nothing based on reality, hence, I do not believe his is sincere.
Some of the commenters on this topic seem to ascribe superhuman rationality and brainpower to psychopaths. I don't think that's a correct way to look at it. They can be very smart, but they suffer from the same set of biases and blind spots and Dunning-Kruger type of phenomena as other people. I think the defining characteristic is the complete lack of empathy and the willingness and ability to manipulate people (practicing the skill from early childhood, hence very good at it).
I was just looking up one of the smartest and most pronounced psychopaths I've met in recent years. Apparently he got his MBA and started an offshore private equity fund, seems to be doing well for himself. The guy had monumental talent for manipulating people. I wonder how far will he go before people catch on to his true nature...
Unfortunately, society does not seem to have yet evolved the mechanisms to deal with these parasites effectively. The law is hardly a useful tool, given how "flexible" and corrupt it is, and how money aka power is so important in manipulation of the law versus "truth". Economists aka amateur sociopaths are finally beginning to realize an obvious truth - that most humans are not rational actors strictly concerned with profit and loss but that decisions are based on emotion much more than they'd like to admit and so this has a significant effect on economic behavior.
All this does matter because ask yourself - what of the effects these people have on the lives of those they exploit? what sort of setbacks do the good people end up facing and how much of a drain is it on their lives and their efforts to -contribute- to society as a whole? I see so much waste because of the unnecessary chaos the sociopathic introduce to society as a whole. They are a threat and capital punishment is a logical response, because they can not be rehabilitated. But given how society is organized, rich white people are never going to be executed, or even prosecuted, for their crimes unless they're so egregious they can't be ignored.
Even then, the case of Jimmy Savile (in the UK) is an example of how humanity still is little nothing more than talking chimpanzees who respond more to and are controlled by instinctual behavior patterns versus the ability to cogitate like "we" think we are able to. Jimmy was a sociopath, everyone knew he was a pedo, but nothing was done because no one wanted to speak up because of the social cost. Things are better these days, of course, so maybe in another 100 years, there will be a test toddlers are given to track whether they are likely to be sociopathic, and more effort will be put into preventing the development of such evil monsters. It is like the Head Start program in the States - prevent issues down the road by ensuring children have the best psychological foundation established as early as possible.
This probably explains why people get more conservative as they get older - they see how screwed up the world is and retreating into pseudo-authoritarianism makes sense, emotionally. But conservative values these days are just cover for the authoritarians. I guess I am complaining about the fundamental lack of integrity of Western society that is so obvious anymore. On that note, I just picked up "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" which looks like a good read.
A small population of actors, inclined to gain power, and ruthless in conduct forces all members of the community to act in concert, lest they be cast out entirely.
This might also explain the disconnect of an organization like the NSA, made up of mostly decent, sincere people, engagin in profoundly anti-social, if not downright illegal, activities.
Sounds about right. I thought it was pretty 'normal' to feel this way sometimes...
I’m not a psychopath, but I have high levels of social anxiety and probably high functional Aspergers. Every situation I didn’t rehearse in my head is incredibly exhausting, and even then, if it gets too complex I feel the urge to withdraw — and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a jerk coworker being a jerk or someone I like dropping a compliment bomb on me, or even, if I’m not the best shape, a partner being affectionate.
We override our deficiencies, but it’s tiring.
If someone calls me on the phone then I can have a good conversation, palpations and sweating aside. However if I have to call someone then unless I do it immediately whilst suppressing the desire to think about what I'll say I go to complete mush and procrastinate my way to distraction. Mainly it's one-to-one I have a problem with.
I'm guessing you're an introvert, right? It seems to me that most introverts experience social situations as "draining".
There seems to be confusion about what constitutes 'strength' and what constitutes 'weakness' in regard to human personalities (or 'hard' vs 'soft')
For example, compulsively manipulating other people is more properly regarded as a weakness, I think. Whereas getting up on a stage and being open and vulnerable in front of a crowd, that's strength. It can inspire people and produce lasting change.
People with heavy streaks of psychopathy, or narcissism, or whatnot, are on a different path to the rest of us. It's better to avoid them where possible, tempting though it is to hope they will eventually acknowledge their faults and apologise. However, not having access to various feelings is going to create straightforward problems in their lives which can in principle lead to private acknowledgement and progress being sought. So I refuse to regard them as incurable cases
This here is the crux of the matter, and we only stand to lose if we go on with all the hyperbole and analogies around psychopathy. The value and consistency of what constitutes "weak" and "strong" depends to a large extent on the feedback we (and "they") get in everyday interaction (whether they live in a city or grow up around Baloo the bear). Burying psychopathy down to some exclusive and immutable genetic level is to ignore this (I'm not talking about causes here, but about behavior reinforcement and motivation).
Birds of a feather?
I personally think we should look into what we can learn from this set of behavioral algorithms (the good, the bad and the ugly) and how you can balance it to leverage its benefits while not suffering from its drawbacks. That's at least how I deal with it.
"The test of their self-superiority is their ability to rapidly find weaknesses in others, and to exploit it to its fullest potential.
But that is not to say that this aspect of a psychopaths world view cannot be modified. These days I see weaknesses and vulnerabilities as simple facts - a facet of the human condition and the frailties and imperfections inheritent in being human."
I would like to meet this person.
I find it very helpful to surround myself with people that have a different way of seeing the world.
No, no no no no. No you would not. Not unless you mean it like "I'd like to meet a serial killer, just for the experience." Maybe it'd be interesting to get their point of view, sure, but you are far better off without them in your life. And certainly without having any form of relationship with them.
One of the main reasons this guy wrote this letter was probably self-aggrandization. The very fact that you find him more interesting is exactly what he wanted. That's not inherently a bad thing.
What's inherently a bad thing is that when human remorse and guilt have been genetically disabled, those people will do things to you which are fucked up. I have experienced the blunt, raw force of their emotional carpet bombing firsthand from a certain family member.
Everyone needs to remember that these people are hardwired to be deliberately manipulative, because they feel good only when you're giving them attention. Then they feel good only when you're doing things they've conned you into believing you want to do; sometimes things you'll feel shitty about for the rest of your life, once you snap out of it and realize you've been a puppet.
We're all trying to do our thing, he, you and I included.
More love, less hate. Please.
It's why I'm trying to call attention to how dangerous they are. But words aren't adequate to convey the breadth and magnitude of their ability to carve out chunks of your life for their own purposes. They'll take all your love and steamroll you in return.
I'm not loving nor forgiving and although I do poses empathy and remorse can contentiously suppers it.
Everything has to be earned with me.
This applies to everybody including my own parents.
I grew up around manipulative people i know how to deal with them. I actually instinctively distance myself from them.
I'm not saying I would be his friend but i find his point of view valuable as long as he doesn't try it with me. I would notice if he did.
You actually come off like someone who claims that they had grown up around airplane pilots and therefore can handle gravity. It’s actually unlikely you can.
"I would notice if he did.”
I’m just going to call that posturing.
The only thing i meant by that is that he/she is the sweet, loving, sensitive type nothing wrong with that but may not be well suited for some things.
I on the other hand am fascinated by psychology and love surrounding myself with different types of people even psychopaths.
Everybody has to offer a unique way of looking at things.
Some may consider that crazy, maybe it is.
I don't fall under any definition of normal that's for sure but normal is boring anyway.
Sweet/loving/sensitive type dismissal shows a huge disconnect. People hurt that way include soldiers, astronauts, public performers, politicians, enterpreneurs and many others. You're not really looking into people, you're romanticizing the diseases they have, and that really comes off as patronizing in most cases, and in this case as reckless and patronizing.
Being "nice" or "compassionate" to others does not require martyrdom to those who don't (or physiologically/neurologically cannot) respect boundaries and don't return the same kindness.
Not referring to the OP here, but some people are wholly toxic and cannot have a meaningful relationship with you that doesn't involve the erosion of your own person and physical/mental health. These people may be toxic for a long time, even for your whole life. While people should be treated kindly, don't confuse being kind with being an emotional dumping ground for someone that doesn't respect your boundaries.
Timothy Treadwell was very loving/caring toward bears. Then he got eaten by one. Some people will do the same to you. Keeping a respectful safe distance is not hateful.
I was in a relationship with a psychopath. Love does not matter to these people. Your emotions do not matter to these people. Your intentions do not matter to these people. The only thing that matters to a psychopath is their own ego and self-aggrandizement. You're taking an incredibly naive view that will likely leave you completely taken advantage of and hurt. It doesn't matter how much love you show a psychopath, it won't ever be enough. They will try to manipulate you to make you feel like you're not doing enough for them. They will be the victim when it suits them and helps their argument, or they will be the victor when it suits them.
Love does not matter to a psychopath. I gave her every ounce of love I had available to me, every ounce of understanding and care. It might as well have not happened. She still thinks (I'm not sure if she genuinely believes this, or is just trying to be manipulative) that I was a horrible boyfriend who was too selfish to give her what she needed (I paid for her to live in my apartment, I paid for about 95% of her food, I helped her find her first job, I helped her move cities).
Love does not matter to a psychopath. The only way to win that game is not to play.
If you think of people like psychopaths and serial killers as fire, and your experience of getting burned (whether it was in your control or not), you might acknowledge that circumstances could be set up where a meeting with a psychopath could happen in a safe and protected way.
People who are very different from you (even dangerous) probably share traits with you that are much more exaggerated in themselves. Their experiences have analogs to yours, and even though they are fundamentally different from you they can still teach you a lot about yourself.
I would relish the opportunity to meet a serial killer. Would I meet him in a dark ally with no law enforcement or witnesses? Of course not, if I had any control I would avoid that scenario. If I had the opportunity to let a psychopath become an integral part of my family, I would reject that as well (not everybody has the luxury, I understand). But if we are meeting for coffee in a reasonably populated restaurant, I think the conversation could be very beneficial to myself.
Dangerous does not guarantee disastrous.
Honestly, did you read the entire letter? Because he clearly address that point:
Its true that I do not 'feel' guilt or remorse, except to the extent
that it affects me directly, but I do feel other emotions, which do not
have adequate words of description, but nevertheless cause me to derive
satisfacton in developing interpersonal relationships, contributing to
society, and being gentle as well as assertive.
Yes, what he wrote is interesting, and I read all of it. No, I don't believe he feels "satisfaction in contributing to society." I believe he feels satisfaction in contributing to himself and his own self-image, even unblinkingly at the expense of others.
I'm of course biased in this, having been the target of one of these manipulators, so maybe it's better to ignore me. But man, be grateful you weren't the target, because it had pretty dramatic effects on my life, and took a long time to get over.
When the tiger tells you that he's overcome his taste for human flesh he could be quite sincere, or he could be lying. Even if sincere, he could be wrong.
I wish the fellow the best of luck, and I hope one day we can build a society where we can safely accommodate all the people like him. When I go to the zoo, I feel compassion for the tigers in their cages. But if they're loose, padding around the halls, I'd hope that I'd have the sense not to try to snuggle up to them, no matter how tame they seemed.
Absolutely yes, but I also can't help but notice the argument as you are making it is a bit too powerful; no matter what he says or does, there's no way for him to overcome the argument. We're only a short step away from simply labeling someone a psychopath, then declaring you can't trust anything they say.
We can't really know his internal mental and emotional state here, and that's not unique to psychopaths, that's true of everybody. You may very well still be correct. For all I know, the whole story is made up from whole cloth. But it's at least possibly true, too.
One possible answer is that it's a counter-adaptation to psychopathy. If some people are naturally monsters, being naturally afraid of monsters might be a good adaptation.
That's not to say we shouldn't treat him with compassion, or that we should treat him as a monster. But people who haven't seen the damage a predator can cause are often too glib; they literally can't imagine how dangerous another human can be.
You wouldn't pass any of the dozens of psychopath tests available if you lacked these traits, and you certainly wouldn't call yourself a psychopath.
I'm sure these tests can be defeated though.
Please keep in mind I'm not a psychologist or expert on the subject.
So being a pathological lier means there’s something wrong. It might be psychopathy. It might be some consequence of anxiety. Or something else entirely.
Mostly a human gene pool's survival and prosperity is best served by community co-operation, mutual support and self sacrifice for the good of loved ones and other community members. Sometimes though, the group as a whole has had it and the route to the survival of any of the gene pool is for one or a few to sacrifice the rest and make an all-out bid for personal survival. E.g. a terrible winter in which there is insufficient food and everyone is starving to death.
Another situation where psychopathy could be useful is warfare. Sometimes having a cold blooded killer with no remorse on your side isn't such a bad thing.
Ultimately, it's a matter of variety. You never know what challenges your community is going to face, and what range of behaviors are going to be optimal. Having a full range of behavior types available in your community gives it flexibility in it's response, especially to to existential challenges.
[Edit: Afaik, psychopathy is not turned on after someone reaches adulthood. An evolved strategy for catastrophes would be turned on at e.g. hunger or stress.]
I especially wonder if warfare is a good example? Most of the time when humans evolved we were in a clan society. Clan warriors aren't generally known for live and let live-attitudes to people from outside their clan anyway; a psychopath would probably not stand out much in blood thirst. (And if you are in a war party, you really really need to trust the members in the party. Manipulative people would not last long when they were caught at it.)
Even among tribal societies, warfare is highly ritualized in a manner that does not optimize for maximum lethality. Richard Gabriel, in studies on tribal societies in New Guinea have noted that hunts occurred with accurate feathered. Tellingly, tribal warfare employed featherless arrows. Similarly "counting coup" among American Indians involves touching rather than killing the enemy.
Cold blooded killers have their uses for society, especially in warfare. An excellent book on this subject is On Killing.
Groups of people have always been more ruthless than individuals. Psychopaths are remarkable not in their ruthlessness but in their ability to achieve it all by themselves.
It's different than the normal HN fare, but worth a read. We may be a society of killer apes, but we're not as eager to kill in warfare as you might think. Especially when the other guy was compelled at gunpoint by his government to join the military (that is, drafted) just like you were.
For stylized cattle raids (e.g. historical Ireland, before the vikings) among old neighbors, there will of course be agreed levels below extermination (or the neighbours will be gone long before western contact).
Detachment is pretty clearly a (potentially) useful trait for a leader. Same thing for stuff like charisma.
For example, a leader might be good for their country at the expense of the international community. Or a senator might be good for their state but bad for their country. Or an activist might be good for his community but bad for society at large.
Such a person probably wouldn't be popularly seen as a shirking parasite. The subgroup that benefits would probably say they were doing a super job.
(Your argument also miss that psychopaths manipulate and damage the direct environment around them most.)
Indeed, if psychopathy is a combination of traits ('feels no empathy' and 'good at faking empathy') perhaps the survivors had a combination of traits that helped them to survive, while those with one or the other failed to survive.
There are large effects on behavior of psychopathy, people that are affected by a psychopath will mostly -- at a minimum -- make a point of warning everyone else they know. That is very detrimental for the psychopath. (Note that how we communicate really applies evolutionary pressure. Just check the number of muscles in a human face compared to most anything else. This is not a small effect.)
Also, psychopathy seems to be partly environmental and partly from genetics. And exist in most populations.
All this suggests an evolved behavioral strategy.
Researchers need to check for your hypothesis (the large different effects almost cancels each others out in many types of historic societies(!), so it is just a random genetic drift) since afaik it is a standard hypothesis, but it does seem very unlikely.
As for the advantage, it seems pretty clear to me: higher chances at being the alpha-male(female?), plus the resource advantage due to not having the ability for reciprocal altruism (and the ability to get away with that).
All few human psychopaths I have personally met were natural-born leaders. One is now occupying a high-level position within a successful company that produces manupulative F2P games. Another was a woman who, despite her being deaf-mute, was able to organize a successful remote web studio (before it fell apart due to her politicking and other members, including me, bailing out).
Also, quoting Wikipedia: "In Mongolia alone as many as 200,000 of the country's 2 million people could be [Genghis] Khan descendants".
Edit: if I remember correctly, Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene discussed cheaters (that is, individuals who didn't reciprocate) as being a viable evolutionary strategy, as long as they are in a minority.
The second thing to keep in mind is that many traits form a spectrum (particularly psychological traits). While the endpoints of the spectrum will likely be very problematic, there may one or more areas in the middle of the spectrum which are advantageous. Furthermore, it may be advantageous to have a variety of the trait in a population.
Every now and then someone is born with one of their balances in an extreme position. The genes that express the balance either missing or just heavily surpressed.
It is not necessary for every kind of gene expression to be beneficial to mankind in general, as long as the average range of gene expressions are beneficial to our survival.
tl;dr: A certain amount of variation in genes is beneficial to survival of our species, extreme variation (like psychopathy) is less relevant (unless a psychopath wipes out all of us, which is a commonly known weakness of evolution in general)
If psychopathy is genetically linked to say, a better resistance to cold or hunger, then it might stay even with the disadvantage of psychopathy, just because people with it will survive better.
Being a sincere participant in social groups has probably provided an advantage for just as long, if not longer.
Yes, and there still is. Evolutionary survival is not about living long; it's about passing on genes.
Psychopaths are great at reading people and exploiting emotional weaknesses. Humans are not naturally monogamous, and psychopaths are perfectly equipped for high-frequency sexuality. They've had Game for millions of years.
Anyways, it is scary to realize that there are lots of powerful people out there like this.
Actually, I think there are many powerful CEO's and political leaders that are psychopaths.
How else could they convince people to give them the power, money, and influence they have?
It's not a definitive treatise on psychopathy, just the adventures of the author as he dives into this fascinating world. Definitely worth getting it at this price.
This explains - What makes a difference, if someone diverts their energy doing something Positive. As they say - It's not who you are, but what you do that defines you.
>Serial Killers & Ruthless CEOs exist - Voldemort does not.
Excellent ending to a great article.
(Which goes back to one of my drums I beat here with some frequency, which is that while the rationality of humans is often overstated, so is their irrationality... many putatively irrational things like "guilt" or "empathy" in fact exist for reasons, or if you prefer, have significantly more positive effects when considered holistically than a naive analysis might indicate.)
A lot of nice things in society depend on cooperating actors not taking advantage of each other. Psychopathy is defecting on society.
(I'm not trying to be pejorative. It would be my job to prove that you're objectively wrong, and I can't.)
I think psychopathy, like all of these disorders, has a spectrum. But if it's a natural condition, it doesn't deserve the moral weight affixed to it. Not all (natural) psychopaths do bad things, and most people who do bad things are not psychopaths.
Dang who is the one exploiting weakness here?
Mind you, I feel similarly about most NSA submissions and while I would very much like to have a dedicated mews aggregator \ Groklaw'esque blog-forum dedicated to the NSA\Snowden revelations, I don't try making HN into one.
>On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.
>Please don't submit comments complaining that a submission is inappropriate for the site.
>Resist complaining about being downmodded. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.