Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Case For More Observation And Firmer Action As Psychopaths Among Us Do Enormous Harm

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding

Above: The murdered teacher Ann Maguire and convicted killer Will Cornick

Here is an example of the much tougher action to protect society which judges worldwide are inclining toward.

In Leeds in the UK a 16-year old boy has been sentenced to 20 years.  He has also been publicly named, unusual for one so young,  and an image released, to hopefully protect the public from him for the rest of his life. The judge warned him that he may never be released.

The more you read about Will Cornick the worse it gets.

He slashed a popular teacher in front of a whole class. She escaped wounded and terrified but he followed her to another room with glass panes and tried to push in. Another teacher kept him out but Ann Maguire was too far gone.

Grim clues are still coming to light. From one of the latest reports. 

Cornick attacked Mrs Maguire after boasting to friends that he was going to kill her. He also said he was going to murder other teachers, including a pregnant woman “˜so as to kill her unborn child’.

He later told doctors: “˜I said I was going to do other stuff but I never got the chance, other murders. It was a triple homicide.’

After the murder the teenager told psychiatrists that he “˜couldn’t give a s***’ and added: “˜Everything I’ve done is fine and dandy.’...

Far from having an unhappy upbringing, Cornick comes from a middleclass background and his parents have been described as loving and supportive…

Cornick’s former girlfriend believes Mrs Maguire, who has been called the ‘mother of the school’, was killed because she was being tough on the intelligent teenager in a bid to unlock his potential…

Friends had started to think of him as a “˜loner and weirdo’ and “˜disturbing’ aspects of his personality became apparent.

He spoke openly about murdering his teacher, messaging a friend on Facebook about brutally killing her and spending the rest of his life in jail. But no one - including his former girlfriend - believed he was capable of carrying out such psychotic threats.

After the murder it was revealed that he had numerous images of knives on his mobile phone. The teenager used a picture of the Grim Reaper for his Facebook profile.  He also had a keen interest in ultra-violent video games, including Dark Souls II, in which players hack zombies to pieces.

Players devour the souls of their fallen enemies to the sound of cries of agony. Disturbing images include a character made up of hundreds of human corpses. It was voted one of the ten Most Violent Video Games of 2014.

One pupil recalled Cornick saying disgusting things at a party. He said: “˜He was saying twisted stuff like “imagine jumping on a pregnant woman and seeing the baby come out”, and saying horrible stuff about cancer and stuff like that…

The teenager later confessed to a psychiatrist that the killing had been on his mind for three years, and one expert said he had engaged in a “˜considerable amount of fantasy’ about killing Mrs Maguire.

And so the debate on psychopathy and what to do about it ratches up anothert notch.

The word ‘psychopath’, like ‘narcissist’,has become known in common usage. This is both good and bad,- good if we understand more, yet bad if we assume wrongly or more superficially.

One assumption too frequently made is an association with only adulthood. Surely a child can’t be psychopathic? Unfortunately the answer is Yes.

Another assumption : surely if a child were to be nurtured correctly - with all the optimal nutrition and healthy lifestyle, and love possible, with encouragement and guidance from the parents - any tendency towards psychopathic traits could and would be overcome?

We want to believe this is so. It hurts us, on a fundamental human level, to be informed that,

‘No, this is not the case’.

A child from what is considered a ‘good background’ CAN nevertheless have a psychopathic personality. (This is also what the judge said in the Cormick trial).

With the advance of new technology - in particular MRI studies of the brain- we are beginning to explore and discover the structural differences in people’s brains (at every age). We are also recording the differences in our responses to varying events, stimulation, and emotion.

Our brains do not react in the same ways, not at all. Even introverts and extraverts are physiologically different, with regard to the amount of stimulation they can take, and also what might be called ‘method’ pathways.

In the more normal mind, it is a customary impulse to respond to pain, humiliation etc by lashing out oneself. The “˜taking it out on others’ scenario.

But, from when we are very young,this impulse is moderated by an awareness of what the pain we would be causing would feel like. In other words, we feel like pinching our sister very hard, say because she has stolen something small, but we remember how that severe pinch would feel, and bruise etc, and so we restrain.

As we continue to grow, this restraint to the impulse becomes a strong and immediate inhibition. Hence we become socialised and civilised. We feel each others’ pain, literally. It is a function of imagination, memory and neurology.

There is growing evidence from advancing research that in the truly psychopathic mind, this inhibition does not happen, because the first stage - of feeling for others - is absent. Perhaps some of the pathways are missing or diminished; the amygdala is different, perhaps, or other brain structures.

Such people therefore are able to impose violence and pain upon others with impunity. Hence we observe and say they are “˜cold’.

One important difference between this type and the more normal type of mind, is that they are like this irrespective of whether they have been loved or not. Of course disadvantageous and dysfunctional upbringings make the situations a whole lot worse.

Experiments have been done, and are still being explored, to define the extent of these differences, with some accuracy. It will take some time, as of course the neurology in the brain is highly complex, and subtle, and a single event will involve several or many pathways and several ‘hubs’ -as one might describe them.

So far, Baron-Cohen has identified about twelve ‘centres’ that will be involved in high or low empathy circuits in the brain. There may be more. Also, he and other distinguished researchers (many of whom have spent their life’s work on the subject) are examining what the genetic components are that underlie psychopathic traits.

Unfortunately, all this worthwhile work meets some resistance, and therefore delay (and difficulty in funding of course). Sadly such resistance comes from both left and right, ( leaving the researchers treading a fine line down the centre).

On the left, those who advocate improving social conditions, alleviating poverty, greater nurturing etc., fear that a discovery of the violent, cruel, anarchic nature ‘being genetic’ would undermine their raison d’être, and the case for more funding for the deprived and under-privileged.

On the right, there is a substantial fear, valid to a degree, that finding the root cause of psychopathic behaviour in brain structure and genes would give the worst and most unanswerable opt-out clause when psychopaths are on trial, to the effect of,

“Sorry, M’Lord, I couldn’t help it ; it’s in me genes”. (Etc).

A nightmare, indeed, for the prosecution.

This objection is something psychologists are already familiar with, where attempts are made by the defense to proffer psychological truths or diagnoses as mitigating factors, or ‘get-out’ clauses.

It cannot be stated clearly enough : to understand something is not to excuse it. To establish something in fact does not dilute the need to bear responsibility for the behaviour that ensues from it.

We can, and must, find ways to exert restraint and control over anti-social, destructive and undesirable behaviour. Preferably before it becomes criminal behaviour. It becomes more and more imperative, as we realize that ‘the enemy’ - the terrorist - the destroyer- moves among us, as ‘the kid next door’.

Comments in boxes below are from a previous thread

Posted by Hopeful on 11/09/14 at 03:05 AM

Mealer, you have done a fantastic job of a poem written in beautifully rhymed quatrains.

It is a historical summary of Meredith’s case, moving and incredibly compact yet true to the high points of the case. Thank you.

The first stanza is great, “How quickly spite and hatred bind/Willing hands in a murderous pact,” preceded by the question of why or what impulse propels these crimes?

Having read today for the first time about Myra Hindley and Ian Brady whose two bright but sick minds acted on one another, the answer seems complicated but simple.

Violent crime is a way of acting out early childhood pain and loneliness with violent retribution.

One author said of the psychopath Ian Brady that “his cold indifference to authority, his reasons for holding authority in contempt showed Myra that you could live your life as you pleased, that there was an alternative to the mundane repetition of your parents’ existence.” Maybe Knox and Raf wanted an alternative to their parents’ miserable existence.

To scorn society and its rules and draw close to each other through shared resentments was Myra and Ian’s path, cloaked under a dubious romance. Just like Myra, Ian Brady felt trapped yet estranged from society and family. He had a confused self-identity. His academic success was marred by petty crimes and short incarcerations during which he acquired criminal sophistication then returned to short term jobs.

To break the cycle he taught himself bookkeeping. He took a job where he   impressed Myra the secretary with his aloofness yet political polemics. He also had a gambling problem with the ponies and a short temper when he lost a bet.

Seething resentment of the fear and confusion in their early lives gave him and Myra a common purpose and identity. He decried his poverty and sought a remedy. They began to plan bank robberies which were not undertaken because they got sidetracked with the thrill kills.

Myra as well as Ian had a troubled upbringing.

Ian Brady could use her as a moral zombie to carry out his evil plans. They nursed superiority complexes while sinking lower in behaviors.

They found comfort in escaping trivial lives.

They leaned on each other as familiar symbols of the brutal, chaotic and painfully uncertain childhoods that had left them frightened and unloved.

Each sought exotic misbehavior to distinguish himself.

They had to turn to either fantasies or violence to regain any kind of power.

Myra’s father was gone to war during her first 3 years of life. He returned sullen and dissolute after his parachute adventures so he beat her mother and beat Myra as well.

Ian Brady was born to an unwed mother who couldn’t provide. He soon was loaned out to another family to rear.

Brady was a sexual sadist who as early as his teens dreamed of turning his violent fantasies into reality. He read Marquis de Sade and despised even the normal pornography of his fellow teenagers. He had already fused sex with pain and aggression. Shadows of Sollecito here?

Myra was used to pain and aggression. She had become toughened emotionally and became an impassive liar and chameleon. She saw in Brady the familiar devil of her father’s cruelty and selfishness and maybe her own desire for revenge along with the sociopath’s need for excitement and risk.

While coworkers in the Manufacturing at Gorton, she chased Ian with her wiles for a year. He was indifferent until she pretended to his intellectual interests. To secure him she did whatever Brady wanted despite the pain or humiliation.

He used extremist literature to fuel his brutal fantasies.  Brady loved Nietsche’s Superman and the Nazi philosophy that champions cruelty.

Power over others to cause them pain was his main drive.

Like Myra perhaps Amanda wanted a man whose cruelty matched her own although Sollecito keeps his well hidden.

Knox and Sollecito’s mutual maladjustment to life found its solution in the crime against Meredith.

That was a turning point in their lives so irrevocable that they would never again have to live a boring, average, what we might consider “normal” life ever or find a normal job.

Their crime against Meredith was like an exit strategy from the mundane or trivial lifestyles they could not endure. They rejected conventionality as rigid or stifling, beneath them.

They preferred to exploit easy violence into massive attention after lives of invisibility and neglect by distracted fathers and weeping mothers.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/09/14 at 06:26 AM

Thank you Hopeful, and thank you Mealer.

We have had, here in England, the most shocking murder recently. It was of a lovely, vibrant, deeply loved, inspiring teacher. A pupil aged 15 killed her savagely with a knife, in the neck (and other stab wounds) in broad daylight in front of the class. It was pre-meditated, and there has been zero, and I mean zero, regret or remorse.

The most important point we can learn from this horrific tragedy, I feel, is that this boy was loved and came from a good home. Even the judge went out of his way to demonstrate that the parents could not be blamed or held to be at fault.

It is the most terrible illustration of the fact that this boy’s brain was different, perhaps with something “˜normal’ missing. It could not be modified, essentially, by love.

Like most people, I find this very, very hard to take on board.

Surely, it needn’t have been? If this, if that etc. His poor parents, who tried their very best.

However, if, as a society, we wish to get a grip on recognizing and dealing with the psychopathic personality - we have to accept it as it is. Then perhaps we can work out intelligent ways to deal with the severe problems such people present.

Understanding this categorically does not mean excusing it. Their behaviour is still wrong - evil, wicked, immoral - which ever word one wishes to use.

But seeking to understand it, accurately, is a first necessity.

(Then there are others, of course - their accomplices - who fall under their influence, for a variety of reasons. They may have a very weakly developed sense of the inhibition described, but it is so weak it can be overcome by the “˜clever’ psychopathic manipulator.)

Hope this helps a little, to add to the picture, depressing though it may be. I hope, by understanding, we will eventually be able to curtail the violence and cruelty that erupts with such tragic consequences.

Posted by Odysseus on 11/09/14 at 10:10 AM


The case you mention of the 15 year old who stabbed his teacher (apparently winking at a fellow pupil when he set off to do it)
is almost unbelievably horrific. As you say, also a total nightmare for his apparently loving family.

It does seem to be a congenital disorder and my guess is Obknoxious is suffering from something similar. What would be good to know is if there were any warning signs in their upbringing. There’s no hope of AK’s family contributing to research in this area, at least not till she’s in jail and beyond appeal, but the parents of the UK boy might contribute something valuable in time.

If such people aren’t hard-wired for empathy, and don’t feel another’s pain, maybe there’s a case in just those instances for corporal punishment in early development whenever they cause pain to others, to help establish the learning that causing pain to others brings pain to oneself.

All of a sudden judicious corporal punishment in these cases might actually seem like a compassionate option in the best long-term interest of the offender, and for the rest of society. The PC lobby might take a bit of convincing but so be it”¦!

Posted by Hopeful on 11/09/14 at 06:50 PM

@SeekingUnderstanding, it’s wonderful to hear from you about how the normal brain functions to restrain itself from inflicting pain and revenge on others, through imagination, memory and neurology. Myra Hindly was said to not feel any reaction to seeing her childhood friends in grave pain, so something had not connected in her brain so her amygdala or neural pathways were blocked or otherwise not working to induce empathy. I feel she could never have been rehabilitated by all the love in the world. Worse than she, was the absolutely determinedly mean and vindictive Ian Brady.

The British schoolboy who slashed his teacher’s throat is chilling. I’d seen those headlines. He must be some example of a moral zero who had been influenced by cruel imagery on media, internet, movies. It’s almost impossible to block a child viewing some of this violent stuff despite careful parenting, but I haven’t delved into this case. Maybe he used that fascination with violence, multiplied by some small bit of resentment or disrespect toward the older lady teacher (misogyny and contempt getting its start in his self-serving low self-esteem brain?), but the root of bitterness however small was not restrained by a normal brain functioning so with him anything was possible.

He must have been a walking time bomb of violence. His motive might have been excitement and attention among his peers and to upset mom and dad, unless this theory gives him too much credit for being normal.

He is what the old American movie was all about, “The Bad Seed”.

@Odysseus, I agree with you too. Politically correct may be shortsighted error. Many of these vicious types are quite cunning about their own good and avoid retribution.

A bit of physical pain that renders no lasting physical harm might prevent them from causing much larger pain to themselves or others and be a way of mercy.

Christian teaching is that corporal punishment frees the person from guilt because he knows for certain and feels within his own body that he has paid for his sins or crimes. His own sense of natural justice is not outraged but rather restored along with new respect for truth.

The physical punishment returns him to equilibrium with all his energy renewed and no emotions swept underground to fester into bitterness. Corporal punishment allows him to feel washed and justified and with an indelible inner reminder of the price he will pay if he repeats the crime. Deterrent.

Maybe his brain pathways are modified forever by the physical pain as a permanent reminder in case he has no normal neural pathways to restrain him.

I do not believe in angry, hurried and out of control child spankings or humiliating forms of punishment but spankings are clearly OK at times only in conjunction with a measured, loving and explained response from parents who bring the child back into loving arms immediately after the punishment. The point is to restore the relationship and equip the child for survival in life, not to repress or harm him.

The child who can be corrected by a word is the wise child and it would be wrong to brutalize him with the same physical measures that a recalcitrant or strongwilled child might need to impress on him the rules.

There’s worse harm done to the psychology of the child to have him given no boundaries. It is a fool’s paradise he is being raised in and his own intelligence makes him aware he is being lied to about the basics of life: behavior has physical consequences. It will create distrust, disrespect, and more bad behavior that pushes the envelope.

Boundaries are a sign of love and protection, that someone cares enough to notice and correct behavior and to expend his own energy to follow through with the child. The impetus must solely be the principle of right and wrong carefully divorced from anger or personal hatred of the child.

The selfish parent who shortcuts this discipline for his own ease is seen by the intelligent child as unjust, unloving or worse: secretly a saboteur of the child’s morals.

I feel that people with abnormal brains and no empathy are as wolves to their fellow man and as SeekingUnderstanding makes clear we require a whole new way of handling them outside traditional therapy or law, if I am understanding her correctly. What that way is remains to be seen.

Whether even the corporal punishment childhood discipline described above would modify the amygdala defective is unknown, but to spoil them or provide no boundaries must surely be least likely to influence them.

Think: Amanda Knox who claims she was never spanked, Karla Homolke, Amanda Seyfreit (sp?) Seyfrit, Leopold and Loeb both rich and spoiled yet fathers absent through business, Loeb raised by pushy nanny and Leopold’s mom dead, and the young British schoolboy who slashed his teacher without remorse

Posted by Cardiol MD on 11/09/14 at 07:57 PM

I recently read the conclusion of a researcher in Psychopathy that there was no curative treatment for a Criminal Psychopath but there was a Controlling-Treatment:

1.  Imprison.

2.  Reward Good-Behaviour.

3.  Do not Reward Bad-Behaviour.

Posted by Hopeful on 11/09/14 at 09:41 PM

@Cardiol MD, I couldn’t agree more.

@SeekingUnderstanding, your comment led me to google the murder of teacher Ann Maguire by the vicious idiot 15-year-old William Cornick. She was a hero and a saint and he resented her for having stopped him going bowling with his classmates because he had not done his Spanish homework. He had become a loner and aficionado of violent computer games, and spoke of violence. He had ruminated for 3 years against his teacher. He is from a broken home but no signs of abuse.

Mrs. Maguire had taught for 40 years and was within inches of retirement. She is now a national memorial of all that is best among teachers, a selfless individual. Cornick is a trivial and useless person. As we say in the States, “You can’t fix stupid.”

Here we have it: He said openly that he wanted to go to prison to avoid the stress of life or of having to work for a living. Yes, he had the broken family but nothing he couldn’t have overcome, and was given much for which he was not grateful. Prison will open his mind to all that he did possess, sadly too late.

Cornick’s commission of a heinous murder in public he said was his way of making sure he went to jail. Prison would relieve him of all responsibility for his own income.

Bingo. This is precisely the hidden and unconscious motive I wonder might have stimulated Amanda and Raffaele to use murder as an exit strategy from life. Maybe they had unacknowledged fear and a sense of not being capable of hard duties in life. It’s crudely called the desire for 3 hots and a cot as we say of prison (3 hot meals and a bed) where all needs are provided.

The idiots don’t realize the unbearable atmosphere of prison living with wild beasts and violent offenders to obtain this paltry mess of pottage. They must already feel like their life in freedom has no joy, and feel hopeless. That is sad but fixable. The problem is they are aggressive by nature to act out so violently rather than humble themselves to beg for help. They snap, have no feelings for others as Cornick brags, so that lockup is required.

They must have a blind spot in their otherwise often stellar IQs. Cornick was smart but unhappy and vindictive with it. Probably extremely jealous of Ann Maguire, his teacher who was loved by all. She’s a national hero forever along with her fellow teacher who helped protect her from the knife.

Name correction:  Erika Sifrit, murderess with her Marine husband. She was from Pennsylvania, a vicious victim

Posted by Odysseus on 11/10/14 at 12:05 PM

@Hopeful (and Cardiol MD)

Re “...unacknowledged fear and a sense of not being capable of hard duties in life.” Good point. That would seem to be typical of adolescence (I put my own hand up here!) and is probably a necessary part of coming to realise how capable one can be. Cornick unfortunately seems to have found the future unbearably daunting. I suspect that many who opt for military life, for example, also want the easy “security” that comes from completely handing their own authority to others.

Re corporal punishment: the other possibility is that if psychopaths brains are congenitally hard-wired in such a way that they do not feel empathy then maybe they simply cannot stop/inhibit themselves even if they are are made to feel pain as a result of any pain they inflict on others. That would make any corporal punishment totally gratuitous and cruel.

I wonder how SeekingUnderstanding feels about all this? As a layman I’m now tempted to read “The Empathic Brain” by Christian Keysers which seems to have had very good reviews. Somehow though I doubt it’s going to throw any light on how these outliers can be spotted from an early age and what can be done, if anything, even when they are identified.

Comments in boxes above are from a previous thread
Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/11/14 at 06:19 PM in Various hypothesesThe psychology13 AK persona hoax


There is worth in both angles and merit in both points of view….(from Odyseeus and Hopeful - and thank you Cardiol).

Most certainly children and young people need boundaries, and if necessary, correction. We hope that people evolve with the ability for self-correction, as adults.

Yet, with the differently structured, low empathetic brain, how is this to be achieved? Can behaviour in a child be trained like a Pavlov dog?

If physical chastisement doesn’t touch the psychopathic personality, if it is only a temporary sensation, is there a danger it would be counter-productive? There is evidence that psychopaths can be indifferent to physical pain, hence can go blithely into very dangerous situations. They would make good soldiers, except for the fact that they are anarchic and capricious , and would be a danger to the team, something which is of course essential.

Something is needed, in the way of correction, which would affect such a person where they are vulnerable. They would need to be curtailed or deprived of something that means something to them. However, it would be important with the psychopathic personality not to also humiliate them (or even that which they perceive as humiliating). Humiliation is not something they can handle, at all, and would only stoke their inner rage.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/11/14 at 07:55 PM | #

I would suggest we need to discover more how to truly communicate with psychopaths. Like any communication this involves accepting people for who they are.

(However, we also have to be intelligent enough to outwit their ‘mind games’).

If a young boy can sit and pull out all the wings of some insects he has gathered, because he is bored - and he feels nothing… It is no good waiting for him to feel something, or expecting him to feel something, or chastising him so he feels something in future. He doesn’t. He doesn’t ‘feel their pain’. This needs to be accepted as the base to move from.

There was another, worse case, of a boy who attached fireworks to live frogs and watched them explode. I’m sure there are other examples, many less dramatic and more mundane. But we need to recognise what they may mean.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/11/14 at 07:59 PM | #

I remember looking after a four year old child for a friend who was at the end of her tether.

The little boy, with bright red curls, had become physically violent and uncontrollable, with aggressive, goading behaviour - smashing things, running away, impervious to smacks or threats, impossible, also, to quell with bribes. Nothing worked and the mother was desperate.

My technique was non-reaction - being resigned, just sitting with him etc, and making sure best I could no disastrous damage occurred. He tried to provoke me at every turn, imperiously rude. I just kept reminding myself this was a four year old child.

I silently tried to work out what would mean something to him (as above)... What didn’t he want to lose, what would mean something to him if he couldn’t have it? He pretended nothing mattered to him.

I followed my intuition. I said to him firmly but genuinely that I couldn’t bear his rudeness any more, and that I was going to sit in any other room if he continued with it, as I didn’t want to be with him.

This went on for about two hours. I left food and walked away. Etc. then he crept in, and said,  ‘would you come in here.’ He had collected his precious bath boats and wanted help to have a bath. We continued in silence for an hour. Then he started vaguely co-operating. We continued mostly without speech, delivering him to school the next day.

As I went to collect him in the afternoon, he came running towards me like a cannon ball.  “It’s my friend…my friend!” he said, and clung onto my legs.  I must admit I had moist eyes.

We then ‘normalised’ to some extent. His mother was incredulous.

The lesson being, I felt, was that what he wanted most of all, and hated being deprived of….was my attention.

I have no idea whether he grew up into a psychopath. I suspect probably not. But interesting all the same, re difficult behaviour.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/11/14 at 08:53 PM | #

The Perugia cops who encountered the pair all knew about Knox’s drug liaising up to point of arrest and saw patterns of behavior that in normal rational terms made no sense. If they had been polled they would all have said “We have seen bad news like this pair many times before”.

Judge Matteini and Judge Micheli and Judge Nencini were not fooled. Judge Massei may or may not have been fooled; by assigning primary blame to Guede for the attack he made it easy for Judge Hellmann to turn that into a reverse and for Guede to be demonized by the pack.

Judge Hellmann comes from a rich family up north and he sure was an odd type to find residing on the judges’ panel in Perugia which he thinks of as the south. Worse, he was in a sort of career backwater as a small-business judge. He had a huge opinion about himself and essentially contempt for all his colleagues at court which they all felt. To stick it to Massei was obvious fun.

Only ONE of all those judges had dropped the ball before and let obvious psychopaths back out on the street before their time. Guess who? Hellmann of course.

So to a couple of questions for SeekingUnderstanding or someone I’ve been curious about for several years.

1) Do psychopaths self-diagnose as some autistic types do and by mimicing the behavior of others actively work at appearing normal?

2) Do they get one another’s backs? Could much of the meanness we see in the Knox campaign especially from Fischer be caused by that?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/11/14 at 09:54 PM | #

My penny’s worth:

1) I don’t think they would have any interest in self-diagnosing. The quick answer is that if it was to their advantage to do so they would.

If they wanted to become a consultant psychiatrist, because they were attracted to the power this might bestow, - they would become one. It wouldn’t mean they would help people. They could still play havoc with people’s lives. Just a different ‘version’ of their role.

2) Same answer. If it were to their advantage, they would…

They certainly don’t like competition, from others. That’s their job, to compete - and win, every time. Top dog syndrome. Zero teamwork. ‘What’s a team?’

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/11/14 at 10:25 PM | #

Thanks very much SeekingUnderstanding, much to mull over. Hope to get back with some questions when I’ve absorbed this information. I’m also trying to think what the one thing might be that AK could be deprived of that might make her reflect. The only thing I can think of is an audience for her narcissism - so jail might fit the bill nicely.

In the meantime I thought Jon Ronson,  in the Guardian article you linked to above,  is misguided in blaming the judge for naming the boy. It’s such an horrific crime that any consideration that this one character, Cornick,  might be reformed in time (dubious at best in my view) is overshadowed by the need for all details of the case to be revealed now, to everyone, in the hope that insight might be gained to help prevent future occurrences.

Hopeful had a good point about Ian Brady/Myra Hindley coming from broken families, just like AK and RS, and even though we’re told Cornick came from a loving, middle-class family I understand (could be wrong) the parents were separated or divorced. Obviously that wouldn’t explain everything but it might be a factor to bear in mind, especially considering the insecurity Cornick for example showed when he looked forward to “a life of ease” in prison.

Hope you’re feeling better by the way.

Posted by Odysseus on 11/11/14 at 10:40 PM | #

Re “Do not Reward Bad-Behaviour.”

Presumably an imprisoned Criminal Psychopath is affirmatively punished for Bad-Behaviour, according to the relevant Rules & Regulations?

They were never habilitated, and therefore re-habilitation is hardly meaningful.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 11/11/14 at 10:46 PM | #

@Cardiol MD

I agree. The whole idea of rehabilitation of psychopaths is absurd. It offends us I suppose to think that this is something we don’t understand and can’t even begin to reverse, but that is the fact of the matter.

Posted by Odysseus on 11/12/14 at 12:17 AM | #

To SeekingUnderstanding’ answers on 11/11/14 at 04:25 PM

(1) “If they wanted to become a consultant psychiatrist, because they were attracted to the power this might bestow, - they would become one.”

In light of that it is hard not to think of psychologist Doug Bremnner who almost makes a career out of stalking and harassing Meredith’s family, to the extent that even his own sister Ann has wailed about him.

(2) “They certainly don’t like competition, from others. That’s their job, to compete - and win, every time.”

The White Knights are not much of a team, more a parade, and there have been numerous examples of one breaking loose with a new extravagance and proclaiming to head the parade. Heavey, Ciolino, Sforza, Fischer, Moore, Girlanda, on and on.

And note Knox’s and Sollecito’s condescending tones throughout their books, and their endemic attempts to leapfrog one another as well.


Grahame Rhodes here has long been very interested in the Lord of the Flies pack dynamic that still surrounds Knox (and may have occurred on the night Meredith died) and has a post in the works.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/12/14 at 01:08 AM | #

@ SeekingUnderstanding on 11/11/14 at 01:59 PM:

“......If a young boy can sit and pull out all the wings of some insects he has gathered, because he is bored - and he feels nothing… It is no good waiting for him to feel something, or expecting him to feel something, or chastising him so he feels something in future. He doesn’t. He doesn’t ‘feel their pain’. This needs to be accepted as the base to move from.,,,,,”

If you prick him, does he not bleed? If you tickle him, does he not laugh? If you poison him does he not die?

Even If “He doesn’t ‘feel their pain” he hopefully feels his own pain.

Doesn’t this suggest a solution?

Posted by Cardiol MD on 11/12/14 at 01:27 AM | #

Hi Cardiol

On pain and with enough, might she gain?

Sollecito remarked that Knox seemed squirreled away in her own little world. One of her enigmas is that in reality despite claims in her book about prison she was endlessly busy there and wrote a lot and was eager to participate in things going on. No pain there.

There are other reports, of her being unclean and hard to befriend, which could still fit with the above. Difficulty befriending is a common, anger-making theme for her. There seems some pain there, maybe enough to have caused Meredith’s death.

SeekingUnderstanding in emails has remarked how Knox seems to like leading her own parade narcissistically; even from prison she managed to get dozens of media mentions out. Opposite of pain there.

When another American student killed someone in Rome a police officer complained that Americans are often medicated for ADS etc back home and when they get to Italy they stop taking those pills.

We dont know what pills if any Knox has been on; but when she was on TV during the past year there were questions about whether some sort of pharmaceutical drug was making something of a zombie of her.

Tough case. Most parents in such cases back away or separate and try to make amends for their kid as Will Cornick’s have done. Not an ounce of regret, ever, from Curt Knox, though Edda Mellas has at times pulled out her hair.

Read this post below and you might begin to wonder if Knox’s condition is a second generation thing or whether Curt raging at Edda when Knox was a tot caused her to snap..


Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/12/14 at 01:43 AM | #

Personally, I wouldn’t want to take the risk of tickling one!

As usual, it is unwise to generalize, and there are degrees of variation - but I believe psychopathic people often make use of their non-emotionality over pain to subvert an intended punishment.

This can range from laughing when smacked, to wearing an ‘ASBO’ with pride as if it were badge they have won, to an adult male testing himself to see how much he could take of self-imposed electric shocks.

If it doesn’t fulfil a required aim of either future restraint or learning not to do something, the most likely increase is just in anger and rage.

I’m sure they are punished according to regulations in prison, but I fear for some, or many, this would prove to be water off a duck’s back.

My heart also drops when I hear these murmurings about ‘rehabilitation’. All it shows to me is that the psychopathic nature hasn’t been properly understood.

So we require some more lateral thinking?

I would think the way such people are handled from 2 to 15 is especially crucial.

I’ve been thinking about what could reach through or touch Knox, enough to make an alteration.

I think it would be Edda withdrawing her support, especially publicly. For her to cease to communicate or take an interest in the process until or unless…..(condition attached). But when would she ever have this strength of principle?

The Knox sisters too, are in a position to say something.

It was good when Sollecito senior withdraw his support over his son’s book on television. It is a pity this didn’t go much further. I think it has had an affect : Raphael wants and needs his father behind him.

It often strikes me that AK is very busy building up her next potential audience, for when in Capanne.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/12/14 at 10:39 AM | #


Thank you very much.

The link above you mention was from Pete. I would question one or two things in the article, but it’s useful.

Regarding separation and divorce - indeed the fear and terror of abandonment should never be underestimated. I think the fear is especially acute when a child already knows he/she is like the parent who is leaving or going to be absent.

As for instance, Amanda and Curt. There’s no doubt in my mind she has his temperament.

The little boy whose story I mentioned earlier had just had his father leave. I think he might have been testing to see if his own behaviour was bad enough whether he would be ‘thrown out’ too? Hence it was effective my leaving him alone.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/12/14 at 10:53 AM | #

Interesting, in a dark sort of way, that the Hong Kong murder(s) were :

* On November 1st, after Hallowe’en.
* Involved knives, cocaine use, and sexual activity.
* Were preceded by a series of rejections, which were taken badly.
* What there wasn’t, was an adolescent attempt at cover-up.


How do we differentiate, especially in someone young, between ‘normal’ high spirits, rebelliousness and anti-social malarkey…and the warning signs for true psychopathy ?

Here are some of the ‘signs’ I would be looking out for :

- Insincerity. The ‘right’ words are said, but seem meaningless, or ‘plastic’. The intonation is wrong. Or resolute silence, with withdrawal.
- Flatness, and restlessness. A sense of strong boredom ; indifference, perhaps inappropriate nonchalance or jollity. Any marked inappropriateness.
- Anger or rage, flaring up suddenly without due cause, especially when emotions are mentioned.
- Fibs and lies, when there are no ‘need’ for them. Simply because that’s what they do.
- Fascination with knives, guns, broken glass, perhaps scarves-like-ropes.
- Oblivious to the fate of insects and small animals, especially. Vicious treatment towards dolls.
- Body language and micro expressions of the face and eyes, a whole subject in itself.
-Tendency to steal and deceive for the sake of it, and indications of kleptomania.

I would like to hear from others about their suggestions, - especially if these have been shown to have been right in retrospect…

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/12/14 at 12:04 PM | #

How clinically proven is it that some or many top business managers are somewhere on the psychopathic continuum, as put about in the media several times recently?

Thats not been my experience in working with top people, that many are perverse or uncaring, and its widely recognised that creativity and innovation (and thus the most successful companies going forward) requires non-hierarchical structures.

But industries where there is less manpower (energy) or simply financial engineering (banking) may have a higher proportion of the uncaring.

For the premier of a new ballet here in NYC (the ABT Nutcracker by Ratmansky) I was late buying a seat and found myself directly across the aisle from David Koch of the Koch brothers whose net worth mainly from the oil industry exceeds $100 billion. He paid for the production.


So at the interval I stood in the small group surrounding him and he was warm and funny looking us all in the eyes as he described what a joy the process of developing of the ballet was to him.

Based on that alone I would be really attracted to working with him…And yet read up on him. Politically he is widely demonized as the main sponsor of the far right here and his actions are often painted as exceptionally callous.

No firm conclusions out of that encounter. His personal history may be indicative. He did have a very peculiar father and publicly feuded for years, maybe still does, with his brother, who jointly runs the company.

New York with all its billionaires is also a pretty compassionate city, and the money plowed back into museums and foundations and charities is really something. David Koch used to be persona non grata with that crowd - hence moves like paying for the Nutcracker?

Maybe I am too cynical!

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/12/14 at 02:40 PM | #

I believe it has been definitely shown that big businessmen (and indeed politicians) have larger-than-life egos and a greater proportion of them are narcissists.

However, I suspect this is the media failing to distinguish between the different levels of narcissism.

There are 5 levels (Lowen), and the first three tend to stay within the law. They may be personally difficult to impossible, but it also gives them the drive to achieve much, and much of that can be to the good.

Only the level four narcissist, and the level five (the psychopathic narcissist) consider themselves beyond or above the law.

The level five are the most violent, and should be avoided at all costs. Confrontation or involvement is not advised!

Sociopaths - who are usually obsessed in some degree with sex and money - actually tend to be somewhat mediocre in their work.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/12/14 at 03:56 PM | #

[Comment briefly showing here on whether the politics of this break left-wing/right-wing was just hidden because it should perhaps a separate post and discussion.]

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/12/14 at 05:16 PM | #

Excellent article and comments, thank you, SeekingUnderstanding, Hopeful, Odysseus, Cardiol, Peter!

Just wanted to quickly share a YouTube link to a movie on juvenile delinquents in the US, who are serving life without parole for exceptionally gruesome murders (Lost for Life, 2013, Americans can also watch it on Netflix):

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I highly recommend it, especially for what *some* of the murderers have to say - tears have come to my eyes many times when watching, and while I’m in no position to forgive these people, I do respect them as human beings, for having stared their demons in the face, and for truly repenting. For these people, the fact that they may or may not be released at some point in time is irrelevant.

Other interviewed murderers were almost unrepentant and smug, especially one who had his parents by his side (Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, are you reading this by any chance?).

The point to take home is that you don’t escape *ever* from what you have done - how you deal with it literally can save your soul, and you can begin your journey back, it will be long and hard, and may not be over in this life, but at least you will not descend into total hell and will not drag others down with you.

Amanda Knox is FUBAR, and her parents and “friends” are not helping her.

Posted by Bjorn on 11/12/14 at 05:57 PM | #

Powerful documentary. The Italian system above all is geared toward making criminals achieve mental u-turns.

In 2008 Knox and Sollecito were both given psychological evaluations (not mentioned in either of their books) and from the response of Judge Matteini to renewed defsne requests to move them to house arrest the findings were decidedly bad news.

Curious to know what proportion of prisoners is considered psychopathic I came across this quote from one of the O’Hare books.

Perhaps most dangerous of all from a public safety point of view, psychopathic criminals recidivate at a much hither rate, and do so much earlier, than do other criminals.

The recidivism rate refers to the percentage of offenders that commit a new crime subsequent to release into the community.

Psychopaths make up about 15 percent of the prison population. Many of the remaining 85 percent of individuals in prison might be described as sociopaths or as having antisocial personality disorder, similar, but different disorders often confused with psychopathy.

Although the prevalence of psychopathy in the general population is relatively small - only about 1 percent - the social, economic, physical. and psychological damage done by individuals with this disorder is far out of proportion to their numbers.

They are responsible for at least half of the persistent serious and violent crimes committed in North America.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 11/12/14 at 06:21 PM | #

Thank you for the link,Bjorn.
I will definitely look at this later, when I have more time.

I wondered what you would pick out as warning signs for a dangerous person, Bjorn?
What would make your inner alarm bells ring?

I am interested in (law-abiding) people’s intuitive responses. Jung felt that intuition was the ‘Cinderella’, the more neglected of our 4 functions, (the others being thought, feeling, and sensation).

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/12/14 at 06:30 PM | #

Hi, SeekingUnderstanding, quick answer: the eyes, or the look in someone’s eyes, and the facial expression in general (blank expressions give me the creeps, as well as dark ones).

I have a colleague at work (!) who at times appears very dark and angry *for no reason*, and what I perceive as anger is not directed at me (i.e., we cross paths in the hallway absolutely by accident, and he still has it), but I find that expression very disturbing. What’s even scarier is that he switches easily to a smiley face when he wants something (even a bit of information) from someone, otherwise he is simply rude.

I hope that answers your question, I would also like to know other people’s triggers.

Posted by Bjorn on 11/12/14 at 09:15 PM | #

Hi Bjorn
Thank you..yes..that’s very understandable.
It’s very disconcerting when someone whom one feels uneasy with decides to turn on the charm and assume friendship. We can then be caught off guard in such situations, and, for example, divulge things we later wish we hadn’t.
I’m suspicious of ‘instant’ friendship! But then I’m southern English!

Perhaps others will come along and share their triggers or ‘alarm bells’ ? It would be interesting to pool them.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/12/14 at 09:25 PM | #

Hi again, SeekingUnderstanding, here’s a “visual” example of what I mean, the face on the left definitely gives me the creeps and sets off my alarm bells (and yes, it does look a lot like my buddy at the office):

Posted by Bjorn on 11/13/14 at 07:11 AM | #

Hi Bjorn,
Yes thank you, I see what you mean!

However, I think the photo is unreal, probably photoshopped…because the eyes are wrong, - there should be more light in them. I remember from portrait painting there should be two flecks of light in the eyes, at least.
So that makes the eyes look ‘dead’ in an unnatural way.
The mouth looks unreal as well. This must have been done by someone who dislikes introverts! Because the edges of the mouth are turned down so far, as well as the face surrounding.

It is normal, in a face fairly ‘at rest’, for the edges of the mouth to be neutral/straight, or slightly turned up, even if not smiling. It is considered a sign of intelligence for the mouth to be slightly upturned at rest. I’ll see if I can find an illustration.
(A book I have read recently, called ‘Quiet’ - a book about introverts in an extraverts’ world - says that introverts may be, on average, more intelligent…)

So all in all, no wonder someone one wouldn’t trust, or want to engage with! But unreal.

Have a look at your colleague’s at-rest mouth! And others…am sure you’ll find that interesting.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/13/14 at 09:19 AM | #

Actually, in the row of pictures of Meredith, here, on the left - the fourth photo up or the fifth photo down show this at-rest ‘dimple’ at the mouth corners, in a picture where she doesnt have an actual smile…but still the eyes, and the slight mouth upturn can say something which pleases. This is unconscious - one can’t alter these mouth corners.
The corners of the mouth turn down drastically when someone lies badly or has been found out.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/13/14 at 09:29 AM | #


I agree with SeekingUnderstanding, we must be careful not to be unkind to introverts, if I may be allowed to say that. (Just kidding 😊)

Seriously though - I tend not to like or trust those at the extrovert end of the spectrum

Posted by Odysseus on 11/13/14 at 12:19 PM | #

Kindness all round then!

Seriously, though, there’s differences in the brain pathways in extraverts and true introverts :
Extraverts can think more quickly, and introverts more analytically, with longer circuits in the brain… (That’s a bit of an approximation. Oh yes, and introverts like correct details…)

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/13/14 at 12:26 PM | #

Here’s an example of what I’ve called the ‘dimples’ at the corners of the mouth - from someone who smiles rarely and who I would say is an introvert. His mouth expression is upbeat though, and his eyes warm and expressive here.
Novak Djokovic - on the BBC website - under Sport - under Tennis - video clip of Djoko talking about the World Tour finals, currently in London.
Sorry, they won’t let me give the link, for some reason!

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/13/14 at 03:10 PM | #

David Koch paying for the ABT Nutcracker, that’s super. The Nutcracker ballet is my sister’s favorite. Christmas in a nutshell with the sugar plum fairy and toy soldiers. I took my children to see it twice in local amateur productions. The NYC version must be superb.

How encouraging that the uber-rich Mr. Koch is supporting such a classic in NYC. It’s not long now until Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the Big Apple. NYC has the best shows, parades and biggest glitz and glam ever. Thankfully they share a lot of it on TV to inspire us.

One World Trade Center back in business now, also encouraging.

Posted by Hopeful on 11/13/14 at 04:51 PM | #

Hi, SeekingUnderstanding & Odysseus, it was not my intention to bash introverts, I guess the problem with the picture in question is that it already has labels on it, which I don’t necessarily agree with.

The expression itself (inaccurate as it may be) to me is scary, and I have seen it on people, with the corners of the mouth turned down, and the mouth slightly open. That’s about it 😊

Posted by Bjorn on 11/13/14 at 05:00 PM | #

Hi Bjorn…yes, I knew that. Quite agree why you found this image scary. Thanks for participating.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/13/14 at 05:15 PM | #

I am reminded of a case history where the patient, who was a young person had been torturing animals to death and during counceling was given a list of words and asked if any of then applied to her. In other words, did anything jump out at her creating any response at all. The words were as follows.

DISLIKE   etc;

The answer in each case was ‘NO’

This of course is Knox who will only exibit any emotion at all, if she is laughed at or dismissed or ignored. She, like all narcissists, has a negative opinion of herself and only feels worthwhile if she can con and control others. To her other people do not really exist at all but are simply there for her to use and then discard. Such as Sollecito or Meredith or Patrick Lamumba or definatly Guede, A true sociopath and therefore a danger to others. The image she presents to the world is one of innocence, but Meredith had her pegged from almost day one. Knox should come with a health warning.
Do I think she will strike again? Of course she will. How could she not?

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 11/13/14 at 11:02 PM | #

“Lost for Life” (2013) occupies 75 minutes. The Film is a Documentary focusing on Prisoners serving life-sentences for crimes committed when they were teenagers. I watched it with subtitles, which are occasionally inaccurate.

Two defendants in a notorious Idaho case, who at the age of 16 years murdered a 16 year-old classmate, Cassie Stoddart, made overwhelmingly incriminatory audio-videos of their pre- & post-murder planning. Their recordings are played-back in this Film. When recording themselves, their voices have a fiendish tone, but when they quote themselves to an interviewer their voices have a matter-of-fact, almost sing-song tone.

One of the 2 defendants, Brian Draper, had previously asked the Idaho Supreme Court justices for a new trial, claiming he didn’t get a fair hearing the first time around, have his sentence vacated, that his life sentence is cruel and that the jury was given improper instructions. In this Documentary he now admits his guilt.

The other defendant (Torey Adamcik) is currently appealing to the Idaho Supreme Court, pleading that his life-imprisonment without possibility of parole (LIWPOP) was wrong in his case, because he is not guilty. (Or as he and his parents stated in the movie, because he is Innocent.) He argues on-screen that “I feel like I’m paying for somebody else’s crime.”

The Producer’s timing seemed oriented-in-production to the then-pending (June 25th, 2012) ruling by SCOTUS on the subject of whether life-imprisonment for juveniles under the age of 18 years is unconstitutional.

SCOTUS, did rule, 5/4, that laws requiring Mandatory life-imprisonment for juvenile under the age of 18 years were unconstitutional.

Note that SCOTUS a did NOT rule that it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles under the age of 18 years to life-imprisonment without possibility of parole; its ruling permitted such a sentence after all relevant circumstances had been taken into account, as they had been in the Idaho case.

It was only laws requiring Mandatory life-imprisonment for such juveniles
that were ruled unconstitutional.

The Producers made a valiant attempt to impartially present arguments for and against permitting parole for teenage murderers, but gave me the impression that they favoured abolition of life-imprisonmen without possibility of parole, for juveniles, and were disappointed when SCOTUS, ruled 5/4, as above.

These Producers do show how these tragedies destructively affect numerous people in multiple families and argue in favour of “rehabilitating” the young criminals. A commentator is shown, arguing that because they were so young, they will change for the better as they grow older, and that they can & should be “rehabilitated”.

IMO both defendants are AGAH, and require LIWPOP. One perp, Brian Lee Draper, admits guilt, and the other is still brazening-it-out, as above.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 11/14/14 at 07:51 AM | #

Thanks Bjorn for directing us to “Lost for Life”

Posted by Cardiol MD on 11/14/14 at 08:08 AM | #

Thank you Cardiol
‘A commentator is shown, arguing that because they were so young, they will change for the better as they grow older, and that they can & should be “rehabilitated”.’

I find it somewhat frightening when this assumption is made - that their youth automatically means ‘they will change for the better’.
IMHO this is a misunderstanding of the nature.
(Neither, in truth, should there be an automatic assumption that they (or anyone) could NEVER change for the better, but it should be remembered that it is improbable.)

There was the same tendency to use the ‘youth’ excuse in Meredith’s case. Knox herself has often said, “I was so young,...I was just ‘a kid’ ” etc.
This to me is just trying to brush away unpalatable truths.

Posted by SeekingUnderstanding on 11/14/14 at 09:47 AM | #
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