Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Why Aren't Autistic People Psychopaths?

Among many autistic people, the confusion of autism with psychopathy is a major Berserk Button. (Psychopaths mostly react with amusement and confusion.) But it's not just lay-people who confuse the two - psychopathy researchers do too.

Many of the major theories about psychopathy, if accurate, would predict that autistics should have psychopathic traits.

Take Blair's Violence Inhibition Mechanism (VIM) theory. Drawing an analogy to animals who have certain nonverbal cues of 'surrender' (eg a dog lying flat against the ground with ears back and whimpering), this theory suggests that most individuals are hardwired to suppress aggressive behavior in response to distress cues (fear and sadness). Over time, through learning, this gets extended into a moral code in which behavior that harms others is forbidden. This leads to the moral-conventional distinction seen in virtually all non-psychopaths, in which harm-causing violations (but not social convention violations) are described as wrong regardless of what authority figures say or what norms exist in society. Since psychopaths have difficulty recognizing fear and sadness, and distress cues don't elicit negative affect in them, this connection doesn't get made and the basic foundation of morality is absent.

Problem is, autistics are also poor at recognizing fear and sadness (along with every other emotion, of course). Even though distress cues elicit negative affect in autistics (Blair [1999]), in everyday life autistics will effectively see these cues a lot less often and a lot more inconsistently than neurotypicals do. The connection between their own actions and this sympathy-induced negative affect should be less strong in autistics, resulting in a weaker moral-conventional distinction and more real-life antisocial behavior. However, autistic people score completely normally on the moral-conventional distinction and aren't any more likely to engage in criminal behavior.

Another thread of research comes up with a similar problem. Dadds et al (2006) found that telling psychopathic children to look at the person's eyes eliminated their difficulties in recognizing fear, and in a later study they confirmed that psychopaths pay less attention to people's eyes when trying to recognize emotions (though Rime et al [1978] found that psychopaths made more eye contact when talking with an interviewer, so this may be a situation-specific phenomenon). They suggest that lack of eye gaze could interfere with attachment in early childhood and have a cascading effect on the child's emotional development. Indeed, Frodi et al (2001) found that offenders, regardless of psychopathy, showed extremely low rates of secure attachment. In particular the dismissing style, in which the individual doesn't seem to think attachment is important, was very common. Cause and effect can't be established based on this, but it is supportive.

In contrast, although autistic kids do show lower rates of attachment security, this appears to be mostly due to parental reactions to having a disabled child. In particular, it shows no relationship to autistic social symptoms, and many autistic kids show clear evidence of secure attachment. In particular, many autistic kids who avoid eye contact show secure attachment, despite making far less eye contact than psychopaths do.

So, the fact that autism and psychopathy are clearly distinct conditions means that researchers, when trying to explain psychopathy, should avoid explanations that apply to autism as well. Specifically, they should ask the question - what's different between autism and psychopathy?

With regards to the moral conventional distinction, it's interesting to note Leslie et al (2006)'s study, in which autistic and NT children were asked to evaluate, along with standard moral-conventional vignettes, a vignette involving a 'crybaby'. Specifically, James & Tammy have both been given cookies, and James wants to eat Tammy's cookie as well as his own. Tammy eats her cookie, and James starts to cry. Both autistic and NT children agreed that Tammy hadn't done anything wrong, even though her actions made James cry. This indicates that mere distress cues are not enough to explain the moral-conventional distinction.

So, what does underly the moral-conventional distinction? Is it a sense of fairness? Even many animals show a sense of fairness, and fairness is obviously relevant to moral concerns. Maybe the moral-conventional distinction works on the 'golden rule' - the child can imagine not wanting others to engage in moral transgressions even if they weren't forbidden, whereas their only objection to social conventional transgressions is when someone else gets to do it while they can't. It would be interesting to study the sense of fairness in psychopaths. The only study that has directly examined this did find that psychopaths had less concern for equality than non-psychopaths.

10 Comments:

Blogger Christopher Abad said...

i love this post. i think psychopaths should pull the NT differentiation card also. i really appreciate autists, and they are the people i can 'empathize' with the most next to other psychopaths, and i appreciate the hard work they do. for example i can never finish my work, especially the boring parts, but i can come up with a lot more creative cheating methods than they can, so we work together all the time it turns out. we come up with novel new tricks, and our autistic buddies tie up the loose ends. everyone says thank you buddy, good job afterward. to other psychopaths, this is not an advocation to predate on autists, im rather saying, learn from them, and addition, and don't argue with them, otherwise you'll troll yourself. decide if they are actually right, and then concede, or if they are wrong, just take note and move on. having an autist on your side is a very good choice.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Oladipupo Makinde said...

They actually do. I was an observer team who used Psycopathy as a means to an end flying through various type of violative even with severe caution thrown aside . Only to to themnreserach to find that its psycopathy much more than Autism. No one knows for sure if its even AD or that the father somehow may have wounded the daugther in her early years from interactive.And as such grew up using various odd methodss int he course of survial brutalising innocent victims using a series of abusive psycological methodss, Double binding, false dilemmas , double standard, inevitablly leading to X assault on many occasssion wihtout any ofrm of receding to reciprocate. It is said that psycopathy vicitms would suffer until they have a nervous breakdown and actual disappear form the assailing party who will never accept the reality of the vicitm.So is it Autism, is it ASperger syndrome? or a syndrome in that family of syndromes? Or is is just plain evil psycopathy? The church says Jesus whilst the assailing party also repeats whatever a neutron says whilst its only appearing to be double standards as though the assailing party was never in the perpetrators chair. Did they somehow got comfortable with using Psycological manipualtion, love bombing, double binding , halftruth and so many things uncovered in the prossess of looking for a way to describe the behaviours. why evil practices to strike in crime and cover at the same time? what happened? who taughtth them to use it as a means to survive in place of management?

5:58 PM  
Blogger Oladipupo Makinde said...

They actually do. I was an observer team who used Psycopathy as a means to an end flying through various type of violative even with severe caution thrown aside . Only to to themnreserach to find that its psycopathy much more than Autism. No one knows for sure if its even AD or that the father somehow may have wounded the daugther in her early years from interactive.And as such grew up using various odd methodss int he course of survial brutalising innocent victims using a series of abusive psycological methodss, Double binding, false dilemmas , double standard, inevitablly leading to X assault on many occasssion wihtout any ofrm of receding to reciprocate. It is said that psycopathy vicitms would suffer until they have a nervous breakdown and actual disappear form the assailing party who will never accept the reality of the vicitm.So is it Autism, is it ASperger syndrome? or a syndrome in that family of syndromes? Or is is just plain evil psycopathy? The church says Jesus whilst the assailing party also repeats whatever a neutron says whilst its only appearing to be double standards as though the assailing party was never in the perpetrators chair. Did they somehow got comfortable with using Psycological manipualtion, love bombing, double binding , halftruth and so many things uncovered in the prossess of looking for a way to describe the behaviours. why evil practices to strike in crime and cover at the same time? what happened? who taughtth them to use it as a means to survive in place of management?

6:01 PM  
Blogger Uzorchi Onwudinjo said...

were they comfortable with using Psycological manipualtion, love bombing, double binding , halftruth and so many things uncovered in the prossess of looking for a way to describe the behaviours.click on this page to find out more,www.phy.unn.edu.ng

2:05 AM  
Blogger karen mcardle said...

Really Interesting Article , There should be a lot more study`s done. Sometimes you get put into a situation , where you have to be psychotic to deal with it, does that make the person a psycho , fight or flight , springs to mind . Some people just do not have morals or do not care for their fellow human , some scientists, i would call psychotic , over the years , Due to Experiments , allowed to be done on ? whatever their subject matter at the time.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Brandon Lloyd said...

The difference is cognitive and emotional empathy. An autist confronted with a person crying would know that person is upset, and feel that emotion too (In most cases more strongly than an NT), but would have less information than an NT on why the other person is crying. A psychopath in the same situation would likely have a perfect sense of what is going on, but would not feel the sadness of the other person or feel any compulsion to comfort them.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Tarquin Mahoney said...

i think psychopaths should pull the NT differentiation card also.

therein lies the rub,, faking "autism a" as it understood is a tactic some of them use,,,but their personalities inconsistent in this regard , but in some cases its very hard to tell the difference,,,
sellf ifdentifying psychopaths?
well they tried that,,,it gave them licence ,..it is wise not to calla psychopath a psychopath//
It is a form of autism..
it was first coined as such too,,,
we are back to that point once again..
autistic psychopathy is primary psychopathy is cluster A personality disorderr,, is SEVERE Ppersonality disorder...
this differentiation betwen autistic as in fixed psychopathic antiscoilaity?
where the narcissism is immortal?
and non psychopathic antisoicality is nbot being made as being a psychiatrist ?
often mneans that the person has primary psychopathy...why they seek to fully understand and control human minds themselves with drugs..
its so insightless, so unempathic that psychiatry is for autists only,,,its very dangerous for anyone lese as the voncepts frustrate the practice..
its expereimentation not care...

3:28 AM  
Blogger jimmy said...

"I can never finish my work espeically the boring parts"

Yet you respect and appreciate a talent you are capable of admitting beyond yourself. Sure we both we could do the boring parts if we tried but we arnt going to are we?

We can appreciate trade. Absolute and comparative advantage. Admit our superiority and we will take or rightful place as your gods, alleviating your patheticly limited existence of the insecurities which dictate your every action..

Those words arnt aimed at op. Just Narcissm sparked by authors appreciation of autistics ability to complete tasks used as evidence for the argument of psychopaths being alphas who are unable to act due to a lack of motivation lol, rather then the whining complaints currenlty lobbied against us.

3:41 PM  
Blogger jimmy said...

"Sure we both know we could do the boring parts" can't edit from phone so corrected erroneous statment here.

3:43 PM  
Blogger jimmy said...

I don't know what you feel and I don't care. However what if I learn through a serendipitous event how to achieve the goal is previously would never of admitted to having. What if I watch and mimic what works while using amphetamines to negate social blocks? What if I become obsessed with using women to achieve the level of interaction made possible through coke? What if I am only able to understand social cues by objectifying the person in question and predicting behavior based off of innate understanding of limited archetype? Or should I say a more accurate ability to categorize? If I was able to form attachment as taught by the media in order to get you into bed? But failed misenably once you saw the white Knight you fell for (proving your inferiority and need to validate self by using others, and proving you are in fact below myself, based upon your own standard. No word fits here to describe how disgusted I am by your inability to act outside of hypocrisy, I may be superior but it's only because of how useless you are without me. You'd still be in Africa naked waiting for me to invent you clothing to allow for migration if it wasnt for psychopathy, ungrateful idiots) was nothing but mimicked behavior. So sure I will pick up on social cues. I will feign emotion, but only because I broke the limit of autism to achieve psychopathy. And I can become more, but the only reason to do that would be for the rest of you. To enable you to reach your full potential. To fullfill my role as patriarch, as alpha, as your fucking God. And you want to remove me from society because I am capable of doing things such as removing those who need to be removed and for that you state I'm the one who needs to be removed. Your stupidity causes so much anger. So much fuel. Oh surprised I feel anger? I felt fear first. And killed what me afraid through anger. I am above my emotions. But give me enough evidence and I will allow myself to act on the anger. Or get your head out of your ass and admit me as your superior and allow the human race to both save itself and move foreward.

3:56 PM  

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