A boundary is a barrier; something that separates two things. Walls, fences and cell membranes are examples of physical boundaries. Psychological boundaries can be said to exist too, even though such boundaries have no physical reality. Psychological boundaries are constructed of ideas, perceptions, beliefs and understandings that enable people to define not only their social group memberships, but also their own self-concepts and identities. Such boundaries are the basis by which people distinguish between “We” or “I” (group members; insiders; part of “Us”) and “Other” (outsiders and examples of what is “not-self”). Each person can be said to have a psychological identity boundary around themselves by which they distinguish themselves from other people. Like other boundaries, this identity boundary both separates people and also defines how they are linked together. This is to say that the act of drawing the boundary itself provides the basis for saying that one person is separate from another psychologically, but does so only by drawing a distinction between those two people, which implies a relationship, never the less. Self cannot exist without also “Not-self” existing, just as figure cannot exist without ground against which to contrast. Identity necessarily includes social relationships which are built into the self to varying degrees.
Aggression often occurs in response to some frustration (Berkowitz, 1989). However, aggressive revenge, more specifically, is thought to be driven by negative affects such as anger in response to some transgression (Harmon‐Jones & Sigelman, 2001). Anger is experienced as an unpleasant emotional state often associated with the approach motivational system (Harmon‐Jones, 2004; Harmon‐Jones, Schmeichel, Mennitt, & Harmon‐Jones, 2011; Threadgill & Gable, 2019a). Approach motivation, or the impetus to move toward some goal or object, is a fundamental dimension of affective states (Gable, Neal, & Threadgill, 2018; Gable, Threadgill, & Adams, 2016; Harmon‐Jones, Harmon‐Jones, & Price, 2013; Pizzagalli, Sherwood, Henriques, & Davidson, 2005; Ridderinkhof, 2017; Threadgill & Gable, 2018a, 2019b). Much research has associated anger with approach motivation (for review, see Carver & Harmon‐Jones, 2009). For example, anger is associated with approach‐motivated urges (Dollard, Miller, Doob, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939; Harmon‐Jones, Price, Peterson, Gable, & Harmon‐Jones, 2013), approach‐oriented patterns of physiological responses (Jameison, Koslov, Nock, & Mendes, 2012) and relates to more approach‐motivated traits such as self‐assurance, strength, and bravery (Izard, 1991; Lerner & Keltner, 2001). Moreover, neural regions associated with approach motivation are activated during situational anger (see Gable & Poole, 2014; Gable, Poole, & Harmon‐Jones, 2015; Harmon‐Jones & Gable, 2018, for a review).
Past work has suggested that retaliatory aggression can be approach‐motivated. Harmon‐Jones and Sigelman (2001) found that, after an insult, participants who had greater left frontal alpha asymmetry, a neural correlate of approach motivation, engaged in more aggressive behavior. In contrast, participants who were led to believe that they could not act on their anger by taking actions to resolve an anger‐inducing event showed less left frontal alpha asymmetry than those who did expect to be able to resolve an anger‐inducing event (Harmon‐Jones, Sigelman, Bohlig, & Harmon‐Jones, 2003), suggesting that the ability to rectify an angering‐situation is approach‐motivating.
Other work has shown that participants rate aggressive responses after being provoked as more pleasurable than unjustified aggression (Ramirez, Bonniot‐Cabanac, & Cabanac, 2005). Chester et al. (2016) found that greater sensation‐seeking mediated the relationship between dopamine receptor gene polymorphisms (which is associated with reward seeking behaviors) and previous history of aggression. Additionally, retaliatory behaviors are associated with activity in the ventral striatum, a key component of the reward system in the brain (Chester & DeWall, 2018). Together, this work suggests that approach‐motivated anger is related to both aggressive behaviors and the experience of positive emotions, such as pleasure after aggression.
Based on this past work, an important next step in understanding revenge is to examine how anger impacts the experience of winning the opportunity for revenge. It seems likely that simply winning the opportunity for revenge may elicit emotional responses similar to the pleasant feelings elicited by partaking in revengeful behaviors. No past work has examined how anger impacts the rapid neural reactions to winning the opportunity to partake in revenge‐seeking behaviors. Therefore, we conducted two studies in which participants were made angry by an ostensible aggressor. Participants then engaged in a novel aggression paradigm where, on some trials, they were able to seek revenge against the offending individual, while, on other trials, participants simply beat their opponent in a reaction time game. The present studies sought to shed light on transitory reactions to winning the opportunity to seek revenge against a transgressor. To examine these momentary reactions to winning the ability to get revenge toward an angering situation, we examined the reward positivity (RewP), an ERP component that evaluates outcomes as either positive or negative.
“Her regular tantrums involve swearing, shouting, intimidation and threatens. She will wear people down until, for a quieter life, they agree with her. Interestingly, what she threatens to inflict on others is what she would find most damaging and hurtful to herself.
Equally interestingly, she feels criticism and humiliation intensely, even if none is intended or given, and she will fight ferociously to defend what she sees as an attack, whether or not there is one. Sometimes she will create a threat in her mind merely to defend and excuse what she knows to be her own dreadful behavior.”
- Michael McCaul says 1 in 100 people is a sociopath. From Politifact Texas by W. Gardner Selby, March 2018.
- Now Available! the Hare Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (SRP-4); Published by Multi-Health Systems.
- Robert Hare was named to the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest civilian honours. The Order of Canada recognizes a lifetime of achievement and contribution to society, and was presented by the Governor General of Canada.
- This Charming Psychopath: How to Spot Social Predators Before They Attack – An excerpt from Dr. Hare’s Without Conscience, published by Psychology Today.
- Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy: an organization established to be of assistance to people who are or have been in relationships with individuals with psychopathic features.
- Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy (SSSP): a non-profit, professional organization which was developed to promote the conduct and communication of scientific research in the field of psychopathy and to encourage education and training in those fields of science that contribute to research in psychopathy.
The Psychopaths stare is very effective during the luring and “honeymoon” phases. Women often mistake it as “being sexy” and for “Sexual Attraction” eye gazing occurs in copious amounts during the “Luring and honeymoon stage” at the
beginning of the relationship.
Robert Hare refers to the Psychopath’s gaze as “Intense eye contact and piercing eyes” and even suggested people avoid consistant eye contact with them.
“She cries that he hurt her and he literally doesn’t understand her. The psychopath’s blank-faced stare is an indication that the emotional content of her pain has not registered with him” Cool under pressure with an adroit use of charm and
charisma, they intimidate and control others. There is often an intrusion of space and the predatory ‘stare’. They have a natural ability to lie and deceive, and have an impressive use of jargon. They are naturals at undermining and pushing the
buttons of others. Continue reading “The Psychopaths stare”
If we take Watson’s logic one step further, it may be possible to mold someone into a psychopath. Psychopathy, also called sociopathy, is defined by a lack of empathy, deceitfulness and complete selfishness. Current thinking is that although certain genes may predispose people toward psychopathy, their environment seems to provide the ultimate catalyst. Thus, a person who possesses the particular genes associated with this malady and is brought up in an abusive or neglectful household will be at a higher risk of exhibiting the traits associated with this disorder.
Severe trauma to specific regions of the brain can cause a person to undergo marked personality changes, such as in the famous case of Phineas Gage. While working as a railroad construction foreman in Vermont in 1848, he survived an accident in which a large iron rod was driven through his head, damaging much of his brain’s left frontal lobe. Although he did not become a sociopath, the reported effects on his personality and behavior were so profound that friends saw him as “no longer Gage.”
An incident two decades ago supports the idea that brain trauma can lead to psychopathic behaviors. In 1991 convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido kidnapped 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard and kept her as a prisoner in his home for 18 years. Experts believe that Garrido experienced severe brain damage after a serious motorcycle accident as a teenager, which was compounded by intense drug use. Garrido’s father said that his son had been a “good boy” as a child but that he had changed radically after the accident and had become unstable.
Recently neuroscientists have identified areas of the brain related to psychopathic behaviors. Subtle damage to the amygdala, a brain region that helps us process our emotions, may explain why psychopaths act so cruelly and cannot express emotions properly. Psychopathic behaviors are also associated with injury to the cerebral cortex, which regulates memory and self-awareness, and the frontal lobe, which is responsible for self-control and judgment. Continue reading “Can You Make a Sociopath—Either Through Brain Injury or Other Types of Trauma?”
There are seven social processes that grease “the slippery slope of evil”:
- Mindlessly taking the first small step
- Dehumanization of others
- De-individuation of self (anonymity)
- Diffusion of personal responsibility
- Blind obedience to authority
- Uncritical conformity to group norms
- Passive tolerance of evil through inaction or indifference
Those who have engaged with psychopaths or narcissists often retroactively report having had an initial feeling that something was off, but they did not heed it. Some actually said that they felt queasy or sensed a coldness in the individual, but brushed it aside because they wanted to like the person or were flattered by his attention.
Neither a perfectly-crafted mask nor the world’s most charming repartee can fully camouflage a lack of emotional empathy, which is the defining hallmark of both psychopathy and narcissism. A person cannot wholly fake that which they do not experience, even if they say and do “all the right things.” So while your conscious mind focuses on an individual’s statements and conversational style, your subconscious registers possible discrepancies between that person’s outward comportment and his hidden feelings. Stay attuned to both avenues of information if you suspect you are in the presence of a person who wants to manipulate you, or who is nothing like the entity they are conjuring in conversation. Continue reading “Non-Verbal Clues”
You may walk out of a social encounter or a date and realize you have not been asked one single question about yourself, despite having learned a ton about the individual (see above). Pay attention to the degree of informational asymmetry: Does he disclose an enormous amount without asking or expecting you to reciprocate?
What’s going on: If nothing is asked of you and no interest expressed, then script delivery is the entire point of the encounter. If he asks a ton of questions but moves quickly from one to another, rather than allowing the conversation to organically unfold, he may be mining you for data, including information that can be used to gain a sense of your vulnerabilities. When chatting with a new target, psychopaths frequently strive to elicit information about stressors or life problems, so that they can ingratiate themselves with offers of assistance. This is an effort to gain your trust, of course. Continue reading “Asks no personal questions or asks very pointed questions.”
The stories about the wife who took his fortune or the top-secret government contract may be repeated verbatim or near verbatim from one encounter to the next. Sure, we all have our pet narratives and canned stories that engender eye rolls amongst those who have heard them multiple times. So pay close attention to the nature of the information that is repeated.
What’s going on: If self-serving or self-aggrandizing information is repeatedly recycled, the individual is likely using a script, one that he’s forgotten that he’s already deployed with you. Psychopaths in particular are glib, and mendacity is their lingua franca. Sometimes they lie for no reason other than their own amusement. But they also lie to further specific agendas, and that is when they are most likely to go on auto-pilot in the delivery of false, scripted stories. Because people are interchangeable in the eyes of a psychopath or a narcissist—one-dimensional beings in whom they have no genuine interest—it can be hard for them to remember what they’ve said, and to whom. Continue reading “Repeats “confidential” information that he’s already shared with you.”