Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Driving Psychology In The Perugia Case: Could Those Just Convicted Be “Charming Psychopaths”?

Posted by Miss Represented


Those not yet familiar with the “charming psychopath” concept may be in for a surprise when they google the term.

It has been quite thoroughly explored in the past decade, in part with the hope of preventing future crimes. Many thousands of relatives and friends of both victims and perpetrators have had their lives upended when one or other charming psychopath - probably part of a large pool - sheds any constraints and a cool callous murder results. 

The “charming” component leads easily to denial. There is quite a history of campaigns that set out to deny that any particular such murderer could actually have done it.

They simply seemed far too nice. 

A widely read article by Robert D Hare on charming psychopaths in Psychology Today presented a precise description of the symptoms that should hint to the perceptive eye that something might be seriously wrong.

These are two highly-rated book-length treatments of the charming psychopath concept which have recently been selling well

Psychologists well qualified in this field have now begun to float articles on the concept as it may apply to Raffaelle Sollecito and Amanda Knox and some books will presumably follow.

Here is an article “Signs that suggest Amanda Knox is a psychopath” by a highly experienced American psychotherapist, Dr Coline Covington, who now practices in England.

She was the former Editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology as well as the former Chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council and she has also worked for the London police.  In the article she describes Amanda’s behaviour in court:

Knox’s narcissistic pleasure at catching the eye of the media and her apparent nonchalant attitude during most of the proceedings show the signs of a psychopathic personality. Her behaviour is hauntingly reminiscent of Eichmann’s arrogance during his trial for war crimes in Jerusalem in 1961 and most recently of Karadzic’s preening before the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

The psychopath is someone who has no concern or empathy for others, no awareness of right and wrong, and who takes extreme pleasure in having power over others. The psychopath has no moral conscience and therefore does not experience guilt or remorse.

Most psychopaths are highly skilled at fooling those around them that they are normal by imitating the emotions that are expected of them in different circumstances. They are consummate at charming people and convincing them they are in the right. It is only when they reveal a discrepancy in their emotional response that they let slip that something may be wrong with them.

The psychopath is the conman, or in the case of Amanda Knox, the con-woman par excellence. Her nickname ‘Foxy Knoxy’, given to her as a young girl for her skills at football, takes on a new meaning.

Whether or not Knox, who is appealing her verdict, is ultimately found guilty, her chilling performance remains an indictment against her. Her family’s disbelief in the outcome of the trial can only be double-edged.

This is not the only time a suggestion has been made that Amanda has displayed behaviour which is often associated with psychopathy. It is a view that I myself have supported in the past.

And similar arguments have just been made by Professor David Wilson and Professor David Canter.  Rather lurid headlines, but their science is sound.

On my companion website to TJMK on the psychological dimensions of the case, Miss Represented, there is some interesting discussion in the Comments on the arguments for charming psychopathia now being presented.

These articles are probably only the tip of the iceberg as more psychoanalysts get drawn to this case.




Comments

Just curious—was Dr Coline Covington in the courtroom, or just looking at photographs?

Posted by nashvilletn on 12/31/09 at 03:18 PM | #

Hi Nasvilltn. That wasnt the only choice of course. There was extensive video in Italian and some in English - we have a link to some video on the site here - and written reports and reports from people we know who were in the courtroom.

Dr Covington’s description doesnt seem too different from what several of our Italian posters saw when they watched AK on the stand on TV. Their observations are posted on TJMK here and here.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 12/31/09 at 05:14 PM | #

One or two days after the verdict, I read on some Italian online newspaper what the prison chaplain said. And among other things, he said she had not made any friends at the prison.

In 2 years, I would assume that you need to get closer to someone, at least one or two persons, wouldn’t you think?

To paraphrase Edda, “You know,” when she will be with her family again, soon or later, I would not want to be in their lives there. They know something is wrong. And they will have to deal with it, and fear it for the rest of their lives!

And I am not sad of it for a bit, because the way they act is too trivial.

Posted by Patou on 12/31/09 at 05:43 PM | #

Seeing how Knox’s parents have carried on, seeking the limelight, playing to the media, and being insensitive to everyone else concerned, you can see where Knox gets it from.  Apparently she is descended from psychopaths, so how could we expect her to be any different?  The “charming” part is the only part that I am not seeing.

I had read somewhere that Edda Mellas had made a comment that she would not extend her sympathies to the Kerchers until Knox is acquitted.  I think that the real reason is that she cannot bring herself to face the Kerchers, and cannot even face the truth itself, as she knows that her daughter is guilty.

Posted by Mo-in-Mass.,USA on 01/01/10 at 03:11 PM | #

Thanks for posting this Miss R, it was for me a very interesting read.

However, I found it chilling on reading the Robert D Hare article.  If not for the fact that it was written in 1994 it could have quite easily been about Amanda Knox. It described her and her strange behaviour to a tee.

With regard to Robert Hare’s article and Dr Coline Covington’s piece, I agree Knox to be a con-woman par excellence and believe this is how all her friends and associates seem to have been duped very easily by her, although I have trouble with this when it comes to her family - especially her mother.

As a parent, you know when your kids are lying or acting - you have known them very well from birth after all. Either Edda Mellas is stupid for not noticing anything was amiss with her daughter, or she is lying.  For me I would say probably both.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 01/01/10 at 06:11 PM | #

Hi Deathfish. There is some evidence that the biological parents KNEW Amanda was guilty almost all along and proceeded with the carnage regardless.

You can see the dawning of realization in Edda and what looks like her lying on the witness stand (perjury, an imprisonable offense) in Finn’s amazing post here. 

Nobody - NOBODY - in the FOA camp has ever come within a mile of explaining that one - or the whole handful of alibis for that matter.  That is why the blowing of smoke is so active in other areas such as the DNA.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/01/10 at 07:38 PM | #

Exactly Pete,
The FOA tend to avoid things like Amanda’s first phone call to her mother like a nuclear accident.

As we know, there are many many things in this case they would rather not talk about - which says it all to me really.

Posted by Deathfish2000 on 01/01/10 at 09:49 PM | #

Dear Miss Represented,

I know of your very nice work (and your splendid webpage) about the psychologies involved in the murder of Meredith Kercher, but I have to disagree with you on some issues


Firstly, I have to disagree with your promotion of Coline Covingtons article. I don’t find it convincing (and she is definite not a competent political analysts, demonstrated clearly in her other articles). I agree that the public appearance of Amanda - which is all we know of, as no psychological evaluation of her is made public - reveals obvious signs of narcissism and grandiosity, and probably she has a psychopathic or sociopathic personality.

But other aspects of CC’s description does not seem to fit: Amanda seems intelligent, and seems able to be charming and manipulative, but I don’t see obvious signs of an extreme controlling behaviour (‘taking extreme pleasure in having power over others’). Where does CC see extreme control in Amanda’s behaviour in public, in her diaries, in court or in her personal story?


Secondly, the ‘charming psychopath’ label can be aimed only at Amanda. I don’t see that Raffaele in any way qualifies to Hare’s description of a ‘charming psychopath’: much can be said about the behaviour and emotional dysfunctional of Raffaele, but ‘charming psychopath’ seems not fitting in light of public presented narratives, from testimonies in court – both pro and con.

Prof Wilson’s portrait of Amanda as “a woman clearly involved with an older, more experienced boyfriend who introduced her to a lifestyle …etc.” is interesting as it contradicts all earlier arguments and speculations into the relationship between Amanda and Raffaele – it contradicts the ‘charming psychopath’ and also contradicts Migninis argument in his closing argument. (I personally don’t think Wilson is right, as I don’t see Raffaele as ‘experienced’ in any sense; I more suspect that Amanda and Raffaele mutually cultivated the darker side of each other.)


Thirdly, CC’s comparing Amanda to Adolph Eichman demonstrates her absolute lack of knowledge about Eichman (and her lack of knowledge of political science and philosophy).  This comparison is definite without scientific grounding, and fails to explain as well Amanda as Eichman – and worse, CC misses the profound point of the horror of the Nazi crimes.

Eichman was NOT a psychopath, in fact he lacked any remarkable personal characteristics. During his imprisonment, before his trial in 1961, he was examined by no less than six psychologists (working for the Israeli government). Not only did these doctors find no trace of mental illness, but they also found no evidence of abnormal personality whatsoever.

And this is the tragedy: It is exactly the BANALITY of the evil which makes the Nazi-regime so terrifying. Eichman was a “book-keeper”, he had an ordinary and common personality, he lacked any special intelligence, any imagination, any deeper engagement in life - he claimed that he ‘just followed orders’. The Nazi’s turned genocide into a bureaucratic machine which did not take a psychopath to send millions of people in the gas-chambers, sadly it only required “a book-keeper”.  (The authoritative book on Eichman is Hannah Arenth: “The banality of evil.”.)

All the best,
Fiori

Posted by Fiori on 01/01/10 at 10:08 PM | #

Hi Fiori. Each of the two have a constituency who thinks they are innocent and are activist on their behalf so yes, in that sense they are charming. Perhaps not to you or us, but to some people. And Covington made only one brief mention of Eichmann. It was of the fact that he took his trial rather lightly. That was all.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 01/02/10 at 01:43 AM | #

Hi Fiori,

I’m sorry you feel this way about the post. I merely collected the opinions of a few experts. These are not my own comments, neither does it mean I think they are the ‘truth’.

I believe it’s important especially in a place like this not to make comments that imply we ‘know’ the truth.

Fiori wrote: “Eichman was NOT a psychopath, in fact he lacked any remarkable personal characteristics. During his imprisonment, before his trial in 1961, he was examined by no less than six psychologists (working for the Israeli government). Not only did these doctors find no trace of mental illness, but they also found no evidence of abnormal personality whatsoever.”

Robert Hare’s psychopathy checklist (the diagnostic tool for diagnosing psychopathy) was not developed until much, much later, so it is in fact impossible to ‘know’ whether or not Eichman was a psychopath.

Miss R

Posted by Miss Represented on 01/02/10 at 06:29 AM | #

Dr. Covington:  “The very fact that Knox is in many ways the epitome of the “girl next door” is what is so frightening and threatening. If she is in fact guilty of murder, then we are compelled to face the possibility that each of us has the capacity for evil. This is the real horror that gives rise to protest and disbelief in our attempt to disown this part of ourselves.”

http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/57292,news-comment,news-politics,why-is-amanda-knoxs-conviction-so-upsetting

If Amanda Knox is the “girl next door” America is in real trouble.  Unfortunately this is the scary truth.  These people gotta live somewhere and they call home a $20.00 shack (my neighborhood) or a $2 million dollar mansion across the street (the Mellas Estate).  They DO go to school with your kids and YOU DO drive them to their soccer games with your kids and you LIKE them and their quirky personalities. 

And yes, I agree, each of us does have the capacity to kill another but the majority of us do not because we have that little thing in our heads – our conscience – which reminds us we are better off to cuss at someone rather than pick up a knife and stab them to death.  I would expect to be thoroughly amazed if I killed someone but put me in a situation of defending myself against Amanda Knox and I would rip her to shreds.

I enjoyed the Psychology Today article on Charming Psychopaths by Dr. Hare and expect to buy his books.  Information such as this feels like armor against the evils that lurk in our homes and thank God – our prisons, no matter where they reside.

Adrian Lee: in her own words, spoken in Italian, during the trial: “Meredith was my friend. I did not hate her and it is absurd to think I would have hurt someone who was so nice to me.”

How many times have we heard this but it just hit me like a ton of bricks - IMHO what she felt but could not say was, “Meredith used to be my friend.  While I did not hate her I was wicked jealous of her and it is insane but I can’t believe I killed her. Wow!  What is really crazy is given the right circumstances I would do it all over again.”

“Professor David Canter of the Centre for Investigative Psychology at Liverpool University says Knox doesn’t have the hallmarks of many sexually motivated killers. She is a bright girl who has studied languages while in prison and does not come from a dysfunctional family.”

It amazes me how anyone, particularly someone who is making a statement based upon some authority they claim to have can say things like she did NOT come from a dysfunctional family!! Where have these people been?  What boat are they missing?  On what basis do they declare this to be?  I’m sorry, but this is one of THE MOST dysfunctional families I have ever seen. Someone should send him the early posts from Chris Mellas….

Posted by Professor Snape on 01/02/10 at 03:38 PM | #

Hi Professor Snape,

I agree with your comment. Amanda’s family certainly seem more dysfunctional yet feel I must defend Prof Canter’s opinion simply in light of how ‘profiling’ (we call it investigative psychology) is used in the UK.

Prof Canter was one of the first people to introduce the US technique of profiling in the UK but he altered it slightly, moving away from the more intuitive pattern based observations used to fuel the US approach, and towards a more statistics based approach. He would view Amanda as having a relatively ‘normal’ background compared to someone who has been exposed to a lot of violence and drugs which we would consider more ‘dysfunctional’ here.

I really would love to see some comments from US psychologists with regard to Amanda and feel their ideas about the case and her background may be similar to yours and ours.

Best,

Miss R

Posted by Miss Represented on 01/02/10 at 04:19 PM | #

Miss R.,

I really appreciate the effort to explore this aspect of Knox’s personality and understand that everything stated is speculation. It’s certainly worth starting the conversation even if everything put forward is not necessarily entirely accurate. I agree with the assessment of her courtroom behavior, which I found absolutely astonishing, and look forward to hearing more from people who are in a position to make informed professional judgments.

However some of the statements made above do cause me concern and seem really unenlightened given what we know about the Knox/Mellas family and what we know about domestic violence, including physical and sexual abuse, and substance abuse.

“He would view Amanda as having a relatively ‘normal’ background compared to someone who has been exposed to a lot of violence and drugs which we would consider more ‘dysfunctional’ here.”

First of all, the “girl next door” thing. This expression needs to be relegated to the dustbin of ancient history! Whose next door? Just because she’s white and has an Anglo-Saxon appearance doesn’t make her typical to lots and lots of people—including most people on earth—who are neither. Was Meredith Kercher also the girl next door, or was her skin a little too dark? That comment is just racist.

There also seems to be an assumption that because she’s white and middle class Knox wasn’t exposed to a lot of “violence and drugs.” Huh? Who knows what kind of violence Knox experienced or witnessed while growing up. I’m thinking, to be precise, of her step-father, Chris Mellas, who referred to his wife and daughters as “shitheads” on his Facebook page. If that’s how he talks about them publicly, how does he behave in the privacy of his own home? Knox was known to have said to people that she worried about her mother in relationship to him. Abuse and violence take all kinds of forms. Frankly, I have some ideas about the kind of abuse she may have experienced, given the kinds of acting out she continually displayed.

As for drug use, that also takes many forms. Didn’t Mellas also brag on his Facebook page about how he got drunk with his stepdaughter or stepdaughters? Not exactly exemplary behavior for a parent.

Posted by wayra on 01/02/10 at 07:23 PM | #

Hello Professor Snape,

I’m overjoyed that you mentioned, “the girl next door,” in America.

Yes! We are in trouble here. For some reason people want to believe the better the neighborhood, the better the kids! This is far from the truth.

What happens in this scenario, the parents have the money to either, ship the kids off to a foreign country. Or, hire expensive attorneys to get the charges dropped. Either way, it rarely become public.

To get an example of the college kids, the so-called girl next door, in the U.S., think “girls gone wild,” videos. Florida, Palm Springs California got so fed up, they banned “Spring Breakers.”

I hate using this as an example, but “the Columbine incident” was supposed to be an example of good neighborhoods, good parents.

I live in a coastal community, in Orange County California. Believe me, it’s not what you think! There’s a difference between rich and poor. With poor, they tend to be more open and friendlier, and a bit on the nosey side. With rich, they tend to be more hostile and uptight, and a bit on the secretive side.

With crime, in poor areas the news portray it as crime and drug-infested. It’s true, you can become of victim of crime more often than not. Yet, in rich areas, what I find fascinating, police is mostly called for domestic abuse, drunken neighbors. But, worst of all, there are times the entire neighborhood is evacuated due to the type of weapons found in a home. It is reported that what’s found in the homes could potentially blow-up the neighborhood.

What’s interesting in this case, I have yet to see emotions. I would have been affected if it was my friend, more so in a home I lived in. But, this is America, people tend to love animals (pets) more than humans.

Posted by annjell on 01/02/10 at 10:49 PM | #

1/3/10

AK’s a headcase. Her pen name, “Marie,” that makes her initials MK. This is so horrible.

RS hooked up with a whackjob. You secretly attract what you think you deserve. Wake up, people, sociopaths can’t change.

Miss Represented, thank you. I did research on sociopaths from your article. Eye-opening, yow. I’d love to see comments from psychologists about AK & RS.

Aside: I do love Catnip over at PMF.

Nora Jones’ song: Don’t Know Why. The lyrics say, “something’s gotta make you run.” AK is running from 3 incompetent adults, fleeing disorder yet recreating it because it’s all she knows. The only space she controls is between her ears, thus the books.

I applaud her good mind. I wish I had the intellectual skills she does. She needs to use them, it’s her chief asset. In confinement, she can. She still has her health, youth, great looks, and athletic prowess. What a shame she couldn’t feel these and see her advantages before she flipped out. Might’ve erased her envy of Meredith.

AK also has new initials in pen name, Marie Pace: MP. Military police. Handcuffs? She needs restraint.

Society must control behavior. The “why” is too subjective. Learn fast, and protect yourself against sociopaths. Be merciful, but not a fool. Don’t take a vow of poverty for those freaks.  Have compassion on yourself as well as others. The prodigal son had to hit rockbottom in pig pen, then he woke up. That’s the cure.

Don’t ennable chronic career criminals, troublemakers. It only prolongs their suffering, and adds new victims. You’ll end up with contempt for their helplessness. Maybe that’s what you want. Respect them enough to cut them loose till they are motivated from within to change. Then it’s win-win.

“Redirect your generosity” website or try new tactic. They will bleed you try, then kick you in the teeth for helping. A sociopath will leave you with a broken heart and an empty pocketbook. Get real. Observe, learn, but don’t put your head on the same chopping block twice. Money is a curse to a fool. He will only incur more pain with it.

“A rod for the back of a mule”.

Posted by Hopeful on 01/03/10 at 11:29 AM | #

I do not know if Amanda Knox was charming when she was in Seattle or when she was in Perugia.  I do not know if she was a psychopath in Seattle or a psychopath in Perugia.

But I see no reason why a change in geography should bring about a change in her character. People in Seattle drink lattes all the time and deal with rainfall all the time. People in Perugia have much sunnier weather and consume less coffee. Not much else is different between Perugia and Seattle.

Posted by FoolsGold on 01/04/10 at 06:51 AM | #

Wayra-

RE:“First of all, the “girl next door” thing. This expression needs to be relegated to the dustbin of ancient history! Whose next door? Just because she’s white and has an Anglo-Saxon appearance doesn’t make her typical to lots and lots of people—including most people on earth—who are neither. Was Meredith Kercher also the girl next door, or was her skin a little too dark? That comment is just racist.”

You must have a different impression than my understanding of “girl next door”.  I don’t think it has anything to do with the color of one’s skin or ethnic background, but rather that it means someone who is fresh-faced and innocent and outgoing who is liked by everyone.

Anjell-

RE:“To get an example of the college kids, the so-called girl next door, in the U.S., think “girls gone wild,” videos.” & “But, this is America, people tend to love animals (pets) more than humans.”

Your experience of what you see there on the west coast seems to be in total contradiction to what I see here in New England.  Sure, we have some “girls gone wild” types her, too, but they are certainly not the norm, and I think it’s unfair to say that Americans care more about animals than humans, though we do love our pets. Unless you have been all over the United States, please don’t characterize the entire country with generalizations.

Hopeful-

RE:“Her pen name, “Marie,” that makes her initials MK.” & “AK also has new initials in pen name, Marie Pace: MP. Military police. Handcuffs? She needs restraint.”

Have I missed something?  I have not heard anything about a pen name….....Please explain/inform.

Posted by Mo-in-Mass.,USA on 01/04/10 at 07:27 AM | #

Mo, it is her pen name for a story she wrote while in prison.

See here

http://www.halfcute.com/2009/12/seattle-pi-article-on-amanda-knox.html

Posted by chira385 on 01/04/10 at 06:53 PM | #

Hi Mo-in-Mass,

I do understand that being like the “girl next door” is supposed to refer to being “fresh-faced and innocent and outgoing/liked by everyone.” But the reality is that the expression is usually used to describe someone’s IDEA of what that looks like. I can’t think of any instances where “girl next door” is used to describe someone who is other than white and cute, etc.

More to the point, there is nothing about Amanda Knox, EXCEPT her looks, that makes her like the stereotypical “girl next door.” Even in Seattle, she was NOT innocent and NOT well-liked by everyone. She’s just white, cute, etc.,and knows how to manipulate her image based on her appearance.

On the other hand, Meredith Kercher was more aligned with being “fresh-faced, outgoing and well-liked” by everyone and I don’t remember anywhere reading that she was like the “girl next door.” 

I hope that provides some clarity on my perspective. My point is that the whole idea of who is like the “girl next door” is prejudicial, fraught with false ideas about appearances and how they represent cultural norms.

Posted by wayra on 01/04/10 at 10:03 PM | #

Mo-in-Mass,

I have a smile on my face as I write this to you. I would hope you have a smile on your face as you read this - no hard feelings, okay!

This post was talking about the psyche of the defendant(s).

I agree with the comments that Wayra made. The girl-next-door is/should be any American girl that came from humble, if not, modest means/backgounds, and made good. Example, Oprah Winfrey, could certainly have been the girl-next door. Yet, she was never mentioned as the-girl-next-door. Assoc. Justice Sotomayer could have been the-girl-next-door.

Yet, it’s never a person of color that gets the title “America’s Sweetheart.”

As Far as my comments, we (Americans) tend to not address the issue at hand. The kids and teens growing up in America. It’s right in front of faces - see the shirt Amanda had on “all you need is love.” Normally, (not always) we wear clothing that we identify with - if we have the money to purchase it.

No one likes to talk about the kids and teens that are taking legal/illegal drugs. Legal drugs for bi-polar, ADD & ADHD. Illegal drugs like pot and worse.

No one likes to talk about the kids and teens that behave unruly in order to get attention - example, Paris Hilton, showing her private parts to photographers when entering vehicles…..

No one likes to talk about the kids and teens that engage in bad behavior - trying to imitate the real bad girls/boys that already have juvenile rap sheets…leave it up to some cable programs, to talk about it as if it’s cute, and acceptable behavior.

My comment about people “tend” to love animals more than people. Let’s face it, most people never know or experience real true love. Most people tend to want to date/marry people based on looks, or money. It is rare, people marry someone because they believe that person is his/her soulmate or because they truly respect one another and want to spend the rest of their lives with each other.

On the other hand, let’s look at the Katrina hurricane. At first, people were more concerned with the animals than what to do about the people.

Now, as a whole, I can say these things, because it is more of the norm than not. If a girl-next-door is one that is not considered highly attractive, wealthy…no one gives her the time of day. In fact, no one really notices her, because she’s not considered “hot,” or she’s considered boring.

Posted by annjell on 01/04/10 at 11:01 PM | #

Hello Annjell and all.

…and on kids coming from “good homes.” The $2,000,000. homes across the street have some teenagers who, you would think, have everything they could want – including a golf course.  But rather they choose to use their golf clubs to whack the sprinkler heads off the irrigation system in the boulevard.  The fix ...Dad pays the homeowners for the repairs and everyone calls it good & mostly the kids.

AK’s family is no different nor their community of friends.  If they could just pay off the Prosecutor they would.  The one difference is the Knox/Mellas families are poor compared to the guys across the street and they have a PR campaign with a motive of their own.  This team of AK supporters tries like hell to pull together enough money to keep their pathetic program alive. 

Funny thing is they are being used just like they are using what little good name Americans slightly have left.  The good side to this house of cards is that it WILL come falling down on them.  It’s just a matter of time - which we all know we have and hopefully Amanda will get the most of it.

(Speaking of which her light sentence makes me extremely angry considering the seriousness of the crime! Should have been life! Grrr!)

Amanda fits the “Charming Psychopath” criteria.  The evaluation process must have a standard; isn’t it wild what we each think any given level or example might represent?  Confusion is further increased by the false information the media tries to shove down our throats.

Posted by Professor Snape on 01/05/10 at 05:53 AM | #

Wayra,

I do understand what you are saying, but I just don’t see that skin color has anything to do with it.  Perhaps some people do, but I don’t.  Maybe it has something to do with the area of the country one lives in. 

Coming from an area that has people of many different ethnicities, I see many “girl next door” types in my neighborhood; some white, some black, some Indian, some Brazilian and some Hispanic. 

I see some of the “girls gone wild” types, too, but they also come in all colors and ethnicities. I see “girl next door” as being opposite the “girls gone wild” stereotype. I guess it’s all about perception.

Posted by Mo-in-Mass.,USA on 01/05/10 at 07:39 AM | #

Annjell,

Yes, some, even a lot, of kids and teens in America are more of the “girls gone wild” sort. Amanda Knox is one example.  There are also many kids out there that were raised to be decent human beings, care about others, and who do their generation proud, but we don’t hear so much about them - maybe because they don’t seek attention for their good deeds.  Yes, I agree that often many of those that come from the “best” homes turn out the worst, as everything was handed to them, while many who started out with the deck stacked against them made good (Oprah, Judge Sotomayor).  Sometimes it’s the very adversity that they face that makes them develop the strength, smarts, and determination to overcome their beginnings. In spite of their differences, I hate to label an entire generation based on those that are using ill-advised means to garner attention.

As for the other portion of your post————-“My comment about people “tend” to love animals more than people. Let’s face it, most people never know or experience real true love. Most people tend to want to date/marry people based on looks, or money. It is rare, people marry someone because they believe that person is his/her soulmate orbecause they truly respect one another and want to spend the rest of their lives with each other. On the other hand, let’s look at the Katrina hurricane. At first, people were more concerned with the animals than what to do about the people. Now, as a whole, I can say these things, because it is more of the norm than not. If a girl-next-door is one that is not considered highly attractive, wealthy…no one gives her the time of day. In fact, no one really notices her, because she’s not considered “hot,” or she’s considered boring.”——————Wow! If I had that perception of the population I don’t think I’d even want to leave the house and go out amongst the public! Money and looks have never affected how much I loved someone or how much they loved (or didn’t) me, and I’ve known only a few who felt that looks and/or wealth were of much importance.

As for the animals, my feeling is that people largely create their own “luck” (“your attitude determines your altitude”) by their deeds, behaviors, attitude, and willingness to work hard, but many animals are stuck with whatever means they have to survive. I help people and I help animals.

Hurricane Katrina, as with most tragedies, brought out both the best and the worst of human nature.  Just as there was not enough help soon enough to go around for all those people, there were others who were “helping themselves” by looting goods that did not belong to them.

No, there are no hard feelings here, but there is good and bad everywhere and I don’t like to make generalizations.

If we are looking to find answers regarding Amanda’s psyche, then I feel that her mother’s behavior is the most telling influence,i.e.- certainly her mother must have acquainted herself with the evidence, yet vociferously decries Amanda’s innocence even knowing that the evidence says otherwise.  Amanda likes attention; her mother obviously does, too.  Amanda makes outrageous claims to lead others away from the truth, as in saying she was abused by the police and lying about Mr. Lumumba.  Her mother makes outrageous claims, too, citing anti-Americanism, judicial railroading, and horrible statements about Mr. Mignini.  Amanda and Edda have very similar modus operandi. As they say, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”.

Posted by Mo-in-Mass.,USA on 01/05/10 at 09:31 PM | #

Hello Professor Snape,

I agree! However, I don’t think it’s wild, here’s why, ‘most’ kids and teens in the U.S. are more angry and violent. We have a generation of out-of-control kids because there’s no discipline. There’s no discipline in the schools, there’s no discipline in the homes. A parent can be investigated and/or arrested for verbal/physical abuse. Yes, sometimes it is definitely abuse, but, other times it is just discipline. It’s gotten so bad, neighbors will go inside their homes and close their doors. Yet, on the other hand, if a neighbor attempts to tell the parents what their child has done, the parent will become defensive, “my child said he/she didn’t do it…”

It’s amazing to look at the number of children on anti-depressants, medication for Attention Deficit Disorder….

Something is clearly wrong. How can so many children be angry, violent, and on medication? They are not able to enjoy their childhood, teenage years. They’re afraid to go to school, they’re afraid to go to the park, they’re afraid to walk home from school. They’re having sex at such young ages.

Right now there’s a 15-year-old girl in custody for killing her 9-year-old neighbor. According to the news, the 15-year-old said she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. 15 year olds!!!

Yes, I am American. I know that sometimes I say things that will piss people off, or they may think otherwise. But, truth is, we are definitely in trouble.

We are not teaching our children that whatever they do in life have consequences. We are not shaping their lives with values and morals. And, even if we did, they face the harsh reality of the streets.

Posted by annjell on 01/09/10 at 05:41 PM | #

There seems to me to be a vast differnce between someone completely mad, suffering from full-on psychosis, due to nothing they have done (i.e. due to purely biological causes), and someone who acts “abnormally”, according to what ‘we’ consider the normal standards of how people should act. When people say ‘we’ they either mean ‘we’ who live in this culture, or that; or ‘we’ as in human beings in general.

I find it quite curious that psychology has simply nothing to say on the subject of moral failure and immoral actions - everyone who does wrong, according to psychology, is simply ill. The degree of their illness is described via the degree of badness or wrongness of the acts they have committed. As such, psychologists can tell us little, if anything, on the subject of moral responsibility. Why? Because if doing wrong is about being sick, and not about something else, then all a psychologists can do is offer us some ‘causes’ as how this person came to the given wrong thing. But saying “how someone came to do x?” is not one and the same as saying “why someone came to do x?”. Causes and reasons are very often confused even by some of the worlds top thinkers. Science can only tell us how things happen, and not why. Though science also tells us that saying how someone thing happens is in effect one and the same thing as explaining why it happened. Strictly speaking this is not true, and there are volumes of journal article written on the controversy surrounding this subject.

Explaining how Knox’s behaviour fits into what some psychologists call this or that criteria cannot by itself tell us why she did it. More importantly though, it fails to show us that she was responsible for it because it immediately puts her into a class of those who are ill and simply can’t help doing anything other than what they do. But is moral failure really like having cancer, or the involuntary movement of, say, one of my limbs? To be sure, it is not.

People are rational animals, they act for ‘reasons’ - the normative dimension of which is entailed by virtue of the fact that we are thinking being capable of making choices, and assessing the outcome of those choices. Balls, trees, and molecules, on the other hand fall into the category of inanimate objects that behave due to ‘causes’ - the limited dimension of which is entailed by virtue of the fact that they are not capable of thinking, planning, reasoning, weighing-up, assessing, and imagining. Where reasons are confused with causes - and I have seen and heard many lawyers capitalise on this confusion to sway jury’s opinions with the aim of proving that their clients are sick, need mental help, or must receive some sort of ‘special’ treatement by the law - it can seriously blur the line between where one can be held responsible, and where one cannot be held accountable for what happened.

Amanda Knox, I contend, is a fully rational person capable of complex thought mechanisms not different to any average human being. Up until the time of her arrival in Italy she displayed no evidence to contradict this, and why anyone standards she was - fairly - normal (exactly like Eichmann). Sorry, Miss Represented but Fiori’s comments can’t be responded to adequately on the grounds that if Eichmann were alive today, then we may have put him through psychological tests to see if he was sick because maybe he really was – this doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because the Nazi people were in the millions, and if you want to argue that ALL of them were sick, then you’ll have to say that 95% of humanity is sick because they act immorally (to different degrees, that is); and with this, the notion of ‘abnormality’ and ‘sickness’ looses purchases, because if the majority who are sick are normal, then surely something’s gone wrong, and what we call normal is in fact the opposite of what we call abnormal, and the notion of ‘normality’ will require a radical redefinition! This leads to an absurdity because if 95% of us are evil and sick then the 5% who are healthy must be the abnormal ones! You may want to have a look at what’s called the Goldhagen thesis (Book: Hitler’s Willing Executioners): it argues that Nazis were sick psychopaths, but that nonetheless, they were responsible for their actions. Goldhagen makes the same mistake. I find this self-contradictory because generally illness and disease is something that happens to us, and not something we intentionally and actively pursue. A scientists can give us ‘causes’ for disease and not ‘reasons’. An environmentalist, on the other hand, may cite ‘reasons’ for why our environment is polluted, and tell us that corporations are responsible. Note that the latter entails choice, responsibility, etc. where as the former entails none.  Sure, smoking leads to cancer, and all, but am I not responsible for smoking? Was I already sick when I chose to smoke; did I chose to smoke because I was sick – isn’t that a circular argument? Do people who suffer from psychosis (due to prolonged exposure to, and abuse of, narcotics) not responsible for what they’ve done to themselves on exactly the ground that they were not always sick, but were once upon time fully capable of judging their actions? Are these people the same as someone who through no fault of their own, and hereditary biological reasons, suffers from psychosis. Are these two the same? How can psychology enlighten us on such a difference?

Psychology simply cannot understand why normal people can do evil, wrong, act unethically, etc. so it simply shifts the definition and calls them ‘abnormal’, ‘sick’, etc. But making mistakes, be they moral, ethical, theoretical, practical, political, emotional or whatever, is not abnormal - it is a necessary condition of being human - that is why Hanna Arendt call her book ‘The BANALITY of Evil’. This is not to say, however, that we are not responsible for some of our mistakes. Surely, there are mistakes for which we cannot be responsible - that too is normal. However, there are many more for which we are indeed responsible, and which we could have helped, and which we could have avoided. Sollecito and Knox fall into this latter category of people who made mistakes, ones which (due to their being fully rational agents) they could have avoided; but they chose not to, do because they thought they were smart, and they thought they could get away with it. They probably still hold out for the hope that they might get away with it. They are not sick psychopaths, they are just terribly arrogant, spoilt youths. But most importantly, they are terribly stupid - and culpable for it.

If jail life is now driving Knox & Sollecito crazy, it’s because they drove themselves to this point - and this can be explained through their lack of moral education, lack of empathy towards others, and their arrogance (all of which they are responsible for), rather than being explained through some psychological theory that erases their responsibility, and would rather they were sent somewhere for medical treatement instead of jail.

Posted by Scooby on 01/13/10 at 10:16 AM | #


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