Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Psychopaths and Criminal Versatility.

One of the things that repeatedly is being pointed out about psychopaths is our criminal versatility. When I made a search on the phrase criminal versatility, all the results but one had the word Psychopath in them, Wikipedia's Psychopathy being number 4.

I wonder if this is a just reputation. Are psychopaths alone criminally versatile, whereas the neurotypical majority of people and the non-psychopath minorities are not?

Maybe I don't really wonder. In fact, I have a personal experience that tells a different story...

Like all the traits this cannot stand alone, meaning: You can be versatile as a criminal and still not be a psychopath. But it is one of the recurring traits, at least in psychopaths who are (or have been) criminal. And it is true for me also.

But I would turn the question around and ask: If you have taken the step and have broken the law in one respect, then you're a criminal.
If you do the same thing again, but with another type of crime, you do not become a 'double-criminal' or 'twice as criminal', you are still simply criminal.
I take it we all know this.

So my question is: Why do some people commit one type of Crime and not all the others? - No, I don't mean: Why do you steal and not rape someone also! - I mean, why do you steal, but not commit fraud also? Both are crimes based on the same motive: To get money or other material value.

To me it seems so logical and natural, that if you break the law in order to get wealthy, you may as well break the law in every way you can that can get you more wealth.

Then there're the other kinds of crime: Violent crime, Sexual crime. And they seem to be totally different from Material Value crime. But are they really different?

If we think about it, why do someone want more money, f.x.? A few may want money merely so that they can gather more things. But most people do not get pleasure only from having lots of things and money. Most of us have a wide variety of different kinds of pleasure, And the one thing almost all kinds of pleasure have in common is that they can be bought for, or easier accessed if you have, money!

Most thieves, con men, fraudsters, muggers, bank robbers, i.e., commit these crimes in order to get money - so that they can get more things, and more sex, and more power - which is linked with violence - or simply the ability to engage i violence in a less risky manner.

If someone wants to get money so that he can buy more and better sex, he might as well get more sex by criminal means. He's already a criminal because he wants more and better sex, so why won't he get more and better sex from crime?

In my experience most people who are not psychopaths, and who do one kind of crime, also do one or a more other kinds of crime, though only on a minor scale.
He who buys sex from under age girls is more likely to also 'borrow' money from the cash register, speed drive, and bet on dog fights.
He, who steals from the cash register is more likely to also speed drive, engage in copy piracy on the Internet and download pedophile porn.
He, who uses counterfeit money is more likely to also buy a stolen car, use cocaine and blackmail the neighbor's teenage son to have sex with him.

All that said, it does indeed seem that we - the psychopaths - are more criminal versatile than other minorities, and certainly more versatile than the neurotypical majority. We do a larger variety of crimes and we do them in a more radical manner. In many ways we are more radical people. But I think it is too black and white when they say we are versatile as if everybody else stick with only one type of crime, because that is obviously not true!

Another thing worth noticing, is that psychopaths make up approximately 20% of any prison population, which means we get caught a lot! No, it's not because we do all the crime, if we did, we would make up way more than 1% of the general population! We simply have certain issues in our personality structure that leads to us getting caught more often. It's sad, but it's true!

To me this indicates - as always - that it is a question not about what, but about how much.

Psychopaths are not alien, not a different species. We are merely human at one end of a scale where the majority sit in the middle.
... And this, in my opinion, is a very important factor to understand!

___

9 comments:

ZKM said...

Wow, I'm glad you brought this up! Criminal Versatility might as well be my middle name! Okay, that was a joke, but still.

I have heard it often repeated in research that psychopaths are criminally versatile, as well as I have seen it in others and myself. Of course the question here is why, and I have a few theories (which I now and ALWAYS admit are just that, theories).

One is a theory I think people often overlook, but it is very obvious and straight-forward. Boredom. I can honestly say throughout my life, my evolution from one kind of crime to another has largely been as a result of boredom. I edge my foot into a kind of crime, test the waters, become interested, gain an obsession with mastery, capture-avoidance, get into a 'crowd', attempt to ascend the ranks a bit, get too good at it, become bored, quit, move on. That has been my cycle and it literally started in childhood with a nasty habit for kleptomania.

Next, the reason I believe people go into some crimes and not others is also simple. Skill. Some crimes simply require more expertise than others to commit. Breaking into cars is one thing, stealing and using identities is another. As far as a psychopath is concerned, if boredom is the motive, the increased difficulty in moving from petty theft to grand larceny is not a hurdle but a welcome challenge.

Before writing this I pulled up a page listing the categories of crimes, then analyzed the number and type I myself have committed (though I won't mention them here ;)). This has made me curious if the majority of our versatility is centered in one category (ie. theft) or is literally strewn across the spectrum. I also wonder if there are some crimes where psychopaths are radically un-represented. Are there crimes we as a group tend to be less interested in committing? That would truly interest me to know.

I also believe that (believe it or not) many criminals do in fact, have a moral code. That code may differ from society's but it is still there. I have noted that Empaths rooted in one type of crime or other, tend to have a connection with that crime and an aversion to some others, sometimes even in the same category. For instance, I have met rapists who abhor child-rapists and I have met drug smugglers who think drug-use is pathetic.

One thing psychopaths are known for is a lack of boundaries. This is normally characterized and mentioned in our tendency toward sexual-fluidity, but I think the same can go for criminal versatility as well. Empaths are obsessed with categorizing themselves and setting up 'lines' they aren't willing to cross (even if we all know they will eventually cross them). Ask any empath-junky their progression through drug use and you will probably get an excellent example. No doubt they will use the phrase "I told myself I'd never_______ (snort/slam/whatever". Psychopaths tend to see things a bit more black and white (or at least I do); a crime is a crime, committing one is no more 'heinous' than committing another.

Bella said...

borderlines lack boundaries big time. But they are emotional boundaries. I wonder

-if rape is a crime of anger, than I suspect lots of rapes are done by borderlines. Just kidding. I am just comparing crimes of passion to simple robbery, where nothing is "personal." --business as usual.

Anonymous said...

kleptomania isn't "business as usual".

Zhawq said...

ZKM,

I'm glad you brought this up!

Good to hear. :)

Criminal Versatility might as well be my middle name! Okay, that was a joke, but still.

Lol...
Now, are you absolutely sure it's a joke?

Your middle name isn't: Mr. ZK Criminal Versatility Jr. M? :D

One is a theory I think people often overlook, but it is ... Boredom. ... my evolution from one kind of crime to another has largely been as a result of boredom

It is one of the aspects that laymen probably overlook. But it's one of the wellknown reasons listed in descriptive texts about what motivate and drive psychopaths' behavior.
Boredom is said to be a major factor in why we "seek excitement" or are "thrill seekers".

I believe people go into some crimes and not others is also simple. Skill. ... moving from petty theft to grand larceny is not a hurdle but a welcome challenge.

I would use a different term. Instead of 'Skill' I would call it 'talent' or 'preference of personality'. Skill is required in a vast number of legal ways of making a living. Just take the higher educations such as Dentist, a ortopaed. surgeon, egyptologist, or some of the physical lines of work like f.x. a classical ballet dancer, or all the countless fields of science and scientific research, etc. etc..

To me it seems to be partially linked to the above, which is about having an inclination toward a life with more extreme experiences, which to neurotypical people would be unbearably stressful and anxiety-triggering. Being attracted to challenge is not as attractive to all psychopaths as it is to some. This, I think, has to do with differences in both personal inherent talent, and of luck, i.e. access to the right opportunities and luck in being successful with your endeavors.
Another aspect is the psychopath's opposition to and contempt for everything 'commonplace', that which is normal and attractive to most people represent to us all that we find weak, mediocre, uninspiring, gray and common. So we're speaking about the trait that is almost similiar to the narcissist's central trait: Being superior, feeling entitled, etc..

Before writing this I pulled up a page listing the categories of crimes, then analyzed the number and type I myself have committed (though I won't mention them here ;)).

Maybe send me a mail? :) - I understand why you're reluctant to list these things here.

This has made me curious if the majority of our versatility is centered in one category (ie. theft) or is literally strewn across the spectrum. I also wonder if there are some crimes where psychopaths are radically un-represented. Are there crimes we as a group tend to be less interested in committing? That would truly interest me to know.

I am researching this at present. I will write an article - or several, if I find it would serve the purpose of description better - as my knowledge is more thorough. You're very welcome to send me the links (or post them here, if you prefer it that way) if you come upon some good texts/websites about it.

I will appreciate it a lot.
And the same goes for everybody, of course!

Zhawq said...

ZKM (continued)...

I also believe that (believe it or not) many criminals do in fact, have a moral code. That code may differ from society's but it is still there.

Everything you write in this passage is actually very typical for sociopaths, though sociopaths may engage in a variety of criminal activity. But they have certain moral codes which really matter to them, and it also marks one of the main differences between psychopaths and sociopaths. Psychopaths have no morals and no moral code. We basically couldn't care less if we're sharing cell with a child molester or if out neighbor keeps his daughter as a sex slave.

All non-psychopathic criminals have a moral code. Psychopaths really are "unique" in this respect, and we're not admired for it.

(I will be publishing an article on the differences between sociopathy and psychopathy in the near future.)


... lack of boundaries [are] normally characterized ... in our tendency toward sexual-fluidity, but I think the same can go for criminal versatility as well.

And you're right. The two stems from our personality and selfunderstanding being less strict, less 'confined', in one static form, which is how most people experience 'personality'. 'Fluidity' is a good word for it.


Empaths are obsessed with categorizing themselves ...

... and everybody else. ;)


Psychopaths tend to see things a bit more black and white (or at least I do); a crime is a crime, committing one is no more 'heinous' than committing another.

I see it the same way. The interesting thing in what you say here is that it represents a 'black and white' way of looking at things. And I can see the logic.
I've wondered about this 'psychopaths see the world in black and white', because I couldn't really understand how not thinking of some actions as good and others as bad.

You bring up a good point here, it could be the piece I was missing... I'll certainly think more about this!

Thanks!... '^L^,

Zhawq said...

Bella,

-if rape is a crime of anger, than I suspect lots of rapes are done by borderlines. Just kidding.

Well, there's often a grain of truth in jokes, and I don't think it's such a far fetched idea.
I've been corresponding some people who have the Borderline diagnosis, and I'm learning a lot of things I didn't know before even though I've known a lot of borderline people over the years. - I'll say there're a lot of things I understand much better now than I used to. I would understand if someone with borderline did what you say out of anger, if they were angry anough and had been wronged badly enough. It would be a way of standing up for themselves.


I am just comparing crimes of passion to simple robbery, where nothing is "personal." --business as usual.

Yes, that's a good way of pointing to one of the important differences in how a psychopaths do crime and how others - among them people with Borderline PD - do at least certain types of crime.


Anon 12:35

kleptomania isn't "business as usual".

That depends on the social setting you grew up in. There're whole families who live by shoplifting, or pick pocketing, etc..

Bella said...

I just came into contact with a woman who grew up in a family where her very, very wealthy father was put in jail for embezzlement. She was arrested for shoplifting recently. She has no need for doing this. She has kids and all, and her actions had consequences. This is very interesting to me because she is a "moral person". I am positive she doesn't want her children to be influenced by this.

Ettina said...

"Why do some people commit one type of Crime and not all the others?"

Because they have an intact moral code, but a specific psychological issue pushes them into committing a certain crime.

For example, pedophiles. There are only two kinds of crimes that pedophiles are more likely to commit than non-pedophiles - possession of pornography, and child sexual abuse. Their sexual orientation causes them to long for sexual contact with children, and acts like a little voice, constantly pushing the limits of their morality, saying 'maybe it'll be OK if you only look at pictures' or 'maybe it'll be OK if you're gentle and the kid likes you back' or 'maybe it's OK if you only do it when you're drunk, because everyone loses control when drunk'. They still feel guilt, but they selectively turn it off for sexual stuff with kids by making rationalizations that make it seem OK. They don't have this strong motivation to rationalize other kinds of crimes, so they react to those with the same reactions as most law-abiding people.

Anonymous said...

Firstly I would say, criminal versatility is describing a pattern of behaviour, not a difference in psychological or neurological operations, and as such could be used to mislabel people or their behaviour a psychopathic, and can in no way stand up to scientific method.

On the other hand, there is an obvious correlation and one doesn't have to look far to find ample reasons in pathology as to why a P might engage in a broad selection of criminal activities. No morals, lack of empathy, lack of guilt and remorse, perhaps low levels of fear/and or anxiety. It is a wonder there aren't more P's in prison.

My question to the Zhawq
In your experience are P's in prison the dumber ones, the immature ones, the one's who lack self awareness ? It would seem to me things in the psychopathic profile suggest that we want to guard our personal interests, freedom, longevity. Is this because we as a group are more likely to engage in criminal behaviour, but also more likely to be caught out because of certain weaknesses ?
Cheers