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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Aspergers and mass murderers

According to Christopher Harper-Mercer's mother, who was quoted in the NY Times this morning, he had Aspergers Syndrome. Just like Elliot Rodger (the 2014 Santa Barbara killer) and Adam Lanza. (Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, was initially said to be autistic by family members in South Korea, though that diagnosis was later disputed.)

In his "manifesto," Harper-Mercer bemoaned his inability to get a girlfriend, just as Elliot Rodger had.

There are all sorts of other correlations among both mass killers and serial killers. Profilers haven't been shy about pointing out that most are relatively young males who are loners and most often white.

Being male, or white, seems no barrier to profiling.

However, even though a highly disproportionate share of serial killers have been homosexuals, you don't hear about that as much.

That's probably because gays are a group favored by the media.

Now it seems that a disproportionate number of mass murderers have some degree of autism. Are they, too, a favored group about whom nothing bad must be said?

My experience with Aspies is that they have a hard time dealing with frustration and lash out much more easily. If you doubt that, look at the comments after this post about Aspergers Syndrome and note the number of Aspies who lashed out at me for having written it.

(They won't be happy with this post, either.)

This certainly isn't to say that most Aspies are a threat; only a very tiny percentage of them ever murder anyone. But, if a disproportionate share of mass murderers do have the syndrome, given the current push to not allow those with mental disabilities access to guns, shouldn't this correlation be pointed out?


lowly said...

John Craig said...

Hooter Tooter --
That post is absolutely right, but it examines data since 2006. It's been my vague impression (I don't have hard numbers to back it up) that mass murders have recently become a much more multicultural affair (the Roseburg guy, Vester Flanagan, and the Navy Yards guy were all black; the Vigrinia Tech and Binghamton guys were both Asian). But I do think that back in the 60's, 70's, 80's, and possibly 90's, most of the killers were white. And we're talking mass murders here, not serial killings, which are a different matter. Usually FBI profilers are brought in for serial killers, since they operate over a period of time, and need to be caught before they murder more, whereas mass murders are by definition one and done affairs. And serial killers have traditionally been mostly white, too, though that seems to have changed recently as well.

Jokah Macpherson said...

I tend to agree with the Lion of the Blogosphere that Eliott Rodger's obsession with social status is strong evidence that he did not have Asperger's. I'm not an expert on the subject but my understanding is that people on the autistic spectrum tend to miss social cues. It seems like it would be hard to be painfully shy when you aren't particularly tuned in to people's reactions to you.

John Craig said...

Jokah --
I'm going with what I read which was that he was supposed to have diagnosed as having Aspergers when he was young. He was actually sort of a good-looking guy, though a little effeminate, so it wasn't his looks holding him back from getting girls. It was his awkwardness, and his borderline insane belief that they should have approach him, which to me also spells out social cluelessness.

Paavo said...

I assume that this is a safe place for good old folk psychology :)

Whereas mass murderers are mostly some disgruntled beta males who kill thmeselves at the end of their killing spree, serial killers usually are stopped by getting caught.

Mass murderers rarely have previous crime record, but serial killers usually have history of small time frauds.

My folk theory is that mass murderers are people who feel humiliated and want to gain fame. Serial Killers seem to be sociopaths who start at petty theft and small time fraud or rape. Their first kill is usually someone who would have exposed them. Once they realise that it was easy just to kill the witness they start to use the method of killing the obstacles all the time.

Many times it's rape. Serial killer has a history of raping without being caught, but there is that one case that they are almost identified so they move to another location and start killing their victims.

Burglary or mugging are ways for impulsive violent men to get money. Sociopaths prefer fraud. Credit cards, fake invoices or cheques in the olden days. Ordinary violent men can't believe that it is so easy. Sociopaths just ask for money and get it. But once the sociopaths get into trouble with their lies and fraud they have no problem killing every obstacle if that delays getting caught for just few more days or weeks.

Mass killers seem angsty and unhappy and want to just make their suicide a grandiose display. Serial killers don't want to kill themselves and are usually happy and unworried. They are not even worried about getting caught. They just happily keep on doing what they are doing until they are caught, usually by chance.

John Craig said...

Paavo --
I completely agree with your characterization of mass murderers, and almost entirely agree with your description of serial killers.

My quibbles; I think some of the serial killers actually start out by wanting to kill, as opposed to just prevent their rape from being exposed. For a guy like Ted Bundy,the ultimate thrill was to rape a woman as the life draining from her, and also to have sex with her corpse after she was dead. This represented ultimate control for him. Also, while serial killers, like all sociopaths, don't worry that much, I'm not so sure I'd describe them as "happy." Sociopaths never feel a sort of peaceful contentment, or at least they only feel that for a very brief period. Mostly they alternate between rage and jealousy and spite and glee at others' misfortunes.

But, otherwise, your descriptions are perfect.

Jokah Macpherson said...

So I read your original main post about Asperger's last night and it occurred to me today that the new co-worker on my team probably has it based on your description. He doesn't fit every criteria you mention but most of the main ones do apply. He makes lame jokes and laughs at them himself beyond what a normal person would do for a hilarious joke. He seems out of sync with people around him in conversation. He rambles on and on about an obscure topic without picking up when his audience has no interest. For comebacks he alternates between "No, you're a [what I just called him]," and sudden expletives like, "Jackass." Unrelated, the poor dude also has epilepsy. That's a rough pair of traits to be dealt.

Another co-worker I introduced him to later told me he seemed, "Creepy weird." I told her I understood what she was saying. Since I've spent a lot of time around him, not having any choice in the matter, I realize he's a decent guy deep down and get along well enough with him, but some days it is tiring having to ignore the endless string of weird things he says. His first wife walked out on him and I reckon she just got tired of it herself. It must suck to be handicapped to where you come across to every person you meet as weird.

Quite honestly, I'm probably on the left half of the bell curve in terms of social calibration, but seeing this co-worker has shown me how much worse it can get. I try to find out when I'm doing something that's not normal so that I can stop but he is content with being extremely socially awkward.

I should point out that he does alright with the ladies for being so strange. Since he doesn't pick up on social signals, he just does his thing and although most women are turned off, he's successful with the few that can handle it. That's why I find his situation so different from Elliott Rodger, who seems to have been pathologically shy. it's not what I would expect from someone who's not in tune with peoples' reactions. Rodger seemed to have picked up pretty well that others were repulsed by his strange behavior rather than being oblivious.

John Craig said...

Jokah --
Yes, that guy definitely sounds like an Aspie. The "jackass" comeback is a nice bit of projection I've heard from an Aspie as well. The excessive laughing too. And yes, it's tiring to have to listen to them.

I've heard that being on the left side of the bell curve can have to do with having a higher IQ than most as well. If you're a lot smarter than the people you're with at the time, you simply may be on a different wavelength. And if you don't feel that all the time, but only when you're with lower IQ's, then it's not Aspergers.

I"m surprised he does well with women, most Aspies don't. But I suppose a certain blunderbuss approach could pay dividends;l being shy certainly doesn't. I guess you could look at Rodger as being shy, but he also seemed to have delusions of grandeur, or maybe a weird sense of entitlement; he thinking that women should approach him, because of his looks. That to me is less shyness than just social cluelessness.

Rifleman said...

Interesting to see a comparison between mass/spree/serial killers and tendencies toward aspergers/autism/sociopathology.

I would guess mass= more autistic. Serial=narcissistic/antisocial/sociopathic etc

John Craig said...

Rifleman --
Yes, that seems to be the case. a mass murderer is someone -- usually a big loser in the game of life -- who can't deal with frustration, and who just snaps. Serial killing generally involves more subterfuge, and acting ability, and dishonesty, and a complete lack of conscience.

Anonymous said...

Yes. One look at Adam Lanza's face and you had to know this was a guy who shouldn't be holding a sharp pair of scissors, let alone a gun.

Sandy Hook is one of the few things that can really make me cry and despair.

Adam Lanza was also a pedophile -- probably, hopefully, an "incel" one. His rage towards children mirrors the rage Elliot Rodgers felt towards pretty girls. Homicidal rage towards that which sexually excites, but cannot be obtained.

- Gardner

John Craig said...

Gardner --
Yes, you'r exactly right. And yes, Lanza had child pornography on his computer. I had the same thought about Lanza -- he couldn't "get" children, so he "got" them instead.Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

This guy is wrong, synapses differentials are the smoke but the fire is something else.
I doubt he is a neurologist, I think he is just pretending to be.
The true cause of aspergers is neuronal migration defects in the cortex during pregnancy.
When the migration is so haphazard resulting in dysplasias or heterotopias (masses) this can result in severe autism and seizures. With aspergers, it is mild enough the brain doesnt have too many of or none of these abnormal lesions but the neuronals are misplaced meaning connectivity between parts of the brain are not connected properly. Differences in brain folds windows also are a symptom but these too are smoke and not fire, they result from minicolumnar abnormalities which are the fire. No doubt some cases of aspergers may have macro or microgyrias but some neurotypical people can have even greater masses in parts of their brain that behave normally. It is in the minicolumns which are vertical groups of neurons. In autism they are too long, leaky, and narrow which means information leaks out from one column to the next resulting in seizures, sensory issues, or savant skills etc.
One other symptom is little differentation between the gene expression of the temporal and frontal cortex, this too results from abnormal migration patterns I suspect. They may be able to develop drugs to treat this.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation aims to treat the core symptoms by increase the integrity and strength of minicolumns allowing information to pass better, allow other parts of the brain to take over, which can allow the brain the rewire itself better and heal even in adulthood, also retraining misplaced neurons to do their job where they belong improving connectivity. Of course maybe I am wrong, some scientists claim minicolumns don't exist or are like appendixes, just gatherings of cells and are the smoke and not the fire. The synapse abnormality is due to these neurons just doing what they do when put where they are.
Don't believe everything someone on your blog posts, they could be bullshitting you.


John Craig said...

Josh --
Good advice, but as far as I'm concerned you could both be speaking foreign language to me. I know nothing of brain chemistry so have to defer to anyone who does. I have no idea whether the extra synapses theory has anything to it, but I also have no idea whether the transcranial magnetic stimulation actually works. (Although you, unlike this other guy, have provided documentation to back up your claim.)

My thing is recognizing behaviors as part of larger patterns, and my "expertise" stops there.

Anonymous said...

Hey I want to come back and add more to what this neurologist got wrong.
He claims autistics/aspies use their frontal lobe while doing social interaction while psychopaths and neurotypicals use their limbic system. This is incorrect. A neurotypical person uses BOTH their frontal lobe and limbic system and many other areas.

An aspie person usually just doesn't activate anything, they don't communicate, they just reply with a script or go off on their own tangent. The one's who do communicate better often use other parts of their brains, people with brain damage also use other parts of their brain if they recover speech. The social deficits are not rooted completely in hardware. Some studies show NORMAL mirror neuron activation too. The social deficits may be rooted in mental ability for certain tasks.

A study with highly empathic people show more mirror neuron activation but that the feelings of empathy were causing the mirror neurons to activate, it wasn't the mirror neurons forcing the person to feel empathy. And some people with brain damage to the frontal lobe do not display social deficits. One common factor in social dysfunction for many disorders is executive dysfunction or weak central coherance. Cognitive problems (like their poor working memory and difficulty with planning and taking in information) often have a correlation with social problems. People with ADHD have a very slight deficit in theory of mind and empathy, bipolar people a little more (they have some cognitive dysfunctions but have intact planning ability). Then comes schizophrenics and ASD people, then finally people with dementia and severe brain damage have the most social deficits.

A psychopath has frontal lobe activation but no temporal lobe activity and other parts of the cortex aren't activated or are shut off and the limbic system is not used either or is irregularly used. Psychopathy doesn't cause cognitive dysfunctions (or at least as many) like poor task solving, central coherance, or planning. Which is a reason why they may retain cognitive empathy. The other parts of the brain for certain emotions are also not used. Hell even aspies, retarded people, and psychotic people may have more activation in emotional areas than them. But back to the point. A psychopath often displays lowered anxiety and neurosis, studies with them show they do not respond to electrical shocks in tests of deterring behaviour. They also display impulsive behaviour and have a need for stimulation. What we have are several of the likely explanations for a disregard for the feelings of others due to a type of extreme cognitive lack.

We cannot just point to one part of the brain and say "a tumor or lesion there is causing all this!". It's more complex than that. If someone is mute, it doesn't mean that they have a broken voice box all the time. Any neurologist worth their salt should know that already. Which is why I was calling bullshit.


John Craig said...

Josh --
Thank you for all that. Honestly, I know very little about brain function (all I do is observe behavior patterns), so I'll have to defer to you on all this.

jennifer said...

After being burned by several Aspies due to their lack of conscience and empathy. They are incapable of caring for anyone but their own needs. I implore anyone to reconsider getting close to one. Only heartache.

Anonymous said...

My brother is autistic and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if he were to mow down a group of people who he believed "wronged" him in some way. As a matter of fact, I've reported him to the police regarding threats he's made in the past, and was told that there is nothing they can do until a crime is committed. Needless to say I keep my doors locked and a gun at my bedside. Sad but true.

John Craig said...

Anon --
There is no question that a hugely disproportionate share of the mass killers (not serial killers, who are inevitably sociopaths, but mass killers) have been on the autistic spectrum. Basically, these mass shootings have been autistic meltdowns with guns.