Sunday, September 7, 2014

The logic of a psychopath

Published November 3, 2010

Before his execution in the Florida electric chair in 1989, Ted Bundy confessed to murdering 30 young women, typically by bludgeoning them to death and often raping them as well. He almost certainly had many more victims than that, perhaps more than 100. But he avoided suspicion for much of his five-year killing spree, in part because he was good-looking and clean-cut, a college grad and a law student.

Despite this outward appearance, Bundy was socially clueless. He was introverted and by his own description had no sense of how to get along with people. Near the end of his life he described himself this way: “I didn’t know what made things tick. I didn’t know what made people want to be friends. I didn’t know what made people attractive to one another. I didn’t know what underlay social interaction.”

Psychopaths can be paradox. Some, like Bundy, are intellectually high functioning, and they clearly know right from wrong. They are not delusional, but they are socially inept. They seem to lack normal self-control, and they persistently violate social, legal and moral rules. They don’t — as Bundy’s words suggest — comprehend the human social contract.

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