Teasing truth out of communications with psychopaths

From “Investigating Psychopaths” from Psychopathyawareness via the Psychopathic Times:

“Since psychopaths are pathological liars and their every interaction with others is self-serving and strategic, even seasoned investigators and forensic psychologists have great difficulty dealing with them. Basically, they’re always faced with the liar’s paradox yet still need to get useful and true information from them.

Katherine Ramsland (from trutv.com) wrote an excellent article about how investigators deal with the inevitable obstacles and difficulties they encounter when attempting to retrieve true information from psychopaths about their crimes. I’m pasting part of her article below:

“It’s not easy to know when to trust someone who has already exploited trust as a route to torture, rape and murder. Psychopathic killers view their victims as objects, useful only as pawns in their own personal game, and they thus have this advantage: they feel no remorse. They’re callous, manipulative and resistant to therapy, and when they choose to communicate, they have their own agendas, formed in self-interest and calculation. What we may accept as a “confession,” they may view as bait. Their motives take shape within a framework that has no equivalent in the normal world. That’s why we can’t just accept what they say at face value.

. . .  While psychopaths appear to use the same language as normal individuals, they have their own inner logic. They calculate the world around them in terms of self-gain. They are society’s vampires. They may be intoxicated rather than repulsed by the idea of targeting humans and picking them off, because it makes them feel powerful. Their agendas have no analogues in the normal world. That means developing a careful mode of communication. In this person’s perception, almost any response could be the “wrong” one.””  https://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/investigating-psychopaths/

From “Damaged” by Malcolm Gladwell:

[Dorothy Otnow Lewis:]  “The day before [Ted Bundy] was executed, he asked me to turn off the tape recorder. He said he wanted to tell me things that he didn’t want recorded, so I didn’t record them. It was very confidential.” To this day, Lewis has never told anyone what Bundy said. There is something almost admirable about this. But there is also something strange about extending the physician-patient privilege to a killer like Bundy-about turning the murderer so completely into a patient. It is not that the premise is false, that murderers can’t also be patients. It’s just that once you make that leap-once you turn the criminal into an object of medical scrutiny-the crime itself inevitably becomes pushed aside and normalized. The difference between a crime of evil and a crime of illness is the difference between a sin and a symptom. And symptoms don’t intrude in the relationship between the murderer and the rest of us: they don’t force us to stop and observe the distinctions between right and wrong, between the speakable and the unspeakable, the way sins do. It was at the end of that final conversation that Bundy reached down and kissed Lewis on the cheek. But that was not all that happened. Lewis then reached up, put her arms around him, and kissed him back.  http://gladwell.com/damaged/

Again, “To this day, Lewis has never told anyone what Bundy said.”  This is just downright bizarre.  She doesn’t know that she was being played?  She thinks Ted Bundy was capable of a ‘soul communication”, that deep inside his psyche was a tortured soul wishing to reach out to others?  “Bundy thought I was the only person who didn’t want something from him,” Lewis says.   Really? 

I do quote her approvingly elsewhere, on dissociation (https://pathwhisperer.info/2014/03/19/to-the-de-blasio-administration-i-hereby-volunteer-to-identify-nypd-whiteshirt-psychopaths-gratis/).  I think she has a deep knowledge of the psyche of human beings.  I don’t understand her blindness here, unless it’s simply the special relationship between females and the male psychopath.

She had no idea whatsoever of what was sitting across the table, in her discussions with Mr. Bundy.  Namely, a biological mechanism that could read/sense her emotions, vanities and vulnerabilities, instantaneously calculate a normal human response that would cater to his readings and his manipulative ends, and then mime them.  Actually, in acting terms, psychopathic reactions are a beat off, the readings do take time.  This momentary pause should be noted.

Psychopaths use words as a tool, strategically.  The manipulative use of language is their main lifetool, as fins are to a fish.  Valuable communication is nonverbal.  Borrowing Ramsland’s phrase:  there is no analogue in the normal world to their use of language.  However their strategies are understandable and their communications should be interpreted through that understanding.  It is also important to figure out “how old” the target psychopath is.  That is, how far did they get in their arrested development path (somewhere in latency – 6/7 to puberty, though there are always very, very young traits — none of them for example get the ‘sharing thing’ though many can mime the behavior).  How self referential is the target?  What’s the need to brag?  How arrrogant?  What are the individual’s triggers?  What level of self control?  The more one knows about the individual’s personality the better.  All of this goes into the mix in teasing the truth out of a pathological liar’s communications.

5 thoughts on “Teasing truth out of communications with psychopaths

  1. I read recently about a guy named Carl Panzram, a serial killer who killed more than 20 people and raped over 1000 boys and men (he claimed).

    http://www.ozy.com/flashback/historys-most-sadistic-serial-killer/40585

    Reading about the details of his youth I felt sorry for him, though he grew up to be a monster. He does not strike me as a psychopath though, just damaged beyond repair. I am tempted to read his book, but not sure I am up to it at this time, emotionally speaking.

    I like your website.

    • Most psychopaths are not murderers. It takes humiliation and abuse in childhood (though some people argue that all psychopaths can be emotionless opportunistic murderers when suits their purposes). They definitely cross that killing line easier and on top of that they can bring their full psychopathic manipulative abilities to setting up the victims (e.g., Ted Bundy).

      Thanks.

  2. Did you read about the Breck Bednar murder by Lewis Daynes? Now that is textbook stuff. The way Daynes groomed Bednar, controlled him, then sought to control all aspects of his own arrest. Apparently even after he was put away, he manipulated someone on the outside to send emails to Bednar’s mother to torment her. Bednar’s mother’s sorrow and guilt feelings. Really sad. I had weird dreams about it after I read it.

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