Psychopaths in Movies (and Nest/Google, conspiracy theory)

How do you spot a psychopath?

If your mental model is Norman Bates or Hannibal Lecter, umm, no. Two psychiatrists reviewd 400 films and came up with a list of those that portrayed what psychopaths are actually like… and those that didn’t.

If you want to understand how psychopaths act, check out:
No Country for Old Men (Anton Chigurh)
Fritz Lang’s M (Hans Beckert)
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (Henry)

Kiss of Death, Psycho, and Silence of the Lambs, on the other hand, were not considered to be realistic.

Gordon Gekko (Wall Street) earned a footnote as a “realistic successful movie psychopath.”

Here’s another point worth quoting. Quite interesting. “Primary psychopaths are deficient in affect, or emotion, from birth, suggesting a genetic basis. They are often described as more aggressive and impulsive. Secondary psychopaths have been shaped by their environment, may have had an abusive childhood, and are often described as having more fear and anxiety than primary psychopaths.”

Don’t trust thermostats you don’t understand: For $3.2 billion, the “chocolate factory” now knows when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake. So use a regular electromechanical thermostat for goodness’ sake.

Conspiracy theory: I often wonder if many DARPA solicitations might be for technologies that have already been developed in secret. This propaganda program, to essentially co-opt conspiracy theories and re-wire people’s brains to the US government’s will, seems like a candidate for this.

“Real psychopaths don’t giggle.

The maniacal laugh: only in the movies. For a more realistic psychopath, look to bolt-gun–wielding Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. He just quietly walks up and it’s ka-chunk, you’re dead.

That’s the diagnosis from forensic psychiatrist Samuel Leistedt, who has interviewed and diagnosed real psychopaths, people who he describes as feeling no empathy for others. “They’re cold-blooded,” he says. “They don’t know what an emotion is.”[…]

Psychiatrists and neuroscientists have identified behavioral characteristics of psychopaths and parts of the brain that appear to function differently than in the average person. But much remains unknown; experts still disagree about whether and when there’s a genetic basis for psychopathy. Hollywood images of psychopaths have shifted over time as this understanding has changed, and as real-life cases came to light from serial killer Ed Gein to Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Overall, portrayals have gotten more realistic over time, Leistedt and Linkowski report in the January Journal of Forensic Sciences. Instead of giggling killers with facial tics, at least a few of today’s portrayals have more depth, giving a “compelling glimpse into the complex human psyche,” they write.

Here are a few of the best and worst potrayals from Leistedt and Linkowski’s paper. The frighteningly realistic:
1. Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men (2007)

This contract killer hauls around a bolt pistol attached to tank of compressed air, a handy tool both for shooting out door locks and for shooting people in the head. Leistedt says Chigurh is his favorite portrayal of a psychopath. “He does his job and he can sleep without any problems.In my practice I have met a few people like this,” he says. In particular, Chigurh reminds him of two real-life professional hit men who he interviewed. “They were like this: cold, smart, no guilt, no anxiety, no depression.”

Diagnosis*: Primary, classic/idiopathic psychopath
2. Hans Beckert, M (1931)

This child-murdering character broke with most portrayals of psychopaths at the time, depicting an outwardly normal man with a compulsion to kill. This is “a substantially more realistic depiction of what would eventually be known today as a sexually violent predator most likely suffering from psychosis,” Leistedt and Linkowski write.

Diagnosis: Secondary, pseudopsychopath, additional diagnosis of psychosis 3. Henry, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1991)

In this film about guy who likes to find new ways to kill people, the researchers write, “the main, interesting theme is the chaos and instability in the life of the psychopath, Henry’s lack of insight, a powerful lack of empathy, emotional poverty, and a well-illustrated failure to plan ahead.”

Diagnosis: Primary, classic/idiopathic psychopath”

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