Do Psychopaths Know They’re Psychopaths?

Have you ever read the official definition of antisocial personality disorder? It describes someone who acts like Tony Soprano: remorseless, deceitful, impulsive, and violent.

Pretty dramatic.

The psychopath next door is different. He’s more like George “it’s not a lie if you believe it” Costanza. He’s manipulative, uncaring, and neither a genius nor industrious.

Psychopathy isn’t a binary trait. It exists on a spectrum like any other aspect of personality. (Psychopathy is variously referred to as sociopathy and antisocial personality. The trifling distinctions bore me. The behavior matters more than the label.)

Over at Twitter, my friend Paul asked if people with psychopathic leanings understand their own nature. Are Tony and George aware of their personalities? Do they possess insight? …

If You Can’t Understand Why Someone Did Something…

Have you ever squared off against someone pushing food you don’t want, and they won’t take no for an answer? They tend to badger people with less-than-compelling arguments like this:

But you haven’t tried MY zucchini!

The more tenacious ones will argue well past the point of incivility. If you ask them why it’s so damned important to eat their hellspawn food, they’ll say something like, “you’ll like it!”

That’s not an answer. It doesn’t offer a lick of insight as to their motivation. They’re just repeating themselves. Why?

We all wrestle with this question once in a while: how do you make sense of a person’s motive when their motive is elusive? …

Nothing Says “I Love You” Like a Prenup

I once heard a rabbi say the possibility of divorce is a positive force in a marriage because it’s an incentive to be well-mannered.

I agree. The urge to be courteous is reduced if your spouse has no escape. At least that’s what Anne Boleyne told me.

However, I would add an important qualifier: the possibility of divorce is a positive incentive for spouses who have something to lose. Not everyone has something to lose. The pain of divorce, and the incentive to protect the marriage, are not necessarily distributed evenly. I think that’s evident in a few statistics. …

The Hidden Workings of “When It’s Good, It’s Great”

Have you ever mistaken a label for an explanation? I have.

I once asked a physician about the annoying little tremor in my hands. I told her I’d had it all my life, as did my father.

“Don’t worry,” she said in a confident tone. “Those are just benign familial tremors.”

“Oh,” I said as if she had shared meaningful information.

It wasn’t until I left the building that I realized she had told me precisely nothing about why my hands shake. She merely gave me a label. …