Psychopathy and brain scans

I believe that many institutions/societies are controlled by psychopaths.

A recent claim by the psychologist Oliver James, supports this belief. In his words:

This dark triad of characteristics is very likely to be present in that person in your office who causes you so much trouble. Whether you work in the corporate sector, a small business or a public sector job, the system you are in is liable to reward ruthless, selfish manipulation.

The likelihood of your daily working life being sacrificed by a person who is some mixture of psychopathic, Machiavellian and narcissistic is high. If you do not develop the skills to deal with them, they will eat you for breakfast. (Source)

Psychopaths can act as individuals or in groups. We would do well to re-purpose the word sociopath to mean simply “a group that is made up of psychopaths or that behaves toward other groups in a psychopathic manner.”

James says that the rest of us need to develop skills to deal with psychopaths. The science is not there yet, but I hope the day will come when brain scans are good enough to help us detect psychopathy and lies. Then, if used properly, there would be far less lying and cheating in government, science, academia, the corporate world, and so on. My guess is that if psychopaths and liars can be reliably identified and/or prevented from lying, society in general will become many times more efficient than it is today. That would mean much less work with much better outcomes for all, psychopaths included.

Repost: Metaphors, words associations, and paralinguistics

If we consider spoken language as a complex linear system, we will be able to use it as a pretty good standard for understanding individual psychology as well as interpersonal communication.

All words have words associated with them. Though we all share many of the same word-associations (coffee/beverage; booze/drunk; etc.), we also all have an abundance of word associations that belong only to us. I suppose this is fairly obvious, though I am not so sure it is well enough appreciated.

Continue reading…


The physical universe is probably amoral.

The laws of the physical universe—the ones we know—do not say much about the evolution of life. And they have even less to say about the evolution of human societies and human consciousness.

Good moral behavior is essential for the scientific method to work. If many scientists lie or cheat, we won’t get good science.

On the interpersonal level, FIML practice both requires and encourages moral behavior. At first, partners may only notice that they are required to tell the truth, but as they continue practicing, they will come to want to tell the truth.

This happens for very concrete, even objective, reasons. I know that if I don’t tell my partner the truth, we will both lose. And if I do tell her the truth, we will both gain.

Morality in FIML practice—i.e. telling the truth—is not difficult because the units of a FIML discussion are typically very small, usually entailing just a few seconds of conversation/communication. The payoff for telling the truth in FIML practice, however, is huge. Partners will notice profound and beneficial changes in all aspects of their psychologies. This happens because partners’ senses of who they are will shift from a core with a secretive ego to a core with an interactive truth-telling process. Clean, clear language and a clear conscience transform human being.

FIML may prove that morality is fundamental to human consciousness. This statement is not based on feeling or wishful thinking because you have to behave morally to do FIML at all. For individual psychology, the payoff from FIML can be greater than from science in many important areas.

FIML notes

  • FIML may look like low-hanging fruit, but it isn’t because the basic technique goes against normal linguistic behavior and can cause anger in someone who is not trained or has not entered a prior agreement to do it.
  • FIML is based on simple principles:
  1. the basic communication group is two people
  2. the basic unit of communication is the “psychological morpheme,” which arises/occurs at a discreet moment in a conversation
  3. psychological morpheme are identified and discussed as soon after they arise as possible (within seconds in most cases)
  4. this is to avoid having them index large libraries of habitual thought and feeling
  5. partners must care about each other
  6. partners must agree to be honest about their listening and speaking
  7. this kind of honesty is quite simple; you don’t need to tell all but only what has bearing on what you said or heard
  8. if partners are honest with each other and sufficiently skilled to catch psychological morphemes very soon after they arise, they will come to see how fundamental to their their view of themselves and each other are the many mistaken interpretations they make concerning each other
  • With practice, FIML insights can and will replace static assumptions about personality, ego, internal autobiography, and psychology.
  • This happens because FIML practice will show both partners how mistaken interpretations occur and what their effects are.
  • FIML encourages and greatly supports honesty or ethical behavior between partners.
  • FIML ethics can be stated objectively.
  • As partners practice more FIML, they will come to understand/experience how important basic FIML ethics are for both of them.
  • FIML will not work if one or both partners is lying. A little bit of fudging will work for a while, but partners will soon realize that there is no need to fudge. Much greater gains for both of them will be made if they always do their best to tell the truth.
  • Good ethical behavior is not hard in FIML practice because the “psychological morphemes” that are its basic subject matter are so small it does not feel threatening to talk about them honestly. Indeed, it is a great relief to talk about them and discover that they are/were mistakes, which is usually the case.
  • FIML can be understood as a game between two people who have chosen to be honest with each other.
  • As such, this game has rules that help partners deal with communicative ambiguity and misinterpretation as it occurs and in its smallest units.
  • Playing the FIML game will clear up communication mistakes between partners.
  • It will also clear up many emotional problems between partners, and the world(s) they live in.

Some basic points about speaking and listening

  • Virtually all speech is ambiguous or subject to misinterpretation. This is especially true for interpersonal speech.
  • Virtually all listening is hazy, leading to frequent misinterpretation. This is especially true for interpersonal listening.

Therefore, a major part of interpersonal conversation should involve clearing up misinterpretations that stem from speaking and/or listening mistakes.

It could be argued that clearing up such misinterpretations is a waste of time; that it is inefficient. In some practical situations, this is true. But in many/most situations it is a very efficient use of interpersonal time. If you don’t care about the person you are speaking with, there is not much point in clearing up misinterpretations. But if you do care about them and they about you, it is a wonderful use of time. What could be more interesting than discussing how you listen and speak to each other?

I believe that what we now call “personality” should not be defined in terms of largely permanent traits (the Big Five) but rather in terms of how we deal with speaking and listening mistakes in our interpersonal relationships. I say this because when you deal with these mistakes, your sense of who you are will change. Your behaviors and feelings will change because you will discover that much of what you thought you were was based on misunderstanding what you were hearing and how you were being heard.

From my practice of FIML, I have become deeply aware of how common speaking and listening mistakes are between people. Five or six of them in an hour of conversation is not uncommon. Since most of us have no idea how to identify and correct these mistakes, we use silence, avoidance, fake agreeableness, conventional behaviors, and so on to deal with them. But that way lies disaster because mistakes very often compound and cause even more problems. Not fixing them is like not fixing termites in your foundation.

Why is all of this not clear to everyone in the world? I do wonder. What could be more obvious than the irrefutable fact that we often speak imprecisely and listen carelessly and that even when we are precise and careful we still make many mistakes in understanding each other? How can it be that no one has figured out what to do about that (besides the dodgy stuff mentioned above)?

Sometimes I wonder why the ancient Greeks didn’t figure this out. They talked a lot but no one ever figured out how to talk well? I think the reason they didn’t is their society was hierarchical and so the hierarchical paradigm ruled even the speech of philosophers. In a hierarchy, the top dog is usually treated as if they are always right, though of course they are often wrong.

If you want to correct the inevitable misunderstandings that have occurred and will continue to occur between you and your SO or closest friend, do FIML. There is no other way to correct them. You have to use a technique that catches the mistakes as soon as they happen and corrects them quickly. If you can’t figure out how to do FIML from this site, send me an email and I will do what I can to help. FIML can be difficult to learn, but only because virtually all of our speaking and listening habits point away from it. Once you understand the deep significance of interpersonal communication mistakes and how to fix them, you will find FIML practice rewarding, efficient, and most interesting.