The question of criminality has been much in the news lately, as wild gangs of youth rampaged through British cities, and wild gangs of feral financial speculators rampaged through the world's economies.
As a scientist I wonder about the pathologies involved, and as a spiritual person I wonder about root causes.
So this is about where we are going as a society. Are we descending into criminality, and is the problem getting worse? I also wonder about the connection between criminality and mental illness.
I have been following the case of Amanda Knox for some time, as readers may know. http://manfromatlan.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-might-have-been.html
Amanda Knox, along with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and acquaintance Rudy Guede, was convicted of the brutal murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy in November 2007.
There are passionate supporters of the case for her innocence, as well as those who believe the several hearings and trials she has had so far were fair and she is in fact, guilty. I belong to the latter camp, but, since she has filed an appeal am quite content to let it run its course. Justice will be served.
I have never met her, or anyone connected with her. This article is not a diagnosis of the psychology of Amanda Knox, nor in any way does it make presumptions of her guilt or innocence. That will be determined by evidence presented in court.
Nor, as some have attempted to argue in other forums, is my opinion based on astrology, or other occult tools.
But I was inspired by people who asked the following questions:
1) Is there such a thing as a criminal mind?
2)How can that be ascertained?
This, then, is to present an overview of the research and opinions of experts in the field, as well as present hypotheses of my own.
My background, for those only aware of my spiritual beliefs, is that I am a foreign trained physician with a specialization in Autism Spectrum Disorder. I've been in clinical practice for over three decades, but now act as a consultant as I continue further research into the causes and treatment of mental illness.
Concurrent with that I have been following my spiritual path and see no conflict between my calling and my work; both have the goal of helping humanity.
In the course of trying to find a treatment for my own children's Autism, I came to the following conclusion: conventional medical science has no clue about the causes or effective treatment of mental illness.
Therefore I had to range further into alternative medicine to find solutions, and serendipitously, I did. Yet, when my son's autism reversal was confirmed by psychologists, no one seemed to want to know how. Neither the media, nor the conventional establishment.
Never mind. My findings were presented, for free, to various alternative medical doctors and clinics, reported in journals and books, and confirmed by them. The protocol has great possibilities in the treatment of other neurological illnesses. It is possible to reverse brain disease.
At my clinic in Toronto as well as other countries, I treated hundreds of young people with Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, and other psychological disorders, using holistic medical methods alone. Many of them went on to have normal lives; most improved significantly. And, when I have the time, I will write a book about this journey, and share it with everyone.
Which I already did, btw, here: http://manfromatlan.blogspot.com/2007/12/not-incurable-new-research-on-autism.html But this is by way of background. I do not claim to have cures, or answers; I'm a searcher for knowledge, which I wish to share with others.
So: Is there such a thing as a criminal mind? This was a question much pondered as the new field of psychology came into being. In opposition to religious belief that crimes were caused by man's original state of sin, and provoked by deadly sins like avarice and lust etc., it tried to define abnormal behaviour as a function of upbringing and environment. It was only later as research into the nature of the brain emerged that new theories were formed; could neurological deficits explain criminal acts? Along with other suppositions of nurture and nature, addictions and abuse?
The answer: According to these studies, yes. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Top_Story&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=38174
"The release today of a study by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showing than 64 percent of local jail inmates, 56 percent of state prisoners and 45 percent of federal prisoners have symptoms of serious mental illnesses is an indictment of the nation’s mental health care system. It is both a scandal and a national tragedy. The figures are worse than those generally believed in the past, in which estimates of the total number of inmates with mental illnesses have been approximately 20 percent. The study reveals that the problem is two to three times greater than anyone imagined. What is even more disturbing is the number of these inmates that have served prior sentences, committed violent offenses, or engaged in substance abuse"
This is not an ideological statement, nor is it an attempt to avoid the serious problem of crimes in society. We have to have a system of laws and justice, and we have to protect the innocent. But the present system of crime and punishment doesn't work, either.
So, how do we measure the criminal mind? Could there possibly be genetic, neurological, behavioral or even, physiognomic markers? I was 10 years old when a gentleman took one look at certain bumps on my head and said I "was very perceptive; could look at a scene and see what others could not"Cool, and this was my introduction to phrenology.
This was where 18-19th century researchers sought to determine racial and emotional differences through the study of skull size, shape and protuberances. And yes, they did believe the criminal's head was different than that of normal people. This later became the field of craniology and craniometry, as scientists tried to avoid making unsavory determinations.
http://www.answers.com/topic/craniometry "The scars left after World War II by these atrocious programmes of research meant that the study of human skull shape and size fell into disrepute. Human variation, the core subject of anthropology, was increasingly explored through genetics and other biological markers, and became functional and adaptive in orientation rather than a search for racial affinities. In recent years, however, the introduction of new computer-based techniques of measurement, and the greatly enhanced power of statistical analysis, has meant that there has been a resurgence of interest in this subject, and, stripped of its non-Darwinian and racist past, the study of the human head remains a topic of major importance"
So now, scientists are using cranial measurements to determine mental illness, like here: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/118653.php
"Recently, Harvard researchers reported that children with autism have a wide range of genetic defects, making it nearly impossible to develop a simple genetic test to identify the disorder. Now, University of Missouri researchers are studying 3-D imaging to reveal correlations in the facial features and brain structures of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which will enable them to develop a formula for earlier detection of the disorder" .."When you compare the faces and head shapes of children with specific types of autism to other children, it is obvious there are variations. Currently, autism diagnosis is purely behavior based and doctors use tape measurements to check for facial and brain dissimilarities. We are developing a quantitative method that will accurately measure these differences and allow for earlier, more precise detection of specific types of the disorder," said Ye Duan, assistant computer science professor in the MU College of Engineering"
Then you have "The Criminal Brain-Understanding Biological Theories of Crime", author Nicole Hahn Rafter, New York University Press (October 2008) http://www.amazon.ca/Criminal-Brain-Understanding-Biological-Theories/dp/0814776140,
"What is the relationship between criminality and biology? Nineteenth-century phrenologists insisted that criminality was innate, a trait inherent in the offender's brain matter. While they were eventually repudiated as pseudo-scientists and self-deluded charlatans, today the pendulum has swung back. Both criminologists and biologists have begun to speak of a tantalizing but disturbing possibility: that criminality may be inherited as a set of genetic deficits that place one at risk for theft, violence, and sexual deviance. If that is so, we may soon confront proposals for genetically modifying "at risk" foetuses or doctoring up criminals so their brains operate like those of law-abiding citizens"
Wow. Now this really frightens me, to see scientists, once again, barking up the wrong genetic tree, but there you go any way.
Brain Injury as a factor in crime:
Alternative physician Dr. Russell L. Blaylock:
Vaccines, Depression and Neurodegeneration After Age 50 http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/pages/vaccines-depression-and-neurodegeneration-after-age-50.aspx
"Previously, it was thought that major depression was secondary to a deficiency in certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly the monoamines, which include serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. While alterations in these important mood-related neurotransmitters is found with major depression, growing evidence indicates that the primary culprit is low-grade, chronic brain inflammation. In addition, we now know that inflammatory cytokines can lower serotonin significantly and for long periods by a number of different mechanisms"
I would agree with him there, since it has been my observation that mental illness is often accompanied by inflammatory disorders or auto-immune illness. I also believe the changes in vaccine schedules may have led to increased neurological deficits and genetic damage passed on to subsequent generations, but that is an argument for a separate article. I do not blame vaccines alone, as I will explain here.
There is research that shows criminal minds and behavior issues are often accompanied by brain damage. http://waiting.com/blog/tag/chris-henry-autopsy-show-brain-damage
"Brain injury is a condition that involves microscopic damage to brain tissue that can only be seen in life through the lens of the patterns of the injured person’s life. Chris Henry, the former NFL wide receiver whose autopsy results confirmed he was living with brain damage, may have finally made that clear"
"Limbic Abnormalities in Affective Processing by Criminal Psychopaths as Revealed by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging"
Kiehl, et al, http://www.uni-graz.at/~schulter/Limbic_abnormalities.pdf
"Results: Compared with criminal nonpsychopaths and noncriminal control participants, criminal psychopaths showed significantly less affect-related activity in the amygdala/hippocampal formation, parahippocampal gyrus, ventral striatum, and in the anterior and posterior cingulate gyri. Psychopathic criminals also showed evidence of overactivation in the bilateral fronto-temporal cortex for processing affective stimuli"
The brains of autistic individuals show similar defects: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_v130/ai_4422064/
"The two research teams have noticed an intriguing abnormality in the brains of the small group of autistics they have examined: The cerebellum, a portion of the brain involved with muscle coordination and the regulation of incoming sensations, contains fewer neurons known as Purkinje cells. There are also preliminary indications that growth in parts of the limbic system, which oversees emotion and memory, is arrested while autistics are still in the womb"
Likewise, in schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/unlocked-the-secrets-of-schizophrenia-1727987.html
"new research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or other of the two illnesses..find that thousands of tiny genetic mutations – known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – are operating in raising the risk of developing the illness"
"Early Signs of Psychopathy" argues that signs can show at an early age http://www.suite101.com/content/early-signs-of-antisocial-personal-a29191
"A twenty-five year study, published this month in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, demonstrates that, as early as the age of three, there are temperamental and physiological difference between those who show psychopathic tendencies as adults and those who don’t. Not only do psychopaths lack emotions of conscience and empathy, but research has shown that these individuals consistently display certain aspects of temperament including a lack of fear, lack of inhibition and stimulus seeking behavior"
A lack of a hormone that affects empathy:
"We've long accepted that hormones can make you amorous, aggressive, or erratic. But lately neuroscience has been abuzz with evidence that the hormone oxytocin -- which also acts as a neuromodulator -- can enhance at least one cognitive power: the ability to understand the gist of what others are thinking. In this week's Mind Matters, Jennifer Bartz and Eric Hollander, two leading researchers in this area, review the many and surprising ways in which oxytocin seems to influence both our openness to others and our understanding of them"
"For inherently social creatures such as humans, the ability to identify the motives, intentions, goals, desires, beliefs and feelings of others is not a nicety but an essential skill. We must understand "where others are coming from" not only to pursue our individual goals but also to facilitate social harmony more generally. Specifically, we need to recognize that other people can have thoughts, beliefs, desires and feelings that differ from our own --"
and it may be this that drives psychopathy, or the criminal mind.
Psychopathy: Two lengthy checklists of psychopathic, or anti-social personality disorder:
Cleckley's original list of symptoms of a psychopath: 1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence. 2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking 3. Absence of anxiety or other "neurotic" symptoms considerable poise, calmness, and verbal facility. 4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import. 5.Untruthfulness and insincerity 7. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness. 7.Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior 8.Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience 9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness incapacity for real love and attachment. 10. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions. 11. Lack of any true insight, inability to see oneself as others do. 12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness, and trust. 13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking--vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks. 14. No history of genuine suicide attempts. 15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life. 16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way, unless it be one promoting self-defeat.
The Psychopathic Personality:
"A psychopath can have high verbal intelligence, but they typically lack "emotional intelligence". They can be expert in manipulating others by playing to their emotions. There is a shallow quality to the emotional aspect of their stories (i.e., how they felt, why they felt that way, or how others may have felt and why). The lack of emotional intelligence is the first good sign you may be dealing with a psychopath. A history of criminal behavior in which they do not seem to learn from their experience, but merely think about ways to not get caught is the second best sign.
The following is a list of items based on the research of Robert Hare, Ph.D. which is derived from the "The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, .1991, Toronto: Multi-Health Systems." These are the most highly researched and recognized characteristics of psychopathic personality and behavior":
1. glibness/superficial charm 2. grandiose sense of self worth 3. need for stimulation/prone to boredom 4. pathological lying 5. conning/manipulative 6. lack of remorse or guilt 7. shallow emotional response 8. callous/lack of empathy 9. parasitic lifestyle 10. poor behavioral controls 11. promiscuous sexual behavior 12. early behavioral problems 13. lack of realistic long term goals 14. impulsivity 15. irresponsibility 16. failure to accept responsibility for their own actions 17. many short term relationships 18. juvenile delinquency 19. revocation of conditional release 20. criminal versatility
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Is it becoming a rare quality among young people? It certainly seems to be declining in society.
"Emotional intelligence "is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one's thinking and actions" (Mayer & Salovey, 1993: 433). According to Salovey & Mayer (1990), EI subsumes Gardner's inter- and intrapersonal intelligences, and involves abilities that may be categorized into five domains:
Self-awareness: Observing yourself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.
Managing emotions: Handling feelings so that they are appropriate; realizing what is behind a feeling; finding ways to handle fears and anxieties, anger, and sadness.
Motivating oneself: Channeling emotions in the service of a goal; emotional self control; delaying gratification and stifling impulses.
Empathy: Sensitivity to others' feelings and concerns and taking their perspective; appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.
Handling relationships: Managing emotions in others; social competence and social skills.
And according to Goleman (1995: 160), "Emotional intelligence, the skills that help people harmonize, should become increasingly valued as a workplace asset in the years to come."
The last words belong to the educators, of course.
Howard Gardner (July 11, 1943 - ) American Psychologist and Educator
"Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) proposes that intelligent behavior does not arise from a single unitary quality of the mind, as the g -based theories profiled on this Web site suggest, but rather that different kinds of intelligence are generated from separate metaphorical pools of mental energy"
"Gardner derived this conceptualization of intelligence in part from his experiences working with members (of) extreme populations, in which certain cognitive abilities are preserved (often to a remarkable degree) even in the absence of other, very basic abilities. For example, some autistic savants display extraordinary musical or mathematical abilities despite severely impaired language development and social awareness. Likewise, individuals with localized brain damage often demonstrate severe deficits that are circumscribed to a single cognitive domain (Gardner, 1983/2003)"
And Piaget, who inspired me many years ago:
Jean Piaget (August 9, 1896-September 16, 1980) Swiss Biologist and Child Psychologist
Definition of Intelligence:
"Intelligence is an adaptation…To say that intelligence is a particular instance of biological adaptation is thus to suppose that it is essentially an organization and that its function is to structure the universe just as the organism structures its immediate environment" (Piaget, 1963, pp. 3-4).
"Intelligence is assimilation to the extent that it incorporates all the given data of experience within its framework…There can be no doubt either, that mental life is also accommodation to the environment. Assimilation can never be pure because by incorporating new elements into its earlier schemata the intelligence constantly modifies the latter in order to adjust them to new elements" (Piaget, 1963, p. 6-7) (Including, imo, 'criminal intelligence')
The theory of Genetic Epistemology
"Piaget also believed that intellectual development occurs in four distinct stages.
The sensorimotor stage begins at birth, and lasts until the child is approximately two years old. At this stage, the child cannot form mental representations of objects that are outside his immediate view, so his intelligence develops through his motor interactions with his environment.
The preoperational stage typically lasts until the child is 6 or 7. According to Piaget, this is the stage where true "thought" emerges. Preoperational children are able to make mental representations of unseen objects, but they cannot use deductive reasoning.
The concrete operations stage follows, and lasts until the child is 11 or 12. Concrete operational children are able to use deductive reasoning, demonstrate conservation of number, and can differentiate their perspective from that of other people.
Formal operations is the final stage. Its most salient feature is the ability to think abstractly"
It is my opinion that emotional intelligence development also follows these four distinct phases. This is where nurture and nature come into play, and any trauma, abuse, neglect, that occurs during these phases can lead to an emotional stunting where the child is unable to progress to the next stage of development.
In the same way, a positive home and school environment can help children grow to be more harmonious members of society, once you adjust for any biological and neurological deficits. Early recognition and treatment is key...
Having worked as a volunteer in the public school system, I can tell you what teachers and educators have been telling me for years: the number of learning disabled and emotionally disturbed children is increasing exponentially..
Is it just me, or does it seem like the world has become an increasingly disharmonious place lately?
But the last word might well come from a book written by a Norwegian judge, Jens Jacob-Sander:
The Criminal Brain: A View from the Bench
Exploring the Criminal Mind
"What goes on in the minds of criminals? This question raises perennial philosophical issues about human behavior in general and criminal conduct in particular. Do criminals act the way they do because of how and what they think and feel? And, are these internal forces of thought and feeling caused by the states of their brains, which in turn are predetermined by biology, chemistry, and genetics? Is the problem, in short, what used to be called bad blood?
Or, are the thoughts, feelings, and actions of criminals caused by external factors such as parents, education, and other influences in the environment that mold and shape malleable brains, which, in turn, give rise to the criminal personality? In other words, is the real culprit for criminal behavior what used to be called society?
With the emergence of brain science over the past 50 years, including brain imaging technologies and the study of brain chemistry, perhaps we can return to these profound questions with new hope of making progress toward answers.
At the present time, although some scholars of brain science lean heavily toward a reductionistic biological determinism, others call attention to the plasticity of the brain and its capacity for change. Even if we cannot ever uncover a single satisfactory answer to how the criminal mind works, perhaps we can begin to diminish the devastation caused by criminal behavior.
An exploration of the criminal mind might yield insights, ideas, and innovative hypotheses worthy of serious consideration and further study. It might also provoke us to reconsider how we think about the questions we ask about the causes of criminal behavior. Instead of polarizing the discussion by pitting determinism (biological or social) against free will as mutually exclusive explanations of criminal conduct, we might discover that biological predispositions and habits of thought can be influenced by education, cognitive retraining, and behavior modification. Whatever our current state of knowledge, isn't it worth our effort to try to formulate better theories and more effective forms of intervention?
That daunting task has been undertaken in a new e-book titled Exploring the Criminal Mind and subtitled Advances of Brainscience and Mental Procedures of the Criminal Personality: A Unified Brain-Mind Theory. The author and publisher, Jens-Jacob Sander, is a judge in the Norwegian Courts of Justice, located west of the city of Oslo. Judge Sander tells us in the foreword to his book that it grew out of his frustration with trying to understand the criminal mind while he was engaged in a major international fraud-hunt in 1989 that, although successful, was apparently hampered by the lack of adequate information and insights about criminal minds"
Perhaps we can return to these profound questions with new hope of making progress toward answers, indeed.