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Analysis of Asperger's Disorder related to General Criminal Conduct
Written by Russell   
Tuesday, 19 August 2008 05:44

A BRACE Character Profile[1]
Analysis of Asperger's Disorder
related to
General Criminal Conduct, Psychopathy, and Serial Homicide

Russell L. Smith, M.S.

Abstract

Pervasive developmental psychopathology, specifically the DSM-IV-TR[2] autism spectrum Asperger's Disorder, has been implicated in the psychopathology of a subset of serial murderers.[3] The current study uses the BRACE Character Profile™ to analyze the relationship of Asperger's Disorder to the general criminal population, psychopaths, and serial homicide. The current analysis focuses on the BRACE Character Profile for a prototypical Asperger's Disorder and its correlation with prototypical profiles of the ten DSM-IV-TR? personality disorders, particularly Antisocial Personality Disorder, and a prototypical 40-point Hare PCL-R[4] psychopath.

Popular myths about serial murderers have been increasingly challenged[5] [6] and shattered[7] by advancing forensic research and more sophisticated data gathering[8] and case analyses.[9] Rather than being highly intelligent, single, white, etc., serial murderers appear to be a much more diverse population with respect to race, intelligence, developmental histories and current life situations.[10]

Serial homicide is learned behavior, a matter of choice, subject to the same principles of learning as any other violent behavior. There is nothing mystical or unique about serial homicide other than the fact that one or more individuals are reinforced by the act, the process and/or the consequences of murdering other people. The choices which establish the predisposition to murder are made in both the external learning environment and the internal learning environment of the murderer?s imagination. It is the murderer who formulates intent, focuses attention, fantasizes, cognitively rehearses, and takes and creates opportunities to repeatedly murder. It is the incremental interplay of cognitive-behavioral choices that leads to the development of learned patterns of behavior, the predisposition to act or inhibit, to prevent or allow - thoughts as well as behavior. Thoughts or behavior consistent with fear or anger or desire will strengthen the fear, the anger or the desire. Humans are constantly becoming more or less sensitized or desensitized to people and events based on cognitive-behavioral learning processes. Serial murderers play a direct role in shaping their own behavior and motivations. Even when two murderers "work" together, the less dominant chooses to follow the more dominant. As for any criminal or psychopath - as deviant and heinous as it may be - the "work" of a serial murderer is reinforced by some combination of increasing pleasure/comfort or decreasing pain/discomfort, all at the expense of others.

The increasing demystification of serial murderers makes them no less dangerous, but more human and thus more likely to be prevented in the first place, more likely to be caught if not prevented, and more effectively managed and treated when caught. There is certainly no serial killer template when it comes to basic demographics[11] (race, intelligence, religion, etc.); however, there may be several functional subtypes of serial murderers based on different combinations of neurodevelopmental,[12] psychological and situational factors (abuse, neglect, abandonment, brain trauma). This makes serial homicide subject to the same research and investigative techniques, and prevention, intervention and treatment strategies and tactics as any other pattern of learned violent behavior. Motive, method, and opportunity[13] do still apply. The cognitive-behavioral characteristics of serial murderers are reflected in their crimes and do change with experience. And, serial murderers do develop within the framework of basic human nature and they can not violate the "laws of learning." The BRACE Character Profile is an indirect assessment tool designed to profile the maladaptive patterns of thought, behavior and motivation of any known or well conceptualized individual or prototypical type.[14] Seventy-five items are rated on a 5-point scale and then entered into a spreadsheet to automatically generate a basic graphic of the degree to which the person or prototypical type rated shares cognitive, behavioral and motivational characteristics with each of three archetypes[15] of basic human nature: Type A (risk and opportunity management), Type B (power and control) and Type C (pleasure and comfort). The following is an excerpt from the BRACE Character Profile manual[16] :

 

[Fig 1]

The three so-called CHARACTER TYPES actually represent three core aspects of human nature, which in combination make up an individual?s character. These three represent different aspects of the dark side of human nature, from ignorance to obsessions (Cognitive), from lies to murder (Behavior), and from thrill seeking to self-worship (Motivation or Existential). It is these core aspects of human nature (i.e., maladaptive thought, maladaptive behavior, and maladaptive motivation) which must be actively managed (i.e., controlled and diminished) by each individual in order for them to develop and maintain personally adaptive and socially appropriate behavior. Under normal conditions, each person is more or less like Type A, more or less like Type B, and more or less like Type C throughout their lives and throughout each day. That is, these three maladaptive predispositions of basic human nature must be actively managed or they "naturally" become more characteristic of the individual. Such predispositions become increasingly apparent with diminished capacity (substance abuse), physical or psychological stress or trauma, fatigue, depleted personal resources, illness, age, etc.

In the absence of developmental instruction and structure to the contrary and without active efforts to learn and teach self-control (self-discipline + self-restraint) and adaptive sensitivity to others, Type A and Type B and Type C patterns of THOUGHT, BEHAVIOR, and MOTIVATION become progressively characteristic of humans. The following is a brief description of Type A, Type B, and Type C characteristics:

  • TYPE A: A pervasive pattern of seducibility and immaturity of thought based on self-delusion, fanciful flights into unrealistic expectations, and an absence of relevant and constructive focus; associated with a cultivated habit of self-justification based on simplistic generalizations and discriminations; marked by both cognitive and behavioral avoidance of the normal stresses of life; and, an enduring tendency to take the easy way to success.
  • TYPE B: A pervasive pattern of active and competing opposition to legitimate authority and noncompliance with essential structure, associated with a preoccupation with matters of power and control, marked by increasingly deviant and violent countercontrolling strategies and tactics.
  • TYPE C: A pervasive and progressive pattern of unearned and unwarranted self-reinforcement based on an unrestrained desire to experience first hand the limits of one?s physical, emotional and psychological being, all under the guise of self-expression and self-discovery.

The underlying structure of the BRACE Character Profile™ is based on eight Cognitive variables, eight Behavior variables, and eight Existential or Motivation variables. Using a 5-point scale, each of the three prototypical character types (Type A, Type B, and Type C) is rated on the each of the 24 variables.

 

[Fig 2]

 

Any individual or prototypical type rated can be correlated in terms of cognitive, behavioral, and motivational characteristics with any other profile already in the database.:"The DSM-IV-TR? personality disorders are not equal in terms of the types of information used as a "diagnostic criteria" --- nor are they equal in terms of the number of available criteria that must be met in order for a diagnosis to be made --- nor are they equal in terms of the number and types of other qualifiers which must be taken into consideration in order to make a diagnosis. DSM-IV-TR? is a categorical classification, but all members of a diagnostic class are not homogeneous, class boundaries are not clear, and there is significant overlap between classifications. The BRACE Character Profile? reflects maladaptive patterns, characteristics of thought, behavior, and motivation --- it does not presume to make clinical diagnoses. There are many potential clinical paths to any cluster of cognitive-behavioral-existential characteristics.": The following analysis focuses on the BRACE Character Profile of a prototypical Asperger's Disorder and its correlation with the BRACE Character Profiles of a prototypical DSM-IV-TR Antisocial Personality Disorder[17] (301.7) and a prototypical 40-point Hare PCL-R psychopath.[18]

Note: The BRACE Character Profile only profiles maladaptive characteristics and does not directly address clinical qualifiers such as C, D, and E above. The BRACE Character Profile reflects maladaptive patterns --- characteristics of thought, behavior, and motivation --- it does not make clinical diagnoses. There are many potential clinical pathways to any cluster of cognitive-behavioral-existential characteristics.

Based on the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for Asperger's Disorder, one would expect some significant positive correlations with several of the DSM-IV-TR personality disorders, particularly Schizoid (detachment from social relationships; restricted range of expression of emotions) and Schizotypal (social and interpersonal deficits; eccentricities). However, there is no apparent reason to expect a positive correlation with general criminal conduct ? i.e., Antisocial Personality Disorder.[19]

On the other hand, there are several serial murderers who do appear to have characteristics in common with Asperger's Disorder, regardless of other clinical diagnoses based on DSM-IV-TR. Qualitative impairments in social interaction (particularly lack of social or emotional reciprocity), interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus, nonfunctional routines or rituals, and preoccupation with parts of objects are certainly consistent with necrophilia and cannibalism (Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer[20] , Edmund Emil Kemper III[21] ).

However, some serial murderers who meet the criteria for Asperger's Disorder (Joel Rifkin[22] ) do not score high enough on a Hare PCL-R to be classified as psychopaths. For that matter, neither does fictional character Dr. Hannibal Lecter.[23] The paradox with psychopaths is that the more sophisticated they are (e.g., good impulse control, good behavioral controls, steady employment, family lifestyle, no arrest record), the more dangerous they are and the lower their scores on a Hare PCL-R. The paradox with serial murderers is that they may be married and steadily employed, some leading relatively normal lifestyles (Dennis Lynn Rader[24] , John Wayne Gacy, Jr.[25] ).

Given the diverse nature of serial murderers, it is reasonable to expect that some would meet criteria for Asperger's Disorder. The current question is, what is the relationship of Asperger's Disorder to general criminal conduct, represented by DSM-IV-TR Antisocial Personality Disorder, and to psychopathy as defined by the Hare PCL-R? A first step in addressing this question is to consider the cognitive-behavioral-existential characteristics of a prototypical Asperger's Disorder in relationship to all ten of the DSM-IV-TR personality disorders.

The following graphic presents the BRACE Character Profile graphics for the ten DSM-IV-TR personality disorders with Asperger's Disorder in the center.

 

Left Side Graphics Right Side Graphics
301.0 Paranoid 301.50 Histrionic
301.20 Schizoid 301.81 Narcissistic
301.22 Schizotypal 301.82 Avoidant
301.7 Antisocial 301.6 Dependent
301.83 Borderline 301.4 Obsessive-Compulsive

 

 

[Fig 3]

 

Note: The A (black), B (red), and C (yellow) in the above chart and graphic corresponds to Type A, Type B, and Type C characteristics.

A basic analysis of a BRACE Character Profile™ will take into consideration not only the nine points reflected in the basic graphic, but the average scores for each Domain (Cognitive, Behavior, and Existential), and the average scores for each character Type (A, B, and C). More advanced analysis takes into consideration the relationships of the three Types within and between the three Domains, as well as a more detailed analysis of the underlying variables. Note that each Domain is made up of various combinations of all three "Character Types" ... which represent core aspects of human nature.[26]

Analysis of basic BRACE Character Profile graphic for Asperger's Disorder: Note the very high Type A characteristics, decreasing from the Cognitive to Behavior to Existential. Also note the high Type C in the Cognitive domain and the relatively low Type B in all domains. This profile reflects significant cognitive dysfunction without any indications of violent acting-out. There is a self-centered, narrow focus of interests and attention, and a low level of interpersonal skills.

The BRACE Character Profile is designed to profile maladaptive patterns, even those that may be subthreshold or purely cognitive and never acted-out. A visual comparison with the basic graphics for the ten DSM-IV-TR personality disorders is a gross level of analysis. There are many clinical pathways to any cluster of cognitive-behavioral-existential characteristics, and similar Type and similar Domain scores may be due to different underlying variables. However, such visual comparisons can be useful, particularly to rule-in and rule-out the more obvious comparisons. For example, Schizoid and Schizotypal appear to be likely matches, whereas Paranoid and Antisocial appear dissimilar, particularly in Type B characteristics in the Behavior Domain, which relates to matters of power and control and the use of force and violence.

The color coding used in a BRACE Character Profile correlation chart[27] is somewhat like a traffic light:

  • green is a GO for high positive correlation (.05 or higher) for related characteristics.
  • yellow is a CAUTION for a positive correlation which deserves consideration (.1 to .06).
  • red is a STOP, which indicates a negative correlation of .1 or higher.

It is the combination of high correlations, both positive and negative, that yields the analysis. In the following charts, the 12 columns from left to right are: 301.0 Paranoid Personality Disorder, 301.20 Schizoid Personality Disorder, 301.22 Schizotypal Personality Disorder, 301.7 Antisocial Personality Disorder, 301.83 Borderline Personality Disorder, 301.50 Histrionic Personality Disorder, 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder, 301.82 Avoidant Personality Disorder, 301.6 Dependent Personality Disorder, 301.4 Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, a prototypical 40-point Hare PCL-R, and a prototypical 299.80 Asperger's Disorder.

 

[Fig 4]

 

These findings support the thesis that there is no inherent relationship between Asperger's Disorder and antisocial behavior or psychopathy.

Each individual - criminals, psychopaths and serial murderers included - has a unique genetic make-up, their own set of life conditions, and an entirely unique developmental history and personal learning history, which is the source of their current beliefs, values, motivations, expectations, and behaviors. The current study concludes that the characteristics of a prototypical Asperger's Disorder are shared by some DSM-IV-TR personality disorders but significantly not by a prototypical Antisocial Personality Disorder. Similarly, there is no significant correlation between a prototypical Asperger's Disorder and a prototypical 40- point Hare PCL-R psychopath.

However, some serial murderers do share some characteristics with a prototypical Asperger's Disorder, but these same characteristics are shared with the above mentioned DSM-IV-TR personality disorders. On the other hand, some serial murderers do not share characteristics with Asperger's Disorder, particularly domestic terrorist psychopaths such as serial bomber Eric Rudolph[28] and classic Antisocial Personality Disorders such as the Iceman, Richard Kuklinski.[29]

In any case, a common aspect of these shared characteristics appears to be a matter of interpersonal relationships, social awareness and communication skills, and sensitization and desensitization related to other people. Regardless of their general criminal conduct or life situations, serial murderers are necessarily cognitively isolated related to their murders, quite similar to the cognitive isolation of pedophiles and spies. It does not matter if the cognitive isolation is a matter of social deficits, neglect, abuse, abandonment, or choice, the effects are the same ? increasingly idiosyncratic thoughts, behavior, and desires, and perhaps rage and deliberate indifference. Add brain damage or substance abuse and all related matters degenerate.

The following correlation charts for the Domains, Types, and Types x Domains are provided for those interested in a more detailed analysis of the above Overall correlations for Asperger's Disorder.

 

[Fig 5]

 

 

[Fig 6]

 


Footnotes:
 

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