Sunday, July 21, 2013

Teenager and criminal personality thinking

In the previous post - Problems with polygraph lie detection - I talked about the psychology of the anti social personality. I think this below is quite a good summary of it except for number 2. One simply has to go into a prison and one finds many low IQ anti social personalities. As I have mentioned before the teenager and the criminal personality have some similarities in the way they think.

Eleven features of the antisocial

The Bali 9 are a group of nine teenagers and young adults who tried to smuggle drugs through Bali (Indonesia). They got caught and now a few are on death row and the others have long terms of imprisonment. The press have followed their plight as they are so young and Australians on death row in other countries tends to attract attention in the press.

A recent news article on them gave quotations of what three of them were thinking at the time of doing the crime. The three quotes.

1.  “I was young and basically I thought I was invincible”

2. “The only thing I was thinking, really, was to make some money, quick money.”

3. “You think it’s not going to happen to me. It happens to other people. I’m lucky.” 
“Looking for adventure, never been out of the country before, I thought, Yeah, why not.“

smoking girl

These are good examples of how the anti social and the teenager can think

1. A sense on invincibility and hence a lack of anxiety
2. The sense of simply not thinking it through and what is called a lack of foresight. The anti social and the teenager are very good at living in the here and now and not worrying about the future. They have the ability to just not think about it.
3. A sense of specialness and uniqueness and that the rules don’t apply to me. Also a lack of foresight and not thinking it through by seeing it as some kind of adventure to go through.
Also not one of them displayed any understanding of the immorality of what they were doing and hence a lack of conscience.

These thinking styles show why the deterrent effect of the law has little impact on such people as they believe the rules in some way do not apply to them and they will end up OK in the end.

It should also be noted that there are also some similarities between the anti social personality and the narcissist. Indeed I recently stated on a blog that whilst working in prison I would have diagnosed more narcissists than anti socials even though logically that does not make sense. Then my friend Rita told me about the work of Robert Hare on psychopathy. He states that the psychopath is a mixture of aggressive narcissism and anti social traits. Which reassured me that perhaps my diagnostic skills were not all that wonky.


Suicide and teenage thinking
As said above anti social and teenage thinking can be quite ‘wrong’ and in extreme cases this can lead to a very tragic outcomes such as ending up on death row like some of the Bali 9.

The other case is with suicidal behaviour and why in my book - Working with suicidal individuals - I suggest one predictor of suicidality is does the person “think like a teenager”?.  Do they have the thinking errors as cited above? One way of assessing this is to ask the person about their post-suicide fantasy. What do they think the outcome will be after the suicide attempt and this can identify teenage style thinking if in some way they see them selves as surviving in some form, or being able to observe how others react afterwards, or have some kind of consciousness afterwards and so forth.

Teenagers are a difficult group when it comes to suicidal behaviour as the type of  thinking being discussed here makes them less predictable. At the same time it puts them at higher risk because they do not fully comprehend the outcome of their suicidal actions, just as the Bali 9 did not fully comprehend the outcome of their actions and just like the criminal personality does not fully comprehend the outcome of their criminal actions.


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