Truth and Lies

Anti-Social Personality Disorder

There has been speculation in the news these days about whether or not some politicians have anti-social personality disorders. This disorder is also know as psychopath or sociopath, depending on which edition of the manual you are reading. Anyway, here’s a brief description of ASPD. Anti-social personality disorder, ASPD, (approximately 1% of the general population) is marked by persistent rule breaking (not always criminal), reckless behaviors, being egocentric, deceitful, having an anti-authority attitude, and showing a lack of regard for the feelings of others.  Therefore, the motivations that guide many of us – conscience, concern for others, empathy and compassion, respect for authority or rules, guilt, on and on, don’t apply.  As you can imagine, or perhaps you are unlucky enough to have experienced someone with this disorder, this is a major problem for the individual and for those who love or work with him or her.

ASPD is notably unstudied by researchers and, of course, that deficit contributes to professionals having few good ideas for treatment.  The reason for the lack of scientific study is probably because psychologists are pessimistic about the outcome of treatment so they don’t invest their time studying it. ASPD can emerge from some combination of basic temperament and genetic fragility coupled with environmental interactions such as harsh and inconsistent parenting, being brought up in homes with domestic violence, and rejection.

Treatment is unclear. Few individuals seek treatment directly for this disorder; when people come in, they usually want help with other co-existing problems such as depression, substance abuse, or marital discord.  More often, the people who come in to seek help are co-workers who are being treated badly, bosses who are at their wit’s end, and partners who have terrible trouble living with people with ASPD.

If you are a writer interested in learning more about character or personality traits, take a look at my book, The Writer’s Guide To Character Traits.


You and I may look at the same person or object but see different things.

Here’s what happened….. I walked into the lobby elevator at my downtown office on Friday morning.  A man about my age entered right after me.   The elevator rose to the 8th floor, stopped, the door opened, and a young man lumbered in.  He was huge!  Football player big; blot out the sun, fill the door opening big.  I stared at his back (which was the size of both my daughters in down winter coats).  So did the older guy. The three of us continued up for several more floors and then the young man got out on the 12th floor (not a gym, maybe he just needed eyeglasses). The door slid closed behind him and the older man turned to me and said, “I’d hate to run into him on a football field.”  Startled, I responded honestly with the idea that had been circling my mind, “I was just thinking that I’d hate to have to feed him!”

Unconsciously Knowing When Someone Lies

Lying and ‘fake news’ dominates the internet, TV, and print. Therefore, it seems appropriate the look at some of the science of lies. Here’s the first…

Studies have found that we are not very good at detecting lies. We think we are, but we are wrong. In experimental conditions, we guess right about half the time –

Radiated Ratsnake, Copperhead Racer - Elaphe radiataoko_1oko_1same as flipping a coin.  I’m sure the odds go up when you know the person very well, but when you don’t, it’s guesswork on the conscious level. Anyway, back to the unconscious.

Researchers at Berkeley tried tapping into the unconscious with an experiment that went as follows:

  1. Subjects were shown videos – half were liars and half were truth tellers.
  2. Subjects guessed whether they were told the truth or a lie.
  3. They guessed correctly less than half the time

However, the subjects were then asked to do a work task which involved clumping words together, i.e. truth words such as honest or valid, and lie words such as dishonest. When they saw quick pictures of the truth tellers, they chose truth words.   When pictures of the liars were flashed, subjects gravitated toward the lie words. The researchers conclude that we unconsciously pick up cues. Maybe this is what people really mean when they talk about ‘my gut’ or ‘my instinct’. I’ve always been a believer in the unconscious; accessing it is the problem, but this is a nice study. A second experiment confirmed these findings.

So, I’ve been flashing pictures of my books as you read this. I’m sure you are headed directly to to stock up on all of them.

Source: L Brinke. Psychological Science

Daily Acts

After attending a friend’s big birthday party, my daughter Keira mentioned that the young woman’s mother was not supportive.  As a knee-jerk reaction, always protective of moms, I said (without thinking), “Oh, she loves so-and-so.  She’d lay down on the railroad tracks for her kids.”(My fondness for analogies can get out of hand) 

Keira gave me that squint eyed look that smart daughters give to mothers who speak out of turn and said, And how often do you think that will be required?  What about the lack of daily support?”

It’s a good point.  It’s an excellent point.  As parents, we do not build relationships with the grand gesture.  We build relationships with our children during every conversation, at each meal, during each phone call, with each laugh or hug, and by trying to understand who they are and what they need.  Of course, this story goes way beyond parents and children. Our lives are collection of daily acts.  Maybe there will be an heroic gesture thrown in but, mostly we build our lives with day by day, ordinary interactions. Now that I think about it, this doesn’t even have to be human thing – we don’t become educated by reading one gigantic book. Even plants – beautiful flowers don’t grow because they were showered by one impressive thunderstorm and then neglected for the rest of the season. I know, you get it – time to stop with the analogies………

5 Components Of Forgiveness

How do we forgive people who have wronged us? How do we move on?  It is certainly a process that takes time and energy. Since the new year is only days away,  and we all want to be able to feel free going into 2015, it seems like the right time to talk about forgiveness for two days.   Today, in the lists below, I have made a small beginning by spelling out what forgiveness is, and what forgiveness is not.

Chicago Botanic Gaardens

Forgiveness is:

1. A method (a process) of coping with your hurt and your experience of being treated poorly.

2. For your benefit, not anyone else’s; it is not for the person who hurt you.

3. A different way to think about your emotions and actions toward the person who offended you.

4. A way to let go of some bitterness.

5. A way to feel freer from the hurt and offenses done to you.

Here is a definition of Forgiveness that I like. 

“Forgiveness is letting go of negative feelings (i.e. hostility), negative thoughts (i.e. revenge), and negative behaviors (i.e. talking badly) in response to genuine injustice against you. You may, or may not, eventually respond positively toward the offending person.”

Whenever I talk about forgiveness in meetings or in groups, someone always asks, “What if I can’t forget?” or, “Does this mean that I have to excuse the behavior that hurt me?”

Forgiveness IS NOT

1. Forgetting – you do not have to make yourself forget the behavior or its consequences.

2. Condoning – you do not have to say or believe that the behavior was okay with you.

3. Accepting its continuation – you do not have to continue to tolerate the behavior.

4. Denying – you do not have to deny or overlook the behavior.

Tomorrow, The Basic Principles of Forgiveness and How We Got Into That Mess (in the first place)

The definition of forgiveness comes from M. Rye and K. Pargament’s article, “Forgiveness and Romantic Relationships in College: Can it Heal the Wounded Heart?” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2002, v. 54 pp.419-441.

False Memories Last A Long Time

We rely so heavily on our memories but how accurate are they? Do false Dreamstimememories last? And do they last as long as true ones? I recently read a study completed by several of the keynote speakers at the European Congress of Psychology who wondered whether experimentally created false memories would persist for an extended period (one and a half years).

The study: 342 subjects participated in a three-stage misinformation procedure (saw the event slides, read the narrations with misinformation, and then took the memory tests). The initial tests showed that misinformation led to a significant amount of false memory. One and a half years later, the participants were tested again. About half of the misinformation false memory persisted, which was the same rate as for true memory. These results strongly suggest that brief exposure to misinformation can lead to long-term false memory and that the strength of memory trace was similar for true and false memories.

It’s scary. This means that lies or misinformation resulting in creation of false memories remains just as long as the real thing. The implications for what children are told or what they come to mistakenly believe is disturbing.

Source:Bi Zhu, Chuansheng Chen, Elizabeth F. Loftus, Qinghua He, Chunhui Chen, Xuemei Lei, Chongde Lin and Qi Dong. 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.



What Creates Authoritarian Types?

What creates people who are attracted to authoritarianism?Butter Knives

Authoritarian is defined by the Free Dictionary as:
1. Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom: an authoritarian regime.
2. Of, relating to, or expecting unquestioning obedience.
Here are a few components:
1. They are often products of authoritarian educations
2. They come from patriarchal families
3. There is a general denial of sexuality
The authoritarian character type often has aggressive feelings that are turned toward people weaker than themselves (instead of toward their parents or the system that shaped them). They have a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves so you can understand the appeal of groups/mobs. to be attached to a group is to remain safe. another interesting fact is that authoritarian types have desires to be ‘pure’ and that leads them to interact with similar others and expell outsiders.

Reality Sucks But…

Reality is a nuisance; don’t bother with it.  It intrudes on our carefullydreamstimefree_14754
constructed beliefs.  I’ve certainly seen this happen to me and it happens to
others.  We see what we want to see; we see things that confirm our already
existing beliefs.

Why are we so averse to new information and seem to prefer information that 
confirms what we already believe?

1. People want to be correct so confirming information is preferred.
2. It is easier to see where new pieces fit into the existing picture than
imagining a new picture.
3. It allows us to continue to think of ourselves as accurate and consistent
4. We want information that confirms our self-image, even if it is bad –
anything to be right!

Ignoring new information is dangerous because:

1. Prejudice partly comes from only noticing facts which fit our preconceived
notions about other nations or ethnicities.
2. We actually ignore disconfirming information and live in la la land.


1. Try to be just a little bit more open; watch or read things that show
different opinions.
2. Work on developing a theory that presents an alternative to your preferred

Fantastic Advice On Manipulation

I found this study fascinating because the implications for manipulating people’s responses are strong. Gate fences in luxury

Situation 1.) I show you a picture of a large house and ask, “What do you think it costs? Is it less than $10,000?”


Situation 2.) I show you a picture of the same large house and ask, “What do you think it costs?  Is it more than $100,000,000?”

Both figures are blatantly out of touch and unreasonable. But – does that knowledge toss out the number? No. Let’s say that a reasonable price for the house in the photo is $400,000. In situation 1, when I asked if the house cost less than $10,000, you will guess a lower amount than in situation #2 because of the way I set you up. I gave you a ridiculously low amount, and you knew it, but it has influenced you to lower your guess about the true price. In situation 2, you will guess a higher number.

Why? The initial statements have provided a reference point, or anchor, for your guess. You can see how you can be led far afield by these initial comments – think salespeople, negotiators, managers discussing salary.  Like it or not, you will keep coming back to that original number and be influenced by it. This is why people are told to go ahead and open salary negotiations rather than waiting for someone else to begin – you set the anchor figure.

Source: Strack and Mussweiler, 1999.

Want to read about manipulation?

OO v3

How Old Is Old?

We aren’t the best judges of when we are ‘old’ and I find it a personally
loathsome word to apply to myself.   But, a study has concluded that caregivers consider us ‘old’ when we can no longer shop, prepare meals, do housework, go to the doctor, take medications, and manage money – the SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAtypes of tasks that mark us as independent people.   It does make sense that those markers are the difference between being ‘old’ and ‘not old’.

Eldercare has become a $260 billion a year business and is growing as the over 85 age bracket continues to expand.

The tasks mentioned above, the ones that separate the ‘old’ from the ‘not old’, cause many of the arguments within families.   Adult children become frightened when their


parents cannot shop, take meds, manage their money and the rest.   Family members and caregivers argue with parents about performing those activities – being self sufficient and able to care for themselves.

This backfires.  For older people, if they are unable to do these things independently, they lie or  exclude family members or caretakers, for example, driving after others have cautioned against it, or lying about taking meds.  The strategy suggested by clinicians and researchers is: if you are a caretaker who provides assistance, consider the ways you treat the elderly as unaware, confused, dependent, at-risk, or any of the other lousy ways that Americans let each other know that they have little value.

“By treating older people as valued adults, you can provide needed assistance while decreasing their chances of generating conflict by threatening the older consumer’s identity,” the authors conclude.

Source: M. Barnhart and L. Peñaloza.  Journal of Consumer Research: April 2013.

Until you are too old to read, here is a link to my book Object of Obsession.