Friday, October 23, 2009

Killer IQ Part 2: The Empathy Issue

The next category of intelligence according to Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences is interpersonal; it has to do with interacting with other people.  Those who rank high on this form of intelligence are generally outgoing, sociable, people who are greatly in tune with the emotions, motivations, and sociability of those around them.  They learn best working in groups, can easily be leaders or followers depending on the situation, and enjoy discussion and debate.

Fake It Until You Make It??

It's pretty clear just from the definition that serial killers aren't likely to rank at all high on this intelligence.  Interpersonally intelligent people are able to empathize with others while serial killers lack empathy (which is why they can do what they do to others).  There is, however, a slight catch 22 in just writing these kinds of criminals off as virtual retards in this category and it's this...serial killers are generally known to make some of the best profilers and, to do that, logic dictates you'd need to understand those around you deeply.  So how can they seem to have the possibility of ranking so low and so high at the same time?   It probably partly lies under the idea of faking it until you make it and partly under the fact some of these guys (consciously or otherwise) know of their short-fallings in this form of intelligence and so study extra hard to fit in.

Let's first settle on the fact that empathy is normally developed naturally, though can be taught to small children ("you'd want the other children to share their toys with you" "you wouldn't want your brother/sister to bite you") up to a point.  But once a person has entered adulthood either they have it or they don't.  That being said there's a reason that, so frequently, when police find a bunch of dead bodies under the crawl space of Johnny's house the neighbors seem confused and horrified, proclaiming to press and police alike, "But he was such a nice/normal guy."...sociopathic personalities (such as those that serial killers have) can show a shocking amount of emotion deemed appropriate at the appropriate time when they have to.  When claiming that childhood abuse caused them to kill or that they have remorse they will cry virtually on cue and this trick of faking emotions comes into interacting with people on a day to day basis as well as in the use of their ruses.  Here's the rub though, and what disproves the "fake it until you make it idea"...those who really, truly, get to know these killers will tell you they're creeps.  Family, exs, coworkers will all admit that Johnny kinda gave them the willies after awhile and, even if they didn't suspect the guy was a serial killer, they aren't all that surprised to find out he is.

Even with all those emotions and interactions essentially being faked there's still one other issue to contend with...the frequently heard statement that "serial killers make the best profilers".  Assuming that statement is true then the serial killer would have to be highly skilled at understanding and being in tune with the emotions of others and thus would rate high in interpersonal intelligence.  This is a tricky one because while serial killers do seem to have a rather great understanding of those around them it's really not all that deep...and it frequently takes them years and years of study to understand what comes to the average person naturally.  And, even if and when they do understand others emotions, they only use it to their own personal advantage - "I want to hurt someone, raping and torturing them will do that" or "She seems upset I killed her son, perhaps I should act the same way to get off on the murder charge?".  All the studying in the world won't get these killers to really rate high in this intelligence because everything about them (feelings-wise) is fake, anything learned is used to their own personal advantage, to help in meeting their own twisted goals, and so it's a lost cause...when it comes to interpersonal intelligence, without true empathy, these guys are all defectives.

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