Hi, this is Swivelchair.
I work in the biopharma area. Not a scientist, not a journalist, mostly in the business aspects. I have a science and business background, and have been involved in a variety of biotechnology-related ventures. All posts, opinions, etc. are my own, and don’t represent anyone else’s views. To perhaps state the obvious, never make any medical or financial decisions based on any blog by anyone you don’t know, including this one.
This blog is about the science underlying human behavior. My belief is that there is probably biology behind most behaviors. Dysfunctional behavior — as in the header above: narcissism, psychopaths, obesity and addiction — can probably be explained by biology at some level, and the posts here make an attempt to connect the dots. The posts are perhaps oversimplified, and any technical corrections are of course welcome.
FAQs we get from time to time:
Q: Swivelchair, why do you blog about psychopaths? Are you one?
A: I am not a psychopath, and I blog about them because so many have bugged me over the years. I’m very empathetic/compassionate in real life, and, in fact, my oxytocin receptor DNA rs53576 is GG, which is the compassionate version. I began this blog because I couldn’t figure out why some people in my orbit were behaving the way they were, and the psychopathy-framework was convenient for me to put my thoughts into order. As the biology advanced, the blog kept going. I”m hopeful that psychopathy will become a mainstream medical diagnosis, one, and two, will be organically correctable. Our guess is that a white matter disconnect is the predominant problem, and that may require seeding the brain with white matter stem cells or something. We’re totally guessing. And this doesn’t even address the issue that most psychopaths see themselves as superior beings.
Q: Wait, I thought psychopaths were delusional serial killers? What’s the definition of a psychopath?
A: We think the science/mental health profession has done a crappy job in communicating to the educated lay public about this, so we’ve taken the liberty of providing our own definitions.
As to jargon, we use the term “psychopath” and “sociopath” interchangeably. We’re sure that others may have different definitions, but we see that as a distinction without a difference.
“Antisocial” we use to describe behavior, but antisocial behavior could be demonstrated by a regular person on a bad day.
Narcissism and borderline also come into view, and we view this as sort of a sliding scale on the psychological axis.
Machiavellianism is a convenient term if imprecise, but we use that from time to time, mostly in describing high functioning psychopaths.
As to psychopath (or sociopath) we broadly define this as someone who lacks the neural wiring for compassion. All the other biology may be in place — intelligence, creativity, the ability to know that other people think things — but there is no or limited ability to feel what other people are feeling. We emphasize “compassion” versus “empathy” to denote not only the ability to see that others feel something, but also to care about it. Psychopaths may have “empathy” in the ability to see that others feel things, but use this as an instrumentality toward some kind of end-game. Or, sometimes, psychopaths assume everyone else thinks like they do, and that the rest of us are just fakin’ it like they are.
We like the “high functioning” versus “low functioning” distinction, and view that mainly in terms of intelligence combined with impulsivity inhibition. Most of the psychopaths in our orbit are high functioning.
Some confuse the lack of social awareness with autistic spectrum as being equivalent to psychopathy, but we think this is wrong. Autistic spectrum individuals may have a tough time understanding that other people think things. Psychopaths know fully other people think things, and don’t care unless it furthers some sort of interest.
Some confuse psychopathy with psychosis. We view psychosis as being psychotically delusional — audio or visual hallucinations and the like. Psychopaths in our orbit are usually not psychotic — in that they do have a reality that is similar to objective factual reality. (We won’t get too philosophical here, as to butterflies dreaming and all that). We have noted, however, that psychopaths may go off the deep end in paranoia. Perhaps this is rooted in an objective reality, as only they are aware of all the bad stuff they’ve done, and maybe other people really are out to get them.
Q: You aren’t a professional, and you aren’t even qualified to judge, how can you go around saying other people are psychopaths?
A: This is our opinion only based on phenotypes we’ve observed. See our disclaimer below, we aren’t any kind of health care professional at all. This blog began in 2007 just as some of the biology of dysfunctional behavior started being put up on PUBMED. I find the psychological framework unsatisfying because it is so subjective — and see a need for more objective measurements of “mental” conditions. Originally, I had blogged only to keep track of my reading on the subject. Ultimately, I have published with reputable publishers, but don’t want to hype that here. I have a severe case of imposter syndrome because I’m not a scientist by profession.
Q: Are you talking about me?
A: No, no blog post at all is about you. Everyone we know is a humanitarian and philanthropist and all around swell person. Any resemblance to any person, living or not, is purely coincidental and all people we blog about are conglomerations of all sorts of characteristics from real and fictional people. Plus all the men have microscopically small private parts. (There, can’t be you, now, can it?) All the women have mustaches.
Q: I may be a psychopath, can you tell?
A: No. And we assume everyone who contacts us is not the person who they represent themselves to be, until proven otherwise.
Q: Do you track users?
A: We use analytics to track usage, but not necessarily our individual users. We use Google Analytics, Sitemeter, our server stats, and the WordPress Jetpack stats. We can see in general the number of visitors, the number of pages per visit, referring sites and search terms, and the IP address or the domain (like, “lausd.edu,” that kind of thing). Typical blog analytics stuff. We are not a shopping site, and, while we are interested as a general matter who our users are, we really don’t want the responsibility of handling the particulars. If you strongly object to having your IP address visible, we suggest you find ways to surf anonymously.
Q: Any financial disclosures or other disclosures that may influence your content?
A: We are a free-with-ads model, and accept ads from networks. So far no one has given us any free stuff whatsoever, and frankly, we feel a little neglected, but, we choose to be anonymous and it’s hard to accept bribery when you don’t want the other person to know who you are. Our professional/social background does influence us in our blogging, as we mostly have seen high-functioning/white-collar psychopathy. So, our bias is to write about that.
We also hold stock in certain companies that put out anti-obesity meds, and we’ve blogged about these. Nothing we’ve written has moved the stock at all, except possibly down. Our interest in the biology of obesity stems from some work we did in the biopharma field, and we believe obesity/appetite is also biologically-based (as opposed to a non-parsimonious “lifestyle choice” causation). Same with addiction, that we also blog about from time to time.
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Anonymity: Lately, I’ve heard more and more people complaining about anonymous bloggers, and they have a point. Where anonymity is used to make hit-and-run attacks or to conduct some sort of a smear campaign, it is misused — and I certainly do not support that at all. My feeling about maintaining anonymity: First, because I actually have a job that involves maintaining a fair amount of decorum, I prefer to remain anonymous in order to speak freely without the fear of retaliation. If you publish or speak publicly, I consider my comments of what you’re saying to be within the realm of reasonable use of your identity, but if you regret what you’ve said or posted on YouTube or whatever, let me know, and I’ll more than likely remove.
In complaining, something done often and with great detail on this blog, I try to focus on the information, rather than the person or organization. If anyone has any complaints or feels the treatment is unfair, e mail me. If anyone spoken about in the posts or by a commenter feels that they would like the information removed, please e mail me. This is frustrating mostly to those who wish to discredit based on the identity of the writer, rather than the content of the information. So, for those who are frustrated and wish to believe that I have no credibility on any subject, conjure up whatever image of me you like, if it makes you feel better about yourself.
As far as the long tradition of anonymity in freedom of the press — see the Electronic Frontier Foundation page that goes through the US and international historical, policy, and legal bases.
Privacy: I have no idea who anyone is unless you identify yourself. And even then I usually don’t believe you. I don’t sell or share any data intentionally, although I do capture the analytics through commercial services. From these services, I can see if you are logging on from the server at a “.edu” or “.com” or “.gov” but that’s about it. Because we don’t sell anything, we are not secured or encrypted in any way, and we don’t feel like we need that. I rely on third party platforms (WordPress.org and my hosting service) to provide the back end. See the FAQ above.
Disclaimer: Nothing blogged here is advice in any aspect of your life whatsoever. Do not make any health, financial, relationship or medical decisions based on this blog, period full stop. We take no responsibility for any aspect of your life.
Although we do try to slog through the scientific literature, we make no representations as to our accuracy — in fact, sometimes we’ve been flat wrong. If that happens, put that in our comments section and we’ll correct, and consider this a pre-emptive apology.
As stated elsewhere, we do go over the top in our analysis, and we know that — that’s why we view this blog not as a research journal but more of a tabloid. This blog is not a “journal club” but rather more practical as our own attempt to explain inexplicable behavior of those in our orbit. You all know where to get science journalism and academic research. If you take our analysis, and use that in your term paper, and then your professor gives you an “F”, don’t blame us.
All users are responsible for their own use of the ideas and electrons from this blog. As far as the technicalities, we don’t believe we carry any kind of virus but we just use the blogging platforms others provide, so who knows. If someone says we’re plagiarizing, we highly doubt it because we don’t really see anyone else blogging about what we are here, but please let us know – we’re more than happy to give credit where credit is due. We try to provide links/citations for quoted materials, and if we’ve missed yours, let us know.
Plus, this page may change from time to time.
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More to come, thanks for stopping by — I hope this is useful and entertaining –
My e mail: swivelchairmedia [at] gmail.com