I’ve been thinking about how best to describe the ego of people with aspd (anti social personality disorder aka psychopathy up to 4% of the population), schizophrenia (approx 1% clinically significant) and autistic spectrum (again possibly around 4% of the population).
By definition the aspd is a narcissist, self loving, ‘selfish’
A schizophrenic is in a world of their own, not believing what others tell them in a way and sticking to their own tac. They have a belief in the origion, often themselves. the clostest thing to this type of ego is egocentric (self centered)
Autoism means within ones self Auto – Self ism, though that may seem either self loving/selfish and or egocentric (self centered) it actually isn’t, if anything it’s ego deminished, that is a greater interest in objects than other selfs or ones own self.
To describe these things using an analogy
if the aspd is a person looking at a mirror
the autistic is blind
and the schizophrenic deaf
What evidence is there for my assertions:
Well the strongest evidence comes from mirror neurons and studies of empathy.
Mirror neurons are cells in the brain that fire when you see yourself or someone else doing something, that is the persons brain reacts as if they where doing the thing when they see someone else do it. Truly a sense of self and other selfs…. even though it may just be an ‘artifact’, it still provides demonstrable evidence of activity in the brain in association with real world stimulus.
In people with aspd traits, specifically cold heartedness, motor mirror neuron activity is increased, they do indeed have a stronger sense of self, self loving, selfishness. They however have a different kind of affective (feeling) empathy which in some ways is inverted, that is they get pleasure from seeing other people in pain (this has been measured in children with conduct disorder, a prerequisite for aspd), they also have difficulty or are unable to learn the empathetic consequences of their actions, for instance when given a mild pain stimulus normal people will learn to predict this and measurable changes occurs prior to the stimulus, in people with aspd this is not the case, they do not learn that response. There is also some observational evidence that they do not like others doing better than them, in a way pain from other peoples pleasure.
So how do mirror neurons react in people with schizophrenia,
Well it has been shown that during a psychotic episode mirror neurons over fire, either giving a greatly increased sense of self or more probably a ‘false’ sense of self, like the self is all important thing to them… ego centric… I couldn’t find any litrature on empathy at this point, apart from it being difficult to empathise with someone with schizophrenics, what i have been told and noticed is something related, that is difficulty with generalizations and parts of things and a greater ‘attachment’ to things. so for instance given a list orange apple banana a schizophrenic may have difficulty telling you they are all fruit, simirlally they may have difficulty seeing that a tomatoes is a fruit because to them it comes under the all encompassing generalization of vegatibles and that is what they where first told, and having difficulty in seeing that a generalization is made up of parts and could be a subset and is not all encompassing.
Schizophrenics can also have traits of aspd and become or appear to be more narcissistic, this also fits in with this sense of self.
And what about in autism,
Well in autism mirror neurons fire significantly less, they are indeed less ‘self’ centered more object orientated if you like… This lack of interest in other selfs can easily be mistaken for selfishness or egocentrism, but an autistic would be more lightly to focus on the parts and details of an object or objects showing little affiliation with people.
In terms of empathy, though autistics have been shown to have less cognative empathy (people with aspd have no difficulty with this kind of empathy or it may even be enhanced), this is speculated to be down to another condition which is commonly co-morbid that is a difficulty in recognising ones own emotions.
People on the spectrum do however have affective, feeling, empathy and in some studies actually more of this than typical people, this is the kind of empathy people with aspd have difficulty with.Genetics for schizophrenia and autism (specifically copy change variants) are oppoite, that is if a normal person has two copies of a gene and autistic may have one copy and a schizophrenic three copies, and visa versa.
I have some more work to do on language and how this sense of self is presented in the way people use and understand language, there is one commonly known measure of narcissism called first person pronoun density. Autistics are also known to have confusion with pronouns, for instance using you instead of I… again quite the opposite of selfishness in that way. This is my own personal research work which I’m keeping a little under wraps until I have produced an good automated measurable way of decoding language elements and expression of self in language.
So in many ways, autism and schizophrenia and aspd are nicely juxtaposed on the sense of self and empathy like multi-dimensional opposites.
There is also a strong link with bi-polar and schizophrenia, and I believe that bi-polar has a different form of sense of self alternating between showing and hiding ones self, being more and less self consious.