Dr Judith Guedalia

Liar, Liar Pants On Fire: Curiosity About 'Made-off' (Madoff) Or, What Can Lying Be?

I don't presume to be a criminal psychological profiler - however, the
Made-off Case has piqued my curiosity. This creep (a word I usually
only use for sexual predators) has stolen money from the mouths of
babes, widows, orphans, and the elderly. In the Torah we learn about
Leket/Gleanings; Shichicha/Forgotten produce and Peiah/Corners not
collected-which seem to be the earliest forms of communal charity
(Lev. 19: 9-10; Lev. 23: 22; Deut. 24: 19-22 see also Ruth 2: 2-23).


Not to minimize the pain and losses which, to people who may not have
everyman's pity, nonetheless may mean their homes and future viability
and, more importantly, the basic trust between man and man. They can
be seen as "just plain" people who trusted the creep and anyone else
who was hired to "professionally" attend to the funds they "deposited"
in their care. But as a student of the Brain/Behavior relationship
(Neuropsychologist) and Emotion/Behavior relationship (psychologist),
I wonder what is going on; I am curious. Also, under no circumstances
do I present these musings as anything but - my musings.

 Saying that he is "just" a sociopath or psychopath seems "small". How
is it that no one noticed? We notice aberrant. Maybe not immediately,
but over 30-40 years! Even the Great Imposter: Ferdinand Waldo Demara
was "out-ed" more than once in his career; he moved away and changed
his name and "professions" as skins on a snake. This creep is the
Greater Imposter!

 What was he thinking?!

Was he even thinking?!

 When arrested, he said something like Lou Costello (of Abbott and
Costello) used to say when he blubbered, "I'm a Baaad Boy." That
doesn't do it. When kids get wise to the fact that they can exercise
their annoyance on little brother/sister if "sorry" is on their lips a
nano-second after they whack, we then see the need to teach them that
such a thing, as "intent" and process exist. Hashem doesn't accept
"sorry" without the process of Teshuvah: describing the act, admitting
guilt, and getting to the same point and not repeating the act.

In our terms, we teach our children that you can't hit your brother
and then glibly say: "I'm sorry" as a way out. The fact that some kids
figure out this tactic can be seen as a level of sophistication of
thinking that needs to be "directed" more positively - immediately,
and not reinforced by repeating it to one-and-all by phone, email etc.
as "junior's cute cleverness." There is nothing "cute" about it!

 In my over 30 years in the field of psychology I have had
opportunities to observe human behavior with a "psychologist's
glasses." As such, I have a number of thoughts about this
"Made-off-ian" behavior (unfortunately none of which will replenish
the coffers of those from whom he stole).

 There is a (mostly unused for the past 50 years or so) psychiatric
diagnosis of Lying. Pseudologia Fantastica, which was first described
in the medical literature in 1891. Today it is mostly referred to when
describing or diagnosing Munchausen syndrome - the psychiatric
condition of lying about and portraying oneself as medically - usually
physically ill.

Pseudologia Fantastica is typified by the following characteristics:
(1) the stories are not entirely improbable and are often built upon a
matrix of truth; (2) the stories are enduring; (3) the stories are not
told for personal profit per se and have a self-aggrandizing quality;
and (4) they are distinct from delusions, in that the person - when
confronted with facts - can acknowledge these falsehoods. In studies I
reviewed when I looked into this phenomenon, discusses that the
patients' IQ - Intelligence Quotient varies, but at least 40 percent
have evidence of central nervous system dysfunction (that also means
that that the majority - 60 percent doesn't!). Sound familiar?

 That said; please indulge me in continuing my "musings." What other
medical/behavioral phenomenon creates a "scenario" that the person
affected doesn't recognize what is clearly true? I came up with
Anorexia Nervosa. The person goes through a process in which they may
have begun as overweight, but clearly are in dire straits when they
become mortally ill, hospitalized and/or weigh less than 80 lbs. No
amount of showing them how they appear in a photograph, mirror or by
comparison to another person who they feel is "thin enough" can help
them see the "lie" that they are fat.

 A study by SW Touyz, PJ Beumont, JK Collins, M McCabe and J Jupp
relates to body dysmorphia in anorexics, the perception of body shape
was examined in 15 female patients with anorexia nervosa and 15
age-matched controls. A lens was used which could be manipulated to
cause a horizontal distortion of an image projected onto a video
monitor. The patients showed a greater tendency to over- and
under-estimate their present body shape than did the controls.
Further, the patients' desired body shape was significantly thinner
than that of controls, as was their estimation of what constitutes a
normal body shape. (The British Journal of Psychiatry 144: 167-171

 What may be happening here? Possibly the brain biochemistry "clicks
on a switch" that turns off or turns something on, which allows
sensory feedback of "truth" to perceive "the other truth" or lie. Is
this what may be happening to the person who exhibits Pseudologia Fantastica?


Wikipedia: Pseudologia fantastica B. H. King 1 , a C. V. Ford 1;UCLA
Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, Los Angeles, California,
U.S.A. State of California, Before the Commission on Judicial
Performance: Decision and order removing Judge Couwenberg from office,
August 15, 2001.

Tags: Jewish Press | Madoff | Pseudologia Fantastica