Baron-Cohen on Anders Breivik

Baron-Cohen was interviewed in a Norwegian newspaper the week after the crime as he had just published the Norwegian translation of his book Zero Degrees of Empathy / The Science of Evil (the latter being the American title), which I reviewed here in June.

 

He diverges into a discussion on cognitive and affective empathy;

 

cognitive empathy (being able to discern others’ emotions and put yourself in their position) is impaired in autism,

 

while affective empathy (being affected emotionally by others’ suffering) is impaired or absent in what he calls antisocial personality disorder, a subset of which is psychopathy.

 

While not speculating on Breivik’s diagnosis, he writes that low affective empathy is necessary to bring about such an action, although it does not explain it entirely; his ideological convictions clearly played a part also.

 

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