Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Glen Rogers, the Cross-Country Killer

Lies to Others, Lies to Self

While Rogers clearly had problems both genetically and environmentally growing up, this would not cause someone to commit murder, especially not repeatedly.  He did know what he was doing and that it was wrong, so he was perfectly aware that he was causing harm to others and yet he continued to do it.  Then he attempted to frame others for it.  There is little about his behavior that supports a diagnosis of psychosis.

Rogers' behavior is certainly in line with the kind of parenting he received and his apparent inability to deal with frustration, fear, and anger.  He was clearly conflicted due to a love/hate relationship with his mother.  Yet even that does not necessarily produce a killer or even a criminal offender. 

Rogers demonstrated a mind that could compartmentalize and shift to whatever might work in his best interests, no matter how lacking in truth and no matter who might get hurt.  He was apparently doing what comes naturally, going along the path of least resistance.  In "A Mind of Its Own," Australian psychologist Cordelia Fine relies on brain research to describe just how our minds are set up for self-deception and self-assurance. All of us participate to some degree in self-deception, but some do it more profoundly than others.  A psychopath is already poised to lie without remorse, but this added dimension provides an explanation for it.

Book cover: A Mind of Its Own
Book cover: A Mind of Its Own

Fine states that our brains have "some shifty habits that leave the truth distorted and disguised."  In essence, it's untrustworthy even in the best of us, because the brain is an "adroit manipulator" of experience and information. It reacts emotionally, it stereotypes with impunity, it yields to social pressure and imagery, and it works to keep us thinking well of ourselves, even when the truth undermines that or when it may harm others.  "The secretive unconscious delights in a handful of strings to pull, concealing from us many of the true influences on our thoughts and deeds." 

In fact, the brain operates so subtly in these ways that we fail to see the distortions and thus we believe that the world really is as we experience it.  Our concept of ourselves is fluid, shifting with whatever we find necessary to preserve our constructed ideal.  We can only guard against this distortion by recognizing that this is how the brain behaves and working hard to overcome it.  A killer like Glen Rogers, who wants to save himself from conviction and execution, is hardly likely to be thus motivated.  In fact, he may well have convinced himself that he really was innocent.

 

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