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Surprising Science

Are Assassins Hyper-Rational?

Assassination researcher Manfred Schneider says that Congresswoman Gifford's would-be killer acted not out of irrationality but rather from a hyper-rationality.

Every assassin is a perceptive observer and interpreter of signs and events. For him, nothing happens by accident. He scrutinizes the world in search of hostile intentions, and he imagines conspiracies everywhere. To us, the outcome seems insane. Yet logic and rationality are key components in the paranoid suppositions arrived at by the assassin. Paranoia is not irrationality but hyper-rationality. Loughner is a very typical example. From his subjective perspective, Loughner acted in an extremely moral fashion. The paranoiac is saving the world from a threat.


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