With the advancements in neuroscience and our deeper understanding of gene-neuron-function relationships, I believe that within the next 10-20 years
we will be able to diagnose psychopathy via brain imaging scans and genetic testing.
This is probably the most stunningly obvious, yet seldom thought about reason for why society never seems to function the way we want it.
Personalities differ. Some people are whats called "extroverts", and others are "introverts". This is just an arbitrary category we put people in to
make sense to ourselves of how people relate at the feeling level
in human communication.
People who are shy and introverted have a sensitive autonomic nervous system which overreacts to social-emotional signals. Sensitivity per se is a
highly useful in promoting "connection" between minds, but in an environment that is "unsafe", or full of aggressors, this sensitivity can lead to
"trauma", which implants its self in the bodily procedures, vital state, visceral state, emotional state and cognitive states.
An intelligent society, to quote the Dalai Lama, is a society which seeks the well being of all of its members. It is fair, because it understands
what unequal division of resources feels like on the social level. Our brains don't like it. Evolution has made cooperation the cherry on top on the
evolutionary sundae. Usually, evolution operates via "survival of the fittest". Whichever organism posses environmentally salient traits is "selected"
and become a "type" for future organisms within it's species. But as evolution has progressed and mammals evolved larger brains through the process of
encephalization (adding to older brain "models"), species became more sophisticated in how they connected with one another. Paradoxically, as
organisms became more "individualistic" i.e, as primates, in humans, they have developed complex techniques to harmonize and connect with one another
on cognitive, emotional, and neurobiological levels. Simply look at what were doing right now - socializing on an abstract representational platform
(computer) - to highlight how complex and embedded our way of being is.
But, unfortunately, despite our powers of self awareness, self reflection, and the ability to guide cognitions and seed emotions, we tend to operate
on the principle of "might is right". It has been implied in every civilization that has ever lived on this planet. It was a principle of operation of
large bad hunter-gatherers. However, small band hunter-gatherers, which still exist in the far reaches of our earth, live in egalitarian societies,
and cultivate feelings of playfulness in each of it's members as a way to promote wellbeing, loyalty and connection between each member.
So, apparently, with civilization came the opposite of small band cooperation: competition. Competition is a powerful force of creation. I am not in
any way seeking to diminish the importance of competition. But I do believe competition should be handled mindfully. If not handled mindfully, strict
and rigid systems of hierarchy form, and within the minds of it's members, theres lives a "active representation" of this mode of relating. Each
individual member becomes "primed" to seek its own survival. Survival is no longer interpreted as "physical". i.e. eating, shelter. As human beings,
we are extremely social creatures. In fMRI scans of people dealing with social rejection, the same areas of the brain which process the emotional
distress of physical pain (the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) carry out the emotional distress of social rejection. Not being liked can feel
debilitating. On the other hand, having social power can be intoxicating.
In every society that has existed from Sumer until today, the most sociopathic, the most unfeeling, the most unscrupulous and pragmatic types of
people, fight their way to the top of the pyramid, where, if they're mild mannered, they will oftentimes come to terms of peace, allowing an oligarchy
to form and specific types of people to become propagated, with a very specific personality type and character profile, perpetuating itself in the
leaders to come.
This is a simple fact of social psychology. If hurting others doesn't hurt you, and you notice that it hurts other people, the thought will come to
mind "they are weaklings", because, of course, being different from other people cannot be interpreted by these people as a pathology. If they're
going to "be this way", they want to be their way on their own terms. That is, they will develop their own philosophies and own beliefs about the
world, not for one second, stopping, and really realizing that they are the evolutionary "duds" that didn't develop properly in the womb. That part
working normally in the majority, the 98% with the capacity for empathic connection, is beautiful. And it is sad when someone can't experience the
beauty and truth of our existential and spiritual unity.
Really, the metaphor of the reptilian is quite apt. All mammals seek social connection. Every mammalian mother takes care of her young. Reptiles,
conversely, sometimes eat their young. They have nothing we could call "emotion". They have walnut sized brains. They live at the "bare minimum",
following drives, and not connecting with other members of it's group in any significant social way. Our lowest brain area, the brain stem, is what
the "reptilian brain" refers to. The neurobiological evolution of the human brain is theorized to contain three evolutionary layers. The oldest one is
the reptilian brain - the brain stem, which controls basic bodily functions. There is a profound similarity of this area of the human brain with the
brains of reptiles. All mammals have this brain plan. Next, there is whats known as the "paleomammalian" brian, which is the brain of more primitive
mammals. This handles basic social interaction at the emotional level. Creatures with brains dominated by this feature, such as rats, connect in ways
that lack the variety and complexity that is seen in primates, cetaceans (dolphins, whales) and elephants. Lastly, there is the neomammalian brain,
which is the outer cortex that covers the mid brain (paleomammalian). This terms sometimes refers to the prefrontal cortex of the human brain.
The parts of the brain damaged or non-functioning in the brains of sociopaths is the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, as well as the ventral
striatum, and anterior insula. This means we know where the differences in activation happen, and we can use computers to find specific patterns of
activation that indicate sociopathic functioning. Of course, in addition to this a psychological test can be done to diagnose sociopathy.
Years from now, we will be able to pinpoint whats going wrong in the cellular functioning in these brain regions. We will identify specific neurons
involved in encoding empathic resonance, and we can find the specific genes unique to socioapthic functioning. In short, we can really develop the
technology to screen sociopaths to prevent them from entering positions of power and authority.
This is a fundamental issue in our society, as House of Cards shows us. lf As Spaceys character francis underwood put it "I pray to myself, for
myself", is true of most of these people, it seems like a good idea that we try to keep people like this out of positions requiring a sense of
edit on 25-3-2014 by Astrocyte because: (no reason given)