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The common definition of the psychopath is the inability to recognize others as worthy of compassion. The psychopath (as also the sociopath), do not have feelings for their victims, in turn dehumanizing them into worthless objects. In the 19th century, psychopathology was considered to be “moral insanity”. Today it is commonly known as “antisocial personality disorder” or “sociopathology.” Although the terms sociopath and psychopath seems to be the same, they are not. A simple way of understanding the difference is that psychopaths are more likely to kill and are less in control, while sociopaths are more of a repressed killer, choosing manipulation and psychological harm as a replacement tool for murder. Sociopaths are very stable and are much harder to detect than psychopaths. Current experts believe that sociopaths are an unfortunate fusion of interpersonal, biological and socio-cultural disasters. Are sociopaths to blame for their actions, or does it go deeper than that? One famous sociopath said publicly “I haven’t failed, society has failed me”, which ended up stunning everyone. Are sociopaths misunderstood? Some sociologists tend to agree with sociopaths and relate to them in terms of society morphing them into who they are today.
In general psychopaths/sociopaths are diagnosed by their purposeless and irrational antisocial behaviour, lack of conscience, and emotional vacuity. They are thrill seekers, literally fearless. Punishment rarely works, because they are impulsive by nature and fearless of the consequences. Incapable of having meaningful relationships, they view others as fodder for manipulation and exploitation. According to one psychological surveying tool (DSM IIIR) between 3 – 5% of men are sociopaths; less than 1% of female population are sociopaths. Sociologists argue that these statistics relate highly to societies structure, and not the individual as such. As one sociologist said “As a percentage it is small, but if you were to calculate that percentage into a number, the results would be shocking. I could understand this to be an individual problem if the number of sociopaths were smaller, but when looking at the statistics one can’t help link it to the social structure and social changes which influence every one of us”. Although criticized for his comments, one can’t help, but to start and see the hidden complexities behind this mainly one-sided story. This opens a big debate; do sociopaths deserve a voice?
Tests are showing that the nervous system of the psychopath is markedly different; they feel less fear and anxiety than normal people. One carefully conducted experiment revealed that “low arousal levels” not only causes impulsiveness and thrill-seeking, but also showed how dense sociopaths are when it comes to changing their behavior. A group of sociopaths and a group of healthy individuals were given a task, which was to learn what lever (out of four) turned on a green light. One lever gave the subject an electric shock. Both groups made the same number of errors, but the healthy group quickly learned to avoid the punishing electric shock, while sociopaths took much longer to do so. This need for higher levels of stimulation makes the psychopath seek dangerous situations. Perhaps this is the reason for many serial killers seeking to become part of the police force due to the intensity of the job.
The Psychopathic Survival Strategy
"You see, evolutionarily speaking, psychopaths should not exist. Throughout history it can be seen that human beings have needed to co-operate and care about one another in order to survive and produce a new generation that will carry on the processes of society. Most human dynamics are based on people trying to work out their problems and come to resolutions agreeable to the greatest number or, at the very least, in the interactions between two people. The issue of trust is paramount. Someone who betrays your trust is someone you cannot live or work with. Therefore, psychopaths, who are untrustworthy, should have long ago become extinct. But that isn't the way things are. It appears, in fact, as if psychopathy has increased!"
So how is it that a few parasitic, psychopathic individuals, incapable of providing for their own needs, can yet manage to carry along a recessive gene for so many generations? As I postulated in my comment above, this small minority requires a large, "normal" population to support their existence.
Evolutionary psychologists regard psychopathy as an inherited personality style that has evolved because glib, deceitful individuals - as a minority within a larger population of trusting folk - often reproduce with much success."
Other investigators, such as neuroscientist R.J.R. Blair of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Md., regard psychopathy as the result of a still-unspecified genetic disorder. The inherited defect interferes with the workings of the brain's emotion system, which is centered in the amygdala, a structure especially concerned with perceiving dangerous situations.
Personally, I see no conflict between these two conclusions. They seem, to me at least, mutually inclusive. The second gives us the source of the defect while the first explains how those thus inflicted have managed to pass it on through the centuries.
There are other examples in nature of parasites with evolved dependency upon a specific host species. If the host species becomes extinct, so does the parasite. It is unable to survive with any other host.
Some species of parasites are termed species specific. This means that they can complete their life cycle in only one species of host. Should they enter the wrong species they are unable to complete their life cycle and die, all generally without the host requiring treatment.
It seems clear to me that the psychopath/society relationship is that of highly specialized parasite/host. That the psychopath operates externally to the host in no way disqualifies it as parasite. The common mosquito is without question parasitic, as are the tick, the leech, and many other bloodsuckers. I think this human/human arrangement is unique in at least one regard, however: I know of no other situation wherein the host and parasite are, apparently, of the same species.
The psychopath/parasite cannot survive without non-psychopathic humans to prey upon. It needs the support of other humans, as do we all, but is incapable of functioning as a cooperative member of the population. Nor can it survive on its own or within a group comprised only of psychopaths. Although often highly intelligent, they frequently lack any real abilities or skills, but rely instead on deceit, malicious cunning, and ruthless self-interest enhanced by a complete absence of conscience or remorse.
What's nice about this explanation is that it not only explains why psychopaths exist, but also why we're not all psychopaths. If there are few enough psychopaths in the population, then being a psychopath makes sense because you'll mostly have winning confrontations with nice people. But if there are too many psychopaths, then the gains from taking advantage of nice people will be swamped by the losses from confronting other psychopaths. In equilibrium, you'll get both psychos and nice folks, with each strategy generating approximately equal returns, and with the precise balance determined by the relative payoffs of different interactions.