Brain Research Shows Psychopathic Criminals Do Not Lack Empathy, but Fail to Use It
Wrong forum? I trust the mods will move as appropriate. But, in my opinion, the fact that the world is pretty much RUN by psychopaths - whether the
militant terrorist types, or the corporate thief types, or the political narcissist types - psychos are BAD NEWS.
Criminal psychopathy can be both repulsive and fascinating, as illustrated by the vast number of books and movies inspired by this topic.
Offenders diagnosed with psychopathy pose a significant threat to society, because they are more likely to harm other individuals and to do so again
after being released.
A brain imaging study in the Netherlands shows individuals with psychopathy have reduced empathy while witnessing the pains of others. When asked to
empathize, however, they can activate their empathy. This could explain why psychopathic individuals can be callous and socially cunning at the same
For years, it has been believed (even very recently), that psychopaths LACK empathy altogether. It was long thought that there was nothing to be done
for habitual soulless monstrosities like those portrayed in "American Psycho", the serial killers of wide infamy, etc.
But, if it's true, as neuroscientists have now 'found' using fMRI, that they CAN have empathy, but just don't USE IT automatically, that makes it an
even more profound problem. Many of us have crossed paths with psychopathic, antisocial people who seem totally indifferent to the pain and concerns
of others, or been hurt badly by those who seemed charismatic, charming, good-looking, and "nice", only to be fooled and screwed over by them.
How many of us, both men and women, have been hurt by someone in whom we put our hearts, our trust, and our authentic selves, and then were smashed to
bits by discovering the person didn't give a rat-dropping about us? I know I have. Somehow it seemed 'easier' to just chalk it up to "he has no
soul", or "she's a total drama queen user and gold-digger", and think, "Oh well, now I know better." (We sometimes though, fail to notice the "red
flags" at first - until it's been SEVERAL times that we get screwed.)
It became just a "write-off" relationship. As much as we feel we 'deserved' an apology, we knew we'd never, ever get one. But - now they're saying
that people CAN learn to use the empathy they have. So, is this what happens when that jerk who ruined your life shows up 10 years later to "make
Making amends is always a part of the standard 12-step programs. It would seem that psychopaths might "say" they are sorry, but never really meant
it. But then again, sometimes people DO show remorse some time later.
There might be two sides to these findings. The darker side is that reduced spontaneous empathy together with a preserved capacity for empathy
might be the cocktail that makes these individuals so callous when harming their victims and at the same time so socially cunning when they try to
seduce their victims.
Whether individuals with psychopathy autonomously switch their empathy mode on and off depending on the requirements of a social situation however
remains to be established. The brighter side is that the preserved capacity for empathy might be harnessed in therapy.
Instead of having to create a capacity for empathy, therapies may need to focus on making the existing capacity more automatic to prevent them from
further harming others. How to do so, remains at this stage uncertain.
So that means Whitey Bulger, Jodi Arias, Hitler, Madoff, all the notorious dictators and killers really can
choose to care or not? I know that
sometimes I just feel numb watching violence on the screen, or reading about it - and it's true that American media is obsessed with violence, "If it
bleeds, it leads". So, are we just desensitized?
What are the implications of this in light of how to solve society's problems?
Could they develop an "artificial" way to stimulate that part of the brain? Certainly they've figured out how to ERASE that part of the brain (i.e.
in military training of the last century - not specific to US military).
Slippery indeed. Your thoughts?
edit on 25-7-2013 by wildtimes because: formatting errors