[p2p-research] The psychopath as peer?
Paul D. Fernhout
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Mon Nov 2 15:53:28 CET 2009
You are right to be concerned about simple labels, and that's one reason, as
a caveat, I mentioned the idea of moving beyond the paradigm of "psychopath"
to maybe something more useful, someday.
On neural evidence, you are right again that it is not for 100% sure
genetic, but genes do affect a lot of how the brain is wired, in interaction
with history and current environment, so it could be a factor.
To pull another bit from something previously linked:
"Why Do Some People Become Psychopaths?"
Many researchers now believe that the core defect in psychopathy — and what
most distinguishes it from other antisocial behavior disorders — is what are
called "callous/unemotional traits." [Note the use of the word "callous" and
consider the below slashdot article text using the same word, referencing a
statement by Peggy Noonan.] A child who kicks another child because he's
angry and can't control himself but feels terrible afterwards may be
antisocial, but he's not psychopathic. It's the kid who does it and feels no
remorse — or even gets angrier because the other child's crying is annoying
— who's most worrisome.
What causes this lack of empathy? Many — but not all — psychopaths were
abused or neglected as children. Being treated poorly early on can set up a
child to see everyone else as selfish and cruel, causing them to replicate
that kind of behavior as a way to cope with a nasty, uncaring world.
However, the vast majority of abused and neglected children grow up to be
caring, and some are even especially sensitive — far from psychopathic.
James Blair, Ph.D., studies troubled children as chief of affective
cognitive neuroscience unit in the mood and anxiety disorders program at the
National Institute of Mental Health. He says that post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), which can be one result of childhood trauma, can be seen in
some ways as the opposite of psychopathy.
"There's one core structure in the brain that's over-responsive in PTSD —
that's the amygdala," he says. This region is critical for perceiving and
responding to threats. In PTSD, the amygdala is hypersensitive to threats,
producing fear in situations that wouldn't seem to be frightening to most
But in brain scans of people who have high levels of callous or
unemotional traits, "We see a reduced response of the amygdala to threat,"
That doesn't mean that the psychopaths weren't exposed to trauma — a
brain faced with overwhelming stress can respond either by becoming
hypersensitive or insensitive, depending on a multitude of factors,
Indeed, callous and unemotional traits do seem to be highly genetic.
About 70 percent of the variance between people on this dimension seems to
be inherited. However, a study of sons of criminals found that those who had
a highly responsive stress system were far less likely to become criminals
themselves than those whose stress system was less responsive.
Again, what to do about genetic differences socially is another issue.
Sometimes they can be adaptive.
For example, see:
"Slashdot | Bad Driving May Have Genetic Basis"
"Bad drivers may in part have their genes to blame, suggests a new study by
UC Irvine neuroscientists. People with a particular gene variant performed
more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it — and a
follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of
Americans have the variant. 'These people make more errors from the get-go,
and they forget more of what they learned after time away,' said Dr. Steven
Cramer, neurology associate professor and senior author of the study
published recently in the journal Cerebral Cortex."
But, from the cited article on the value of that gene:
The gene variant isn't always bad, though. Studies have found that people
with it maintain their usual mental sharpness longer than those without it
when neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and
multiple sclerosis are present.
"It's as if nature is trying to determine the best approach," Cramer says.
"If you want to learn a new skill or have had a stroke and need to
regenerate brain cells, there's evidence that having the variant is not
good. But if you've got a disease that affects cognitive function, there's
evidence it can act in your favor. The variant brings a different balance
between flexibility and stability."
Some other recent slashdot discussion mentioning psychopaths, as an article
and two comments.
"Nothing To Fear But Fearlessness Itself?"
"In a post last August, Robert X. Cringely voiced fears that Goldman Sachs
and others were not so much evil as 'clueless about the implications of
their work,' leaving it up to the government to fix any mess they leave
behind. 'But what if government runs out of options,' worried Cringely. 'Our
economic policy doesn't imagine it, nor does our foreign policy, because
superpowers don't acknowledge weakness.' And now his fears are echoed in a
WSJ opinion piece by Peggy Noonan titled 'We're Governed by Callous
Children.' She writes, 'We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest
children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves
optimists but they're not optimists — they're unimaginative. They don't have
faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are
callous [Note the word, and compare with the above on children and how some
few become psychopths], and they don't mind it when people become
disheartened. They don't even notice.' With apologies to FDR, do we have
nothing to fear but fearlessness itself?"
One comment on that by someone else, similar to my question at the start of
this p2p thread:
"It took me a long time to figure out why things are going to hell. Then I
read http://www.youmeworks.com/sociopaths.html and it all made sense.
Sociopaths seek power and winning without conscience and this is why banking
and wall street leaders are where they are, because they've changed the
system of laws to favor themselves. Like terminators, they don't feel
remorse or care if their actions hurt other people. These people are now a
large proportion of our international corporate leadership. Until our system
collapses, they will stay in power, even though they are the reason for our
suffering and downfall as a nation. Not sure what there is to do about the
situation except have people come to recognize sociopaths for what they are,
broken people who should never be allowed to hold power. From the web site
the 12 clues to recognizing a sociopath ..."
One reply to that comment again by someone else:
The silver lining to this could is that if:
1. the sociopath believes that there is a widespread catastrophic issue that
will affect himself as well as everyone else
2. the sociopath is powerful
3. no one else is going to do anything to fix it ...the sociopath will do
something about it.
In general, genetic diversity is a good thing. That's why most species are
sexual, to maintain a larger genetic pool of variation and recombination
than just by cloning. Nature seems to favor a diversity of approaches to life.
Again, you are quite right to question how useful a "sociopath" term or
paradigm for understanding current politics is. But in any case, it is a
meme that p2p needs to think about, IMHO. Thanks for contributing to the
I have a BA in Psychology from Princeton, for what it is worth. :-)
Mentioned here: :-)
"Post-Scarcity Princeton, or, Reading between the lines of PAW for
prospective Princeton students, or, the Health Risks of Heart Disease"
At least my advisor, when I asked him, said it was OK to talk about his sex
life in there. :-) But, he was a past president of the American
Psychological Association, so I figured it would be OK. :-) Another advisee
that year, I found out only when she came to visit, was the son of Dr. Ruth
But we all know psychologists are all crazy, right? :-) For example:
"How To Tell If Your Therapist Is Crazy (Part One)"
"Truth is, I’ve heard some disheartening stories of incompetence, conceit,
and meanness among my colleagues. Add to that various tales of boundary
violations, diagnostic ineptitude, and goofy, new age therapies. It’s enough
to make a guy to wonder: is it true? Do psychologists struggle with mental
illness more often then the general population? As is my tradition, I hit
the literature in the hopes of scrounging up some facts. ... I’ve heard it
said that shrinks aren’t simply screwed up, they’re shrinks because they’re
screwed up. Where did I hear that? Why, from shrinks themselves. ..."
Still, as another president of the APA suggests, it may be better to focus
on amplifying the positive, than diminishing the negative:
People who tend to be sociopathic tend to have certain traits. What is
positive about that? :-)
Above there was one suggestion, if a sociopath became concerned about the
effect of global issues on himself or herself. Consider, even in China:
Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is
hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse
than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we
have in America today.
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a
reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have
great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult
but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the
21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us
in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power
and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding
populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean
power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure
that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that,
including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.
Our one-party democracy is worse. The fact is, on both the energy/climate
legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really
playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing,
arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail.
Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist. But if he’s
forced to depend entirely on his own party to pass legislation, he will be
whipsawed by its different factions.
I'm not saying China is a sociopath or run by sociopaths. I'm just giving an
example of how "enlightened self interest" coupled with a strong will can
accomplish some good stuff. I'd rather we did not have a government run by
one or more sociopaths. But, if we did, I'm just trying to look on the
bright side. :-) Can we help enlighten sociopaths to see their own long term
self interests and act better on them? I don't know.
Even if the government was enlightened, consider this:
"Corporation as Psychopath"
The filmmakers juxtapose well-shot interviews of defenders and critics with
the reality on the ground -- Charles Kernaghan in Central America showing
how, for example, big apparel manufacturers pay workers pennies for products
that sell for hundreds of dollars in the United States -- with defenders of
the regime -- Milton Friedman looking frumpy as he says with as straight a
face as he can -- the only moral imperative for a corporate executive is to
make as much money for the corporate owners as he or she can.
Others agree with Friedman. Management guru Peter Drucker tells Bakan:
"If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire
him. Fast." And William Niskanen, chair of the libertarian Cato Institute,
says that he would not invest in a company that pioneered in corporate
Of course, state corporation laws actually impose a legal duty on
corporate executives to make money for shareholders. Engage in social
responsibility -- pay more money to workers, stop legal pollution, lower the
price to customers -- and you'll likely be sued by your shareholders. Robert
Monks, the investment manager, puts it this way: "The corporation is an
externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine
(shark seeking young woman swimming on the screen). There isn't any question
of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has
within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was
Or as I wrote here:
"[unrev-II] Singularity in twenty to forty years?"
I personally think machine evolution is unstoppable, and the best hope
for humanity is the noble cowardice of creating refugia and trying, like
the duckweed, to create human (and other) life faster than other forces
can destroy it. [Though I now see social networking like p2p as another
promising alternative, to interlink with that, where the social network is
much stronger is some ways that the individual and can help reign in some
negatives, as it maintains a Manuel de Landa Meshworks and Hierarchies balance.]
Note, I'm not saying machine evolution won't have a human component --
in that sense, a corporation or any bureaucracy is already a separate
machine intelligence, just not a very smart or resilient one. This sense
of the corporation comes out of Langdon Winner's book "Autonomous
Technology: Technics out of control as a theme in political thought".
You may have a tough time believing this, but Winner makes a convincing
case. He suggests that all successful organizations "reverse-adapt"
their goals and their environment to ensure their continued survival.
These corporate machine intelligences are already driving for better
machine intelligences -- faster, more efficient, cheaper, and more
resilient. People forget that corporate charters used to be routinely
revoked for behavior outside the immediate public good, and that
corporations were not considered persons until around 1886 (that
decision perhaps being the first major example of a machine using the
political/social process of its own ends).
Corporate charters are granted supposedly because society believe it is
in the best interest of *society* for corporations to exist. ...
Anyway, lots of links have rotted in there. :-(
But the point is, we have created a social organization form (the
corporation, one that is immortal and many are very powerful, and which is
driven by only fiat dollar numerical "profit" many times) that may exhibit
psychopthic behavior. And, through them, we are not creating physical forms,
the artificial intelligence, sometimes but not always embodied in a robot,
that may also exhibit psychopathic behavior. Corporations and robots have,
so far, no friends or family as entities -- in the sense that they are not
yet designed to think that way. (Some work on swarm robotics is being done.)
And as one person replied to a question I raised on essentially making
smarter corporate sharks with computer technology:
"[unrev-II] Re: Is "bootstrapping" part of the problem?"
(Posted twice by that person, so two sets of replies.)
Paul, I respect your point of view but I do not share it. ...
Desires, intelligence, values, - rings true, up to a point. But it's sort
of like id, ego, superego. A way of naming and thus discussing something
about mind or personality that seems real to many of us, but not terribly
informative about how we function or could or should function.
I suggest that if we are affirming values (widely shared or otherwise) we
ought to affirm Respect for Human Autonomy. The idea that one individual may
better determine that individual's needs, wants, and means than another. The
idea that one may be mistaken, especially about other people.
I believe the evolutionary environment humans have adapted to, is that of
other humans. Hence the skill at detecting cheaters, free riders etc. - as
well as the adulation for those whose exploits demonstrate both a
specialness as an individual and a major contribution to the community as a
whole - success in two major areas of human endeavor. I think our great
teachers refer to this when they talk about harmony, about finding peace as
a part of the whole.
Another related value: voluntary decisions aren't only more whole-hearted
than compelled ones, they are more likely to be correct for the precise
individual circumstances. Summed over all humanity, these individual
decisions - sometimes competitive, sometimes cooperative, are the
well-spring of progress, both material and moral.
I don't completely agree with that, because it leaves out the issue of how
people negotiate to do collective actions, or how they decide some actions
are out of bounds, but there is a lot of wisdom there. There were various
replies to the point I made. That thread on values and technology is here:
"[unrev-II] Is "bootstrapping" part of the problem?"
That was a great mailing list to be on related to Doug Engelbart's efforts,
and I am thankful for a chance to participate on it and learn so much with
many very wonderful people. That and the early Squeak list are perhaps my
models of healthy p2p communities related to digital tools and surrounding
issues. They gave me some hope.
Anyway, these are growing issues in our society, framed as a negative,
related to decreasing psychothic behavior:
* How do we get people to have less psychopathic behavior? Abundance of love
and good food and sunlight would usually help (even, in the few times, when
that love comes through as authority, as per the above article mentions on
what works best for developing a conscience in some, not all, kids.)
* How do we get organizations to have less psychopathic behavior? Coming up
with better ways to structure their charters and their social/economic
surroundings might help, as might be changing the meshworks/hierarchies
balance with p2p activities. Even the most benign seeming institutions can
have hidden pathologies: (only picking on the UUs as I respect them a lot)
* How do we get the machines and software we build to have less psychopathic
behavior? James P. Hogan talks about this in "The Two Faces of Tommorrow".
Isaac Asimov talked about it with his "Three Laws of Robotics". Basically,
we need to build our ethics into our artifacts. We already do that every day
(as Langdon Winner and others talk about) but unfortunately, often in an
unconscious or sociopathic way, that often reflects a scarcity ideology
(like emphasizing minimum production costs or maximizing fiat dollar
revenues or passing external costs to others or ignoring systemic risks). We
need Bucky Fuller's (and other's) ideas of a "Comprehensive Anticipatory
Like cancer, sociopathic behavior is probably inherent in any system,
because part of it depends on perspective. Cancer is basically one cell
saying, "I'm just for me, in a different way, and I'm in it for the short
term." Sociopathic behavior is similar. But, ultimately, there is the issue
of sense of self. How big is a "self"? A gene? A genome? A finger? A
thought? A brain? A body? A career? A family? A neighborhood? A network? A
world? A universe? Etc. There are many ways to define self.
If we reframe those things above in positive psychology terms, in terms of
increasing positive behiviours, they might be:
* How do we get people to have more compassionate and joyful behavior?
* How do we get organizations to have more life-affirming behavior that
meets societies unmet needs?
"William C. Norris: Social entrepreneur founder of CDC"
(A businessperson I admire; sadly he died recently. But his legacy lives on.)
* How do we get the machines and software we build to have more helpful and
compassionate and life-affirming and joyful and so on behaviors? Do we focus
on "friendly AI":
or do we focus on augmenting human communities?
With either affirming core human values, as above?
So, you'd be right to question an overly simplistic us/them notion of
"sociopath", even beyond formal "diagnosis". But, that still leaves open
these deeper questions. Same as researching cancer is ultimately a complex
enterprise, involving everything about what it means for a population to
live and evolve, so too may be the idea of "sociopath" something that calls
to us to think big to understand it, and deal with the situation our current
reality calls for in a healthy joyful way. Of course, a sociopath might ask,
healthy and joyful for whom? Or anyone else might ask that too. :-)
As a graduate professor (Frank von Hippel) taught in a Woodrow Wilson School
course I took (a class my grad department in Civil Engineering and
Operations Research did not want me to take, and my taking it anyway was
part of what cost me my PhD there), paraphrasing: "Cost benefit analysis
involves asking, who pays the costs, and who gets the benefits, accepting
that the two groups may not be the same."
Which pretty much sums up big some major big problems in current and
historical global politics.
"Citizen Scientist: Collected Essays of Frank Von Hippel (Masters of Modern
In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt
demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of
the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He
shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals
are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict “ideological
discipline.” The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt,
is the professional’s lack of control over the political component of his or
her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to
society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional
education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically
subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant
difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations
and even democracy. Schmidt details the battle one must fight to be an
independent thinker and to pursue one’s own social vision in today’s
corporate society. He shows how an honest reassessment of what it really
means to be a professional employee can be remarkably liberating. After
reading this brutally frank book, no one who works for a living will ever
think the same way about his or her job.
Is our very academia, that which should provide our moral compass, and help
guide us to a better world, itself somewhat a psychopathic institution, and
one that even turns non-psychopaths into psychopaths? :-(
Schmidt writes essentially about how one of the reasons many academics
become so dysfunction is that they are trying, somehow, to make up, through
fame or profit or control of others lives, for the trauma most of them were
put through in graduate school and the early years of their professional
work, where their hopes to make a difference were squashed, and now they are
still trying to get something out of all that. :-(
"[p2p-research] College Daze links (was Re: : FlossedBk, "Free/Libre and
Open Source Solutions for Education")"
But with that said, some graduate advisers are great, many grad students are
better than I was at advanced calculus, some good percent of academics make
very positive contributions either because they had a great graduate
experience or despite it, or even because of it. To echo again the words
above about kids:
"What causes this lack of empathy? Many — but not all — psychopaths were
abused or neglected as children. Being treated poorly early on can set up a
child to see everyone else as selfish and cruel, causing them to replicate
that kind of behavior as a way to cope with a nasty, uncaring world.
However, the vast majority of abused and neglected children grow up to be
caring, and some are even especially sensitive — far from psychopathic."
Still, before I celebrate how wonderful grad school is, again, on
psychologists, part two of the essay cited above:
"How To Tell If Your Therapist Is Crazy (Part Two)"
As tempting as it is to believe that most mental health workers are wacky
and maladjusted, the data tell a different story. For the most part, we seem
to be fairly sane. Our downfall, in my sometimes overbearing opinion, is
that we have a tendency toward muddled thinking. Our logic chips are
frequently on the fritz, and it is our patients who pay the price in time,
money, and heartache.
Consider this example. The case is fictional, but it is based on far too
many real situations that I've had the misfortune to witness.
Sally goes to a psychologist complaining of depression. Ever since her
divorce and layoff last year, she just can't get out of her blue funk. Prior
to those events, life was grand for Sally. She was happy and surrounded by
friends. She believes that the events of last year sent her into depression,
and she simply wants to get her life moving again. The psychologist
disagrees with Sally's assessment. After several sessions, he concludes that
Sally's problem stems from childhood abuse and that she may be suffering
from Multiple Personality Disorder.
Sally thinks she is depressed; the psychologist thinks she is Sybil.
Seems illogical to reach that conclusion, doesn't it? Not if you went to
graduate school. Reaching that type of conclusion a simple matter of
ignoring the facts.
If the psychologist doesn't believe Sally, if he buys into preconceived
notions, or if he believes he knows more about Sally than Sally does, then
he is free to reach any conclusion he wishes. It is rarely so egregious, but
it happens in smaller ways more often than you might imagine. Brain
blockages like this one are important to screen for in choosing a therapist.
What are we to say about a social system like academic and professional
psychology that turns people who want to care into dysfunctional or
disempowered helpers? Would "psychopathic" be the right word?
Or, if we should never blame on malice what could be attributed to
stupidity, should we merely use the term, "dysfunctional"?
At least, there are some examples of functional psychologists out there.
Former APA president George A. Miller built and gave away WordNet under a
Former APA president Martin Seligman has done a lot of good stuff about
learned helplessness ani positive psychology:
Recent APA president Philip Zimbardo has done work on understanding
authoritarianism, shyness, and how one's time perspective affects one's life
And there are many other contributions various psychologists of less fame
have made to improving or healing the world.
So, not all psychologists are completely dysfunctional. :-)
But, clearly, our entire intellectual system has failed us in many, many
ways. Deep and profound ones. As I've outline, we've lost US$100 trillion
and untold suffering because academics would not share their information
more easily about things like vitamin D deficiency syndrome, its effects,
and its cures. And a similar lack of sharing on issues related to
psychopathology may have cost the equivalent of quadrillions of US dollars
in lost productivity or war cost and war damage (like, where we would be
today if Hitler had been able to continue in his original career aspiration
as a painter).
We need a substantial reordering of those myths and those priorities in
relation to sharing and collaboration.
As Robert Muller suggests:
The present condition of humanity was best described by the philosopher
Gottfried Leibnitz a few hundred years ago when he said that humans would be
so occupied with making scientific discoveries in every sector for several
centuries that they would not look at the totality. But, he said, someday
the proliferation and complexity of our knowledge would become so
bewildering that it would be necessary to develop a global, universal, and
synthetic view. This is exactly the time and juncture at which we have
arrived. It shows in our new preoccupations with what is called
'interdisciplinary', 'global thinking', 'interdependence', and so on. It is
all the same phenomenon.
One of the most useful things humanity could do at this point is to
make an honest inventory of what we know. I have suggested to foundations
that they ought to bring together the chief editors of the world's main
encyclopedias to agree on a common table of contents of human knowledge. But
it can be a dangerous idea. Why? Well, when the Frenchman Diderot invented
the first encyclopedia, the archbishop of Paris ran to the king of France to
have the book burned because it would totally change the existing value
system of the Catholic church. If we developed a common index of human
knowledge today it would similarly cause a change in our value systems. We
would discover that in the whole framework of knowledge the contest between
Israel and the Muslims would barely be listed because it is such a small
problem in the totality of our preoccupation as a human species. The meeting
might have to last several days before the editors would even mention it!
This is exactly the point: some people don't want to develop such a
framework of knowledge because they want their problem to be the most
important problem on earth and go to great lengths to promote that notion.
So that is what I believe to be most necessary for global security: an
ordering of our knowledge at this point in our evolution, a good, honest
classification of all we know from the infinitely large to the infinitely
small - the cosmos, our planet, humanity, our dreams, our wishes, and so on.
We haven't done it yet, but we will have to do it one way or another.
To amplify one point there: "some people don't want to develop such a
framework of knowledge". Is that related to "psychopathic behavior"? Or is
it just "selfish" with a very small definition for size of self?
But we can still sing anyway:
"However, he learns in the end that despite his success in stealing all the
Christmas presents and decorations from the Whos, Christmas comes just the
I never really got that as a kid. :-) But see also:
"When the cornucopia was brought to the Pilgrims, the Iroquois People sought
to assist these Boat People in destroying their fear of scarcity. The Native
understanding is that there is always enough for everyone when abundance is
shared and when gratitude is given back to the Original Source. The trick
was to explain the concept of the Field of Plenty with few mutually
understood words or signs. The misunderstanding that sprang from this lack
of common language robbed those who came to Turtle Island of a beautiful
I'm very glad to see that we are building such abundant knowledge systems
stigmergically, whether Wikipedia, Debian GNU/Linux, or many other projects,
through the internet. Let's hope we can keep it happening using peer
production and other means. Individual contributors may fall by the wayside
for whatever reasons (politicians, hurry up with that "basic income" for
everyone already :-), but the community will hopefully continue to thrive to
the point where we see an extensive transformation, as these newly emerged
values and capabilities reflect back on our infrastructure in a
life-affirming and compassionate wa. Maybe even, someday, with robots and
people playing/working together, like at the end of Wall-E :-)
Was "Auto" psychopathic in the movie Wall-E? Or was he just just following
his directive, like he was built to do...
Stan Rhodes wrote:
> Due to controversy and overlaps between clinial tools, such as the DMS-IV,
> it's hard to cut through the "popular science" fluff and find the meat in
> most work on these subjects. For example, measures of "psychopathy" are
> used for research only, and are not in any way clinical diagnoses of
> anti-social personality disorder (ASPD). While psychopathy and ASPD are
> correlated, only a fraction of prisoners diagnosed with ASPD meet the PCL-R
> criteria for psychopathy. In fact, ASPD is almost synonymous with "someone
> in the US prison system" (around 80% of US prisoners are ASPD) and given the
> disproportionately large prisoner population in the US, there's a really
> fishy smell to the whole business. It's important to keep this in mind when
> reviewing research articles written for the public that touch on either.
> While I'm not discounting the PCL-R, I have grave doubts about it
> representing a distinct taxonomic group. It's factor 1 and factor 2 measure
> very different things. I've run across studies where one of the factors
> will correlate strongly with some behavior, but the other will not.
> My warning, as someone that actually studied psychology--and still does--is
> take it all with a salt-shaker of salt. This tends to be good advice across
> the behavioral sciences in general.
> Paul, at some point you said "Some may be genetic too," but the study you
> pointed to only tested for neural activation. Neural activation does NOT
> mean genetic evidence.
> -- Stan
> On Sun, Nov 1, 2009 at 8:47 AM, Paul D. Fernhout <
> pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:
>> A digression onto a psychopathic aspect of the current system, related to
>> my previous post on changing social mythology which seems counterproductive,
>> Here is some more on that theme of psychopath as "peer". :-)
>> Some may be genetic too:
>> "Bullies May Enjoy Seeing Others in Pain: Brain Scans Show Disruption in
>> Natural Empathetic Response"
>> "Aggressive adolescents showed a specific and very strong activation of the
>> amygdala and ventral striatum (an area that responds to feeling rewarded)
>> when watching pain inflicted on others, which suggested that they enjoyed
>> watching pain," he said.
>> Unlike the control group, the youth with conduct disorder did not activate
>> the area of the brain involved in self-regulation (the medial prefrontal
>> cortex and the temporoparietal junction).
>> The control group acted similarly to youth in a study released earlier
>> this year, in which Decety and his colleagues used fMRI scans to show 7- to
>> 12-year-olds are naturally empathetic toward people in pain.
>> I'm not saying all violent people are psychopaths, most probably are not.
>> I'm just suggesting fixing the nutritional deficiencies and vitamin D
>> deficiencies may help improve things in general for people who have
>> psychopathic tendencies and may otherwise be impulsively violent.
>> Likewise, I'm not saying all bullying people are psychopaths, again, most
>> probably are not. But addressing bullying issues may help improve things in
>> general for people who have psychopathic tendencies and might otherwise be
>> Like with any paradigm, likely we will figure out how to move beyond the
>> "psychopath" paradigm at some point and see some bigger picture, including
>> nutrition, helping parents better match their style of parenting to their
>> child's current needs, and more social supports (including a basic income,
>> which would give many people the opportunity to just walk away from
>> relationships at work or at home to psychopaths and in general any other
>> dysfunctional relationship, or alternatively, have the resources to help fix
>> the relationship).
>> Might there be societies where people with the same inclinations just could
>> not be "psychopaths" in terms of behavior effects because of other
>> collective societal aspects? Or where better diet prevents the worst part of
>> this? Maybe, even if we can't "cure" the psychopath, we can cure the society
>> that lets him or her run wild, and worse, elevates him or her to positions
>> of responsibility over others and major resources?
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