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Into the Mind of a Psychopath: Scientists Explain Why They Do What They Do
2017-07-11 11:47:02
Liza Tan

Many scientists see psychopathy as an emotionally cold disorder.

"Psychopaths are often big trouble for those around them," clinical psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Joseph Newman said. "If we can find out what underlies their problems, we might be able to identify what kinds of interventions might be able to work for them."

A psychopath is a person who is often associated with a disturbing, often violent social behavior, and this behavior is frequently described as socially destructive.The total population of this kind of people would make up only about one percent of the general population.However, information revealed that when it comes to prison numbers, psychopaths actually make up about 25 percent of inmates.

"Psychopaths commit an astonishing amount of crime, and this crime is both devastating to victims and astronomically costly to society as a whole," neuroscientist and psychologist at Harvard University, Joshua Buckholtz said in a statement.

Researchers have been wanting to get to the root cause of psychopathy in a person.Over the years, they observed how they see the world, see an opportunity, see a situation, and see the future.Astonishingly, they found that the common traits often exhibited by psychopaths would include: a weak ability to control behavior and yield to indulgence, having experienced shallow feelings, irresponsibility, a lack of empathy or guilty conscience or the ability to show remorse, often take their self-worth in the highest regard, and has a superficial charm and glibness.

Lack of Emotions and Sense of Responsibility

A psychopath’s brain has been studied by scientists for a better understanding of their behavior.Scientists have been interested in what’s going on in the minds of these people, especially those considered as “cold-blooded super predators.” Many of them see psychopathy as an emotionally cold disorder after some studies revealed that a psychopath’s amygdala—the brain’s region that is associated with fear—is less active, leading some scientists into concluding that psychopathy is actually a disorder of fear.

Researchers also investigated the activity of psychopaths’ orbital frontal cortex.They say this and the regions in it control our emotions, inhibitions, attention, and decision making.They found that these regions would often be less active and that psychopaths would usually have trouble processing abstract concepts or those that have emotional content.

"When investigating psychopathy, you want to look at the full range of deficits that are present, not just the emotional ones, to really account for what might be going on." Newman said.

Buckholtz alongside other researchers had scanned the brains of about 50 inmates with the use of a mobile MRI scanner.They also had prepared a situational judgment test.Both of which helped them assess the brain activity and common behavior of a person with higher psychopathy.

They found the ventral striatum, the part of our brain which is associated with our ability to evaluate the value of different choices, has had greater activity compared to the ventral medial prefrontal cortex, the brain region which helps us assess the consequences of our actions.

 

“What’s In It for Me?” Thinking

New research has revealed that a psychopath tends to overvalue immediate rewards and overlooks the consequences of their disturbing actions.It also points out that while not all psychopaths are violent, these people are socially destructive in other means, such as through cheating, stealing, and lying.

This new study observed the behavior of undergraduate students who are around the age of 19.Those who have scored higher in the test designed to test their psychopathic tendencies were found to be more likely to betray their partner if this partner interrupted them in their decisions more frequently.In other words, they tend to betray a person if they have less in common and they are viewed as less likely to be associated with in the future.

The Impact of the Environment on a Psychopath's Behavior

"By finding out what predisposes someone toward psychopathy and how these vulnerabilities interact with the environment to give rise to a full-blown case of the disorder, I believe one might be able to prevent the unfortunate development of psychopathy." Newman said.

Studies about psychopathic behavior tendencies could not reveal whether there is a clear link between the environment and the tendency of a person to develop psychopathy.

Many previous studies about psychopathic behavior tendencies could not reveal whether there is a clear link between the environment and the tendency of a person to develop psychopathy.Therefore, a cloud continues to loom over the most probable root cause of this disorder, much to the frustration of researchers.

Newman noted, “just because one has a predisposition doesn't mean that they have to end up behaving that way.”

He also noted that the only place they could find many psychopaths would be in prison. “Bringing prisoners out to get their brains scanned puts a lot of people in risk, so it's very complicated to do," Newman said.

Research into psychopathy bit by bit open our mind into seeing how a psychopath sees a situation or the future.It can be hypothesized though that each person actually has a psychopathic tendency given the revelations made in recent days.


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