Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In defense of psychopaths

The current Scientific American has an article in defense of psychopaths. John Horgan writes:
In his remarks as in his book, Dutton held that being a psychopath—someone who lacks the empathy, compassion and conscience that bog down us ordinary folk–ain’t so bad. Dumb, extremely impulsive psychopaths often end up dead or in prison, Dutton said, but psychopaths can thrive if they’re smart and disciplined.

Psychopaths tend to be fearless, ruthless, capable of extraordinary focus, and they are cool and decisive in high-pressure situations that make others quail. Psychopaths excel at reading other peoples’ facial expression, which comes in handy if they want to manipulate someone. (Dutton wrote about conmen and other master persuaders in a previous book.) They have a better-than-average ability to tell whether someone else is lying or is emotionally vulnerable. Psychopathy, Dutton noted, falls on a spectrum rather than being an all-or-nothing condition, and psychopathic traits are common among CEOs, lawyers, media personalities, special-forces soldiers and surgeons.

Psychopaths are often charismatic, cheery, fun to be around. In their presence, Dutton said, you feel like “anything is possible.” Dutton has never met a psychopath who regretted being a psychopath. Psychopaths tend to be happy even when locked up in prison or facing the death penalty. Rather than fearing the consequences of their actions, psychopaths focus on potential rewards, and they feel little or no regret when things go bad.
I am glad to see someone challenging the negativity of psychobabble labels.

This illustrates the confusing definitions of Empathy. Psychopaths are said to lack empathy, but that would mean that they are blind to the feelings of others. But it is just the opposite. Their skill in manipulating others is based on their being very good at reading the feelings of others.

The author recommends this self-test:
Now find out if you could be a psychopath

1. I rarely plan ahead. I’m a spur-of-the-moment kind of person 0 1 2 3
2. Cheating on your partner is OK so long as you don’t get caught 0 1 2 3
3. If something better comes along it’s OK to cancel a longstanding appointment 0 1 2 3
4. Seeing an animal injured or in pain doesn’t bother me in the slightest 0 1 2 3
5. Driving fast cars, riding rollercoasters, and skydiving, appeal to me 0 1 2 3
6. It doesn’t matter to me if I have to step on other people to get what I want 0 1 2 3
7. I’m very persuasive. I have a talent for getting other people to do what I want 0 1 2 3
8. I’d be good in a dangerous job because I can make my mind up quickly 0 1 2 3
9. I find it easy to keep myself together in situations when others are cracking under pressure 0 1 2 3
10. If you’re able to con someone, that’s their problem. They deserve it 0 1 2 3

How do you rate
0-10: Low
11-15: Below average
16-20: Average
21-25: High
26-30: Very high
This is a typical psychological test. You have to answer honestly for it to be useful. Even so, it doesn't really define a disorder. It describes a personality type.


Anonymous said...

The psychopaths are also those who legislate against men and sit on the bench in judgement of them in "Family Court."

Chew on that whilst thou offer such defense...

George said...

Those court officials certainly seem to have a disregard for the harm they cause.

jocelyn said...

Very interesting. I was married to a sociopath or psychopath for 7 years. After that experience, you can say that my family will never be the same. I am preparing to go to court tomorrow for my fourth appearance against him, just to obtain a long term restraining order. He has completely mesmorized the appointed commissioner with his charm, or with potential 49er tickets, Im not sure which one. With my 4th visit, I have yet been given a chance to say anything to protect myself and my family from this freak of nature. What is beginning to be very clear to me is that our law enforcement and court system are no where near being trained on how to handle these types of individuals. Lack of empathy is just the tip of the iceburg. Throughout our relationship I had myself convinced that he may have bipolar disease, then it was depression, narcism, obsessive compulsive, ADHD, eating disorder, sleeping disorder, and on and on, anything but sociopath, which currently has no cure. I should write a book about the experience, if I survive, because what they truly lack is a conscious and an Oscar. If that isnt frightening enough, there may be a whole generation of sociopaths coming our way soon.