Psychopaths aren't evil, they simply have defective brains. Yet, while they are only 1% of the population, they are 20% of prison inmates. Worse, they account for 50% of violent crimes. Thus, one of the most productive things we could do to make society safer, would be to do something about psychopaths.
Since the physical cause of psychopathy was discovered, a puzzling fact became clear: Many psychopaths go through life without committing any major crime, much less a violent crime. In fact, the scientist who actually identified the area and condition of the brain causing psychopathy discovered, by accident, that he himself is a psychopath! So, even he, a scientist who has forwarded our understanding of psychopathy, is a psychopath. Anything we were to do to control psychopathy might, if handled improperly, prevent the good a psychopath can do.
Confused? Well, what are the symptoms of psychopathy? (Even if you don't read them all, there is further discussion after the list of symptoms.):
1. GLIB AND SUPERFICIAL CHARM — the tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. He can also be a great listener, to simulate empathy while zeroing in on his targets’ dreams and vulnerabilities, to be able to manipulate them better.
2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH — a grossly inflated view of one’s abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.
3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM — an excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.
4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING — can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative and dishonest.
5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS: the use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one’s victims.
6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT: a lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one’s victims.
7. SHALLOW AFFECT: emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness and superficial warmth.
8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY: a lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.
9. PARASITIC LIFESTYLE: an intentional, manipulative, selfis, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline and the inability to carry through one’s responsibilities.
10. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS: expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.
11. PROMISCUOUS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR: a variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of numerous, multiple relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity (rape) or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits and conquests.
12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS: a variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use and running away from home.
13. LACK OF REALISTIC, LONG-TERM GOALS: an inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.
14. IMPULSIVITY: the occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations and momentary urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic and reckless.
15. IRRESPONSIBILITY: repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.
16. FAILURE TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR OWN ACTIONS: a failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.
17. MANY SHORT-TERM RELATIONSHIPS: a lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including in marital and familial bonds.
18. JUVENILE DELINQUENCY: behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.
19. REVOCATION OF CONDITION RELEASE: a revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation or failing to appear.
20. CRIMINAL VERSATILITY: a diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes or wrongdoings.
Some of our most cherished ideas about psychopaths are flat out wrong. While bad parenting often results in violent, dysfunctional people, it is easy to find violent psychopathic monsters who were raised ideally in every way. Nurturing environment, loving parents, and yet one day they commit some horrific crime.
So, the question is this: now that we know and can identify the brain condition that IS psychopathy, what can or should we do to prevent that 50% of violent crimes which they cause.
Strangely, we often admire and appreciate psychopaths. Many of our leading politicians, athletes, and business leaders are psychopaths, as are people run charitable programs. Successful doctors are often psychopaths because they can set emotions aside and make starkly practical decisions.
There's another question to be answered, and it's primarily an ethical one. Since psychopathy is a dysfunction of the brain, to what extent can we hold psychopaths responsible for any crimes they may commit?
It's true, no one does, but that doesn't mean we should ignore it. Society being shaped by psychopathy has serious implications about how people who are not psychopaths should consider society. It's not really set up for our own benefit, and the "greater-good" being referenced is often actually war, or ignorance, or the status quo.
There will always be a need for war because there's no way to make everyone satisfied with their situation.
One of the upshots of the research is that psychopaths are useful in some positions. Where would Apple be today without that psychopath Steve Jobs. He was a monomaniac who was extremely hard to work for. His inner circle was one of the rooms of Hell. It might have been exciting to work for him but it certainly wasn't always pleasant.
Adults already have most of their behavior codified so we'd need to intervene when people are still young. They start with small violations and learn how to avoid incarceration. By the time they are adults they can be excellent at committing crimes and staying free.
Part of the problem is that psychological testing doesn't work with children and adolescents. They're behavior is still developing so they test as psychopaths. So any solution would need to include an inexpensive biological test.
A couple definitions I use for clarity.
Ethics = code of behavior based on logic and reason (not the first definition in the dictionary but it is there and echoed in how the word is used, e.g., medical ethics)
Morals = code of behavior based on belief, usually religious belief - an extremely individual code (although the common fiction is that people have the same morals if they have the same religion)
If we had an inexpensive biological test, I'd like the psychopaths to be given the option of other fields but, barring an interest in science or medicine or a few other things, I'd like them to get training for the police or military. That training must include ethics - failing to learn ethics so that it guides their every action means they should not have contact with much of anyone - if not locked up then relocated to an isolated place.
I envision a system where the psychopath is made aware that they are a danger but can be a member of society (rather than locked up) if they control themselves. If they control themselves they get to enjoy all that anyone else enjoys as well as getting to kill bad guys that they can prove are bad guys (without planting evidence or other criminal acts). (This is a simplistic description of what I would want implemented.)
Teaching a psychopath religion would be a criminal act. Morals are very much individual codes and only accidentally ethical. For example, the 9/11 terrorists were moral - they believed they were doing the right thing. They were unethical but indeed were moral and thus you see the problem with morals. Teach a psychopath a moral code and you've just given him permission to do as he pleases.
Teach him to be ethical and he can govern himself - for the most part at least. Implementing such a system would also entail regular evaluations to see what modifications need to be made. (No plan is perfect.)
@Hank - I'm sorry to hear about your problems with your local police (at least I hope it's just the locals). I suggest trying to get a personal camera program implemented for your police - where the officer wears a small camera they are required to start whenever they encounter anyone who is not another officer. They have proven to curb many problems by police and criminals.
"Part of the problem is that psychological testing doesn't work with children and adolescents. They're behavior is still developing so they test as psychopaths."
By George! I think I've got it....Kill All the Children!
That's a bit strong, isn't it? Lobotomies should do the trick. The transorbital kind are very economical, too; all you need is an ice pick and a band-aid.
Hmm... Kind of reminds me of the minimalist bikini: two bandaids and a cork.
Reads like a personality profile of god.
....and of course his worshipers:
The question I ask when this kind of conversation comes up is: How sophisticated should our understanding of psychopathic profiles and behaviour be and how sophisticated should our understanding of psychological norms be...before we could consider any kind of "forced" programs on people with a psychopathic profile?
Isn't this just unreasonable hysteria?
Do we really want to live in a society where the State decides what rights you get based on the makeup of your brain cells?
According to many of our political leaders Atheists are incorrect in their thinking, should they be rounded up and 'reeducated' for the good of the Judeo-christian nation?
All men and women are free to live free are they not?
If an individual has not broken one of society's laws why should their liberty be taken from them?
As time has gone on more and more of our freedom and liberty has seemed to be leached away, is this idea not more of the same?
I prefer freedom to repression for all of us even for psychopaths until the line is crossed.
I'm not sure if I skipped something, but what do you mean by "now that we can identify them."
The signs you've listed in your post have been known for decades I believe. But more recently there have been more studies on more reliable ways to tell if someone's a psychopath. For example, apparently they have an impaired sense of smell.
Other than that though, we can't identify a sociopath/psychopath unless they want to be identified. Anyone could fake those 20 symptoms, or hide them.