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?
Successful people in many fields tend to have quite a few psychopathic traits. Not just business people but academicians, musicians, writers, and visual artists. Succeeding in most fields is often facilitated by a high degree of selfishness and lack of empathy for those you trample on the way up.
I expect that that many people 'feel' that advancement is a 'zero sum game', while in reality 'the game' is more complex.
When it comes to the mind, psychological (as opposed to actual physical) perception may be reality enough to drive their thoughts and actions.
Bringing my discussion with Gregg R Thomas to the top level to make tracking responses easier:
"The mind is to the brain as a reflection is to the mirror."
Poor analogy. Light exists without a mirror to reflect it, but a mind does not exist without a brain to hold it.
Just about every analogy is poor in some regard simply by not being an identity. I think it expresses my thought clearly enough.
"It is an epiphenomenon of the brain."
No. A phenomenon of the brain possibly, but not a epiphenomenon.
If an epiphenomenon can be "a secondary phenomenon accompanying another and caused by it; specifically : a secondary mental phenomenon that is caused by and accompanies a physical phenomenon but has no causal influence itself" (according to Merriam-Webster), then in what way is mind not an epiphenomenon?
"Anything going on in the mind reflects something going on in the brain..."
You like Ham Sarris before you are jumping ahead of the science, we do not know how the mind works. We can show scientifically that mind and brain are closely connected but to date we cannot describe that relationship.
I think in olden times we knew, for example, that humans had voices and expressed meaning with them without having to delve into the "how" of it all. But at any rate, by knowing how the brain works (and we know a lot) we do pretty much know how the mind works.
"...and the brain is subject to physical laws."
Yes it is as far as anyone can tell. I would also say that there is no evidence to suggest that the mind is not also subject to those same physical laws.
Of course the mind is subject to physical laws, because the mind is due to processes going on in the brain. No brain, no mind. Where there is a mind, there is a brain.
"The alternative is that there is such a thing as a spirit plane with a soul assigned to each human body and which operates independently of the laws of physics." Do you believe in ghosts?
No, the alternative is say that we don't know, since we don't have a clear understanding of how mind, consciousness thought and self-awareness work.
Everything we know we know only one of two ways (or some combination of those two). Either we know it directly (our senses detecting and/or operating on the physical world) or through logic.
At any rate, if there is some non-physical plane where the mind and its processes operate, it would warrant being referred to as a spiritual plane, for in that case the mind would fulfill the definition of a spirit (a disembodied mind).
I have a couple psychopathic traits myself. So do most people. Some psychopathic traits help one succeed in life. Diagnosing a dangerous schizophrenic is obviously not a deterministic procedure and requires some guesswork and deep thought on the part of the person doing it.
So, you probably ARE a psychopath, but perhaps not one of the dangerous ones.
Odd, I have several of these symptoms. While I do empathize very strongly, I've never had a problem putting that aside and making cold, logical decisions. I did have some behavioral problems in my childhood, and I am easily bored. I don't have problems setting long term goals, but I do often miss short term opportunities that would advance those goals.
While I'm still holding out on the medical diagnosis, It's probably safe to say that I'm a psychopath. Which only stresses the importance of the discipline that I force on myself to correct my personality flaws. I am a bit narcissistic, But I force myself to look at my flaws. I'm at the bottom of the totem pole, and not above other human beings.
This line of self examination leads to another question, Is psychopathy really a dysfunction? What about those like me who harness their mental traits and use them to better themselves? Can this type of behavior be taught to others, or is it a simple variation on the condition that others may not be able to grasp?