This essay articulates a conception of responsibility and excuse in terms of the fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing and explores its implications for insanity, incompetence, and psychopathy. The fair opportunity conception factors responsibility into conditions of normative competence and situational control and factors normative competence into cognitive and volitional capacities. This supports a conception of incompetence that recognizes substantial impairment of either cognitive or volitional capacities as excusing, provided the agent is not substantially responsible for her own incompetence. This (...) conception helps frame the question whether psychopathy is excusing. The most common rationale for excusing psychopathy appeals to claims about cognitive incompetence. However, there are good philosophical and empirical reasons to be skeptical that psychopaths lack the relevant cognitive capacities. There is more to be said for a volitional rationale for excuse. The crucial question here is whether the problems psychopaths have with impulse control and conforming their behavior to the relevant moral and criminal norms are systematic enough to demonstrate genuine volitional incompetence. The available empirical evidence should leave us skeptical about the merits of this volitional rationale for excuse. (shrink)
Psychopathy is often characterized in terms of what I call “the language of disorder.” I question whether such language is necessary for an accurate and precise characterization of psychopathy, and I consider the practical implications of how we characterize psychopathy—whether as a biological, or merely normative, disorder.
In attempting to explain or deal with negative workplace behaviours such as workplace bullying, the notion of ‘workplace psychopaths’ has recently received much attention. Focusing on individual aspects of negative workplace behaviour is at odds with more systemic approaches that recognise the contribution of individual, organisational and societal influences, without seeking to blame a person(s) for their behaviour or personality disorder. Regarding a coworker as a psychopath is highly stigmatising, and given the relatively low prevalence of psychopathy in the (...) community, is likely to be incorrect. Sources promoting the notion of workplace psychopathy provide lists of diagnostic criteria and appear to encourage the perception that it is common. This research examines how lay persons use behavioural criteria consistent with psychopathy and the label ‘psychopath’ in relation to a coworker. 307 Australian workers completed an online survey concerning their experience of workplace bullying, which also asked them to rate a coworker’s behaviour on a range of scales to assess perceptions of psychopathy. Rates of psychopathy, when using labels and behavioural criteria, were found to be much higher than scientific estimates of prevalence, for both participants who had been bullied and those who had not. A higher proportion of non-bullied participants classified a coworker as a psychopath when using the label ‘psychopath’, compared to when using behavioural criteria. The notion that there are psychopaths in every workplace should be treated with caution to ensure that the potential for ‘misdiagnosis’ and stigmatisation do not cause further harm in situations of unacceptable workplace behaviours. (shrink)
The diminished fear reactivity is one of the most valid physiological findings in psychopathy research. In a fear conditioning paradigm, with faces as conditioned stimulus (CS) and electric shock as unconditioned stimulus (US), we investigated a sample of 14 high psychopathic violent offenders. Event related potentials, skin conductance responses (SCR) as well as subjective ratings of the CSs were collected. This study assessed to which extent the different facets of the psychopathy construct contribute to the fear conditioning deficits (...) observed in psychopaths. Participants with high scores on the affective facet subscale of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) showed weaker conditioned fear responses and lower N100 amplitudes compared to low scorers. In contrast, high scorers on the affective facet rated the CS+ (paired) more negatively than low scorers regarding the CS- (unpaired). Regarding the P300, high scores on the interpersonal facet were associated with increased amplitudes to the CS+ compared to the CS-, while the opposed pattern was found with the antisocial facet. Both, the initial and terminal contingent negative variation indicated a divergent pattern: participants with pronounced interpersonal deficits, showed increased cortical negativity to the CS+ compared to the CS-, whereas a reversed CS+/CS- differentiation was found in offenders scoring high on the antisocial facet. The present study revealed that deficient fear conditioning in psychopathy was most pronounced in offenders with high scores on the affective facet. Event related potentials suggest that participants with distinct interpersonal deficits showed increased information processing, whereas the antisocial facet was linked to decreased attention and interest to the CS+. These data indicate that an approach to the facets of psychopathy can help to resolve ambiguous findings in psychopathy research and enables a more precise and useful description of this disorder. (shrink)
While it is well established that individuals with psychopathy have a marked deficit in affective arousal, emotional empathy, and caring for the well-being of others, the extent to which perspective taking can elicit an emotional response has not yet been studied despite its potential application in rehabilitation. In healthy individuals, affective perspective taking has proven to be an effective means to elicit empathy and concern for others. To examine neural responses in individuals who vary in psychopathy during affective (...) perspective taking, 121 incarcerated males, classified as high (n = 37; Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, PCL-R ≥ 30), intermediate (n = 44; PCL-R between 21-29), and low (n = 40; PCL-R ≤ 20) psychopaths, were scanned while viewing stimuli depicting bodily injuries and adopting an imagine-self and an imagine-other perspective. During the imagine-self perspective, participants with high psychopathy showed a typical response within the network involved in empathy for pain, including the anterior insula, anterior midcingulate cortex, supplementary motor area, inferior frontal gyrus, somatosensory cortex, and right amygdala. Conversely, during the imagine-other perspective, psychopaths exhibited an atypical pattern of brain activation and effective connectivity seeded in the anterior insula and amygdala with the orbitofrontal cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The response in the amygdala and insula was inversely correlated with PCL-R factor 1 (interpersonal/affective) during the imagine-other perspective. In high psychopaths, scores on PCL-R Factor 1 predicted the neural response in ventral striatum when imagining others in pain. These patterns of brain activation and effective connectivity associated with differential perspective-taking provide a better understanding of empathy dysfunction in psychopathy, and have the potential to inform intervention programs for this complex clinical problem. (shrink)
Psychopathy is often linked to disturbed reinforcement-guided adaptation of behaviour in both clinical and non-clinical populations. Recent work suggests that these disturbances might be due to a deficit in actively using information to guide changes in behaviour. However, how much information is actually used to guide behaviour is difficult to observe directly. Therefore, we used a computational model to estimate the use of information during learning. Thirty-six female subjects were recruited based on their total scores on the Psychopathic Personality (...) Inventory (PPI), a self-report psychopathy list, and performed a task involving simultaneous learning of reward-based and social information. A Bayesian reinforcement-learning model was used to parameterize the use of each source of information during learning. Subsequently, we used the subscales of the PPI to assess psychopathy-related traits, and the traits that were more strongly related to the model’s parameters were isolated through a formal variable selection procedure. Finally, we assessed how these covaried with model parameters. We succeeded in isolating key personality traits believed to be relevant for psychopathy that can be related to model-based descriptions of subject behaviour. Use of reward-history information was negatively related to levels of trait anxiety and fearlessness, whereas use of social advice decreased as the perceived ability to manipulate others and lack of anxiety increased. These results corroborate previous findings suggesting that sub-optimal use of different types of information might be implicated in psychopathy. They also further highlight the importance of considering the potential of computational modelling to understand the role of latent variables, such as the weight people give to various sources of information during goal-directed behaviour, when conducting research on psychopathy-related traits and in the field of forensic psychiatry. (shrink)
Medical accounts of the absence of conscience are intriguing for the way they seem disposed to drift away from the ideal of scientific objectivity and towards fictional representations of the subject. I examine here several contemporary accounts of psychopathy by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak. I first note how they locate the truth about their subject in fiction, then go on to contend that their accounts ought to be thought of as a “mythos,” for they betray a telling uncertainty (...) about where “fact” ends and “fantasy” begins, as well as the means of distinguishing mental health from mental illness in regard to some social roles. (shrink)
Psychopaths routinely disregard social norms by engaging in selfish, antisocial, often violent behavior. Commonly characterized as mentally disordered, recent evidence suggests that psychopaths are executing a well-functioning, if unscrupulous strategy that historically increased reproductive success at the expense of others. Natural selection ought to have favored strategies that spared close kin from harm, however, because actions affecting the fitness of genetic relatives contribute to an individual’s inclusive fitness. Conversely, there is evidence that mental disorders can disrupt psychological mechanisms designed to (...) protect relatives. Thus, mental disorder and adaptation accounts of psychopathy generate opposing hypotheses: psychopathy should be associated with an increase in the victimization of kin in the former account but not in the latter. Contrary to the mental disorder hypothesis, we show here in a sample of 289 violent offenders that variation in psychopathy predicts a decrease in the genetic relatedness of victims to offenders; that is, psychopathy predicts an increased likelihood of harming nonrelatives. Because nepotistic inhibition in violence may be caused by dispersal or kin discrimination, we examined the effects of psychopathy on (1) the dispersal of offenders and their kin and (2) sexual assault frequency (as a window on kin discrimination). Although psychopathy was negatively associated with coresidence with kin and positively associated with the commission of sexual assault, it remained negatively associated with the genetic relatedness of victims to offenders after removing cases of offenders who had coresided with kin and cases of sexual assault from the analyses. These results stand in contrast to models positing psychopathy as a pathology, and provide support for the hypothesis that psychopathy reflects an evolutionary strategy largely favoring the exploitation of nonrelatives. (shrink)
Psychopaths are renowned for their immoral behavior. They are ideal candidates for testing the empirical plausibility of moral theories. Many think the source of their immorality is their emotional deficits. Psychopaths experience no guilt or remorse, feel no empathy, and appear to be perfectly rational. If this is true, sentimentalism is supported over rationalism. Here, I examine the nature of psychopathic practical reason and argue that it is impaired. The relevance to morality is discussed. I conclude that rationalists can explain (...) the moral deficits of psychopaths as well as sentimentalists. In the process, I identify psychological structures that underpin practical rationality. (shrink)
I argue that emotional sensitivity (or insensitivity) has a marked negative influence on ethical perception. Diminished capacities of ethical perception, in turn, mitigate what we are morally responsible for while lack of such capacities may altogether eradicate responsibility. Impairment in ethical perception affects responsibility by affecting either recognition of or reactivity to moral reasons. It follows that emotional insensitivity (together with its attendant impairment in ethical perception) bears saliently on moral responsibility. Since one distinguishing mark of the psychopath is emotional (...) insensitivity, emotional insensitivity and the resulting impairment in moral perception either excuses the psychopath from moral culpability or moderates the degree to which he is culpable. (shrink)
This article considers whether psychopaths should be held criminally responsible. After describing the positive law of criminal responsibility in general and as it applies to psychopaths, it suggests that psychopaths lack moral rationality and that severe psychopaths should be excused from crimes that violate the moral rights of others. Alternative forms of social control for dangerous psychopaths, such as involuntary civil commitment, are considered, and the potential legal implications of future scientific understanding of psychopathy are addressed.
Psychopathy is a developmental disorder associated with specific forms of emotional dysfunction and an increased risk for both frustration-based reactive aggression and goal-directed instrumental antisocial behavior. While the full behavioral manifestation of the disorder is under considerable social influence, the basis of this disorder appears to be genetic. At the neural level, individuals with psychopathy show atypical responding within the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Moreover, the roles of the amygdala in stimulus-reinforcement learning and responding to emotional (...) expressions and vmPFC in the representation of reinforcement expectancies are compromised. The implications of these functional impairments for responsibility are discussed. (shrink)
Psychopathy presents a difficult challenge to moral and criminal responsibility theorists. Persons with the disorder have an impaired capacity for empathy and other moral emotions, and fail to feel the force of moral considerations. They have some rational impairments, but they reason adequately to manipulate, con, and exploit their victims, and otherwise to engage successfully in antisocial behavior. Is it appropriate to hold them morally responsible for their wrongdoing? Should the law hold psychopaths criminally responsible? This essay discusses philosophical (...) debates involved in addressing these questions. (shrink)
Psychopaths have emotional and rational impairments that can be expressed in persistent criminal behaviour. UK and US law has not traditionally excused disordered individuals for their crimes citing these impairments as a cause for their criminal behaviour. Until now, the discussion of whether psychopaths are morally responsible for their behaviour has usually taken place in the realm of philosophy. However, in recent years, this debate has been informed by scientific and psychiatric advancements, fundamentally so with the development of Robert Hare's (...) diagnostic tool, the Psychopathy Checklist. Responsibility and Psychopathy explores the moral responsibility of psychopaths. It engages with problems at the interface between law, psychiatry, and philosophy, and is divided into three parts offering relevant interdisciplinary background information to address this main problem. The first part discusses the public policy and legal responses to psychopathy. It offers an introduction to the central practical issue of how public policy should respond to psychopathy, providing insights for those arguing about the responsibility of psychopaths. The second part introduces recent scientific advancements in the classification, description, explanation, and treatment of psychopathy. The third part of the volume includes chapters covering the most significant dimensions of philosophical debate on the moral and criminal responsibility of psychopaths. Exploring one of the most contentious topics of our time, this book will be fascinating reading for psychiatrists, philosophers, criminologists, and lawyers. Readership: Psychiatrists, philosophers, psychologists, criminologists . (shrink)
The primary goal of this essay is to clarify the concept of psychopathy and distinguish it from other, related, concepts. We contend that the paradigmatic trait of psychopathy is a propensity to violence that is accompanied by a lack of conscience. We also argue that conceptual clarity on this point is important for devising empirical criteria for identifying psychopaths. We also argue that a full theory of psychopathy will require one to utilize theories and assumptions that pertain (...) to central issues in meta-ethics. (shrink)
Schematic, propositional, analogical and associative representational Systems (SPAARS) is the integrated cognitive model of emotion proposed by Power and Dalgleish (Cognition and Emotion: from order to disorder. The Psychology Press, England, 1997). It is multi-level in nature and includes four different levels of representation. In SPAARS, emotions are described as appraisal-based according to an individualâs goals, thus making the theory functional in nature. Basic emotions possess an innate component and hence can be elicited automatically, since these emotions might already have (...) been appraised in an individualâs evolutionary past. Thus, the theory proposes two routes for the generation of emotions. It provides an useful approach within which both basic and complex emotions can readily be understood. The theory can also be applied in order to explain emotional disorders as well as to generate novel therapeutic interventions for them. In the current review the SPAARS approach has been used to understand psychopathy, also called the disorder of empathy (a complex emotion). The theory provides a new perspective for looking at psychopaths. It suggests that psychopathy may arise either due to a problem generating the basic emotion of sadness, the complex emotion of empathy or a combination of the two. The interventions suggested would also vary depending upon the underlying nature of the problem. (shrink)
Few theorists would challenge the idea that affect and emotion directly influence decision-making and moral judgment. There is good reason to think that they also significantly assist in decision-making and judgment, and in fact are necessary for fully effective moral cognition. However, they are not sufficient. Deliberation and more reflective thought processes likewise play a crucial role, and in fact are inseparable from affective processes. I will argue that while the dual-process account of moral judgment set forth by Craigie (2011) (...) has great merit, it fails to appreciate fully the extent to which affective and reflective processes are not only integrated, but also mutually interdependent. Evidence from psychopathy indicates that when reflective processes are not assisted adequately by what I will call ?affective framing?, and moral cognition is of the ?cooler,? less emotionally-informed variety, what results is not effective cognitive functioning, but rather psychopathology. My proposed account of affective framing aims to make sense of the way in which affect plays a strictly necessary and integral role not just in intuitive moral responses, but also in reflective moral judgments, so that moral cognition is accomplished by the joint operation of affective processes and reflective reasoning processes. (shrink)
The view that corporate psychopathy played a significant role in causing the global financial crisis, although insightful, paints a reductionist picture of what we present as the broader issue. Our broader issue is the tendency for psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism to cluster psychologically and culturally as ‘dark leadership’ within global financial institutions. Strong evidence for their co-intensification across society and in corporations ought to alarm financial regulators. We argue that an ‘ethical revival’ of prudence within prudential regulation ought (...) to be included in any package of solutions. Referencing research on moral muteness and the role of language in framing thoughts and behaviours, we recommend that regulators define prudence in an explicitly normative sense, an approach that may be further strengthened by drawing upon a widely appealing ethic of intergenerational care. An ethical revival of prudence, we argue, would allow the core problems of greed and myopia highlighted by corporate psychopathy theory to be addressed in a politically sensitive manner which recognises the pitfalls of regulating directly against corporate psychopathy. Furthermore, it would provide a viable conceptual framework to guide regulators along the treacherous path to more intrusive cultural regulation. (shrink)
Although Mealey's account provides several interesting hypotheses, her integration across disparate samples renders the value of her explanation for psychopathy ambiguous. Recent evidence on Psychopathy Checklist-identified samples (Hare, 1991) suggests primary emotional and cognitive deficits inconsistent with her model. Whereas high-anxious psychopaths display interpersonal deficits consistent with Mealey's hypotheses, low-anxious psychopaths' deficits appear more sensitive to situational parameters than predicted.
Recent studies lend support to the two-pathway model of the evolution of sociopathy with evidence that: 1) psychopathy (primary sociopathy) is a discrete type and 2) in general, sociopaths have relatively high levels of reproductive success. Hare's Psychopathy Checklist may provide a start for the revision of terminology that will be necessary to distinguish between primary and secondary trajectories.
Recent evidence that psychopathy is a nonarbitrary population, such that the trait may be categorical rather than continuous, is consistent with Mealey's distinction between primary and secondary psychopaths. Thus, there are likely to be at least two routes to criminality, and psychopathic and nonpsychopathic criminals are likely to respond differently to interventions.
The key questions arising from Mealey's analysis are: Do environmental factors such as early maternal rejection also contribute to the emotional deficits observed in psychopaths? Are there psychophysiological protective factors for antisocial behavior that have clinical implications? Does a disinhibited temperament and low arousal predispose to primary psychopathy? Would primary or secondary psychopaths be most characterized by prefrontal dysfunction?
Psychopathy is best regarded as a complex family of disorders. The upside is that this family can be tightly related along identifiable common dimensions. Characteristic marks of psychopaths include a lack of guilt and remorse for paradigm case immoral actions, leading to the common conception of psychopathy rooted in affective disfunctions. An adequate portrait of psychopathy is much more complicated, however. Though some neural regions and corresponding functions are commonly indicated, they range across those responsible for action (...) planning and learning, high-level processing as well as emotional processes – amygdala, insula, anterior cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex and hippocampus amongst them. Accordingly, a complete fine-grained map of all neural mechanisms responsible for psychopathy has not been realized, and even if it were, such a map would have limited utility outside of the context of surgical or chemical intervention, The utility of this neural-level understanding of psychopathy is further limited by the fact that it is only applicable in the clinical correction of individual subjects after those subjects are positively identified as belonging to the diverse family of psychopaths. On the other hand, an information processing model of moral cognition, fully consistent with the neurology and psychology of psychopathy, provides a base for wider-ranging applications. In this chapter, relevant research is reviewed. The historical progression of moral-psychological accounts of psychopathy and antisocial personality is briefly recounted. Neural mechanisms, including the roles of hormones and brain structures are correlated. From this review, common dimensions are rendered, resulting in a simple account suitable to an information processing model of moral/immoral/amoral psychology. Then, this model is articulated. The theoretical and practical implications for such a feasible working model of psychopathic personalities are assessed. One the theoretical front, it permits the direct testing of individual, as well as a common currency for the comparative evaluation and integration of multiple, moral, psychological, and neurological theories of psychopathy. On the practical front, it permits experimental designs and simulations – both virtual and actual - seeking greater resolution on the social effects of psychopaths when they become active agents in multi-agent systems, as leaders of families, corporations, and governments. From the results of such experiments, psychopathic influences on individuals and institutions become identifiable, and cash-value for seemingly ungrounded folk-psychological attributions of psychopathic policies, laws, and organizations can be drawn. Finally, this raises the possibility of directed modification of social-environmental factors (including at the meta-organizational level) reinforcing the development of psychopathic personalities in the first place, modifications which are also open to simulation and testing. (shrink)
This study examined correlations between moral value judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), and participant scores on the Short-D3 “Dark Triad” Personality Inventory—a measure of three related “dark and socially destructive” personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. Five hundred sixty-seven participants (302 male, 257 female, 2 transgendered; median age 28) were recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk and Yale Experiment Month web advertisements. Different responses to MIS items were initially hypothesized to be “conservative” or “liberal” in line (...) with traditional public divides. Our demographic data confirmed all of these hypothesized categorizations. We then tested two broad, exploratory hypotheses: (H1) the hypothesis that there would be “many” significant correlations between conservative MIS judgments and the Dark Triad, and (H2) the hypothesis that there would be no significant correlations between liberal MIS judgments and Machiavellianism or Psychopathy, but “some” significant correlations between liberal MIS judgments and Narcissism. Because our hypotheses were exploratory and we ran a large number of statistical tests (62 total), we utilized a Bonferroni Correction to set a very high threshold for significance (p = .0008). Our results broadly supported our two hypotheses. We found eleven significant correlations between conservative MIS judgments and the Dark Triad—all at significance level of p < .00001—but no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and liberal MIS judgments. We believe that these results raise provocative moral questions about the personality bases of moral judgments. In particular, we propose that because the Short-D3 measures three “dark and antisocial” personality traits, our results raise some prima facie worries about the moral justification of some conservative moral judgments. (shrink)
In a recent study appearing in Neuroethics, I reported observing 11 significant correlations between the “Dark Triad” personality traits – Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy – and “conservative” judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey. Surprisingly, I observed no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments. In order to determine whether these results were an artifact of the particular issues I selected, I ran a follow-up study testing the Dark Triad against conservative and liberal judgments on 15 additional (...) moral issues. The new issues examined include illegal immigration, abortion, the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the war on terrorism, laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and environmentalism. 1154 participants (680 male, 472 female; median age 29), recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk, completed three surveys: a 15-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), the 28-item Short Dark Triad personality inventory, and a five-item demographic survey. The results strongly reinforce my earlier findings. Twenty-two significant correlations were observed between “conservative” judgments and the Dark Triad (all of which were significant past a Bonferonni-corrected significance threshold of p = .0008), compared to seven significant correlations between Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments (only one of which was significant past p = .0008). This article concludes by developing a novel research proposal for determining whether the results of my two studies are “bad news” for conservatives or liberals. (shrink)
In this paper, I attempt to show that the moral/conventional distinction simply cannot bear the sort of weight many theorists have placed on it for determining the moral and criminal responsibility of psychopaths. After revealing the fractured nature of the distinction, I go on to suggest how one aspect of it may remain relevant—in a way that has previously been unappreciated—to discussions of the responsibility of psychopaths. In particular, after offering an alternative explanation of the available data on psychopaths and (...) their judgments of various sorts of norm transgressions, I put forward a hybrid theory of their responsibility, suggesting how they might be criminally responsible, while nevertheless failing to meet the conditions for an important arena of moral responsibility. (shrink)
A pressing and difficult practical problem concerns the general issue of the right social response to offenders classified as having antisocial personality disorder. This paper approaches this general problem by focusing, from a philosophical perspective, on the still relevant but more approachable question whether psychopathic offenders are morally responsible. In particular, I investigate whether psychopaths possess moral understanding. A plausible way to approach the last question requires a satisfactory philosophical interpretation of the empirical evidence that appears to show that psychopaths (...) fail to draw the distinction between conventional and moral norms. Specifically, I will consider a recent philosophical debate polarized between supporters of rationalist and sentimentalist accounts of moral understanding. These opponents have discussed whether the case of psychopathy offers empirical support for their account and undermine the rival view. I will argue that the available empirical data leave the outcome of this discussion indeterminate. However, this implies that both these principal theories of moral understanding, if independently motivated, would imply that psychopaths have certain deficits that might affect their moral understanding and, consequently, their moral responsibility. (shrink)
In this paper, our goal is to (a) survey some of the legal contexts within which violence risk assessment already plays a prominent role, (b) explore whether developments in neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict violence, and (c) discuss whether neuropredictive models of violence create any unique legal or moral problems above and beyond the well worn problems already associated with prediction more generally. In Violence Risk Assessment and the Law , we briefly examine the (...) role currently played by predictions of violence in three high stakes legal contexts: capital sentencing ( Violence Risk Assessment and Capital Sentencing ), civil commitment hearings ( Violence Risk Assessment and Civil Commitment ), and sexual predator statutes ( Violence Risk Assessment and Sexual Predator Statutes ). In Clinical vs. Actuarial Violence Risk Assessment , we briefly examine the distinction between traditional clinical methods of predicting violence and more recently developed actuarial methods, exemplified by the Classification of Violence Risk (COVR) software created by John Monahan and colleagues as part of the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence . In The Neural Correlates of Psychopathy , we explore what neuroscience currently tells us about the neural correlates of violence, using the recent neuroscientific research on psychopathy as our focus. We also discuss some recent advances in both data collection ( Cutting-Edge Data Collection: Genetically Informed Neuroimaging ) and data analysis ( Cutting-Edge Data Analysis: Pattern Classification ) that we believe will play an important role when it comes to future neuroscientific research on violence. In The Potential Promise of Neuroprediction , we discuss whether neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict future violence. Finally, in The Potential Perils of Neuroprediction , we explore some potential evidentiary ( Evidentiary Issues ), constitutional ( Constitutional Issues ), and moral ( Moral Issues ) issues that may arise in the context of the neuroprediction of violence. (shrink)
In a recent study appearing in Neuroethics, I reported observing eleven significant correlations between the “Dark Triad” personality traits – Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy – and “conservative” judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey. Surprisingly, I observed no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments. In order to determine whether these results were an artifact of the particular issues I selected, I ran a follow-up study testing the Dark Triad against conservative and liberal judgments on fifteen additional (...) moral issues. The new issues examined include illegal immigration, abortion, the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the war on terrorism, laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and environmentalism. 1154 participants (680 male, 472 female; median age 29), recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk, completed three surveys: a 15-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), the 28-item Short Dark Triad personality inventory, and a five-item demographic survey. The results strongly reinforce my earlier findings. Twenty-two significant correlations were observed between “conservative” judgments and the Dark Triad (all of which were significant past a Bonferonni-corrected significance threshold of p=.0008), compared to seven significant correlations between Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments (only one of which was significant past p=.0008). This article concludes by developing a novel research proposal for determining whether the results of my two studies are “bad news” for conservatives or liberals. (shrink)
Successful psychopaths, defined as individuals in the general population who nevertheless possess some degree of psychopathic traits, are receiving increasing amounts of empirical attention. To date, little is known about such individuals, specifically with regard to how they respond to ethical dilemmas in business contexts. This study investigated this relationship, proposing a mediated model in which the positive relationship between psychopathy and unethical decision-making is explained through the process of moral disengagement, defined as a cognitive orientation that facilitates unethical (...) choice. The results of the study supported this model, and implications for theory and practice are discussed. (shrink)
Abstract ?Lovelessness? and ?guiltlessness? are often seen as the distinctive features of the psychopath. These characteristics can be interpreted as a failure to have two sub?classes of moral emotions, the (moral) rule?emotions and the altruistic emotions. For a better understanding of this moral defect, a more detailed analysis of these types of moral emotions is given. The analysis indicates that the disorder is caused by the absence of the second component of both types of emotions. The psychopath misses a positive (...) commitment to both moral rules and to the well?being of fellow man. The psychopath is characterized as a moral imbecile, and it is assumed that his moral development is stagnated in an early developmental stage. As a young child, the psychopath has not acquired the disposition to feel sympathy. This insight makes us aware of the utmost importance of early childhood (moral) education. (shrink)
Understanding the role of emotion in moral judgment has been an active area of investigation and debate. Here we comment on this topic by examining the interaction between emotion and moral judgment in certain psychopathological groups that are characterized by abnormalities in emotion processing, such as psychopaths and sexual offenders with paraphilic disorders.
Recent interest in emotion as the basis for moral development began with work involving individuals with psychopathic tendencies, and a recent paper with this population has allowed fresh insights (Glenn, Iyer, Graham, Koleva, & Haidt, 2009). Two main conclusions suggested by this paper are: (i) that systems involved in different forms of morality can be differentiated; and (ii) that systems involved in justice reasoning likely include amygdala and/or ventromedial prefrontal cortex, even if the specifics of their functional contribution to justice (...) development remain unidentified. (shrink)