Mealey's excellent target article rests on several assumptions that may be questioned, including the overarching assumption that sociopathy reflects the failure of a small minority of males to cooperate with the larger group. I suggest that violent competition in ancestral bands cheatinggame was the primary evolutionary precursor of sociopathy. Today's violent sociopath is far more a than a failed cooperator.
Moral philosophy in all its contemporary forms, whether consequentialist, formalist, contractarian, utilitarian, or virtue ethicist, presumes the possibility of formulating principles of conduct that apply universally to all human beings. Standard exceptions are infants and young children, persons who are clinically insane, and persons with reduced mental capacity. These exceptions are recognized by all modern systems of morality and law. The inability to distinguish right from wrong, due to immature age, mental disorganization, or insufficient intelligence is grounds to exempt any (...) given person from moral responsibility and moral agency.Human beings not bound by such conditions are distinguished by their capacity .. (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)
Problems of definition and identification in the integrated evolutionary model of sociopathy are suggested by Schoenfeld's (1974) criticism of the field of race differences in intelligence. Moral judgments by those labeled primary and secondary sociopaths may offer a way to validate the assumptions of the model.
Mealey's (1995a) psychological explanation of the sociopath's antisocial activity appeals to an incomplete or nonstandard theory of mind. This is not the only possible mechanism of mental state attribution. The simulation theory of mental state ascription offers a better hope of explaining the diverse elements of sociopathy reported by Mealey.
We make three suggestions with regard to Mealey's work. First, her lack of a cognitive analysis of the sociopath results in underspecified mappings between sociobiology and behavior. Second, the developmental literature indicates that Mealey's implicit assumption, that moral socialisation is achieved through punishment, is invalid. Third, we advance the use of causal modelling to map the developmental relationships between biology, cognition, and behaviour.
Mealey proposes two categorical classes of sociopath, primary and secondary. I criticize this distinction on the basis that constructs of this kind have proved unrealistic in personality taxonomy and that dimensional systems capture reality much more successfully. I suggest how such a system could work in this particular context.
Evolutionary analysis suggests that policies based on deterrence may cope effectively with primary sociopathy if the threat of punishment fits the crime in the cost/benefit calculus of the sociopath, not that of the public. On the other hand, policies designed to offset serious disadvantage in social competition may help inhibit the development of secondary sociopathy, rather than deter its expression.
Psychopathy has as its central traits socialization, sensation seeking, and impulsivity. These are combined in a supertrait: Impulsive Unsocialized Sensation Seeking (ImpUSS). Secondary types are defined by combinations of ImpUSS and neuroticism or sociability. All broad personality traits have both genetic and environmental determination, and therefore different etiologies (primary as genetic, secondary as environmental) for primary and secondary sociopathy are unlikely.
The lead text of this book is based on primatologist Frans de Waal’s 2003 Tanner Lectures at Princeton University, to which he adds three short appendices. There are commentaries by Robert Wright, Christine Korsgaard, Philip Kitcher, and Peter Singer, followed by a 20-page response. Josiah Ober and Stephen Macedo provide a brief introduction. As befits a Tanner lecturer, de Waal’s scope is broad, his writing accessible, and the pace lively. He continues his crusade against the “veneer theory”—the idea that (...) humans are naturally sociopaths and that empathy, altruism, and morality are the result of recent cultural forces. The extent to which de Waal dichotomizes this debate, however, masks much of interest. One can agree with the seemingly obvious fact that humans are obligatorily gregarious organisms—replete with various prosocial mechanisms—while still expressing reasonable doubt that our capacity to make moral judgments is the result of an innate mechanism dedicated to that task. De Waal is an unparalleled source of rich first-hand primatological data, arguing cogently that humans show continuity with other apes regarding empathy, consolation behavior, peacemaking, and reciprocal relations. Yet he admits these “building blocks” are “by no means sufficient” (p. 20) for morality, and in his Response discusses two further levels of morality: rule enforcement for the community’s good, and disinterested moral reasoning. He doesn’t address whether this third, uniquely human, level is a distinct innate adaptation, apparently not appreciating that if it isn’t, and yet is necessary for being literally accorded a “moral sense” (as he seems to indicate on pp. 20, 49, 55), then moral nativism is false and at least some of human morality is “veneer.” In characteristic non-philosopher manner, de Waal ultimately rejects the question as “semantics” and thus “mostly a waste of time” (p. 181). It seems a surprising blemish that the author of a book subtitled “How Morality Evolved” should grow impatient with those wondering what precisely is necessary and sufficient for morality, and what specifically has evolved.. (shrink)
This essay attempts to establish an alternative and more accurate way of thinking about the modern business corporation, its role in society, and its frequently sociopathic behavior. It proposes that corporations as they currently exist are a product of rationalist, positivist thought of the nineteenth century, and have in recent decades emerged from their increasingly complex conditions of existence into autonomous, self-regulating entities that can best be described as cyber-corporations or cybercorps. The cybercorp, as an emergent being, is capable of (...) acting on the (human) subsystems from which it has emerged, determining their behavior. Human individuality, and in particular individual ethical sensibility, is sacrificed to the organizational culture of the cybercorp in a way that is analogous to the life-experience of ants in a colony. The pertinent organizational culture and its values are hegemonic and can be effectively challenged only if their source in the cybercorp is clearly recognized. (shrink)
This paper examines deviant managerial behavior, and compares such behavior to the clinical psychological sociopathic model. The scope of a multinational corporate operation can enhance or degrade the quality of life for individuals with more impact than at any previous time in history. Social costs are compared to the results of sociopathic behavior and examined as the result of amoral or immoral behavior. The idea of the sociopathic manager is discussed, and theoretical causes of sociopathic development are examined with bases (...) in behavioral, economic and criminological literature. Future research and recommendations for prevention of sociopathic behavior are advanced. (shrink)
Mealey's data do not support her dichotomous model of primary and secondary sociopathy; this data supports the view that there is a continuum of degrees of sociopathy, from zero to the maximal manifestation. There are multitudes of factors that can contribute to sociopathy and the countless different mixes of them can produce multiple degrees and variations of sociopathic behavior.
We propose that Mealey's model is limited in its description of sociopathy because it does not provide an adequate role for the main organ mediating genes and behavior, namely, the brain. Further, on the basis of our research, we question the view of sociopaths as a homogeneous group.
Definitional slippage threatens to equate secondary sociopathy with mere criminality and leaves the status of noncriminal sociopaths ambiguous. Primary sociopathy appears to show more environmental contingency than would be implied by a strong genetic trait approach. A reinterpretation in terms of hypermasculinity and hypofemininity is compatible with the data.
Emotion is critical in Mealey's conceptual arguments. However, several of her assertions about the role of emotion in sociopathy are problematic. Questions are raised regarding the link between lack of anxiety and low levels of secondary emotions such as love and sympathy, the argument that sociopaths are low in anxiety but high in neuroticism, and the designation of anxiety as a secondary emotion.
This paper examines the Bourne trilogy to explore several characteristics of what we term the bioconvergent age. First, we consider the imagined and actual interfaces of bioconvergence—of body, gadgetry, and electronic communications. We explore the ways in which the bioconvergent tendencies represented in and by Bourne reflect and cultivate a cultural unconscious deeply seduced by and imbricated in surveillant governmentality. Second, we consider the ways in which the trilogy achieves its effects through the deployment of both hyperrealism and verisimilitude. In (...) this context, we explore the filmic interpellation of audiences into a fantasy of omnipotence and omni-science, on the one hand, and the underlying phantasy of a zero-sum world that uncouples morality from affect, on the other. Thus, we consider the ways in which Bourne articulates two interlinked phenomena—a distinctively American romance with the sociopathic/heroic subject and a paranoid, dystopic world that is and seems seductively real. Our third theme is the Bourne journey through an obsessional spiral of paranoia, action, and reaction. Here we explore the trilogy as a social description of the expulsive and retentive tendencies of the bioconvergent age, where the demand for instantaneity drives out all other considerations (morality, reason, connection) and where the lost subject, in his interminable quest for himself, remains lost. (shrink)
Sociobiological explanation requires both a reliable and a valid definition of the sociopathy phenotype. Mealey assumes that such reliable and valid definition of sociopathy exists in her A review of psychiatric literature on the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder clearly demonstrates that this assumption is faulty. There is substantial disagreement among diagnostic systems (e.g., RDC, DSM-III) over what constitutes the antisocial phenotype, different systems identify different individuals as sociopathic. Without a valid definition of sociopathy, sociobiological theories like Mealey's should be (...) viewed as entirely speculative. (shrink)
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.
Sociopaths are members of society in two senses: politically, they draw our attention because of the inordinate amount of crime they commit, and psychologically, they hold our fascination because most ofus cannot fathom the cold, detached way they repeatedly harm and manipulate others. Proximate explanations from behavior genetics, child development, personality theory, learning theory, and social psychology describe a complex interaction of genetic and physiological risk factors with demographic and micro environmental variables that predispose a portion of the population to (...) chronic antisocial behavior. More recent, evolutionary and game theoretic models have tried to present an ultimate explanation of sociopathy as the expression of a frequency-dependent life strategy which is selected, in dynamic equilibrium, in response to certain varying environmental circumstances. This paper tries to integrate the proximate, developmental models with the ultimate, evolutionary ones, suggesting that two developmentally different etiologies of sociopathy emerge from two different evolutionary mechanisms. Social strategies for minimizing the incidence of sociopathic behavior in modern society should consider the two different etiologies and the factors that contribute to them. (shrink)
Strengths of Mealey's target article are its implementation of results from game-theoretic analyses and its potential links with other formal developments. In recent dynamic decision/choice models, reduced salience of avoidance tendencies, said to typify primary sociopaths, has quantifiable consequences for response latencies and choices. Also, formal models of stress effects on information processing predict selected effects of hypoarousability.
Further understanding at neuroscientific and personality levels should considerably advance our ability to deal with individuals that have strong sociopathic tendencies. An analysis of neurodynamic responses to emotional stimuli will eventually be able to detect sociopathic tendencies of the brain. Such information could be used to enhance the options available to individuals at risk without limiting their personal freedoms.
Questions are raised about several issues discussed by Mealey: (1) the nature of the distinction between primary and secondary sociopaths, (2) some difficulties with a general arousal theory of criminality, and (3) the possible role of countervailing forces in the development of sociopathy. An important area that calls for attention is the patterning of different specific emotions in the lives of sociopaths as compared to other groups.
Unlike some psychiatric illnesses, criminal lifestyles are not reproductive dead ends and may represent frequency-dependent adaptations. Sociopaths may gain reproductively from their greater relative to nonsociopaths. This mating-effort construct should be assessed directly in future studies of sociopathy. Collaboration between biologically oriented and environmentally oriented researchers is needed to investigate the biosocial basis of sociopathy.
Understanding the bases of complex behavioral phenotypes, such as sociopathy, is assisted by an evolutionary approach, in addition to other theoretical perspectives. Unraveling genetic and environmental factors underlying variant forms of sociopathy remains a key challenge for behavioral science investigators. Twin research methods (e.g., longitudinal analyses; twins reared apart) offer informative means of assessing novel hypotheses relevant to sociopathic behaviors.