An Information Processing Model of Psychopathy

In Angelo S. Fruili & Luisa D. Veneto (eds.), Moral Psychology. Nova. pp. 1-34 (2012)

Jeffrey White
University of Twente
Psychopathy is increasingly in the public eye. However, it is yet to be fully and effectively understood. Within the context of the DSM-IV, for example, it is best regarded as a complex family of disorders. The upside is that this family can be tightly related along 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 dysfunctions. 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, as well as emotional processes. 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 a neural-level understanding of psychopathy is further limited by the fact that it is only applicable in the clinical identification of individual subjects, and the neuro-chemical/biological correction of those subjects after they are positively identified as psychopaths. On the other hand, an information processing model of moral cognition provides for wider-ranging applications. The theoretical and practical implications for such a feasible working model of psychopathic personalities are assessed. Finally, this chapter raises the possibility of directed modification of social-environmental factors discouraging the development of psychopathic personalities in the first place, modifications which are also open to simulation and testing in terms of the same model of moral cognition.
Keywords moral cognition  psychopathy  information processing  model
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