In popular culture psychopaths are inaccurately portrayed as serial killers or homicidal maniacs. Most real-world psychopaths are neither killers nor maniacs. Psychologists currently understand psychopathy as an affective disorder that leads to repeated criminal and antisocial behavior. Counter to this prevailing view, I claim that psychopathy is not necessarily linked with criminal behavior. Successful psychopaths, an intriguing new category of psychopathic agent, support this conception of psychopathy. I then consider reactive attitude theories of moral responsibility. Within this (...) tradition, psychopaths are thought to be blameless as a result of their pronounced affective deficits. Psychopaths are considered morally blind because they lack the moral emotions that make us sensitive to moral reasons. I argue that, even if they are morally blind, psychopaths remain open to forms of blame stemming from non-moral reactive attitudes. These reactive attitudes remain appropriate because psychopaths can express hateful, disgusting, or contemptible non-moral values in their judgments. (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 their paper “Is psychopathy a mental disease?”, Thomas Nadelhoffer and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argue that according to any plausible account of mental disorder, neural and psychological abnormalities correlated with psychopathy should be regarded as signs of a mental disorder. I oppose this conclusion by arguing that at least on a naturalistically grounded account, such as Wakefield’s ‘Harmful Dysfunction’ view, currently available empirical data and evolutionary considerations indicate that psychopathy is not a mental disorder.
Psychopathy has been the subject of investigations in both philosophy and psychiatry and yet the conceptual issues remain largely unresolved. This volume approaches psychopathy by considering the question of what psychopaths lack. The contributors investigate specific moral dysfunctions or deficits, shedding light on the capacities people need to be moral by examining cases of real people who seem to lack those capacities. -/- The volume proceeds from the basic assumption that psychopathy is not characterized by a single (...) deficit--for example, the lack of empathy, as some philosophers have proposed—but by a range of them. Thus contributors address specific deficits that include impairments in rationality, language, fellow-feeling, volition, evaluation, and sympathy. They also consider such issues in moral psychology as moral motivation, moral emotions, and moral character; and they examine social aspects of psychopathic behavior, including ascriptions of moral responsibility, justification of moral blame, and social and legal responses to people perceived to be dangerous. -/- As this volume demonstrates, philosophers will be better equipped to determine what they mean by “the moral point of view” when they connect debates in moral philosophy to the psychiatric notion of psychopathy, which provides some guidance on what humans need in order be able to feel the normative pull of morality. And the empirical work done by psychiatrists and researchers in psychopathy can benefit from the conceptual clarifications offered by philosophy. (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 often used to settle disputes about the nature of moral judgment. The “trolley problem” is a familiar scenario in which psychopathy is used as a test case. Where a convergence in response to the trolley problem is registered between psychopathic subjects and non-psychopathic subjects, it is assumed that this convergence indicates that the capacity for making moral judgments is unimpaired in psychopathy. This, in turn, is taken to have implications for the dispute between motivation internalists (...) and motivation externalists, for instance. In what follows, we want to do two things: firstly, we set out to question the assumption that convergence is informative of the capacity for moral judgment in psychopathy. Next, we consider a distinct feature of psychopathy which we think provides strong grounds for holding that the capacity for moral judgment is seriously impaired in psychopathic subjects. The feature in question is the psychopathic subject’s inability to make sincere apologies. Our central claim will be this: convergence in response to trolley problems does not tell us very much about the psychopathic subject’s capacity to make moral judgments, but his inability to make sincere apologies does provide us with strong grounds for holding that this capacity is seriously impaired in psychopathy. (shrink)
Whether psychopathy is a mental disease or illness can affect whether psychiatrists should treat it and whether it could serve as the basis for an insanity defense in criminal trials. Our understanding of psychopathy has been greatly improved in recent years by new research in psychology and neuroscience. This illuminating research enables us to argue that psychopathy counts as a mental disease on any plausible account of mental disease. In particular, Szasz's and Pickard's eliminativist views and Sedgwick's (...) social constructivist account of mental illness that might exclude psychopathy are not plausible, and there is no reason to exclude psychopathy under Boorse's and Scadding's biomedical accounts, Wakefield's harmful dysfunction account, and the DSM-IV-TR objective harm account of mental disease. The basic reason is that psychopathy involve neural dysfunction that increases risk of serious harm and loss to people with psychopathy. (shrink)
This chapter examines the status of psychopathy as a scientific kind. I argue that the debate on the question whether psychopathy is a scientific kind as it is conducted at present (i.e., by asking whether psychopathy is a natural kind), is misguided. It relies too much on traditional philosophical views of what natural kinds (or: legitimate scientific kinds) are and how such kinds perform epistemic roles in the sciences. The paper introduces an alternative approach to the question (...) what scientific (or: natural) kinds are. On this alternative approach, the Grounded Functionality Account of natural kinds, psychopathy emerges as a “good” scientific kind that is best understood as a region on a multidimensional space of behaviors rather than as a traditional natural kind. (shrink)
Although risky decision-making has been posited to contribute to the maladaptive behavior of individuals with psychopathic tendencies, the performance of psychopathic groups on a common task of risky decision-making, the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT; Bechara, Damasio, Damasio, & Anderson, 1994), has been equivocal. Different aspects of psychopathy (personality traits, antisocial deviance) and/or moderating variables may help to explain these inconsistent findings. In a sample of college students (N = 129, age 18–27), we examined the relationship between primary and secondary (...) psychopathic features and IGT performance. A measure of impulsivity was included to investigate its potential as a moderator. In a joint model including main effects and interactions between primary psychopathy, secondary psychopathy and impulsivity, only secondary psychopathy was significantly related to risky IGT performance, and this effect was not moderated by the other variables. This finding supports the growing literature suggesting that secondary psychopathy is a better predictor of decision-making problems than the primary psychopathic personality traits of lack of empathy and remorselessness. (shrink)
One of the philosophical discussions stimulated by the recent scientific study of psychopathy concerns the mental illness status of this construct. This paper contributes to this debate by recommending a way of approaching the problem at issue. By relying on and integrating the seminal work of the philosopher of psychiatry Bill Fulford, I argue that a mental illness is a harmful unified construct that involves failures of ordinary doing. Central to the present proposal is the idea that the notion (...) of failure of ordinary doing, besides the first personal experience of the patient, has to be spelled out also by referring to a normative account of idealised conditions of agency. This account would have to state in particular the conditions which are required for moral responsibility. I maintain that psychopathy is a unified enough construct that involves some harms. The question whether the condition involves also a failure of ordinary doing, as this notion is understood in this paper, is not investigated here. (shrink)
How psychopaths and their capacity for moral action are viewed is not only philosophically interesting but is also important and relevant for policy. The philosophical discussion of psychopathy has focussed upon the psychological faculties that are prerequisites for moral responsibility and empirical findings regarding psychopathy that are relevant to philosophical accounts of moral understanding and motivation. However, there are legitimate worries about whether psychopathy is a robust scientific construct, and there are risks attached to reifying psychopathy (...) or other psychiatric constructs. We defend the concept of psychopathy by pointing out the relevance of empirical studies about it for our ordinary practices of ascribing moral responsibility and folk psychological accounts of moral understanding and motivation. (shrink)
The Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL; Hare, Neumann, & Mokros 2018) scales are among the most widely used forensic assessment tools. Their perceived utility rests partly on their ability to assess stable personality traits indicative of a lack of conscience, which then facilitates behavioral predictions useful in forensic decisions. In this systematic review, we evaluate the empirical evidence behind 3 fundamental justifications for using the PCL scales in forensics, namely, that they are empirically predictive of (1) criminal behavior, (2) treatment (...) outcomes, and (3) a lack of conscience. We found the PCL scales can predict criminal behavior to a statistically significant degree, though with important limitations. We found no evidence of PCL psychopathy being predictive of treatment and rehabilitation outcomes. We found no evidence of PCL psychopathy being predictive of a lack of conscience. These findings disprove widespread beliefs about PCL psychopathy among forensic practitioners and questions the current and future role of the PCL scales in forensic settings. (shrink)
In recent years, philosophers have looked to empirical findings about psychopaths to help determine whether moral agency is underwritten by reason, or by some affective capacity, such as empathy. Since one of psychopaths’ most glaring deficits is a lack of empathy, and they are widely considered to be amoral, psychopaths are often taken as a test case for the hypothesis that empathy is necessary for moral agency. However, people with autism also lack empathy, so it is reasonable to think that (...) any empirically-informed attempt to answer the question of whether empathy is necessary for moral agency should give due attention to autism as well as psychopathy. Jeanette Kennett’s thought-provoking paper ‘Autism, Empathy and Moral Agency’ (2002) is an early and arguably the most notable example of such an attempt. Kennett argues that although autistic people and psychopaths both lack empathy, autistic people possess a ‘reverence for reason’ that enables them to become capable moral agents. By contrast, psychopaths lack this rational capacity, and it is this defect of reason rather than an empathic impairment that explains why they are amoral. Kennett thus concludes that empathy is not necessary for moral agency. In this chapter, I challenge Kennett’s argument. First, I review the empirical evidence in order to demonstrate that there is a component of empathy called affective empathy that is impaired in psychopaths but largely preserved in autistics. As such, the claim that psychopaths and autistics share a common lack of empathy is unjustified. Second, I challenge Kennett’s claim that empathy plays no role in explaining the moral difference between psychopaths and autistics. Instead, I contend that the intact affective empathy of autistic people is a crucial component of their capacity to act from reverence for reason. (shrink)
Do psychopaths make moral judgments but lack motivation? Or are psychopaths’ judgments are not genuinely moral? Both sides of this debate seem to assume either externalist or internalist criteria for the presence of moral judgment. However, if moral judgment is a natural kind, we can arrive at a theory-neutral criterion for moral judgment. A leading naturalistic criterion suggests that psychopaths have an impaired capacity for moral judgment; the capacity is neither fully present nor fully absent. Psychopaths are therefore not counterexamples (...) to internalism. Nonetheless, internalism is empirically problematic because it is unable to explain psychopaths’ moral deficits. (shrink)
Taxometric analyses were applied to the construct of psychopathy (as measured by the Psychopathy Checklist) and to several variables reflecting antisocial childhood, adult criminality, and criminal recidivism. Subjects were 653 serious offenders assessed or treated in a maximum-security institution. Results supported the existence of a taxon underlying psychopathy. Childhood problem behaviors provided convergent evidence for the existence of the taxon. Adult criminal history variables were continuously distributed and were insufficient in themselves to detect the taxon.
There is an ongoing debate regarding the content of psychopathy, especially about the status of antisocial behavior and disinhibition characteristics as core psychopathy features. Psychopathic Personality Traits Scale (PPTS) represents a novel model of psychopathy based on core psychopathy markers such as Interpersonal manipulation, Egocentricity and Affective responsiveness. However, this model presupposes another narrow trait of psychopathy: cognitive responsiveness, which represents a lack of cognitive empathy. Since previous models of psychopathy do not depict this (...) feature as a core psychopathy trait, the goal of this study was to empirically evaluate if the lack of cognitive empathy is a narrow psychopathy trait or its correlate. The research was conducted on a community sample via online study (N=342; Mage=23.7 years; 31% males). Results showed that the correlations between Cognitive responsiveness and other psychopathy features were significantly lower than intercorrelations of other three traits. Factor analysis, conducted on PPTS items, provided a two-factor solution, where Cognitive responsiveness was yielded as a factor separate from other psychopathy indicators. Finally, the exploration of the shared latent space of psychopathy and cognitive empathy resulted in the two-factor solution where psychopathy and the lack of cognitive empathy were extracted as correlated but separate latent variables. The data clearly supported the former model. Research results showed that the lack of cognitive empathy should not be considered an indicator of psychopathy but its correlate. The findings emphasize the need to be cautious in conceptualization of the psychopathy construct. (shrink)
The chapter offers a philosophical account of the capacity to recognise moral considerations to be used in investigating whether psychopaths are amoral, as opposed to immoral. The author criticizes Simon Baron-Cohen and James Blair et al., who maintain that psychopaths are amoral insofar they lack empathy, for endorsing a sentimentalist account of moral understanding. Moreover, the author criticizes Kant's version of rationalism for assuming an impersonal notion of moral rationality that is unconstrained by specific human features. He offers, instead, an (...) account of moral rationality in the spirit of Philippa Foot's Aristotelian inspired proposal. According to this view, moral rationality is a type of rationality that depends on the capacities for empathy, developing feelings of benevolence and resistance to causing harm. Although some psychopaths are irrational in other ways, the author suggest that central to psychopathy is a failure of moral rationality. (shrink)
The term psychopathy refers to a personality disorder associated with callous personality traits and antisocial behaviors. Throughout its research history, psychopathy has frequently been described as a peculiar form of moral blindness, engendering a narrative about a patient stereotype incapable of taking a genuine moral perspective, similar to a blind person who is deprived of proper visual perceptions. However, recent empirical research has shown that clinically diagnosed psychopaths are morally more fit than initially thought, and the blindness-analogy now (...) comes across as largely misleading. In this contribution, the moral-blindness analogy is explored in an attempt to qualify anew its relevance in psychopathy theory and research. It is demonstrated that there are indeed theoretically relevant parallels to be drawn between blindness and psychopathy, parallels that are especially illuminating when accounting for the potential symptomatology, dimensionality, and etiological nature of the disorder. (shrink)
Philosophers have urged that considerations about the psychopath’s capacity for practical rationality can help to advance metaethical debates. These debates include the role of rational faculties in moral judgment and action, the relationship between moral judgment and moral motivation, and the capacities required for morally responsible agency. I discuss how the psychopath’s capacity for practical reason features in these debates, and I identify several takeaway lessons from the relevant literature. Specifically, I show how the insights contained therein can illuminate the (...) complex structure of practical rationality, inform our standards for an adequate theory of practical reason, and frame our thinking about the significance of rational capacities in moral theory and social practice. (shrink)
The psychiatric diagnosis of psychopathic personality—or psychopathy—signifies a patient stereotype with a callous lack of empathy and strong antisocial tendencies. Throughout the research record and psychiatric practices, diagnosed psychopaths have been predominantly seen as immune to psychiatric intervention and treatment, making the diagnosis a potentially strong discriminator for treatment amenability. In this contribution, the evidence in support of this proposition is critically analyzed. It is demonstrated that the untreatability perspective rests largely on erroneous, unscientific conclusions. Instead, recent research suggests (...) that practitioners should be more optimistic about the possibility of treating and rehabilitating diagnosed psychopaths. In light of this finding, concrete ethical challenges in the forensic practice surrounding the psychopathy diagnosis are discussed, adding to a growing body of research that expresses skepticism about the forensic utility of the diagnosis. (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)
Neil Levy argues that the degree to which psychopaths ought to be held blameworthy for their actions depends on the extent to which they are capable of mental time travel—episodic memory and episodic foresight. Levy claims that deficits in mental time travel prevent psychopaths from fully appreciating what it is to be a person, and, without this understanding, we can at best hold psychopaths blameworthy for harming non-persons. In this paper, I build upon and clarify various aspects of Levy’s view. (...) Specifically, I begin by outlining the neurobiological data on mental time travel, and I argue that psychopaths, or at least some psychopaths, appear to have the deficits Levy ascribes to them. I then expand upon the legal implications of his argument by using an analogy between juveniles and psychopaths to argue that the penological justification for retributive punishment against psychopaths ought to be substantially diminished. (shrink)
I present two philosophical arguments that Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) and Psychopathy can be expected to be culturally variable. I argue that the ways in which people with ASPD and psychopaths can be expected to act will vary with societal values and culture. In the second part of the chapter, I will briefly review some of the empirical literature on cross-cultural variation in ASPD and psychopathy and argue that it is consistent with my philosophical claims. My conclusion in (...) this chapter is that methods of diagnosis will need to be culturally specific. A diagnostic instrument (such as the PCL-R or DSM) should not be uncritically employed in cultures that are very different from those in which it was initially developed. (shrink)
Recent debates in psychopathy studies have articulated concerns about false-positives in assessment and research sampling. These are pressing concerns for research progress, since scientific quality depends on sample quality, that is, if we wish to study psychopathy we must be certain that the individuals we study are, in fact, psychopaths. Thus, if conventional assessment tools yield substantial false-positives, this would explain why central research is laden with discrepancies and nonreplicable findings. This paper draws on moral psychology in order (...) to develop tentative theory-driven exclusion criteria applicable in research sampling. Implementing standardized procedures to discriminate between research participants has the potential to yield more homogenous and discrete samples, a vital prerequisite for research progress in etiology, epidemiology, and treatment strategies. (shrink)
Corporate psychopathy thrives perhaps as the most significant threat to ethical corporate behaviour around the world. We argue that Human Resources Management professionals should formulate strategic solutions metaphorically by balancing what strategic military planners famously call ‘Search and Destroy’ and ‘Hearts and Minds’ counter-terrorist strategy. We argue that these military metaphors offer creative inspiration to help academics and practitioners theorise CP in richer, more reflective and more balanced and complementary ways. An appreciation of both metaphors is likely to favour (...) the use of hybrid strategies comprising SD and HM elements, which may provide the best HRM solutions to CP for the same reasons as the military now considers parallel hybrid solutions optimal for combating terrorist and guerrilla insurgency. (shrink)
After describing the disorder of psychopathy, I examine the theories and the evidence concerning the psychopaths’ deficient moral capacities. I first examine whether or not psychopaths can pass tests of moral knowledge. Most of the evidence suggests that they can. If there is a lack of moral understanding, then it has to be due to an incapacity that affects not their declarative knowledge of moral norms, but their deeper understanding of them. I then examine two suggestions: it is their (...) deficient practical reason or their stunted emotions that are at fault. The evidence supports both explanations. I conclude with an overview of the debate concerning whether they are morally or legally responsible for their actions. (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)
I advance a novel challenge for Divine Command Theory based on the existence of psychopaths. The challenge, in a nutshell, is that Divine Command Theory has the implausible implication that psychopaths have no moral obligations and hence their evil acts, no matter how evil, are morally permissible. After explaining this argument, I respond to three objections to it and then critically examine the prospect that Divine Command Theorists might bite the bullet and accept that psychopaths can do no wrong. I (...) conclude that the Psychopathy Objection constitutes a serious and novel challenge for Divine Command Theory. (shrink)
Several scholars have recognized the limitations of theories of moral reasoning in explaining moral behavior. They have argued that moral behavior may also be influenced by moral identity, or how central morality is to one’s sense of self. This idea has been supported by findings that people who exemplify moral behavior tend to place more importance on moral traits when defining their self-concepts (Colby & Damon, 1995). This paper takes the next step of examining individual variation in a construct highly (...) associated with immoral behavior — psychopathy. In Study 1, we test the hypothesis that individuals with a greater degree of psychopathic traits have a weaker moral identity. Within a large online sample, we found that individuals who scored higher on a measure of psychopathic traits were less likely to base their self-concepts on moral traits. In Study 2, we test whether this reduced sense of moral identity can be attributed to differences in moral judgment, which is another factor that could influence immoral behavior. Our results indicated that the reduced sense of moral identity among more psychopathic individuals was independent of variation in moral judgment. These results suggest that individuals with psychopathic traits may display immoral behavior partially because they do not construe their personal identities in moral terms. (shrink)
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. 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)
Psychopathy is among the more widely discussed personality disorders. Psychopathy is intriguing for many reasons, one of which is that many of the most famous and heinous villains, real or imagined, are psychopathic. Understanding how a person could be so evil is clearly a very important, fundamental social concern. Yet, there remains no consensus as to even an authoritative description of the disorder. It is our impression, perhaps incorrectly, that Justman is arguing for a central importance of lack (...) of guilt.We begin by noting that it is only the rare person who has all of the features of a respective personality disorder (Widiger &... (shrink)
This article proposes a formal model that integrates cognitive and psychodynamic psychotherapeutic models of psychopathy to show how two major psychopathic traits called lacks remorse and self-aggrandizing can be understood as a form of abnormal Bayesian inference about the self. This model draws on the predictive coding (i.e., active inference) framework, a neurobiologically plausible explanatory framework for message passing in the brain that is formalized in terms of hierarchical Bayesian inference. In summary, this model proposes that these two cardinal (...) psychopathic traits reflect entrenched maladaptive Bayesian inferences about the self, which defend against the experience of deep-seated, self-related negative emotions, specifically shame and worthlessness. Support for the model in extant research on the neurobiology of psychopathy and quantitative simulations are provided. Finally, we offer a preliminary overview of a novel treatment for psychopathy that rests on our Bayesian formulation. (shrink)
The recurring claim that the construct of psychopathy is value laden often is not qualified in enough detail. The chapters in this part of the volume, instead, investigate in depth the role and significance of values in different aspects of the construct of psychopathy. Following these chapters, but also by offering a background to them, we show how certain values are involved in the characterisation of psychopathy, inform societal needs satisfied by this construct, and have a central (...) role in determining whether psychopathy is a mental disorder. Moreover, we relate this description to our criticism of the view that the entrenchment of the notion of psychopathy with values in principle renders it irreconcilable with sound psychiatric theory and practice. However, we also recognize that the value-ladenness of psychopathy leaves open other important challenges. Meeting them needs addressing interdisciplinary interrelated issues that have empirical, normative, and theoretical dimensions. (shrink)
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.
Psychopathy is one of the most frequently cited disorders in discussions of moral and criminal responsibility. Many philosophers and psychologists have argued that psychopaths’ impaired capacity for empathy, diminished responses to fear-inducing stimuli, and failure to conform to social norms indicate that they are not responsible for their actions. In “Philosophers on psychopaths: A cautionary tale in interdisciplinarity,” Jarkko Jalava and Stephanie Griffiths cite psychological data from case studies, the moral/conventional distinction task, fear conditioning and facial affect recognition experiments (...) in arguing that philosophers systematically misinterpret or simplify the data to support their conclusions... (shrink)
Emotion processing is known to be impaired in psychopathy, but less is known about the cognitive mechanisms that drive this. Our study examined experiencing and suppression of emotion processing in psychopathy. Participants, violent offenders with varying levels of psychopathy, viewed positive and negative images under conditions of passive viewing, experiencing and suppressing. Higher scoring psychopathics were more cardiovascularly responsive when processing negative information than positive, possibly reflecting an anomalously rewarding aspect of processing normally unpleasant material. When required (...) to experience emotional response, by ‘getting into the feeling’ of the emotion conveyed by a negative image, higher factor 1 psychopathic individuals showed reduced responsiveness, suggesting that they were less able to do this. These data, together with the absence of corresponding differences in subjective self-report might be used to inform clinical strategies for normalising emotion processing in psychopathic offenders to improve treatment outcome, and reduce risk amongst this client group. (shrink)
The harm usually associated with psychopathy requires therapeutically, legally, and ethically satisfactory solutions. Scholars from different fields have, thus, examined whether empirical evidence shows that individuals with psychopathic traits satisfy concepts, such as responsibility, mental disorder, or disability, that have specific legal or ethical implications. The present paper considers the less discussed issue of whether psychopathy is a disability. As it has been shown for the cases of the responsibility and mental disorder status of psychopathic individuals, we argue (...) that it is undecided whether psychopathy is a disability. Nonetheless, based on insights from disability studies and legislations, we propose that interventions to directly modify the propensities of individuals with psychopathic tendencies should be balanced with modifications of the social and physical environments to accommodate their peculiarities. We also suggest how this social approach in some practical contexts that involve non-offender populations might be effective in addressing some of the negative effects of psychopathy. (shrink)
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?