Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sociopaths: The Predators Among Us.

This is a repost from a thread I started on SoulForce, in response to a request to elaborate on a statement I made about sociopaths:
But, I can’t stress enough, it needs to be understood and accepted that some people do not have the brain capacity to feel normal emotions, and are human predators, just as sure as the brutality of any wild animal. And they don’t wear a bell, but often times wear an air of disarming charm.
Here’s an article (quoted from below) with some excerpts from another book I just read: Without Conscience: the Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us © 1993.

It pretty much confirmed what I had read in The Sociopath Next Door © 2005.

(Some simple Google searches will lead to a lot of articles on the subject.)
The subjects were asked to perform a simple task: hit a button as soon as they recognized a word flashed on a computer screen. While monitoring the subjects' brain waves, the researchers alternated nonsensical strings of letters with neutral words such as "table," and emotionally evocative words like "maggot" and "cancer." What they found was that normal subjects spent more time processing emotion-laden words than the psychopaths. "When you see a word like 'cancer,' you have all sorts of associations - fear, or you think of someone who's had cancer," says Hare. "But for psychopaths, the word 'cancer' and the word 'table' had the same emotional connotations - which is to say, not very many. It's as if they're emotionally color-blind."

Even more staggering were the findings of a study conducted by New York City psychiatrist Joanne Intrator, with Hare's collaboration, at the Bronx Veterans Administration hospital in 1993. The investigators employed the same language test, this time injecting the subjects with a radioactive tracer and scanning color images of their brains. As normal subjects processed the emotion-laden words, their brains lit up with activity, particularly in the areas around the ventromedial frontal cortex and amygdala. The former plays a crucial role in controlling impulses and long-term planning, while the amygdala is often described as "the seat of emotion." But in the psychopaths, those parts of the brain appeared to remain inactive while processing the emotion-laden words. That, says Hare, helps explain why a psychopath's conscience is only half-formed. "I showed the scans to several neurologists," recalls Hare. "They said that it did not even look like a human brain. One of them asked, 'Is this person from Mars?' "
Tests like these are scientific indicators, there are also checklists of behaviors that are taken into account in the attempt to diagnose a person as sociopathic/psychopathic.
This is a long one, so if you're interested, you can read the rest of it here.

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