Psychopathy: what goes on in the mind of the psychopath?

what is a psychopath? In his book “Antisocial Personalities” (1994), David Lykken explores psychopathic and sociopathic personalities, their different subtypes and the role played by personal and socializing factors involved in the genesis of violence. the criminals.

Throughout this work it becomes clear what is for him one of the most decisive elements of the future of a child who is most likely to develop a style of antisocial personality: The parents.

    The mind of the psychopath: serious difficulties in socializing

    People affected by this psychological disorder have not developed an awareness or habits of obeying laws and rules that deter others from committing antisocial acts, due to inherent peculiarities that prevent them from socializing. They are characterized by character traits that completely or partially prevent them from socializing, or by intermittent periods of socialization and antisocial behavior.

    There are three components to the socialization, Let’s see what they are:

    1. scruple

    It is the natural tendency to avoid criminal behavior. It is usually a consequence of the fear of punishment, both that which leads to social rejection of the crime itself, and that of self-inflicted guilt and remorse felt a posteriori.

    This is not to say that the temptation to commit a crime is continuous, as prosocial behaviors have become a habit that alienates most members of society from the most objectionable. This name is not consolidated until adulthood, so in late adolescence the crime rate peaks. This component is the result of parental activity and the characteristics of each.

    So, in people with psychopathy there would be a clear disinhibition in this regard, to the point that they do not feel discomfort in breaking the basic rules of coexistence, and if they avoid doing so, it is only because it is not instrumental in their life. context (for the material consequences it would have, such as the risk of going to jail).

    2. Prosociality

    It consists of the general predisposition to prosocial behavior. It develops through the bonds of affection and empathy with the people with whom we interact, which causes us to want to enjoy the benefits of these bonds and a genuine willingness to behave in the same way.

    The lack of development of the predisposition to prosociality would mean that people with psychopathy are not encouraged to relate to others if this does not provide them with benefits that can be enjoyed individually.

    3. Acceptance of adult responsibility

    It refers to the motivation to participate in life in society and the assimilation of work ethic, As well as the acceptance of the values ​​of effort and self-improvement as a means of achieving personal goals.

    However, we must not lose sight of the fact that there are some well socialized people who in some circumstances will commit crimes, while others, even if they are not criminals, are lazy or mean and can be seen as bad citizens.

    Causes and manifestations of psychopathy

    Cleckley (1955) proposed that the emotions resulting from the experiences of “primary” type psychopaths are weakened in terms of the intensity with which they affect them. Through experience, emotions and feelings guide and reinforce this learning process, Thus building a morality and a system of values.

    But what happens to these individuals is that normal socialization experiences are ineffective in creating this morality, which is the mechanism by which we socialize people. Therefore, they fail at the level of personal bonding. Due to an innate flaw, they can verbalize what they know about emotions without really understanding the meaning of what they are explaining.

    However, they can come to experience all of these feelings which, if not nurtured, would not lead them to commit the actions, legal or illegal, that they do. In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan:

    “When the offender is not engaged in his profession, or forging his petty criminal plans, he is as capable of feeling innocent pleasure as any honest man.” (P.192)

    • If you are interested in the subject of psychopathy, we recommend the articles “Types of Psychopaths” and “The Difference Between Psychopathy and Sociopathy”

    The myth of psychopathic murderers

    It is worth exploring the extent to which the concept of psychopathy with which psychology and forensic sciences work, on the one hand, and what belongs to the popular imagination, on the other. And it is that in this last “psychopath” it is almost equivalent to criminal or even murderer. But the truth is, it doesn’t match reality.

    On the one hand, assuming that killing people responds to internal psychological phenomena implies ignoring many contextual aspects that are very important to understanding human behavior (wars, tribal clashes, etc.). On the other hand, we cannot forget that antisocial behavior is penalizedAnd that’s part of why many people with a tendency to psychopathy don’t blatantly break the rules in the usual way.

    A personality trait or a psychological state?

    There is still an open debate as to whether psychopathy is a spectrum of personality that we approach or move away from in quantitative terms, or if it is a psychological phenomenon defined with more or less clear limits, that is to say an entity qualitatively separate from other personality traits.

    In many ways, all psychological phenomena are presented with different traits of intensity, but it is also true that the concept of psychopathy encompasses various aspects that do not meet the same criteria of measurement: lack of empathy has little to do with it. with impulsiveness, for example. , and yet both things happen in people with psychopathy. Thus, the two logics, that of the qualitative and that of the quantitative, are present in the idea of ​​what it means to be a psychopath.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Chabrol H .; Van Leeuwen N .; Rodgers R .; Sejourne N. (2009). Contributions of psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian and sadistic personality traits to juvenile delinquency. Personality and individual differences, 47 (7): pages 734 to 739.
    • Cooke, DJ, Hart, SD, Logan, C. and Michie, C. (2012). Explain the construction of psychopathy: development and validation of a conceptual model, the global assessment of the psychopathic personality (CAPP). International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 11 (4), pages 242 to 252.
    • Gao, Yu; Raine, Adrian (March 2010). “Successful and Failed Psychopaths: A Neurobiological Model”. Behavioral Sciences and Law, 28 (2): pp. 194 – 210.
    • Lykken, D. (1994) Antisocial Personalities. Barcelona: Herder.
    • Mills, Jeremy F .; Kroner, Daryl G .; Morgan, Robert D. (2011). “Psychopathic traits”. Clinician’s Guide to Assessing Risk for Violence. New York: Guilford Press.
    • Neumann, CS; Hare, RD (2008). Psychopathic traits in a large community sample: links to violence, alcohol use, and intelligence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76 (5): pages 893-899.
    • Vinkers, DJ, de Beurs, E., Barendregt, M., Rinne, T., and Hoek, HW (2011). The relationship between mental disorders and different types of crime. Criminal Behavior and Mental Health, 21, 307-320.

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