What Goes On Inside The Mind of a Psychopath?
The word “psychopath” immediately directs our minds to several icons of modern culture.
Not all of them would be consistent with the pathology in question, but in general, film, television and literature are full of real and fictional characters that cause fascination, fear, curiosity and rejection at the same time.
Why are we so attracted by psychopaths? What is it about their minds and in their form of behaving that have us searching for explanations and possible justifications?
Psychopathy is a type of personality disorder. A psychopath is a person whose personality is characterized by dominating others through threats, feeling no guilt or remorse for their actions, and using manipulation to achieve their own interests. All under a facade of being absolutely normal.
Are they insane?
People often make the mistake of confusing psychopaths with psychotics. The main difference is that the former does not have hallucinations or other forms of irrational thinking, and does not lose contact with reality at any time.
Indeed, the presence of these people in society is very low in statistical terms, and most are integrated into society.
We have studied this figure in the business world, in cases of domestic violence and great statesmen (Stalin, Milosevic, Mugabe, Saddam, etc.). Industrial psychologist Babiak has conducted studies where he even defined a their characteristic behaviors.
People tend to think of psychopaths as criminals. In fact, the majority of psychopaths aren’t criminal.
-Robert D. Hare-
How are they feeling? What are they thinking?
Cleckley established sixteen criteria. On his list we find: lack of basic emotional reactions, inability to love, absence of nervousness, charming personality, lack of guilt and shame, use of lies and impersonal sex life, among others.
There are actually two types of psychopaths: primaries and secondaries.
The former are insensitive, remorseless and manipulative. They establish deceptive relationships with those around them, while possibly demonstrating arrogance. If they use violence, it’s usually used as a tool to benefit themselves.
The latter have difficulty tolerating boredom, act without thinking about the consequences, are impulsive and violent.
Studies regarding a psychopath’s capacity for empathy have shown that they can’t empathize with others’ happiness or fear. They have difficulty sympathizing with others; there’s no emotional reaction.
Are they bad people by nature?
There are several theories and some suggest that the main cause is biological in origin. Researchers examined subjects in frightening or hurtful situations and their emotional responses when presented with signs of damage/punishment. It was concluded that primary psychopaths are reckless.
If they don’t experience fear of harm or punishment from the time they’re young, there’s no emotional experience and therefore they hardly respond with fear in the face of threat or signs of danger in the future.
It’s widely known that these people have minimal responses in their brains to images of fear, pain and suffering (low activation of the amygdala, responsible for the processing and storage of emotional reactions.)
In fact, studies conducted by Yang, Raine, D.Phil and his colleagues have pointed out that their cerebral structure is significantly smaller.
That being said, we know that psychopaths have a weak conscience compared to the rest of the population.
The main research has shown that they have great difficulty acquiring new fears associated with social norms, that they have little fear of punishment and its consequences, and have greater difficulty understanding the punishment component that’s so important to the development of conscience.
Therefore, given the characteristics, the research and the biology … the final question is: does a psychopath distinguish between good and bad? And the answer is yes.
They’re perfectly aware of the calibration they must keep between good and evil, and if they damage it, they’re aware of what they’re doing.
Indeed there are bad people scientifically speaking, and the matter is still being investigated, but thankfully most of us have not gone over to the dark side.