Psychopaths, sociopaths, fMRIs, and politics
What’s the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? The Wikipedia article on Psychopathy implies that psychopathy is popular term for sociopathic personality disorder. If there is a distinction between the two in how they are used, it merely seems to me that “psychopaths” are more successful at being sociopathic than mere “sociopaths,” but that’s not a very good distinction. The term “psychopath” brings to mind the psycho-killer, which I think obscures the facts that there are many psychopaths who have avoided the criminal justice system and lead what others assume are normal lives.
My definition of the psychopathic/sociopathic personality (based on reading the book the Sociopath Next Door) is that these people have no empathy for others and no morals. I think that psychopaths/sociopaths have a tendency to be bold and disinhibited because our internal moral compass (including shame and guilt) is what causes cautious behavior, and that such boldness is merely a side effect of having no morals.
Aspergery people also lack empathy, but the differences are that (1) psychopaths/sociopaths are able to read emotions and behaviors of other people while aspergery people are clueless; and (2) aspergery people do have a morals even though they lack empathy, and we rarely see aspergery people involved in criminal activities. Also, aspergery people are very bad at lying while psychopaths/sociopaths are very good at lying.
Psychopaths/sociopath are best described with the adjective of “evil,” even though you rarely see psychologists or psychiatrists using that word because they don’t like it. However, if you think about it, the concept of evil is very old, and no doubt if 4% of people today are psychopaths/sociopaths, that has been true for as long as the term “evil” existed, and “evil” was used to describe those people.
Besides their psychopathy/sociopathy, these people may have any other personality traits that regular people have. They may have high IQ or low IQ, high future-time-orientation or low-future-time-orientation, be extroverted or introverted, but ambitious or lazy, etc.
Psychopaths/sociopaths are more likely to be criminals because most people avoid committing crimes because they know that certain behavior is wrong. Psychopaths/sociopaths don’t see anything as being inherently wrong for them to do, they only avoid committing crimes because they don’t want to go to prison. Psychopaths/sociopaths with low IQ and low-future-time orientation are almost guaranteed to wind up in prison.
Psychopaths/sociopaths with high IQ and who are ambitious are likely to do very well in corporate America where sociopathic behavior is rewarded with promotions instead of unemployment. I believe this explains Carly Fiorina perfectly, but it’s believed that psychopaths/sociopaths are very disproportionately represented among top corporate executives.
People are born psychopaths/sociopaths (or at least at manifests in childhood), and parents of these people would know their children have this disorder, but parents almost always protect their children instead of warning society about the danger that their children pose.
A commenter sent me a link to a proposal that all politicians should be tested for psychopathy. And then I discovered that there may be a way to detect psychopathy through fMRI scans, which is fascinating proof that psychopathy/sociopathy is a biological condition of the brain, heavily influenced by genes, rather than the result of bad parenting or lack of quality time with a shrink.
It sounds to me like the fMRI scan needs a little more research before it’s ready to test politicians. We need to verify that it can identify the high-functioning psychopaths in corporate management in addition to psychopathic criminals. But it sounds like an intriguing possibility that evil could be detected by an fMRI scan, and we could prevent evil people from being politicians or running corporations.