Psychopathy: An Introduction to Biological Findings and Their Implications

Psychopathy: An Introduction to Biological Findings and Their Implications

Psychopathy: An Introduction to Biological Findings and Their Implications

Psychopathy: An Introduction to Biological Findings and Their Implications

Synopsis

The last two decades have seen tremendous growth in biological research on psychopathy, a mental disorder distinguished by traits including a lack of empathy or emotional response, egocentricity, impulsivity, and stimulation seeking. But how does a psychopath's brain work? What makes a psychopath?

Psychopathy provides a concise, non-technical overview of the research in the areas of genetics, hormones, brain imaging, neuropsychology, environmental influences, and more, focusing on explaining what we currently know about the biological foundations for this disorder and offering insights into prediction, intervention, and prevention. It also offers a nuanced discussion of the ethical and legal implications associated with biological research on psychopathy. How much of this disorder is biologically based? Should offenders with psychopathic traits be punished for their crimes if we can show that biological factors contribute? The text clearly assesses the conclusions that can and cannot be drawn from existing biological research, and highlights the pressing considerations this research demands.

Excerpt

In November 2009, evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a technology used to approximate brain functioning, was presented for the first time in a criminal court case. the defendant, Brian Dugan, was already serving two life sentences for murders he committed in the 1980s, and was now on trial for an earlier murder in which he had kidnapped a 10-year-old girl, raped her in the back seat of his car, and beat her to death. Brain imaging evidence was used to argue that Dugan, a highly psychopathic individual, demonstrated deficits in brain functioning that contributed to his extremely violent behavior, and therefore he should not be sentenced to death.

The case incited much debate, not only about what this type of brain imaging evidence can and cannot tell us about an individual, but also regarding the general idea that psychopaths, who are able to distinguish between right and wrong, may be excused for their behavior because of how their brains function. Dugan’s trial illustrates the ways in which biological research on psychopathy is gaining traction in the public domain and beginning to have real-world effects. As we learn more . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.