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Thread: Psychopaths

  1. #1

    Psychopaths

    1. I've been reading about psychopaths and one thing I read is that they lack the physiological reponses normally associated with fear - pounding heart, dry mouth, muscle tenseness, trembles, stomach butterflies. But, I later read that they have a need for excitement, as many describe doing such things like crime, crazy & dangerous things just for fun/excitement or "thrills". A description by one psychopath after describing something she did is "Christ! What a high!" Well, what physiological responses are associated with this high or thrill? Aren't many of them the same as those associated with fear (a difference being the amount of pleasure experienced)?

    2. I also read that one expert's opinion is that psychopaths aren't well suited for dangerous professions. It is said that it is unlikely that they'd make good spies, terrorists, or mobsters, simply because their impulsiveness, concern only for the moment, and lack of allegiance to people or causes make them unpredictable, careless, and undependable - likely to be loose cannons. Well, what about this example: Vincent from the movie Collateral. I know it's Hollywood but I want to get to something (hopefully) well-known. The movie lets you assume that Vincent is from a private-sector security company of ex-Special Forces (or Stasi, ex KGB, whatever). He killed his father at age 12, grew up around foster homes, mental institutions, etc. Max (and, well the director of the movie) describes him as a sociopath (synonymous with psychopath). How would Vincent then be classified, if not a psychopath? Or, if a psychopath, would he be an exception? He obviously is very good at what he does, and, while still impulsive, isn't really careless and recognizes the value of planning and allegiances. What about BTK, Dennis Rader - a "very successful psychopath", with his great attention to detail in planning what he did? Are these people simply different, since (of course) not everyone is the same -- they just have some psychopathic traits?

  2. #2

    Re: Psychopaths

    Quote Originally Posted by a_scott
    1. I've been reading about psychopaths and one thing I read is that they lack the physiological reponses normally associated with fear - pounding heart, dry mouth, muscle tenseness, trembles, stomach butterflies. But, I later read that they have a need for excitement, as many describe doing such things like crime, crazy & dangerous things just for fun/excitement or "thrills". A description by one psychopath after describing something she did is "Christ! What a high!" Well, what physiological responses are associated with this high or thrill? Aren't many of them the same as those associated with fear (a difference being the amount of pleasure experienced)?
    The research findings are still somewhat open to interpretation. For one thing, personally I don't believe psychopathy as it is generally understood is a discrete category - I think it is a continuum. Robert Hare has characterized it as a category or discrete diagnosis and yet his Psychopathy scale (a flawed measure at best) is clearly measuring something along a continuum and then converting the scores to 'either-or" using an arbitrary cutoff score. That aside for a moment, the research does not indicate that psychopaths cannot exhibit physiological (autonomic) reactions like fear - rather, the apparent deficit is in experiencing (a) anticipatory fear or anxiety and (b) guilt or remorse (based on empathy for the distress of another person).

    2. I also read that one expert's opinion is that psychopaths aren't well suited for dangerous professions. It is said that it is unlikely that they'd make good spies, terrorists, or mobsters, simply because their impulsiveness, concern only for the moment, and lack of allegiance to people or causes make them unpredictable, careless, and undependable - likely to be loose cannons. Well, what about this example: Vincent from the movie Collateral. I know it's Hollywood but I want to get to something (hopefully) well-known. The movie lets you assume that Vincent is from a private-sector security company of ex-Special Forces (or Stasi, ex KGB, whatever). He killed his father at age 12, grew up around foster homes, mental institutions, etc. Max (and, well the director of the movie) describes him as a sociopath (synonymous with psychopath). How would Vincent then be classified, if not a psychopath? Or, if a psychopath, would he be an exception? He obviously is very good at what he does, and, while still impulsive, isn't really careless and recognizes the value of planning and allegiances. What about BTK, Dennis Rader - a "very successful psychopath", with his great attention to detail in planning what he did? Are these people simply different, since (of course) not everyone is the same -- they just have some psychopathic traits?
    Psychopaths are often quite intelligent. However, they are also very self-serving, egocentric, hedonistic, and manipulative. There is no reason a psychopath couldn't be very good at a "dangerous profession" as long as s/he saw the performance of the duties associated with that profession as beneficial to and rewarding for (or exciting to) himself or herself. In other words, the psychopath may make a good and efficient soldier as long as he is able to see what he is doing as beneficial to himself, as opposed to for the good of his fellow human beings.

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