Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where psychopathy happens

A recent study comparing the ability of psychopaths, people with frontal lobe brain damage, and normals to understand the emotions of others found that "The pattern of impairments in the psychopathic participants showed a remarkable resemblance to those in the participants with frontal lobe damage, suggesting that an underlying cause of the behavioural disturbances observed in psychopathy may be dysfunction in the frontal lobes."

The authors consider this ability to be part of the theory of mind, which puts this in a different light than I had considered it before. The article about the study says "it has been suggested recently that (theory of mind) is made up of different aspects: a cognitive part, which requires inferences about knowledge and beliefs, and another part which requires the understanding of emotions."

It makes sense that these two theories of mind exist; I'm not sure if it makes sense to lump them as parts of a whole. Psychopaths are often successful manipulators, which means they have a good theory of mind regarding what other people know. I would have thought that they understood that their victims were afraid but didn't care.  In fact, I thought that was partly the point. And some serial killers have been able to manipulate the emotions of their victims. How could they do that without understanding them? I need to think about this more.

That's the thing about blogging. I get up early in the morning and look at a series of sites for interesting stuff and then need to understand it and write about it right then. If I wait, it will be lost, and I'll be on to something else. Unfortunately, my first impressions of a news item or study have a fairly high probability of being wrong. I guess ya gets what ya gets for the price ya pays.

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