No fear

I recently read Without Conscience by Robert Hare - it is about psychopaths.

There are a number of characteristics which define a psychopath, including:

- glib, easy free flowing speech
- thrill / excitement seeking
- charming
- egocentric / self centered
- low empathy

While I see these characteristics in other people, the one characteristic I found most interesting was the lack of fear.

Dr. Robert Hare performed an experiment on test subjects who were wired up to receive a painful, but non-lethal electric shock. As a countdown timer approached zero, most test subjects would become anxious – detected by measuring sweating in the fingertips. Psychopaths were the exception, they showed no response.

This has interesting consequences because it shows that psychopaths (sociopaths) do not anticipate or respond to pain or suffering. Therefore, any form of treatment which relies on some form of punishment (aversion training) will fail with a psychopath, since they don't learn or get it.

"You are dealing with someone who has no empathy, no conscience, no remorse, and no guilt." – Tim Field, anti-bullying campaigner.


Then what chance is there to ever re-shape or reform their behaviour? Do they get given more jail terms because of these facts, since Judges might know any programs outside just won't work?

Hope I never meet any.
ghee said…
the book looks interesting.

amazing that you could find time to read books,Richard.How do you manage to do that?

aarggh,gotta find time to read some unfinished books,too :D

happy weekend!
ghee said…
the book looks interesting.

amazing that you could find time to read books,Richard.How do you manage to do that?

aarggh,gotta find time to read some unfinished books,too :D

happy weekend!
freckled-one said…
That sounds like an interesting read and something that I might pick up. Human behavior is intriguing to me. Sometimes we tend to have too much fear but to have none could be dangerous.
Barbara said…
I only want to be a psychopath if I am going to be tortured. Otherwise, I will welcome a healthy degree of fear.
Steve said…
Richard, my friend. How are you?

I see you are still reading, thinking, analyzing, and blogging.

You're great!
b said…
Very interesting. As MOI mentioned...this raises pertinent questions about applying the law to these individuals when they commit crimes.

We all know that prison is not effective at rehabilitating criminals but the hope is that it at least deters crime. If psychopaths lack fear and do not possess remorse or guilt, then what could possibly prevent them from committing a crime if they are motivated to do so? And can psychopaths change these behaviors?

As always, very thought provoking post, Richard. I missed your blog while I was in Paris!
Richard said…
MOI: it is estimated that about 1% of teh population is psychopathic. So you have probably already met some - you know the type, charming, suave, very focussed and intense, and then gone.

ghee: it is a fairly interesting book. I found the case stories most interesting.

Where do I find the time? Well, 3 or 4 night sout of every week, I am in a different city - basically a bachelor. So I read. I am managing about 3 - 5 books per week. I also read fast and cut corners on sleep.

freckled-one: they are not motivated or influenced by anticipation of consequences. As one rapist commented about his victim being terrified during a rape: "I was afarid once. It wasn't that unpleasant."

barbara: a psychopath can feel pain and definitely not want to be tortured, but unlike you or me, he has no anticipation or anxiety about it. Mind you, he is probably thinking about how to escape and kill his interrogator.

matt: ah ... holidays over? Yes, I think and read too much.

breal: Robert Hare believes that the key to treating psychopaths is appealing to their selfishness. Basically, show them how they can be selfish and enhance their indulgences without winding up in jail. Unfortunately, he never received funding to try out this alternate therapy.

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