Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sympathy for Psychopaths

An article at Wired by Suzanne Leigh highlights new research into psychopathic behaviour suggesting that

"psychopathy is a learning disability that makes it difficult for psychopaths to stop themselves from pursuing harmful behavior."

Leigh highlights the research of Joseph Newman, chairman of the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and contributor to the recently published book The Psychopath: Theory, Research and Practice.

I don't see a great deal that's new in this research, except that Newman distinguishes between psychopaths and sociopaths and argues that psychopaths do not have the high fear threshold sometimes ascribed to them (this ascription is open to contention, in any case, since sociopaths in wartime can usually be expected to desert in order to save their own skins rather than, say, go looking for the enemy just for kicks). Newman's use of the term psychopath also appears to coincide exactly with the use of the term sociopath by Robert Hare and Martha Stout, who do not use Newman's distinction (Newman argues that sociopathic behaviour is learned, psychopathic behaviour is the result of "faulty wiring").

I'd buy the book and find out more if it wasn't so ridiculously expensive.

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