• anonymous
What are the primary causes of psychopathy? Nature or nurture?
MIT 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology
  • Stacey Warren - Expert
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  • katieb
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  • anonymous
I've read a few books on this topic. What I understand is that psychopathy runs along both paths: nature and nurture. Research has suggested that psychopathy begins with a biological predisposition. We haven't discovered any specific genes that are responsible for psychopathy. But twin studies, involving violent criminals, have suggested that there is a biological root for psychopathy. It's true that not all psychopaths are violent criminals. We can even safely assume that the majority of psychopaths are NOT violent criminals. However, they DO have the capacity for violent behavior, without moral consideration. And given that, we can also safely assume that many violent criminals are psychopathic. I'm talking serial killers, mass murderers, torturers...the likes of which rattle our preconceptions of a normal society. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Here's a fact: If a violent criminal has a twin, then that twin is much more likely to turn out to be a violent criminal, than any other random person. And yes, the probability of both twins being violent criminals IS higher, if the twins are identical. So we see a suggestive biological basis here. ~~~~~~~~~~~ But here's another fact: If a violent criminal has an identical twin, then that twin is only MORE LIKELY to be a violent criminal. The twin isn't CERTAIN to be a violent criminal. In other words, there is not a 100% chance that the twin of a violent criminal will also be a violent criminal. So here, we see that biology is not the ONLY factor that plays into psychopathy. We could also consider environment, upbringing, and perhaps even unique and individualistic ways of interpreting life events, even when we're talking about twins. ~~~~~~~~~~ It could be that in order to be a psychopath, a person must first have a biological predisposition. And then, that person must be subjected to environmental pressures that would bring out that predisposition. That inner psychopath. Environmental pressures such as rampant crime, or heavily abusive parents. But honestly, I'm just speculating there. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ All in all, I don't think it's as simple as chalking it up to one thing or another. Otherwise, we would have it figured out, by now. No, if we are to talk about the roots of psychopathy, I really do believe that we have to consider how BOTH nature, and nurture, intertwine with one another. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you like, I can suggest some books you might like to read: "The Psychopath Test," by Jon Ronson "Inside the Criminal Mind," by Stanton Samenow "The Anatomy of Evil," by Michael Stone Many psychologists are also familiar with the works of Robert Hare. He's a pioneer in the field of psychopathy. I'm sure that his books would also lend you some insight.

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