Psychopathy- What We Know and What We Don’t

Psychopathy Contrary to what Hollywood shows us, not all psychopaths are as brilliant as Hannibal Lecter or as villainous as The Joker. However, these portrayals do highlight important character traits of people affected by psychopathy.


Psychopaths can be as cunning as villains from movies if they wish to. They can lure people really easily and do the vilest things; and unlike most criminals who do things and later regret them, they won’t even feel any remorse. Studies show that psychopathy brings with it a lack of emotions like fear. When you make a sudden noise or sneak up behind someone’s back, they will get startled. However, when the same is done behind a psychopath’s back, their response will be neutral. Now considering that they don’t feel pain like such whatsoever, it becomes irregular for them to portray compassionate and emotional empathy and even sympathy. They do however have a strong sense of cognitive empathy, meaning that they have a clear understanding of what people around them might feel or be going through. It is noted that the vicarious activation of somatosensory and emotional regions of the brain is lower in people with psychopathy. They feel no fear, no pain, and no guilt at all. An interesting study conducted by doctoral student Harma Meffert, shows that empathy is not something that psychopaths truly lack. Rather, showing empathy is something that is a voluntary activity for them. If they want to, they can just activate the part of their brain that feels empathy, as easily as flicking a switch. This is why psychopaths are generally charming and manipulative.


A good example to support this would be Ted Bundy. On the face of it, he seemed like just another sweet, charming man. But in reality, he is a psychopath, rapist, and a murderer. He would be able to calculate easily how people would react to certain situations and would pretend to be injured to lure his victims. He would rape them, bludgeon them, torture, and kill them, without feeling an ounce of guilt.

Much is still undiscovered about psychopathy and why they don’t choose to empathize and sympathize with other people, why and how kids with conduct disorders grow up to portray psychopathic behavior and what other measures to control it are out there.

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