By | January 29, 2018 4 Comments

How disordered motivation explains psychopathic behavior

Socipathic eyesWhy do they do it? If you’ve ever tangled with a psychopath, you’ve certainly asked yourself that question. Why do psychopaths engage in harmful and destructive behavior?

Most psychopathy researchers explain the nasty behavior of these disordered individuals in terms of deficits. They say that because psychopaths lack empathy and impulse control, they engage in antisocial behavior.

To Lovefraud author Dr. Liane Leedom, this makes no sense — it implies that if it weren’t for empathy and impulse control, everybody would be a psychopath. Deficits don’t cause behavior, she says. Motivation causes behavior.

In a chapter that she recently wrote for the book Psychopathy – New Updates on and Old Phenomenon, Dr. Leedom argues that human motivational systems are affected by psychopathy, and that’s what causes antisocial behavior.

All animals, including humans, have behavioral systems that are designed to achieve certain goals, such as survival and reproduction. These behavioral systems are rooted deeply in our biology and are reinforced through our brain reward systems.

Human beings, Dr. Leedom explains, have four social behavioral systems, and they’re all seriously affected by psychopathy.

Attachment Behavioral System

Most humans seek proximity to, and bonding with, certain special individuals, such as parents and romantic partners. This is called attachment. Many researchers say it is the attachment system that is dysfunctional in psychopaths, that they are incapable of forming long-term social ties.

Research, including Lovefraud’s research, indicates that this is not true — psychopaths can indeed form social ties, especially when they want to use people to provide their material needs. However, psychopaths do not form psychological and emotional bonds with others.

Caregiving Behavioral System

Most people feel a desire to take care of the individuals with whom they bond. Empathy is critical for caregiving, but empathy is impaired in psychopaths. Dr. Leedom says there is strong evidence that the caregiving system in psychopaths is deficient.

Dr. Leedom notes that antisocial mothers were found to show a lack of warmth towards their children, along with harsh and abusive discipline, passivity and neglect. Disordered fathers psychologically abused their children, even if they didn’t physically abuse them. “Given all the deficits in the caregiving system, it is remarkable that psychopathic persons function as parents at all,” Dr. Leedom writes.

Sexual Behavioral System

Psychopaths usually are highly active sexually, but the experience for them is also highly impersonal. Researchers have found early, frequent and coercive sex is strongly associated with psychopathy. Promiscuous sex is actually a symptom of psychopathy.

Dominance Behavioral System

In the long history of the human race, the dominance drive provided people with motivation to compete for the control of resources. In psychopaths, this drive has morphed into a power motivation.

“Dominance behavior is diagnostic of psychopathy,” Dr. Leedom writes. “Glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, and cunning/manipulative behavior comprise a dominance style that is typical of psychopathy.”

Motivational theory

Dr. Leedom says psychopaths do form attachments, but they connect with other people in order to meet their material and psychological needs.

When psychopaths engage in antisocial behavior, it is because of their excessive and aberrant dominance responses, an absent or highly disordered caregiving system, and a sexual system in which they do not bond with their partners.

In the end, Dr. Leedom says, it’s not psychopathic deficiencies, but their skewed motivations, that cause their destructive behavior.

To read Dr. Leedom’s full paper, click the link below:

Psychopathy: A Behavioral Systems Approach, on



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Excellent article. I think Dr. Leedom is right on.


I agree with Dr. Leedom. They have to win at any expense and winning is their motivation, being in control of everyone and everything, being on top and staying on top. King/Queen of their empire. As soon as a person has nothing that the psychopath wants or that person withholds what the psychopath wants, the psychopath discards them.

A psychopath needs their outward image maintained to continue their charade to others. Their image of themselves and how they are projected is often their motivator. Along with this there is the motivation of; someone else’s money, someone to abuse, someone to supply them with sex, someone to control and someone to blame for their actions or transpose their actions/failures onto.

A psychopath doesn’t just discard their victims after draining them for all they’re worth, he/she needs to destroy them because they are seen as a risk for exposing them. It is at this point the psychopath’s motivation turns to getting rid of the victim once and for all. It is all about what services them and how it services them. Loyalty of the victim to the psychopath is all that matters to the psychopath. Victims are mere tools and in the psychopath’s eyes and are owned until the psychopath decides to discard the victim by death or societal ruin. The point here is they don’t stop until the victim stops existing.


this article explains a lot to me; these people don’t do things ‘accidently’..its ALL on purpose, done to wound, main and destroy. They KNOW exactly what they’re doing, when and how much. In my 29 years of marriage to ‘Disco Duck’; he knew exactly when,where and how much to push me..and then back off, and be ‘nice’ for a while. (I know now that the ‘nice’ was also a ploy to keep me around, on the hook, and eager to re-new and keep on going (for another round of his abuses). The nice was part of his game of abuses, as well as the abuses themselves.


I really like this article.

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