Psychopaths and neuro-law

The brains of psychopaths are different. What does that mean for laws, crime, sentencing and treatment?

Read Psychopaths: Born evil or with a diseased brain? on BBC.co.uk.

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120 Comments on "Psychopaths and neuro-law"

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Dear SOS,

I agree with you in many many ways…I am both the child of a psychopath and the mother of a psychopath, both of whom are murderers.

The problem with eliminating psychopaths is the same problem in eliminating the “retarded” —who is to DECIDE who is retarded and should not be allowed to breed? Is the cut off of “retarded” 74 IQ points or 75? Do you sterilize them, lock them up, or what?

Hitler decided to sterilize the retarded, or to kill them off for the “good of society” and there have been other attempts at eugenics over the course of human history.

In the 1800s and early 1900s it was not unusual for physicians to smother obviously retarded children at birth, or to “not encourage them to breathe,” because the families of those times had enough problems feeding the able bodied children, much less one that would require care 24/7. I don’t doubt that this has been more or less “policy” for midwives and physicians all through history for the “greater good” of the family and the community.

In some cultures, “excess” female children were buried alive or smothered so that they would not be a drain on the family’s finances.

I totally agree that psychopaths and others who are predatory are dangerous to deal with, but WHO is wise enough, who is Solomon enough, to decide at just which point a person is “predatory enough” to qualify for a life time on a desert island or to be “humanely put down”?

Dr. Simon Baren-Cohen shows in his research with empathy-deprived people that it is not just an IS OR AIN’T proposition, but a continuum along which each of us has more or less empathy, and also that empathy is never 100% there or totally lacking, but all of us are on a continuum where we may have empathy one day, but control the amount of empathy we have the next day. If we had 100?% empathy we could never drive by a homeless person on our way to work, we would be compelled to stop and take care of them, give them our clothes and our food. As long as there was ONE homeless person we would have to take them in and go without food ourselves until all the world had been fed.

Having a HEALTHY level of empathy is a good thing. Having a VERY LOW LEVEL of empathy is not such a good thing. Not all people without functional empathy though are psychopaths. Some people without much empathy are autistic, and they do not, unlike psychopaths, get “duping delight” from hurting others.

I wish this world were totally BLACK OR WHITE, good or bad, and that there was a way to distinguish which was which, but unfortunately, life is more shades of GRAY, so we just have to try to stay on the LIGHTER SIDE OF THE COLORS.

Here’s a link to a recent, related article:


I spoke wiht Dr. Kiehl and he was the one who told me that according to his research the AVERAGE convict has a score of 22 on the PCL-R, which essentially means that half score more and half less. The average sore of the public at large is 4-5 I think. So you can see that prisoners have a much higher score than the “joe plumber” Twenty to 25% of prisoners score 30 or above so that is a high percentage of the criminal element who are caught and sent to prison for their crimes. There are also only a VERY FEW prisoners who are sent to prison for singing too loudly in church. So While SOME ex convicts do go “straight” upon release, the majority do not even finish their paroles before committing new crimes and there is somewhere between 40 and 70% recidivism rates.

Some states have a “three strikes” law where on the third felony they are locked up for “life without parole” and while this is on the books, it is not frequently enforced and many criminals have LONG records of repeat felonies, as well as VIOLENT felonies including rape and murder and they are still given “more than one second chance.”

Even for first degree murder unless it is a cop or multiple murder about 25 years is a normal “life” sentence.

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