I’ve been reviewing scientific studies for my next book on sociopathy and have found some fascinating research. A technology called fMRI enables scientists to monitor brain activity when people feel different emotions or do various tasks. A recent study has demonstrated that people high in trait sociopathy (psychopathy in the paper), experience no pleasure when cooperating with someone else, and no guilt at pursuing selfish goals at another’s expense. Furthermore, when a sociopath gets over on someone his pleasure center lights up with activity. I know, we already knew this, but it is nice that scientists have correlated sociopathic behavior with specific brain areas.
Love and moral emotions dictate that when I do good for someone else I get a double reward. The first reward is a good feeling in my heart for doing the good. The next reward is knowledge that often a good will be done for me in return. Similarly when I am mean to someone, I get a double punishment. The first punishment is my own guilt and the second is the retribution I receive from the person I was mean to. Now, imagine an inner world without the rewards of cooperation and the punishments of deceit. This is the inner world of the psychopath, devoid of love and moral emotions.
When a sociopath cooperates, the only reward he gets is the hope that someday the favor will be returned. It is no wonder that sociopaths are uncooperative. When a sociopath screws someone over, he only faces that person’s wrath. If you can appreciate the huge role that affection and guilt play in your life, you can fully understand the behavior of sociopaths. It is really ability to love and moral emotions that keep the human social world spinning around.
There was a very disturbing news story on CNN yesterday that also teaches us that the human ability to love is inborn and not fully dependent on a society’s teaching. A woman in Saudi Arabia was kidnapped from a shopping mall and gang raped. After she reported the crime, she was arrested and sentenced to 90 lashes. When she appealed the sentence it was increased to 200 lashes and six months in prison. She had apparently broken the law because she was with a man who is not a relative. This society apparently raises men to think of women as undeserving of humane treatment. That is why the rest of the story is truly remarkable.
To watch the CNN story for yourself visit http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/11/21/saudi.rape.victim/index.html?iref=newssearch#cnnSTCVideo. Toward the end of the video clip, the victim’s husband speaks out in defense of his wife. He states, “You marry someone for good and for worse and I love my wife.” Does this not demonstrate the power of love to override even a culture’s teachings? This husband spoke out even though he faces religious, political and judicial persecution for doing so. He publically proclaimed his love for someone many in his society believe is a worthless human being. I contend that his only motivation is the love he feels in his heart. For you women who are still obsessing over a sociopath, please consider that this is the way normal men behave toward their wives.
I also contend that the judges in this case have no such love or compassion. They seem to be missing the fact that this woman has already been punished enough for breaking their laws. These judges function like sociopaths. They easily sleep at night, content with their positions of power. I believe that they will come to watch this poor woman receive her lashings in order to derive sadistic pleasure. Sociopaths get pleasure from watching both people and animals suffering. Research shows this pleasure is tied to the part of the brain that also senses justice.
It is truly love that defines the best in us. Love enables a balance between justice and compassion. Without this love, we are truly lost as a species.