By | May 8, 2012 12 Comments

Study: Psychopaths have less grey matter for understanding emotions

Researchers based at the King’s College of London Institute of Psychiatry used MRIs to scan the brains of 44 violent adult male criminals who had already been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. Of the total, 17 also were diagnosed as psychopathic. The study found that the psychopaths’ brains had signifcantly less grey matter in the part of the brain that understands other people’s emotions and intentions.

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Now, if they could only start applying these studies to children so the hot-headed kids get the help that might do them some good and the cold-hearted ones are identified early enough to prevent them from assaulting or murdering their classmates or others.

Ox Drover

This goes along with the studies I have read. I am interested though how they distinguished between the ASPD ones and the psychopathic ones, since the DSM IV doesn’t have a slot for Psychoathy and only does for ASPD.

This also supports my theory that you can easily fool them by acting. They simply don’t have the wherewithal to understand our actual emotions. Whatever emotions you present them with, they will believe. Even if those emotions are ludicrous. The reason is because they have no point of reference from their own emotions, the way that we do.

It also goes to show how good they really are at mimicking. They are starting from nothing, yet they can come off as real people.

Granted, some will be better than others at perceiving, but they all have this weak point.

Example is my spath trojan horse BIL. He’s a cop. He has a law degree and now he works for Homeland Security. He’s not dumb at all. Yet, one day, he called me and said, “We have a new favorite show, ‘The Colbert Report’. Have you seen it?” In case anyone doesn’t know, Stephen Colbert portrays an insufferable narcissist, who is also very charming. He is doing a satire of Bill O’Reilly on Fox and I think it’s hilarious but if it was “real” it would be unbearable to watch. So the spath BIL was gloating when he called to tell me about the show.

I said, “Oh I LOVE that show, I LOVE Stephen Colbert, it’s my favorite show!”

Spath BIL said, “huh? you do?” His demeanor was noticeably more subdued than when he first called.

We had a bit of an exchange and then I realized that he thought Stephen Colbert was actually a serious news commentator. I explained to him that this was a comedy satire of O’Reilly. Spath BIL said, “nuh uhhhhh…”

It’s not that he’s incapable of seeing it, once it’s explained. He called me the next day to tell me he hated the show. It’s just that they can’t perceive it on a gut level. He was getting off on the despicable behavior portrayed by Colbert because he could relate to it and loves the hate mongering. When he realized it was a joke ON HIM. He couldn’t stand it anymore.

They are idiots and the joke is perennially on them, but they just don’t know it.

Ox Drover

I agree Sky that some of them are idiots like that BIL of yours, but not ALL of them are. Some are quite smooth….some get it on things like that. LOL


The concern I have with the study is that brains do develop over time and can change. The lacking structure may not be something that can be developed but maybe that is possible as well. People do not realize how amazing an instrument the human brain is. After causing great damage through use of drugs etc the brain is able with time and good nutrition often able to heal itself and use other structures to take over damaged functions. I would hope there would be a way to do the same with the missing structures that reduce empathy and impulse control.

UNFORTUNATELY the tendency in a fascist state would be to make everyone get a scan and then lock up those with the deficit brain structure or somehow isolate them. Heck it is the first thought I had – “oh wow – we could all be safe….” The desire to be safe you know is paramount especially when we have been harmed. But are we really willing to give up our freedom and liberty and to force that on everyone else? This is a serious issue as once technology becomes available it does not mean using it is wise.

It is equally sick people that would force such measures on society in my opinion. Once someone gives cause for a scan by their behavior (and I mean by being arrested for violent or criminal acts that have proven to be the type of crime engaged in most often by people with the differentiated structures) then maybe checking them with a scan would be appropriate in order to asses what the best penalties/corrective measures to be applied.

And for those that seek positions of power both in government and as heads of finance and multinational businesses – maybe then it is a requirement to have a scan and a lack of grey matter in the proper regions would make one ineligible for the reigns of power…(although can’t you see people getting bought off there as well? Humans are not angels.)

Even if it is, known that some people are potentially dangerous we have (as far as I know) ZERO data on how many people have the same structure and are just your garden variety jerk and never commit any atrocity other than being bastards to live with. I do not believe being a jerk is grounds for incarceration. And the possibility of it being used to create a whole new class of victimless crimes and penalize people for their thoughts is where we could be headed.

I think I like the Fishead Movie even more after reading this because truthfully the answer is that all of us stand up to the monsters that live around us and take a stand rather than complying.

The same can be said for children and bullying. I believe that many of our S/N/P’s start off as bullies on the playground. I am doing an online class on bullying required by our school. The profile of a bully from Shield The Vulnerable.

Profile of a Bully

Most bullies want to be popular and have a reputation for being tough and untouchable, but a bully can be anyone from a popular student to an ostracized loner. What they all tend to share are these characteristics:

a strong need to dominate others
lack empathy or compassion for others
a need to win and get their own way
easily frustrated if they don’t get their way
impulsive and easily angered
defiant and aggressive toward adults
physically strong if they are boys

Some bullies are easy to spot because they are loud, rude, overtly aggressive, and engage in rough “play.” Others engage in social manipulation through gossip, secrets, shunning, and other humiliations, and are difficult to identify, especially when electronic devices are used.

WOW – sounds like a description of a sociopath or narcissist doesn’t it? FACT: A U.C. Davis research study found that while bullies tend to be popular the top 2% of the social hierarchy and the children lower on the social ladder tend NOT to be bullies…

I’m thinking a big old scarlet letter B would help us identify them early! ; ) BuT in truth research has found the best way to stop bullying is for the students within a school system to stop supporting the behavior through silence and to call the bullies out and confront the behavior. Parental and administrative intervention does not do the same thing as a few kids with backbone making it safe for more and more children to stand up to it and name it and shame it.

Ox Drover

I think though that many of these bullies do tend to be later in life psychopaths or at least very high on the P traits….of course NOT ALL but the majority I think show signs of P traits earlier than might be believed by the professionals.


Oxy – I am 1000% in agreement. You can see it far earlier than people like to believe.

I know anecdotal stories do not prove scientifically a fact but I share my personal story knowing that it is being repeated in every school in the country.

There is a child in my daughter’s 6th grade that has been one of the ringleaders since kindergarten. In SECOND GRADE (that is at 7/8 years old folks) she had 6 other girls willing to follow her lead and torture my daughter who for a long time kept a stiff upper lip about it all as she thought some of these girls were her friends. The ringleader would threaten the one or two girls in her group who were nice to my daughter, or alternately, offer them a reward if they would do or say something mean to my child.

When I found out late in the year (my poor girl put up with it for so long) and spoke to the teacher she pulled all the girls aside one by one and questioned them. One girl lied until she was confronted a second time, 5 admitted to bullying and expressed remorse. Shockingly to me at the time, the ringleader not only admitted to what she was doing she expressed pride in her ability to manipulate others and to torture my daughter. She and her parents were made to see the school counselor (fat lot of good that did).

I would move my child but I know that this is everywhere you look. I hear about it from other parents at other schools.

Why the school did not immediately remove this one child based on her obvious mental/emotional depravity (it is private so they can do that) I will never understand – and the torturer continues her work on dividing and torturing 30+ other girls. An entire grade of children polluted by this needless nonsense and no adults with enough backbone to seriously address the issue. Everyone afraid of looking bad until there is a lawsuit.

Interestingly enough, over time I have found out how the girls in this particular group torture each other as well… Although not the ringleaders – but the people closest to the bullies suffer even while being tools of the bullies and harming others. I think it must be a way to keep them in line and reminding them who is in charge.

There are girls who at 10 and 12 years old run their homes and their families. To see the abuse they heap on their mothers publicly, the insolence is astounding. You wonder where it comes from in some cases and then in others it is as clear as the light of day.

Here is the thing – it is so easy for middle and upper class people to think that girls like that are from lower class families. Not so as we all know. These girls come from great privilege and the children they attack are not the less well off but those that are members of their own social class who have empathy for others and are believers in the golden rule.

The N/P/S of all ages love to toy with and torture those of us they consider “chumps”…

I thank God for my wonderful loving children.

Ox Drover


One of the things that is disturbing to me are the kids who are not bullies themselves but who wil l GO ALONG TO GET ALONG with the bully, becoming, as Sky says “fence sitters” or more than fence sitters and participants, in an effort to find acceptance within the group.

One bully can form a group around them to control….and if the bully is removed and the other kids talked to, the whole thing should calm down and lessons be learned.

Sometimes private schools I think want to believe “there’s good in everyone” and “counseling cures anything and everything.” and WE DONT WANT TO LOSE THE TUITION.

Ox Drover

pa in Nazi Germany it is estimated that only 10% of the people were truly Nazis but the rest were going along to get along and participated in the horrors at least cooperatively if not willilngly.

Studies done with college kids in designating some “guards’ and others “prisoners” shows that the “guards’ soon become abusive of the “prisoners” even though they are all just college kids chosen at random to participate in an experiment.


Yes Oxy – that is the thing that is chilling. It points to the problem in our society as a whole. People are too willing to look to someone else to be responsible for their decisions and so as much as we like to think of ourselves as autonomous too often we follow direction and go along to get along and don’t want to rock the boat and pay attention to the moral implications of what we are asked to do.

I have to remind myself to be ever more vigilant now. Again the Fishhead Movie really nailed it for me. It is up to all of us to name it and shame it rather than look the other way.


Ox Drover
That is one of societies big problems

Stanley Milgram Experiment (1961)
Controversy surrounded Stanley Milgram for much of his professional life as a result of a series of experiments on obedience to authority which he conducted at Yale University in 1961-1962. He found, surprisingly, that 65% of his subjects, ordinary residents of New Haven, were willing to give apparently harmful electric shocks-up to 450 volts-to a pitifully protesting victim, simply because a scientific authority commanded them to, and in spite of the fact that the victim did not do anything to deserve such punishment. The victim was, in reality, a good actor who did not actually receive shocks, and this fact was revealed to the subjects at the end of the experiment. But, during the experiment itself, the experience was a powerfully real and gripping one for most participants.


Love the way you put it. Thanks


There was another one called the The Wave also called The Third Wave.

In 1967, at the Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, World History teacher Ron Jones was asked about the Holocaust by a student. “Could it happen here?”. According to the press release accompanying the latest retelling of the events that followed, “Jones came up with an unusual answer. He decided to have a two week experiment in dictatorship. His idea was to explain fascism to his class through a game, nothing more. He never intended what resulted, where his class would be turned into a Fascist environment. Where students gave up their freedom for the prospect of being superior to their neighbors…………

They did make a movie of this one.

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