Myths about psychopaths busted

December 19, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- New research challenges the belief that psychopaths are born not made, and suggests psychopaths may even be able to change their spots.

While psychopaths in the popular like Patrick Bateman in the film American Psycho or Alex in Clockwork Orange are portrayed as charming, guiltless and terrifying, the research suggests that is a much more complex personality disorder and one that is widely misunderstood.

Dr Devon Polaschek from Victoria University’s School of Psychology was one of four researchers who examined psychopathy in research about to be published in the leading public policy journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

"We pulled together the very extensive research and theoretical literature on psychopathy and one of the important things we found was the lack of consensus among scientists about the disorder," says Dr Polaschek.

She says the research sought to dispel some of the myths and assumptions that people often make about psychopathy.

"There’s a view that psychopaths are born not made but research doesn’t support this. It’s also not always a lifelong disorder per se -- people who show signs of psychopathy in adolescence don’t necessarily show this in early adulthood for instance, or vice versa," she says.

“Most significantly, although many people assume that psychopathy is untreatable, there is next to no scientific evidence either way.”

Dr Polaschek, a clinical psychologist, came to this research because of her work with high risk prisoners.

"My work is focused on their rehabilitation and reducing criminal risk through well-designed psychological programmes."

She says their research indicates that a sizeable group of adult offenders labelled as psychopathic are actually more emotionally disturbed than emotionally detached.

"The research raises some key issues about how we should deal with this problem. Gaining a clear understanding of the disorder is important because important public policy decisions are made based on research," says Dr Polaschek.

Explore further: Project will study the neural basis of psychopathy

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Squirrel
not rated yet Dec 19, 2011
On December 7, 2011 there a piece on the same paper "Psychopathy: A misunderstood personality disorder". I repeat what I wrote there: this research headlines with "myths", and phrases like "dispel some of the myths". This just the kind of self-entitlement language that psychopaths use--the authors admit the situation is one of lack of consensus. Contrary to the authors there is good reason to suspect psychopathy is untreatable since psychopathy links to brain differences in areas dealing with empathy. There is no reason to assume individuals with such differences can be made to feel empathy in the way felt by people who are not psychopaths. There is a long history of people working with psychopaths being doped by them--one is very wary of any work that notes "Dr Polaschek, a clinical psychologist, came to this research because of her work with high risk prisoners." The conclusions she is arguing are very much psychopaths would like--"I'am treatable", "give me a second try".
kochevnik
not rated yet Dec 19, 2011
The only things that cure psychopaths are advanced age and death. Not death of their victims, which is a motivator, but themselves.
rubberman
not rated yet Dec 20, 2011
Death yes, age...maybe, but I doubt it. A true psychopath cannot be "cured". The above talks about emotional disorders which to me indicates more of a misdiagnosis than the actual mental condition of psychopathy but if someone truly is a psychopath, they can be reasoned with in an absolute way. They still posess a desire for self preservation which can be exploited in an effort to control them, but it is more based on ultimatum than therapy.

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