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A Study Of Psychopathic Behavior

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It is a popular belief that psychopaths are considered to be individuals that are as brilliantly charming as they are morally insane. However, the tendency to refer to the psychopathic behavior as “morally insane” is a misconception. Regardless of scientific discoveries , psychopathy is a disease which results in a physiological deficiency.

The brain of psychopaths fails to generate a proper wave activity. Waves emitted are generally slower in individuals suffering from psychopathic behavior. This fundamental ineptitude is responsible for a lower degree of arousal when these persons face a threatening situation. Their lack of anxiety and consequent careless behavior in any situation is commonly referred to as lack of conscience. Indeed, Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum”, meaning “I am a fully conscious human being” is not applicable to their psyche. These individuals lack the plethora of emotions which colors our lives; that is, the ability to feel, to anticipate the breaking of the law, or to feel sorry when they break these laws. However, to say that psychopaths are morally insane is wrong. Above all, they are deprived of a conscience which organizes the moral notions of Good and Bad .This public misconception of psychopaths as morally insane goes back to the 19 century. In 1835, the British scientist Prichard introduced the term of “moral insanity” as referring to psychopathy. A French searcher, Phillipe Pinel, conceived the concept of “manie sans dÐ"©lire”. In French ,“manie” connotes a perverted mind which reproduces the same destructive action without any remorse .In a normal behavior, the deeds are constrained by external laws at work in society. The conscience of average individuals anticipate any destructive action which could obstruct the laws. Unfortunately, psychopaths don’t have such a capacity. They are leading a life which ignores external impediments. This fundamental unawareness is directly related to a slower activity of waves at work in the brain. This abnormality blocks the entire process of learning.

The lower waves indeed produce a decreased response of anxiety which causes the psychopaths to not be anxious or afraid of punishment when they perform a reprehensible action. According to Cleckley’ s definition of psychopathic behavior in the Mask of Sanity , (1988) when one of them breaks the law, he or she does not experience a sense of shame or guilt. When psychopaths are faced with any form of punishment вЂ" it could be physical pain or punishment regardless of the deliberate breaking of laws- they do not react with as much anticipation as the average individual. This is because they lack a part of the neurological process which allows them to avoid pain; that is, the adequate rise in palmar sweat gland activity which generates the adequate stimulus . Therefore, the psychopath will reproduce the same harmful actions again and again .In 1954, Ellington’ s experiments showed that between 31 % and 58 % of psychopaths showed some form of electroencephalogram(EEG) abnormality located in the temporal lobes of the cerebral hemispheres. Another experience regarding the lack of anxiety in psychopaths was lead in 1965 by Robert Hare. In that experience, psychopathic and non- psychopathic subjects were told that each time they would see the number eight in a series of number from one to twelve, they would receive an electric shock . Non-psychopathic individuals showed higher rates of anxiety when they knew the number 8 was about to come. On the contrary, psychopathic individuals remain perfectly calm at the sight of the feared number. These results are important since they show that it is a physiological deficiency rather than a “deliberate insanity” that is responsible for the psychopath’s criminal behavior.

Another perception largely spread among the population concerns the traditional representation of the psychopath who is figured out as an unhealthy hedonist, perpetually in quest of new vicarious thrills .

In the movie the Silence of the Lambs, such a personality is embodied in Hannibal Lector, a frightening psychopath who, by his compelling need of strong experiences , breaks the boundaries of decency perpetually. When he talks about dining on human organs with a nice sauce, it is a short time after committing a murder. Lector has no limits anymore. His moral depravation is depicted as escalating to a paroxystic peak .The portrayal of such a character embodies the collective mythos referring to the mental scheme of the psychopath .In the movie ,this representation is romanticized in order to play with society вЂ?s fascination for the violation of laws. However, that popular mythos has captured one of the most fundamental features of the psychopathic personality as described by Cleckley , cited in p. 479 of Abnormal Behavior. “ Most psychopaths become bored quickly with the humdrum of everyday’ s life. They search constantly for new thrills and experiences- daring robberies, impersonations, confidence games, new varieties of drugs and deviant sexual behavior”. The slow brain- wave activity stated above has his counterpart through this pursuit of a momentary powerful stimuli, considered as a reward . The psychopath occasionally needs to receive a stimuli stronger than the average person in order to be aroused and, eventually, find “the game” exciting. Therefore, psychopath’s brain activity is not always below the average .Otherwise, this decreased activity would have it made difficult to explain the energy the psychopath shows in order to catch his victim. When an immediate reward is offered, the impulsivity of the individual suffering from psychopathic disorder increases through an immediate responsiveness to the appealing stimulus . From a neurological point of view, the slow brain-waves are balanced by a peak of specific waves located in the temporal area and linked to the individual’s apparent impulsivity; which, in that case, appears every time there is a promise of instantaneous reward. In 1993, Patterson and Newman conducted a test, the purpose of which was to analyze the reaction of psychopaths when they were confronted with instantaneous rewards, in that case, a certain amount of money given to winners .

The results where puzzling. While the non- psychopathic individuals, conscious that they were losing their money, stopped to play , nine on ten psychopaths continued to play even tough they had lost money on nineteen of the twenty trials. In that case, the immediate reward which was money functioning as a powerful stimulus, constituted the



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