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Psychopathic Criminals Have "Empathy Switch"

timothy posted 1 year,5 days | from the why-some-people-think-I'm-nice dept.

Science 347

dryriver writes "Psychopaths do not lack empathy, rather they can switch it on at will, according to new research. Placed in a brain scanner, psychopathic criminals watched videos of one person hurting another and were asked to empathise with the individual in pain. Only when asked to imagine how the pain receiver felt did the area of the brain related to pain light up. Scientists, reporting in Brain, say their research explains how psychopaths can be both callous and charming. The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their 'empathy switch', which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation. Criminals with psychopathy characteristically show a reduced ability to empathise with others, including their victims. Evidence suggests they are also more likely to reoffend upon release than criminals without the psychiatric condition."

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With the right training, huh? (5, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380719)

How about we hold their eyes open and force them to watch horrific, violent videos, preferably multiple at a time.

Re:With the right training, huh? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380863)

They'll be cured all right.

Re:With the right training, huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380885)

Yeah, great movie.

Re:With the right training, huh? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380907)

listening to Mozart, with eye drops in order that their eyes won't wither ? Sorry Dude, It's been already tried ...

Re:With the right training, huh? (3, Insightful)

draconx (1643235) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381051)

listening to Mozart, with eye drops in order that their eyes won't wither ? Sorry Dude, It's been already tried ...

Nobody's tried Mozart; only Ludwig van Beethoven.

Re:With the right training, huh? (1)

sribe (304414) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381165)

listening to Mozart, with eye drops in order that their eyes won't wither ? Sorry Dude, It's been already tried ...

No it hasn't, Mozart would be much more soothing ;-)

Re:With the right training, huh? (4, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380939)

Isn't the whole point the fact that they can turn off empathy/have it off as a default state? Without empathy what would be the point of horrific imagery other than discouraging them from turning it on, and maybe give them a thrill if they get off on violence?

It seems to me the whole idea of "rehabilitation" here is shaky at best - as a general rule our society rewards psychopathy quite readily with power, wealth, and sex. So what's in it for the self-interested psychopath you want to rehabilitate? It may be that they can learn to "turn on" the switch for sustained periods to get themselves cleared as rehabilitated, but unless the switch were somehow magically locked in place why wouldn't they just "turn it off" again once they were free?

Re:With the right training, huh? (2)

Githaron (2462596) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381115)

That is what I was thinking. There are a lot of both emotional and logical reasons to turn the emotions back off. This is especially true if they have already killed, murdered, and/or raped people. Why feel guilty or sad when you don't have to?

Re:With the right training, huh? (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381585)

Indeed. We seem to have entire professions; like the legal system and upper management, dedicated to sociopathic individuals.

Re:With the right training, huh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380941)

Oh, fuck you, you think something you saw in a wholly fanciful film has any real life application, Jesus you're dense. Please stop, for fuck's sake.

Everyone mod parent up.

Re:With the right training, huh? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380997)

Drawing obvious parallels for humor isn't the same as making a cogent point. Chill.

Re:With the right training, huh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381291)

Holy fuck YOU'RE dense. Were you born without the ability to comprehend humor?

Re:With the right training, huh? (5, Funny)

jason.sweet (1272826) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381487)

Holy fuck YOU'RE dense. Were you born without the ability to comprehend humor?

He probably switches it on and off at will.

Re:With the right training, huh? (3, Funny)

Type44Q (1233630) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380991)

How about we hold their eyes open and force them to watch horrific, violent videos, preferably multiple at a time.

I doubt that would've caused them to vote differently yesterday...

Or Room 23 (1)

omnichad (1198475) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381395)

We are the causes of our own suffering

THINK ABOUT

YOUR LIFE

A Clockwork Orange (2)

nicoleb_x (1571029) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380723)

Where have we seen this before...

Sounds kind of like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380751)

A Clockwork Orange. Just strap them in and pry their eyes open.

Re:Sounds kind of like... (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381175)

Well, like shocking a kid with a cattle prod, who keeps slapping himself, it works. It's just considered unethical. At least they poked fun at both sides in A Clockwork Orange, unlike Cukoo's Nest.

Would this training work... (3, Interesting)

NickDanger3rdEye (1206476) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380759)

...for politicians?

Re:Would this training work... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380827)

No, this still requires a somewhat functional brain.

Re:Would this training work... (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381059)

They already know how to turn empathy on and off. When campaigning, turn empathy on. When legislating, turn empathy off.

Re:Would this training work... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381405)

Let's try it. We'll have the libertarians go first. Then the Rands.

There's only one empathy switch (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380773)

It turns on the electric chair.

Re:There's only one empathy switch (1, Funny)

OakDragon (885217) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380995)

It turns on the electric chair.

I first read this as "It turns on the electric car ." ... I thought "This must be the most bizarre thread derailing to environmental feel-goodism I've ever seen." Then I remembered this is Slashdot.

Worth the investment and risk? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380785)

So, you have someone with a high degree of risk to reoffend. I have three options:

1) Terminate. I don't believe this has a place in today's society. Most expensive option given our appeals process. Highest safety for public
2) Treat and release. High expense with dubious benefit and high probability of re-entering the prison system. High risk for public.
3) Keep in a cell for life. Not quite as high expense. Safe for public.

Which option is the best?

Re:Worth the investment and risk? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381035)

Perhaps offer affordable mental heathcare to people?

Re:Worth the investment and risk? (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381101)

There is no known treatment for Psychopathy. It may not even be a mental illness. It not something that can be fixed by throwing doctors at it.

Re:Worth the investment and risk? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381157)

Modded down... on what basis?

Re:Worth the investment and risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381419)

Psychopaths with modpoints angry that you suggested they shouldn't just go around killing people to make themselves feel good.

normal people can probably do it too (5, Interesting)

iggymanz (596061) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380789)

kind and good normal people have been known to turn it off under certain conditions, too fight or defend against that which they believe "evil"

maybe studying that reaction could help with the psychopath problem

Re:normal people can probably do it too (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380913)

People joining the military know they kill civilians. They probably have to develope a similar ability to switch off empathy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_in_the_War_in_Afghanistan_(2001%E2%80%93present)#Aggregation_of_estimates [wikipedia.org]

Re:normal people can probably do it too (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381269)

It starts by de-humanising people by calling them something inferior (cockroaches, rats, ...), and scapegoating. Then you don't emphasize with how they are treated and their suffering, because they are not like you, and probably deserve it.
Be aware if you want to prevent the next Holocaust ...

Re:normal people can probably do it too (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381389)

It's probably more of a battle between human nature (empathy) and the propaganda they've been taught their entire lives (the "us vs. them" or "team" mentality which is the first prerequisite of all war). Human nature tells them it's wrong to kill a non-aggressor, but authority tells them that there are only winning teams and losing teams, and that every individual must be on one.

After all, if a normal (sane) soldier truly views a non-aggressor as independent of any team, then he could not bring himself to kill that individual. The killing is justified by assuming that individuality is impossible, and that only teams exist, just as the propaganda teaches him.

Re:normal people can probably do it too (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380999)

So there's hope for those of us who suffer from too much empathy?

Re:normal people can probably do it too (1)

RCL (891376) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381221)

Well, uncontrollable empathy sounds dangerous. E.g. people who survived the war tend to be ones who were the meanest, not ones who had the most empathy towards their enemy (my personal impression after reading war veteran memoirs). Granted, war - which is "race to the bottom" empathy-wise - is not considered to be a "normal" condition anywhere except Freeciv...

Re:normal people can probably do it too (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381383)

war - which is "race to the bottom" empathy-wise - is not considered to be a "normal" condition anywhere except Freeciv...

And Washington, DC

Re:normal people can probably do it too (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381593)

So there's hope for those of us who suffer from too much empathy?

Yep! It's called "being inevitably backstabbed by someone to whom you showed empathy"! I know it worked for me!

Several times!

By numerous people.

Numerous... hurtful people.

Painfully.

Painfully.

But now all that pesky empathy's been replaced by bitterness and cynicism, as well as deep personal regret that I ever trusted anyone in my life in the first place! Now I have all sorts of time available to plot my entirely justified "gratitude" towards those same people for the opportunity they gave me to remove that useless part of my brain! Hooray!

Re:normal people can probably do it too (0)

quenda (644621) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381057)

kind and good normal people have been known to turn it off under certain conditions, too fight or defend against that which they believe "evil"

Anders Breivik ?

Re:normal people can probably do it too (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381143)

One can sympathize with the victims of one's actions, and yet still consider the actions to be necessary to prevent a greater harm.

Re:normal people can probably do it too (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381377)

Mmm. You think? I bet empathy is binary: on or off.

Re:normal people can probably do it too (2)

DigitalReverend (901909) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381459)

The difference is that for "normal" people the default position for the switch is on and it requires effort to turn it off.

For psychopaths, the default switch is off and it requires effort to turn it on.

It's actually very normal for humans: Othering (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381141)

It's actually very normal for humans to turn off empathy as needed and desired. Much of social conditioning is used to do this, either by design or due to environmental pressures.

"Othering", the enemy, homeless, other races, gangs, neighborhoods, city-states, etc. etc. etc. lepers, sick people in general (although there is also a built-in revulsion for physical deformity.)

The thing with psychopaths, born or bred, is that their empathy switch is very strongly set to "off", for the average person the switch is somewhere between on and in-between.

Re:normal people can probably do it too (1)

RCL (891376) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381161)

Maybe normal people just have that switch broken - the same way as we lost controls over our ears :)

Re:normal people can probably do it too (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381215)

kind and good normal people have been known to turn it off under certain conditions

the euphemism is "political sophistication".

Re:normal people can probably do it too (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381259)

kind and good normal people have been known to turn it off under certain conditions, too fight or defend against that which they believe "evil"

maybe studying that reaction could help with the psychopath problem

+1
A brilliant, inspired post. You sir are seeing reality as it is! Empathy must indeed be a switchable feature. Explains how concentration camp folk could throw babies into the ovens, to name just one example.

In the light of this and the latest episodes... (1)

pep939 (1957678) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380791)

Puts a new perspective on Dexter's character, I guess.

Re:In the light of this and the latest episodes... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381217)

Dude, spoiler alert!

knowledge is power (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380799)

Conversely, knowing there's an empathy 'switch' ...non psycopaths may seek to engage it so that they can find the strength to carry out their will.

Re:knowledge is power (2)

somersault (912633) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381097)

I've read before that people who seem without empathy, sometimes are actually naturally very highly empathetic - they have just learned to turn it off as a defence mechanism.

I've wondered that about myself sometimes. Sometimes I let myself get absurdly upset over things that hurt people (or animals) that I don't even know. Sometimes even just from pain that fictional characters are experiencing. But sometimes I ust get burned out and don't care any more.

"they can switch it on at will" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380829)

Is it possible that they can simply pretend to experience empathy, to the point where the scanner is fooled?

Various 'areas of the brain lighting up' are bandied around as though there were a precisely determined one-to-one mapping between this and individual thoughts, somehow I think it might be more complicated than that.

How would you know (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380833)

How would you know if they have been rehabilitated? If they can control it at will then they can just turn it on in the sessions. When they are out of prison they can go back to living how they want.

Re:How would you know (4, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380917)

Well, if they don't want to go back to their seat in congress after the treatment, they're better.

Re:How would you know (1)

Viol8 (599362) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380963)

Exactly. But then the fluffy rehabilitation brigade are pathalogically wedded to their arrogant almost religious belief that everyone is a good person at heart and can be rehabilitated given the right circumstances. They simply won't accept that some people are born evil and need to be locked up for life or executed for the safety of the public. And many people have paid the price for that arrogance.

Re:How would you know (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381043)

They simply won't accept that some people are born evil and need to be locked up for life or executed for the safety of the public.

That's hardly the majority of those incarcerated, however. In fact, the kind of person you're talking about is the dominant lifeform in charge of the very system that we're supposed to be able to rely on to deal with them! How effective...

Re:How would you know (0)

omnichad (1198475) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381463)

But it is the majority of incarcerated psychopaths. But I thought that sociopaths were the ones that had no empathy. Psychopaths just have no remorse.

Re:How would you know (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381125)

They simply won't accept that some people are born evil and need to be locked up for life or executed for the safety of the public. And many people have paid the price for that arrogance.

You dismiss religious absolutism, but you're willing to accept the idea of someone being unavoidably "evil"? Do you realize how subjective that is? How hypocritical? Not everyone who disagrees with you does so because they are incapable of compromise, sometimes it's because you are.

why? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380857)

Why would anyone ever voluntarily suffer on behalf of another?

Re:why? (1)

dj245 (732906) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381053)

Why would anyone ever voluntarily suffer on behalf of another?

That is a question that hundreds of very smart people have studied for at least a 150 years. In fact, Charles Darwin [phys.org] struggled with it because it was a big hole in his theories. And it is not limited to humans or even mammals.

The simple answer is that it always seems to benefit the individual, somehow.

Re:why? (1)

njnnja (2833511) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381223)

Human nature? Free will?

Human behavior is complex enough that our current state-of-the art is not sufficient to fully measure or model it from a reductionist viewpoint. And yet holistic explanations based on simple observation have proven fairly successful over the centuries. I don't mean to be flippant, but you will get a better understanding of the motivations of man from great literature than you will from science and economic textbooks (and this is likely to be the case for another hundred years or so).

Re:why? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381479)

And yet holistic explanations based on simple observation have proven fairly successful over the centuries.

You call them "explanations", but are they really explanations in the same way that a successful "reductionist" model would be?

but you will get a better understanding of the motivations of man from great literature than you will from science and economic textbooks

You get case studies from great literature. What they mean is something else entirely.

Not a chance (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380859)

Here in USA, we would never make the mistake of rehabilitating our criminals. They might eventually become productive members of society. That would be awful.

Pacemaker (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380877)

Stimulate the area artificially and see what happens.

Re:Pacemaker (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381371)

Basically, you're saying that the traditional American electric chair has the electrodes in the wrong places?

That reminds me of (3, Insightful)

GeekWithAKnife (2717871) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380891)


...how soldiers can kill people without remorse and then still be good dads

Is being a "psychopath" really just an old term that means "sociopath" and is apparently 1 in 200 men? -often ruthless and in leadership positions?

Trailing thought, are internet trolls like this?

Re:That reminds me of (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380977)

Military killing depends a lot on dehumanizing foes. Battlefield terminology for foes almost always takes the form of a very non-human noun, whether it's "targets", "hostiles", or "alpha", the words that are used are never words that inherently imply personhood. There's a well-researched book [amazon.com] about how this corresponds to good people being capable of terrible things.

Re:That reminds me of (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381441)

Or "pedophiles". Or "terrorists". All designated "non-human" and so good targets for death we are told. Even if most child abuse happens in families.

Re:That reminds me of (1)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381537)

Having a lack of sympathy for people who commit terrible crimes doesn't necessary have a corresponding lack of empathy for them as human beings.

Re:That reminds me of (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381001)

Is being a "psychopath" really just an old term that means "sociopath"

Yes they are both old terms that mean the same thing that describes people who wind up in prison.

Re:That reminds me of (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381515)

...how soldiers can kill people without remorse and then still be good dads

Depends on what you mean with "good dads" I guess.
A sociopath and/or soldier will probably have no problem providing for their child and give them a safe and stable upbringing.
That doesn't mean that he will teach his child to be a free thinking individual that will stand up against wrongdoings or willingly break unjust laws.

I wonder what a scan of: (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380893)

the average politician would show... would the group of people called "politicians" show up as psycopaths?

How about the personnel of the NSA?

Police SWAT members?

Police in general?

Re:I wonder what a scan of: (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381117)

How about we make people pass this test to screen for psycopaths? You're flagged positive, you can't hold any job that will give you power over anyone. No politics, no police, no health care, no teaching, etc.

Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380897)

>[...] it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their 'empathy switch'

Why would a psycopath want to do that though? They don't care about other people. If they have such a "switch", and it actually make them 'feel like normals' and they learn to control it conciously, it'll only be used to further their own agenda. It's what psycopaths do.

Selective (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380909)

Well, empathy itself is selective in nature. The amount of paint felt by birds vs. dogs? Those who don't own pet birds (or rats) think they are "valued" same as insects. Dogs represent "humanity".

Ted Bundy is an example of this (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380923)

He even said so himself, he could be perfectly normal one moment, which is why he could be so charming and personable, but then he could go hard killer with ease, to the point where he believed his whole identity changed. Even smells were different to him. I wonder if it was engaging a brain switch on his part?

Re:Ted Bundy is an example of this (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381061)

Yeah, I used to love that show, the kids were so funny!

Re:Ted Bundy is an example of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381305)

Pychopathic sadistic killers often probably have a form of brain damage I believe, so yes. Many have a history of head trauma so it fits.

Fixing the will (1)

operagost (62405) | 1 year,5 days | (#44380925)

The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their 'empathy switch', which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation.

But why would they want to? It's far more advantageous for them to continue pretending they care about others.

Re:Fixing the will (2)

sribe (304414) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381219)

But why would they want to?

To stay out of prison.

They may never be nice people. They might always be aggressive arrogant jerks. But maybe they can be simply a jerk rather than an actual criminal.

Although I suspect that has much more to do with impulse control than empathy, and so this could indeed turn out to be completely worthless, it does seem at least worth investigating.

Which could bring them a step closer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44380969)

...to election.

Banking executives (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381009)

We need to try this with big banking executives. And maybe large corporate executives. If we could turn on their empathy switch, we would live in a better world for all !!

Rehabilitation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381019)

Rehabilitation? What kind of commie nonsense is this? Extract your pound of flesh in a for-profit prison. 'Murcia!

WOoT FP.. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381093)

Interesting (4, Informative)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381145)

Robert Hare http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_D._Hare [wikipedia.org] is an expert in psychopaths. He said that was asked to work on therapies for psychopaths to get them to rehabilitate. He said he wanted to develop a program that appeals to their self-interest to not engage in criminal or bad behavior. If they do have an "empathy switch" that would be a good thing. You would have to convince the psychopath that it is in their best interest to leave it on.

This is how they fool lie detectors (1)

erroneus (253617) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381149)

It's funny that the slant here is about rehabilitation. It seems to show how they can fool those doing the rehabilitation long enough to get back out in the world to screw it up some more.

the converse??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381151)

Hmm, that's really interesting. So they're not without the ability to feel empathy, they just have to work at it...

I'm the converse (possibly because of surviving some pretty sick emotional abuse in childhood, I don't know, whatever, it is what is). Anyway my default is highly empathetic, but I can, if I try, turn that off. It's not just suppressing the experience of another's pain, it is literally a disconnect where I no longer feel it at all, and in my experience it does actually feel like flipping a switch. It comes in very handy in 3 situations: emergencies, where it allows me to focus on rational decision making; when I realize that someone is trying to take advantage of me, where putting aside their feelings helps me focus on "escape"; and, finally, comforting someone in distress.

Yeah, you might find that last one very counter-intuitive. But empathy is not perfect, it's a mix of literally feeling someone else's pain based on facial expressions and so on (how we develop "theory of mind" is fascinating stuff, BTW), and the overlay of our own reaction to our own experience of such pain. In other words, it is always and necessarily contaminated by how we would feel. The ability to feel that, then turn it off and use my mind to really listen to what the other person is saying without distraction from how I would feel about the situation, helps to respond to the other person's feelings rather than my own.

I know this was a bit of a ramble, but the ability to experience empathy is not simply on-or-off, where each person either can or cannot.

Relevance (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381183)

Why is this relevant to Slashdot? Den of psychopaths? What next? How to beat your wife or how to shoplift?

Was't this the plot for an episode on ST Voyager? (1)

ethanms (319039) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381265)

They "cured" the murderous criminal guy with the defective empathy switch in his brain...

I am sorry, but not only criminals. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381267)

120 deaths of civilians in => Meh ... Old news.
Fireman manage to save little cat from sewer in => Ohhhhh thank $deity . It's a little miracle.

At least LaGuerta is gone. (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381285)

Well, this knowledge is too late to help Dexter now. He's approaching the endgame with his life bursting out of control.

Interesting idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381303)

After playing "Where is my water?" on the iPad, on some levels where the liquids go around in circles, and then spending my next hour wondering why my computer monitor keeps swirling in places, there may be something in this "right training".

Training for politicians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381309)

Maybe this is a good idea for training our representatives.

TV Doesn't Know (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381313)

This is really going to put a damper on all that 'science' going on in Dexter.

Obligatory (4, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381321)

Data: Captain, I believe I am feeling... anxiety. It is an intriguing sensation. A most distracting...
Picard: Data, I'm sure it's a fascinating experience, but perhaps you should deactivate your emotion chip for now.
Data: Good idea, sir.
[beep]
Data: Done.
Picard: Data, there are times that I envy you.

Switches (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,5 days | (#44381325)

Funny how the horniness switch just stays on.

Did they test lawyers? (2)

coldsalmon (946941) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381399)

A lot of occupations require a suspension of empathy. I would be interested to see if "non-psychopaths" have a similar "empathy switch" ability regarding tasks associated with their daily occupation.

Test for psychos? (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381403)

Is there a reasonably reliable medical test that can determine whether or not someone is a psychopath? Maybe a fMRI or something like that? While it would be nice if we could somehow cure sociopaths, I think just identifying them would be a good start. Maybe we could even prohibit them from running for public office or holding executive positions in publicly traded corporations...

Healthy people have that switch too (1)

davidwr (791652) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381467)

20 year old woman gets knifed on the street - we all feel bad for her.

20 year old woman convicted of torturing her kids gets knifed a few weeks into her lifetime prison sentence - many of us think "good, she got what she deserved."

The take-away is that some, perhaps most, psychopaths can be rehabilitated AND some, perhaps most, non-psychopaths can, through brainwashing, Stockholm syndrome, or just being in the wrong environment (e.g. being a prison guard or soldier in a despotic regime) see their empathy for others in certain situations erode to the point that they will do unspeakable things without feeling guilty about it.

In defense of psychopaths (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381485)

I looked over the article and abstract, and note that they compared criminal psychopaths with non-criminal non-psychopaths.

The study seems to equate psychopathy with criminality; ie - they didn't compare non-criminal psychopaths with non-criminal normals, nor did they compare criminal-psychopaths with criminal-normal.

I strongly believe that psychopathy by itself is not a problem; only the immorality, and then only when the immorality leads to actions that hurt others. Psychopaths could learn and practice ethics through upbringing and/or training and would have few issues with society. Studies show [forbes.com] that many corporate leaders score high on "psychopathic" behaviour.

There's a little-known aspect of people called mob mentality [wikipedia.org] which causes people en-masse to act completely differently from their typically rational, self-interested way. People in mobs have been known to charge cannons and guns with no concern for their own well-being. This could be the empathy/mirror neurons acting to bring crowds of people together as a single organism.

A psychopath would be immune from this effect - they would be able to step back, assess the situation, and question the actions of the crowd. Possibly even stop the crowd or redirect it. A psychopath would be the one, lone voice in the lynch mob who shouts "why are we doing this? This is not who we are!" and possibly redirect the actions of the crowd.

Psychopaths may be important in society simply to keep our mirror neurons in check and make sure that society acts rationally (note: rational != ethical).

For reference, consider this guy [wikimapia.org] . Admittedly brave as hell, but I wonder where he would score on the "psychopathic tendencies" spectrum.

Empathy isn't always good (3, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381503)

People with Aspergers (ASD) display limited empathy with others. Not the psychopaths' ability to switch it on and off. It is just lacking.

Fake empathy is often used by con artists and sociopaths to manipulate people. And in some cases, people with Aspergers are more able to see through such social engineering than other people. There is an interesting story in The Big Short [wikipedia.org] about an investor/fund manager who saw through the Wall Street bullshit surrounding mortgage backed securities and shorted them, making millions of dollars for himself and his clients.

evolution (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | 1 year,5 days | (#44381531)

this totally makes sense in an evolutionary way...its easy to imagine how important an adaptation like this would be in a species that for 10's of thousands of years lived in a permanent state of war where you had to be bathed in blood and kill everything on week and then chill at court and amuse the kings and females.

how else could people reconcile this?

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