Are psychopaths more like Hannibal Lecter or Dexter Morgan? How likely is it that your boss is really a psychopath? Find your answers in this in-depth discussion with Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, an experimental philosopher at Duke University and an expert on psychopaths.

Here are some more detailed questions we answer. No spoilers this time – you have to listen!

  • What is a psychopath, scientifically speaking? Is a sociopath the same thing? How many are out there, and how many popular depictions are accurate?
  • Is it possible to detect psychopaths without testing them?
  • What causes psychopaths – is it more nature or nurture?
  • If psychopaths are emotion-blind, when are they morally and legally responsible for doing bad things? How can they best be treated?
  • How many different types of felonies do you need to have committed to be a psychopath?

Download the podcast here.

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00:00:02you're listening to psych talk this is psych talk and I'm Jose dross Lopez we've got an expert guest who's going to tell us about psychopaths who are they where are they and what can we do about them our guest is doctor Walters Senate Armstrong he's a philosophy professor
00:00:27at Duke holding appointments at UNC Chapel Hill the Oxford center for neural ethics and the mind research network he's co chair of the board of officers of the American philosophical association and he has been co director of the macarthur law and neuroscience project he is widely published across
00:00:46many fields of philosophy including religion morality law and neuroscience recently he has specialized in psychopathy I think the first thing to really clear out of the way is just what the definition of a psychopath this could you help us understand that well technically the definition of a psychopath
00:01:06is anyone who scores thirty or above on hairs psychopathy checklist revised or PCL are that's a test with twenty different items and each item get scored zero one or two so the maximum possible scores forty and the minimum is zero the general population tends to average around five
00:01:29medium security prison the average score will be around twenty %HESITATION low twenties twenty to twenty five depending on the country in the prison %HESITATION and so psychopathy was set at one standard deviation above the average score in a medium security prison which turned out to be thirty and
00:01:50so if you've got thirty or above your a psychopath and the items include art things like grandiose self image limit we put it this way to help you understand because otherwise it's just a list %HESITATION psychopathy should be thought of I think is the perfect storm of all
00:02:07the bad personality traits of everybody you've ever run into the first couple trades had to do with narcissism a grandiose self image the second set of traits have to do with Machiavellian a manipulative Connie and pathological liars %HESITATION then %HESITATION in the second grouping of second facet as
00:02:32they call it %HESITATION it has to do with lack of empathy lack of remorse callousness so you can think of someone who's really callous then you get your third facet and that has to do with being a parasite living off people never doing your part of lack of
00:02:51responsibility %HESITATION not fulfilling your duties let other people do things for you %HESITATION and then the fourth facet has to do with your behaviors early behavioral problems %HESITATION juvenile delinquency skipping out on parole and criminal versatility that's one that's I think is worth policy over a little bit
00:03:13so how do you get a two one criminal versatility you have to commit six different felonies so if all you do is go around murdering people you only committed one type of felony murder even though you committed a lot of times to be a cycle path and get
00:03:29a two on that particular item you have to commit six different felonies %HESITATION to get a one you have to commit three and so you can see that these people are very active criminals %HESITATION and that's the problem right I suppose that since there are twenty items on
00:03:46the checklist that it would be possible for someone to still get that thirty score of one standard deviation above the average without having got in the two in that criminal versatility category right it would just be uncommon sure it's possible but the correlations are pretty high within the
00:04:03different facets of these four facets one includes the narcissism and Machiavellianism the other includes the callousness the third includes the parasitic behavior and other things and the fourth includes the anti social conduct %HESITATION and within each of those facets they're highly correlated so it be pretty hard to
00:04:23get a %HESITATION an actual diagnosis of psychopathy without having done any misbehavior because those last five item should be getting zero on all up and that would immediately put you %HESITATION down around thirty so you have to be perfect on everything else none the less there are some
00:04:41groups of people who never commit violent crimes don't commit that many crimes but still count a cycle pass and we call them women are because women %HESITATION psychopaths tend to not engage in violent crime is much they manipulate people engage in fraud they'll hurt people and awful lot
00:05:01of but they tend to some at least in many cases on average I should say on average they don't commit as many of the violent crimes that %HESITATION will get people high scores in the last pass that's really fascinating I I definitely want to talk more about women
00:05:17but let's clear the air a little bit more on the terminology so %HESITATION wide we hear about antisocial personality disorder and why do we hear other words like so she Opeth the thrown around how do they relate to psychopathy question let me start with sociopathy sociopathy is a
00:05:35word that was coined in the nineteen twenties I believe but around that time when people said all of these are not bad individuals biologically it's all because of their social circumstances that leads them to this life of crime that leads them to have these undesirable traits and so
00:05:52they made up the word soci opposite the in order to emphasize the social our agents and so it's got a certain theory built into it and most people these days think that psychopathy has biological basis that we can talk about later but in any case almost no serious
00:06:08researchers these days use the word soci op the %HESITATION they use psychopathy instead because it's supposed to be neutral about whether it's social or biologically %HESITATION in biological in origin that makes sense so then and we've got the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder in the diagnostic and statistical
00:06:28manual and it seems to overlap in some ways my limited understanding is that it only focuses on behaviors not as much on personality traits and that it also encompasses a larger group of people is that your understanding exactly exactly right so %HESITATION it focuses more on behaviors partly
00:06:47because the people who are working at with the DSM %HESITATION manual %HESITATION Dave what the diagnostic diagnosis to be absolutely clear and objective and if you go well this is person callous or not you run into a lot of cross racial cross ethnic %HESITATION difficulties in judging things
00:07:06like that and so the diagnosis %HESITATION if not done properly %HESITATION is going to be a bit more subjective and so DSM wanted to avoid that it also reaches %HESITATION that is any social personality disorder is a diagnosis for more people %HESITATION you only have to get three
00:07:25out of the seven characteristics %HESITATION in DSM in order to be anti social personality disorder that means if you've got seven of them know ABCD EFG then one person might have a BC and the other person has EFG and so they both get this diagnosis but they share
00:07:44nothing in common on there's an advantage to that for GSM because the point of that manual this to help treat people %HESITATION and you want to treat people who have problems and if they've got three of those seven they do have a problem but psychopathy is much more
00:08:03unified to get above thirty on the PC LR you're gonna have to share some traits with the other people and that means there's more overlap in the people to get that diagnosis and that means that there's more hope scientifically to get a more a better understanding both biologically
00:08:21and also sociologically of what leads to or feeds the central right we've just laid out on the case that psychopathy and related concepts like anti social personality disorder actually have a lot of serious research behind them and clinical interest and and even still there's a lot of cultural
00:08:41fascination with the idea of psychopaths and people being anti social and as a result I think some misconceptions have been developed on what is your reaction when you see people in the news being called psychopaths and how often is that label use correctly well I don't know how
00:08:57often issues correctly because I don't think they know what they're talking about %HESITATION in order to do an appropriate diagnosis you need a two to three hour interview and another three sometimes five hours of checking the official records because these people are liars they're manipulative and so you
00:09:15can't just go with what they say it takes a you should not throw around the label psychopath too loosely because it can do a lot of damage and sometimes you know if they're people you don't care that much about damaging because they've heard a lot of people and
00:09:31they deserve us some retribution but %HESITATION it's still an appropriate because it's going to make them look as if they're something that they're not but I'll give you an example Bernie made off me Bernie made off hurt an awful lot of people very severely I have no sympathy
00:09:48for this guy after what he did but easy a cycle path know he loves his family he stuck with his job for a long period of time I understand that when he was offered minimum security prison if you read it out is buddies and co conspirators that he
00:10:06refused and that's why it's now in a medium security instead of a minimum this guy does not look like a psychopath the psychopaths tend to be loners they don't make friends they jump from job to job and city to city because they have no ties to any local
00:10:21community that's not Bernie made off so I don't think he's a psychopath %HESITATION at all as soon and it's going to lead to a lot of misconceptions about how to treat cycle pass if we just start taking every bad persons and all their cycle path to right this
00:10:37very interesting and it's it's funny I think it's a helpful %HESITATION corrective process to hear you say that because even in the just %HESITATION production room of our studio here I was talking with my co host and I said I'm talking with a psychopath expert and I said
00:10:51well we've got a few people he should talk to we've got a few %HESITATION of our fellow co hosts who might be might be as like a bat and it's %HESITATION I think people joke about it but they I think they assume that if they see some callousness
00:11:03or some manipulative nis or some negative trait that that's already starting to very close to being enough right and it's not our mission treatment I think treatments the area where it makes the most difference if you have someone who is callous because they're distant from you because of
00:11:22the upbringing that they had %HESITATION or they're manipulative because that's what they learned is the only way to get ahead in life %HESITATION then they can be called a psychopath but the treatment for that is very different if you take people with antisocial personality disorder who have some
00:11:40of those traits as a result of their upbringing and you give them hot talk therapy say a group therapy session where people talk out their problems that can actually help them but instead many studies at least three well known studies %HESITATION it's actually been counter productive for cycle
00:11:59paths talk therapy very often in these studies increased the recidivism rate rather than decreased %HESITATION and so the treatment varies and depends on the proprioceptive osis and that's why it's so important to get the diagnosis right right it's so interesting that a therapy dog works for so many
00:12:19other mental disorders and and mental issues as actually counterproductive for psychopathy what's your sense of why that has happened so why it's been counterproductive yeah yeah because cycle paths are born at least out of it but true psychopath whose condition is due to a biological cause you're born
00:12:42into this well because your genetic structure is not allowing their brain to produce the kinds of activity the kinds of neurotransmitters of that make them empathetic with other people so they don't really understand other people they can't figure out how what makes other people tech and yet they
00:12:59want to manipulate them so what happens in talk therapy they learn how to manipulate people because people talk about their real feelings that's just an anecdote but I'll tell you an anecdote Bob here tells us in one of his books here being the person who developed the psychopathy
00:13:15checklist revised he talks about a a therapy session where they got together criminals during the last six months before they were going to be released on parole and they had talk therapy and the %HESITATION who were not psychopaths showed lower recidivism but one of the cycle pass was
00:13:36back in prison one month after he was released and %HESITATION kit keel actually my co editor on the on the ecology and the person that taught me everything I know about psycho pass on saw this person after he came back into the prison they see what you learn
00:13:52anything from that therapy session this all yeah I learned a lot you know what what did you learn all you know is amazing I learned that people actually care about their siblings I didn't realize that people would care if their sister had cancer but this guy was crying
00:14:09when he found out his sister had cancer and they can be an idea you can manipulate people by threatening their siblings you don't even have to threaten them miles so basically the therapy session had given him an idea about how better to commit the crimes that he was
00:14:24going to commit so the therapy just doesn't work for these people that's pretty chilling that kind of therapy doesn't work other therapies do work what could work along those lines for I think field when you talk about treatment and getting people to behave Marley you have to think
00:14:42back to education of your own children how do you get your own kids to act Marley here's one way you say don't do that right and then you have a certain authority of you know my Daddy my mommy said don't do it so I shouldn't do it and
00:14:59normal kids will respect that authority was like a Passover grandiose self image they think they're better than their parents so they don't respect any authorities that's one reason gangs don't want cycle paths in the gangs because they don't respect the leader of the gang so they don't really
00:15:16fit into that social network or into the family secret you cannot treat you cannot train them to be moral by using the authority source that's a how are you going to do okay if you do that again I'm going to punish you can say that to your kids
00:15:33but they don't feel fear that's been known since the fifties with Lincoln's studies they just don't feel fear and so there's a famous there's a famous picture of Ted Bundy right after he was sentenced to capital punishment and the photographer started taking pictures of him and he just
00:15:51looks at the cameras in waves with a smile on his face done face him in the least that he was just sentenced to capital punishment right so Ted Bundy someone in the news who actually probably was the site yes I think Ted Bundy is a good if you
00:16:03want a model of somebody's a psychopath to it but he's a good place to start so you cannot train them to be Marle to behave by threatening them with punishment you can't appeal to authority what else you can you do well you can bring their victim all see
00:16:20what you did to your little brother or your little sister locales said they are you don't want them to be sad and the psychopath sister why not like I don't care if they don't feel any empathy yeah so if you show me how much damage the cost of
00:16:35their victim that's not going to work either so most people that's how you train them to be Morrow you you give them authority specify RT you threaten punishment or you try to make him feel empathy none of that works with psycho pass because of the different traits that
00:16:52make up the PC LR so what does work rewards they do react to what warts they'd like to have fun there's certain things they like to do and so one very successful treatment program run by Michael called well let the men go to juvenile correctional facility up in
00:17:13Madison right outside of Madison Wisconsin Mendota is right on the other side of the lake from Madison Wisconsin %HESITATION his program %HESITATION uses rewards primarily you have to use some punishments especially when they first come she takes the worst of the worst juveniles in Wisconsin and treats them
00:17:33for a year it's a very extended program not much good gets done in the first six months reportedly but the second six months they start to get the idea and the program consists of you know they show up at the present and the first thing they say is
00:17:47okay would you like to do the psychopaths they all like to play ping pong I like to watch television I like to go for walks it like to play cards whatever it is they like to do they say well if you get enough points you can do that
00:18:02and here's how you get points and they lay out the rules very clearly and the guards follow those rules to a tee and there's any question about whether the guards following the rules the prisoner can say I'm what that checked out and the other cards will see exactly
00:18:18what happened and say whether they agree with the ruling of the card or not and so it's totally fair you can never say that a guard has something personal against you or anything like that and they know the rules are consistent are gonna be enforced and if they
00:18:33follow will they will get points and they will get rewards so the points are given for things like if one of the other prisoners insults you well normally they would start a fight but what happens is the person that insulted you might not get punished but if you
00:18:51don't lash out at them you just walk away peacefully then you get points right and they all know that and of course this and the insulting person won't insult you because then you're going to get points had you don't start a fight because you want the points and
00:19:06after a year of this it's amazing they've actually learned to behave so they did a recidivism study looked at people after they came out of the program %HESITATION they matched a hundred and one untreated with a hundred and one treated individuals and %HESITATION have been treated in this
00:19:24particular program and they were matched for socioeconomic all the factors that they thought would predict recidivism and the treatment program led to a fifty percent reduction in violent recidivism over two years and forty five percent over I think it was four years us so they actually learned over
00:19:45a fairly long time this not like they quit doing this as soon as they leave and the amazing thing was and that the group that was not treated remember these are the worst of the worst juveniles in Madison it I mean in Wisconsin throughout the state %HESITATION hundred
00:20:04one within two years had committed sixteen murders these are bad kids the same group of kids you know different sample but out of the same types of kids yeah %HESITATION zero murders when treated so what does that mean for the state that means sixteen people were murdered that
00:20:23meets their families are still intact that means their their kids are not fatherless and motherless that means the state didn't have to pay for extra incarceration dollars state didn't have to pay all the police costs and so on it's amazing this treatment program will not only save lives
00:20:40and emotions it'll save a lot of money and if a state wants to know how to reduce our crime rate Michael Caldwell can tell that's quite an endorsement and in quite some %HESITATION convincing research it sounds like with with so much follow up and with the clear comparison
00:20:55group I wonder what's really going on in the mind of these mines of these young pre cycle paths after they leave the program because it seems to me on when they're in the program there's a clear set of rules that over time they adapt to get just as
00:21:09the intelligent thing to do in those circumstances once they're out in this more unrestricted world how they internalized some kind of habit or have they realized the benefits of acting good just from a purely selfish standpoint I wonder what's the lesson there keeping well Chris that's very hard
00:21:26to tell because once they're released you can't monitor them as carefully as you can in the prison so what's going on in their minds later on it's hard to tell if they don't come back to prison you're never gonna see him again so %HESITATION it's only speculation but
00:21:41I think the speculate my speculation which is just a speculation would be that they've learned habits rank you know if you do brain sites you find that the brain is a very complex organism with a lot of different parts that function in different ways and play different roles
00:21:56in our psychic economy and the damage in the cycle path is in the Paralympics system %HESITATION some people think it specifically the amygdala %HESITATION but it's it's down there in the same general area and that area is not the one that's involved in learning habits and conditioning and
00:22:17so if they're perfectly capable of learning habits following through on those types of behavior %HESITATION patterns and once it's ingrained into them over a long enough period of time then that'll stick with them just like a cycle path might have a habit of putting their right sock on
00:22:36before they're left sock without even thinking about it they might have a habit of uniform habit of not hitting somebody but walking away because they got reinforce enough times early on and that habit got ingrained in their bright that's really fascinating just for our listeners were speaking with
00:22:54doctor Walter Senate Armstrong he's a professor at Duke and a philosopher whose is specializes in psychopaths among many other things we were getting some calls just a moment ago so I just don do want to say that although we're not taking Collins on this hour have some little
00:23:08time to cover so much ground we are inviting everyone to comment on Facebook on Twitter you could find all those resources for online conversation at psych talk radio dot com that's psych like in psychology PS YC H. talk radio dot com so let's zero back in on psychopaths
00:23:26and you were just talking about the brain of psychopaths and you know how their habit formation is not damaged so let's get into the biological side the the causes and the sort of impairments that go along with being a psychopath okay so you start with genetics right because
00:23:43of the brain is formed at least in part by the genetic influences of course environment affects the brain too but let's start with genetics %HESITATION Essie fitting at the university of London looked at off thirty five hundred pairs of twins some for terminals %HESITATION %HESITATION and %HESITATION and
00:24:02some not and so %HESITATION what she found was that psychopathy was approximately seventy percent heritable in males and about fifty something percent heritable in females %HESITATION that is the score on the PC LR that much of the score was due to a genetic influences writer comparing the identical
00:24:26and fraternal twins so when you see when you say some seventy percent heritable it's sort of like saying there psychopathy is seventy percent genetic is sort of a rough guide of what that means there's sort of a lay sense what does it mean so I I think the
00:24:40best way to explain it because those numbers don't mean much as %HESITATION there's a higher genetic component for males and psychopathy that for schizophrenia yeah so you can hear other %HESITATION illnesses seventy percent is very high offer heritability %HESITATION now that don't exist that first of all that
00:24:59there's still room for environmental influences so for example if someone one of the features that I didn't mention on the PC LR is the second best in to be prone to boredom and they seek stimulation okay that's invested three the one I was calling parasitic lifestyle %HESITATION it's
00:25:20hard to say whether it's connected but just focus on protest aboard in the need for stimulation well for some people if they're born say into a rich family what's that got to me Mexican mean they like to ski down triple black diamond ski slopes and go parachute jumping
00:25:34and so on but most people don't have enough money to afford those activities on a regular basis and so how do you get your excitement how do you get your stimulation well you rob stores just for fun even when you don't need the money that's exciting and and
00:25:51so sometimes the crime calms Morris to seek first as a result of the desire for stimulation of been a desire for the product of the crime %HESITATION you also have fifty percent comorbidity with drug abuse psychopaths tend to use drugs they almost never get addicted to those drugs
00:26:11but they use a lot out just for stimulation and so on and so there's interest in relation to drug use among psychopaths that's fascinating it almost sounds like cycle paths are less likely to get addicted given their amount of intake compared to the general population or is that
00:26:29taking it too far they're less likely to get addicted given the jet a general out intake that's the current theory well you know the one thing I shoulda said right at the start and I'll say now is we don't know enough about psychopaths we need a lot more
00:26:44research on this %HESITATION the %HESITATION cost of psychopaths to our society you know they commit over thirty percent of the violent crime in our country %HESITATION estimates of two hundred fifty billion dollars or more not even counting emotional damage per year in the United States alone not to
00:27:03mention worldwide and yet there's very little research there a lot of really devoted wonderful researchers who were using the dollars that they can get %HESITATION to to try to figure out this syndrome and do something of blood and it needs a lot more support from the scientific community
00:27:21for research right I mean it sounds like it's a really %HESITATION burdensome problem economically in legally I wonder if one reason why it's not getting maybe the full proportional attention it should why psychopathy knows not being addressed fully is on a sense of fatalism about the possibilities for
00:27:40treatment %HESITATION I think there's some hope from the from the study you mentioned Michael Caldwell Michael Carlos trying to find his name yeah so Michael called wheels program is a glimmer of hope I'm a well what other avenues for treatment could we see %HESITATION especially some that might
00:27:55involve %HESITATION sort of pharmacological medicines are looking at hormones or or something working at a biological level so that comes back to the brain again right so genetics is the first thing you look at %HESITATION we know it's seventy percent heritable actually at Duke %HESITATION lists really and
00:28:12and paint scheme or die are doing a genetic study to try to five genetic markers for psychopathy but at this to what we don't know the particular chain the next step is the bio chemistry with the bio phone or the neuro psycho pharmacology of it are there any
00:28:28drugs that help well James Blair at the NIH %HESITATION has been working on psychopaths for a long time and his particular theory is that %HESITATION this condition results from malfunction in the amygdala Swiss looked at the neurotransmitters there associated with them a metal including noradrenaline for example %HESITATION
00:28:49and %HESITATION he %HESITATION has tried a treatments this is on %HESITATION free cycle pass because you can't really be called a psychopath you're eighteen so this is younger conduct disorder with callous and unemotional traits it's then called at the younger age he's tried treatments but none of them
00:29:08have worked out so I think almost everybody thinks that the mechanism is there's a genetic problem which leads to a lack of some neuro transmitter or may be a D. formation in some of the cells or lesser activity in some of the cells within the Paralympics system and
00:29:29then that is what produces the lack of emotions that are appropriate tomorrow behavior and that's what produces the behavior %HESITATION so there's a chain from the jeans to the neurotransmitters to the neural activity to the behavior right and it wouldn't be nice at some point in the future
00:29:45if we could even diagnose psychopathy based on genetic markers and brain structure and function but of course I don't think we're at that point yet might be a few more decades you think are absolutely and let me say something about diagnosis too because what you just said you
00:29:59know sounds great when you're really optimistic about the treatment program and you know we're gonna stop these guys and cure the crime rate and all that but of course you have to be extremely careful that you don't give this diagnosis to the wrong people because you start doing
00:30:13genetic diagnosis and you take a five year old Kitty ice gonna grow up to be a psychopath however is parents gonna react however the teacher's gonna react which is life going to be like after such a stigmatizing diagnosis she have to be extremely careful not to over diagnose
00:30:30and have false positives especially at early ages on it's very different when you start talking about somebody who's twenty years old shows up in prison and they've gotten a tool in criminal versatility because they've already committed six crimes now all know there can be a lot fewer false
00:30:47positives because you've got somebody who's who's shown that they have a very active life of crime but when the fears about genetics is the there's the problem of false diagnoses especially at an early age and how that could be a self fulfilling prophecy and we all want to
00:31:03avoid that right now that's a good point and it seems like if there were really %HESITATION in the optimistic scenario some really great treatment interventions on that you could try and teenagers with conduct problems it would be difficult for them to grow up and develop all the symptoms
00:31:20of psychopathy would see Martin to express all behaviors associated with it so it's almost like they could be diverted away from the diagnosis before they needed it exactly so you start if you start seeing some warning signs that you can turn to the parents and say not your
00:31:33kids a cycle path but instead you know giving your kids personality I think this type of a program would be helpful one she tried rewards instead of punishment or authority or %HESITATION empathy %HESITATION **** try rewards I think that given his personality type that would really help and
00:31:55now it's all in positive terms and you might have saved a kid from turning to a life of crime %HESITATION by intervening without stigmatizing yeah you know what we're talking about treatment in the success of Michael Caldwell's program also want to address this some widely read New York
00:32:11times magazine article about a separate camp in Florida I'm not even sure how active it is now but the article was from two years ago and for whatever reason the the tone of it and and the take away from a lot of readers was it is not a
00:32:24good idea to bring a bunch of young pre cycle paths together and that one you know one option for this camp is that they're labeled in a stigmatizing way and also that they learn from each other or stunned somehow be surrounded by other children with the same tendencies
00:32:39and personality traits actually amplifies those well how would you address that concern so %HESITATION you sent me that in your notes before but in actually read the article and so I don't know which article your front yard to set me up young semi something over email I'd love
00:32:54to I'd love to read it it might be that the problem is simply due to the stigmatization these kids are being told you're sent to this camp because you're bad you tell people they're bad they end up being bad and so it could simply be that affect it
00:33:11has nothing to do with psychopathy at all in the kids aren't really psychopaths %HESITATION well they're not psychopaths of thirty below eighteen so you know right from the start there not psychopaths are people do worry about getting cycle past together so that they plot and there's this idea
00:33:28on my gosh of Hannibal Lecter but we'll win of Hannibal Lecter got together with Ted Bundy who got together with Jeffrey Dahmer then we have this gang of psychopaths it'll be horrible in the answer to that is it ain't gonna happen and the reason is they all want
00:33:43to be the leader and they'll all try to manipulate each other but they know about manipulation and none of them are going to stay in the same town more than a few months or at least a year or two and so the odds of psychopaths getting together you
00:33:57know and forming a gang is I think pretty low %HESITATION given their personality traits the owner be parasitic on the others that means you know Jeffrey Dahmer Ted Bundy and and %HESITATION Hannibal Lecter are sitting there who's going to pay the rent on the apartment this month you
00:34:13kill each other unpacking to stick together and nobody's going to pay the rent and then they're going to have to disburse on it's just if you think through the personality traits these are not the kind of people that you have to worry so much about getting together they
00:34:27might learn from each other there might be some of that %HESITATION bought %HESITATION yeah I've seen no evidence that that's going to be a real problem well I love that you mentioned dumb doctor Hannibal lector the fictional cannibal serial killer on %HESITATION on film because I wanted to
00:34:43tie up the discussion of perceptions with a little bit of pop culture discussion just because I think on one of our favorite types of TV cycle paths is either this sort of genre villain like mad scientist or sadistic evil villain or on their %HESITATION some kind of criminal
00:35:00mastermind with great planning abilities and done so doctor Hannibal Lecter thing is an example of that charming great criminal planner and then more recently we have that dexter Morgan from the show dexter who %HESITATION uses his psychopathy for good and for planning these very intricate retaliation crimes against
00:35:17other psychopathic criminals I'm so you are you told me that you just watched one episode may be part of one episode of dexter what are your thoughts about how in sync it is with reality who are I mean I just think textures way out of sync with reality
00:35:31%HESITATION there might be people like that but that's not what cycle paths are like %HESITATION and so it's a misrepresentation of the syndrome %HESITATION psychopaths are not going to be stable %HESITATION and keep doing the same thing episode after episode %HESITATION via it's gonna be moving around and
00:35:48he's Dhaka as I understand it dexter's actually somewhat attached to his father and does what his father says with psychopaths are going to do that because they don't respect authorities and they don't feel empathy your love for people %HESITATION so it seems to me unrealistic if the attempt
00:36:05is to portray a psychopath now you know it might be an attempt to portray something else %HESITATION in which case it might be right but it's not site copyright %HESITATION with regard to Hannibal Lecter I think you have a better model I guess the other person that's often
00:36:20mention is the joker in the dark knight series yeah but the joker it's you know you don't know enough about their back about that individual's background and there was apparently a lot of terrible abuse it might not be the same kind of genetic problem at all just don't
00:36:34know enough about it because he appears only rarely %HESITATION Hannibal Lecter %HESITATION is actually pattern on a number of different cycle paths and %HESITATION the person that he talks about I'm forgetting the name of the character that skins the victims in the first one Buffalo Bills Buffalo Bill
00:36:53yes and the way Buffalo Bill %HESITATION got the people to get in the back of his car by pretending to be %HESITATION have a broken arm well of that's apparently a trick that Ted Bundy Houston so and so some of the some of the bits of that film
00:37:10are actually based on real research and might be more like it but one thing to keep in mind is that most cycle path as are actually kind of boring you know if you get a psychopath who's also a sexual **** then you got a movie fly but most
00:37:30psychopaths or just kind of %HESITATION yeah I'm gonna rob something from the local convenience store because I need some money it's not that exciting and there are you know they don't %HESITATION plot things out after long over long periods of time they kind of act on the spur
00:37:46of the moment on and so you're not gonna have a really great movie about a typical psychopath however when you do get someone who is a psychopath and also a sexual **** vin really watch out then you've got a real problem that's extremely rare but when it happens
00:38:05it's bad news right and they and there's definitely a tendency on TV and in film to to the extent that there's any realism involved to pick out extreme cases that do have the sword extra shock factor so that sexual status would be the one who would be more
00:38:20likely to be a character in a shell exactly %HESITATION now with dexter I think part of what's going on dramatically in on his respect and some love for his father and his as some romance involved too is that the audience does want to see some redemption or see
00:38:35something relatable in the character right and I think it also speaks to an issue and real world cycle paths and when we're talking about treatment what a reformed cycle path or diverted potential psychopath would look like will be their mental landscape and what what are you know the
00:38:51best hopes for someone who did start off biologically with an impairment do you think it would be possible to start with the child who was on the course to be getting more than a thirty on the PC LR and have them in their twenties feel love for their
00:39:06family or is that too optimistic you know it's just really hard to tell because how do you know which are the kids at the age of five who run the course to be a psychopath if we don't have the genetics and the behavior at that point is so
00:39:21malleable I mean all five year olds to some pretty strange things are there was a great onion article yeah %HESITATION which said you know study finds that ninety six percent of small kids are cycle path and the reason is they're all kind of self centered and %HESITATION have
00:39:39a grandiose self image and they're all manipulative they cry in order to get dessert you know and they're all kind of lacking in empathy for some of the things around them and their parasitic their leeching off their parents all the time they don't go out and get a
00:39:53job and so a lot of these traits are you know kind of things that at some ages you know come out now you're never going to get above thirty if you're five years old so the obviously it's the onion it's a joke %HESITATION but there's some truth behind
00:40:09it that at five years old is going to be impossible to tell which ones are on the train to psychopathy and which ones are not and that's part of the problem because that might be when you should start treating them if you could somehow tell of but at
00:40:23this point we don't have any way to tell yeah fair enough will out I so please parents out there don't think all my kid misbehaves you must be a cycle path like Seattle not jump to that conclusion right that's not to take away from well I I think
00:40:38I'm you as someone who studied cycle paths a lot and had the opportunity to watch interviews and see lots of different types of research reports on people might assume you must be a pretty quick draw on detecting in diagnosing psychopaths do you feel like you have this heightened
00:40:56awareness of the sort of Spidey sense for the cycle paths around you in daily life no idea if if anything all of this research that I've done has convinced me that you should not jump to conclusions like that one reason is that cycle path as our of manipulative
00:41:12and they're very good at acting a certain way so so here's some evidence for that cycle path as get paroled earlier and more often then non cycle pass out of the prison they're able to fool the guards in the parole boards and get released more than normal people
00:41:34interesting and so if that's true these are experienced people book parole boards and they see people coming through in coming back in and they can't figure it out even when they have time to sit there and interview the person for hours so why would I think that I'm
00:41:50able to pick it up in a moment with their eyes there must be an interesting effect of the psychopathy checklist on the parole system right now and on the way that %HESITATION criminals are being viewed I would think at this point that %HESITATION being diagnosed as a psychopath
00:42:06in prison would be a warning factor that would be addressed somehow how much I'm not that familiar with how prisons are reacting to research on psychopathy what what is your sense of how the legal system is incorporating that knowledge so there's a big difference between countries the research
00:42:22that we do is in a prison but we have a special certificate we will not reveal the diagnosis of any prisoner to the prison %HESITATION its research only it's not meant to be part of the %HESITATION part of the criminal justice system %HESITATION it even I mean we
00:42:39have the special sort of even of a judge tells us we got about you don't have to review are you on publicly funded and you have an I RB out checking off on all yup look we've got ten are you wouldn't believe the paperwork he got a co
00:42:51threat for listeners that's institutional review board making sure that it's ethical to do the research yeah and and they all volunteer %HESITATION ninety five percent of the prisoners volunteer for this research they love it because it gets them out of their jail cell %HESITATION and so %HESITATION where
00:43:08was I sort of you have the certificate so that on the cycle paths you find their information stays private yes but there's a general question if the legal system is trying to diagnose psychopaths and use that information sorry I got distracted I distracted myself the %HESITATION the prison
00:43:25system in the US I think has not been using this information properly or widely enough %HESITATION in Canada is a different story Bob here is Canadian and has had a big influence on the prison system there my understanding is that every violent criminal maybe every criminal %HESITATION gets
00:43:43the PCL are when they show up in prison and that does a number of things number one it tells the guards what they're dealing with the guards a presence there not all good guys but a lot of market guys and they're putting their lives on the line to
00:43:57protect us from some of the worst elements of society and they should know what they're dealing with one hundred prisoners come in they want to know which ones they need to really watch out for %HESITATION and so the PCR is used at the entrance to prison it's also
00:44:14I believe %HESITATION used in parole %HESITATION in Canada of all not actually sure of that I'm not sure I should have said that because I'm not sure but in the US is used very rarely %HESITATION it is certainly the our findings in the research that we do are
00:44:29not shared with parole boards up because then you wouldn't be able to do the research in a responsible way that the people would have a motive you know the prisoners would have a motive to look one way rather than the other right now it's not gonna work it
00:44:41unless you can guarantee them no one will ever hear this well the reason I asked as I heard this some show on this American life which is a popular radio show about psychopaths sort of a prompted by a book by John Bronson a journalist who wrote a book
00:44:55called the psychopath test I don't think it's nearly as as rigorous as as your the book you added it but on the got it stirred up a lot of interest and I mean a couple interesting things happened on the show first of all a lot of the people
00:45:07on the show the editors and the host IRA glass were worried they might be psychopaths and they took the test and they got almost to zero and they were so surprised so that gets back to a point about psychopathy being serious and uncommon but another thing in the
00:45:21in the show was a story about I think a prisoner in California who actually was being denied parole because at some point he had been administered the PC LR and gotten high score and so I don't think this is common but they found someone who actually was having
00:45:34trouble and and he sounded very nice on on the radio so you almost felt sympathetic for this man whose stock had done nothing wrong for such a long time and couldn't get out because of that right and of course if I were a psychopath in prison trying to
00:45:47get out I would say exactly the same thing I would try to convince you that I'm a nice guy and the score is the only thing that's keeping me and present and then I'm going to get your sympathy and so I don't know whether to believe this person
00:46:00or not it might be a real case it might not that's when the problems with using the PC LR in that way is it has to be done except you know has to be judged on just right because it's got a big impact on these people's lives so
00:46:14you need hours and hours of interview you need hours and hours of background %HESITATION it's very easy to get fooled when the new researcher show up at the lab in New Mexico can't sometimes takes him over to the prison and has some see this one particular prisoner and
00:46:30they always leave out what a nice guy and then they look at the criminal record and they all got sick was so fooled and that's the first lesson you gotta learn is that these people can fool you yeah mop let's talk about violence because we've been talking about
00:46:46prisons and clearly violence is what leads psychopaths the prisons usually and so is it just a lot more common among cycle paths to be violent and done and what what about psychopaths lead so quickly to violence so I mentioned before that female psychopaths tend not to be as
00:47:04violent right because of any self respecting psychopath who wants to achieve their goals as you can use the methods that they're good at that have been successful in the past and the learn what works and what doesn't so you know a small creek cycle path is not going
00:47:18to be as violent as a big honking cycle path to and so of people are going to use five you know psychopaths are in use violence when it works for them and when that's the kind of habits that they have learned %HESITATION so someone who's a psychopath who
00:47:34grew up in a wealthy family might be more likely to engage in fraud and right or skiing as you said your screen now or race car driving or whatever we're as someone who grew up in a violent area might have picked up those habits and so there are
00:47:52gonna be environmental influences that interact with the genetic and and neurobiological %HESITATION influences %HESITATION to produce the particular individual so from a theoretical perspective do you think the different expression of psychopathy and women has to just do with different skills that are being used differently or is there
00:48:13is there anything else that's different about women cycle paths other than the the way in which they manipulate at all whether what I wish we knew we know almost nothing about women psychopaths because almost all of this studies have been done in prisons and almost all of them
00:48:30have said well we want to pick a prison where we're going to get a high percentage of psycho path so that we can compare the different groups %HESITATION and that means they don't go to women's prisons are kept keel has a study of women a one in New
00:48:44Mexico one and %HESITATION Wisconsin going now %HESITATION but those results art %HESITATION our John I final they are they are they are finally have any been corroborated yet by the other they short be replicated and so on so we can't really say don't know there's one report from
00:49:04Brazil again but it was a very small study it what the subjects were to you don't want all the details the point is we just don't know yeah I don't know enough about women psychopaths also related to prisons is the idea of moral and legal responsibility and I've
00:49:18heard you talk a bit about this so I think on two factors you pointed out it's important are the ability for psychopath to be in control of his or her behavior and to understand it in some kind of moral context of understanding right and wrong even in a
00:49:30limited sense what we know about psychopaths that suggests whether they tend to be legally responsible for the bad things they do but you know it's a very tricky subject because they do horrible things and there's a sense in which there obviously responsible they knew what they were doing
00:49:48they chose to do it %HESITATION and they don't feel any remorse about it so there's one since Mister obviously responsible through just to show that they have a bad character of course it does kind of bad character there's no question about that but are they accountable is it
00:50:07fear fault that they have a bad character then it becomes a trickier question so to try to come at that you know people have strong emotions about this because you're saying you know this person who is a triple murder rate best you know you're saying they're not responsible
00:50:22what are you talking about they get all up in arms so should think about instead just to come at it a little bit from the side let's think about say a three four year old kid who wants desert and starts crying and yells at you I hate you
00:50:39Daddy you know when you say that they can't have dessert I was a kid doing the kid is knows that this is going to cause you pain they're doing it in order to cause you pain and why are they want to cause you pain to get something for
00:50:53themselves namely desert and what you're trying to stop them but nobody thinks that three year old kid is morally responsible for being a bad kid is just they haven't learned you know the appropriate way to behave yet let's take a psychopath or somebody who just never learned it
00:51:13ever then there should be no more responsible than the three year old kid does that mean we ought to let him out of prison on the streets absolutely not no no you don't want him on the streets of is that maybe we ought to put them in a
00:51:29forensic psychiatric unit with schizophrenics and and other people with mental illnesses with other mental illnesses no you don't want that either because the psychopaths are good manipulate the schizophrenics and take advantage of them I think what we actually need is a separate facility for the special class of
00:51:46individual and if you separate them now they're not going to be for me gangs and cooperating with each other to get out get out of the prison and stuff %HESITATION and the guards will know what's going on and there could be lots of advantages to treating them as
00:52:03a special class right we've got this sense that psychopaths are especially dangerous they should even be around people with other mental disorders I wonder if you have a sense that this cycle paths can be beneficial to society in some cases and if so why that happens people talked
00:52:23about way of their stories about having cycle paths become fighter pilots and they'll chase people doggedly and not worry about crashing because they're not still have fear in the same way that normal people do %HESITATION but there's just so hard to control they don't take orders they don't
00:52:43stick to a single thing bill desert and ride out when they feel like it %HESITATION it's hard for me to believe that a full blown cycle path is going to be useful now you might have people who are not really cycle past would have certain psychopathic traits who
00:53:02could be really good at certain crowds of people who don't feel empathy well they might be no good at you know a CEO who needs to fire people or a doctor who needs to operate people have to be able to control their empathy when they operate as a
00:53:18doctor of you still don't want some I used to be not empathetic ever because this doctor who's able to operate because they're not feel empathy is going to be bad me into the nurses and me to the patient after the operations over in the patient's recovery and so
00:53:33it's just it's not I I don't see it happening but there might be some special cases and some special individuals where psychopathic traits although not full blown psychopathy but psychopathic traits of might be useful and very special circumstances what doctor sent Armstrong we have time for one more
00:53:51question some to make this one a little person on a little bit about philosophy so you said that psychopathic traits can be useful in some places what about in philosophy I I feel like I'm some philosophers deal with disturbing scenarios and facts and it you know it's not
00:54:06as bad as may be working in a prison itself but it still requires a certain distance maybe in order to reason rationally about what you're thinking about so the an example I would have of a philosopher may be going too far being desensitized to suffering would be just
00:54:22talking about all the terrible crimes of psychopaths and rapes just very happily in glibly without any thought of the victims but on the other hand too much empathy could be distracting what's the right balance how to floss the first approach that so philosophers on approach it anyway because
00:54:37philosophers are individuals and there's very little in common all the different philosophers of extremely diverse field well that's why I said it might be personal stuff where you're selling yourself out here so also was suggests a lot of people think of philosophers as he's extremely rational beings and
00:54:51there are traditions in philosophy that say that but a lot of feminist philosophy has taught us that that's not necessarily an ideal you want to strive for feelings are sometimes better sources of information and behaviour %HESITATION that tried to be sure reason but nonetheless what you mentioned is
00:55:09a problem if I am constantly giving the you know rape what about rape this rape that you wanted example of something that everybody agrees is morally wrong let's talk about rape right and you can become desensitized to talking about rape so I think when you do that too
00:55:25often you need to be very careful not to get desensitized %HESITATION and you know some philosophers are better at that than others wow well that's that's really fastening point and I'm glad we got to fit that in but now we really are hitting three o'clock so thank you
00:55:40so much for coming on thanks for having me our guest has been doctor Senate Armstrong a he is a professor at Duke and as the philosopher who specializes in psychology this has been psych talk I'm Jose dress Lopez check us out on site talk radio dot com and
00:55:55stay tuned to WCML P. Chapel Hill and Carrboro thanks for listening

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