Forums

 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages 
"Psychopaths" New Research & Studies.
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Fortean Times Message Board Forum Index -> The Human Condition
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
ramonmercadoOffline
Psycho Punk
Joined: 19 Aug 2003
Total posts: 21558
Location: Dublin
Age: 0
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 05-07-2006 14:25    Post subject: "Psychopaths" New Research & Studies. Reply with quote

Quote:
"Psychopath" Psychologist Adds Scientific Insight To Loaded Label

Main Category: Psychology / Psychiatry News
Article Date: 05 Jul 2006 - 3:00am (PDT)This Article



For most people on the planet, the term "psychopath" evokes thoughts of violence and bloodshed - and evil of the darkest kind.

But during 25 years, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has built a body of work that may help temper such deeply ingrained perceptions.

Sure, people do commit horrific, unimaginable crimes. But does that automatically mean they are psychopathic? And what is "psychopathy" anyway? With unique research access to prison inmate populations in Wisconsin, Joseph Newman has devoted his career to answering such questions.

The proper understanding of psychopathy has implications for the treatment of inmates everywhere - particularly for those who are wrongfully labeled. Newman's work could also serve as the backbone of new behavioral interventions that target psychopathic behaviors.

"My main concern is that the label (of psychopath) is applied too liberally and without sufficient understanding of the key elements," says Newman, who is chair of the UW-Madison psychology department. "As a result, the term is often applied to ordinary criminals and sex offenders whose behavior may reflect primarily social factors or other emotional problems that are more amenable to treatment than psychopathy."

But trying to alter stereotypes about a reviled segment of society has been a long and uphill road. For one thing, prison studies are notoriously difficult to do, as researchers must contend with a laundry list of challenges such as issues of access and other constraints related to the protection of inmate rights. The field of psychopathy is also a contentious one, and Newman - who has put forward a provocative theory about the condition - has consistently faced opposition from his scientific peers.

The scientist has persevered, however, demonstrating in study after study the potential merit of his claims. And during the years, Newman's patient, steady approach has earned the respect of top researchers in the field.

"In looking back, I see (Newman) as one of the preeminent research scientists in the field - his work is ingenious, meticulous, methodologically sophisticated and driven by theory," says Robert Hare, a leading psychopathy expert at the University of British Columbia. "I really think he's the top man in the area."

So who are psychopaths? Broadly speaking, they are people who use manipulation, violence and intimidation to control others and satisfy selfish needs. They can be intelligent and highly charismatic, but display a chronic inability to feel guilt, remorse or anxiety about any of their actions.

Scientists estimate that 15-25 percent of men and 7-15 percent of women in U.S. prisons display psychopathic behaviors. The condition, however, is hardly restricted to the prison system. Newman estimates that up to 1 percent of the general population could be described as psychopathic. Surprisingly, many who fall into that bracket might lead perfectly conventional lives as doctors, scientists and company CEOs.

"Psychopathy appears to exist throughout the world and has probably existed throughout history," Newman says.

Behavioral specialists now use the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised - a diagnostic questionnaire created by Hare - to detect psychopathy. But although there is finally consensus on the best way to identify the condition, there is still a lot of disagreement on why it occurs in the first place.

The dominant scientific model asserts that psychopathic individuals are incapable of fear or other emotions, which in turn makes them indifferent to other people's feelings.

But Newman has a different idea entirely. He believes that psychopathy is essentially a type of learning disability or "informational processing deficit" that makes individuals oblivious to the implications of their actions when focused on tasks that promise instant reward. Being focused on a short-term goal, Newman suggests, makes psychopathic individuals incapable of detecting surrounding cues such as another person's discomfort or fear.

In a study he repeated in different prison populations, for instance, Newman examined how quickly psychopathic and non-psychopathic individuals respond to a series of mislabeled images, such as a drawing of a pig with the word "dog" superimposed on it. Researchers flashed each image and then timed how long it took for subjects to name what they saw.

Over and over again, Newman found that non-psychopathic subjects subconsciously stumbled on the misleading labels and took longer to name the images. But psychopathic subjects barely noticed the discrepancy and consistently answered more quickly.

Newman says the result is one instance of how psychopathic individuals have difficulty processing peripheral cues, even when those cues are entirely obvious to everyone else. Furthermore, the study task didn't involve any of the emotions that people commonly associate with psychopathy, such as anger or a lack of fear. So the fact that psychopathic subjects barely noticed the wrongful labels - even in the absence of emotional cues - supports the idea that a psychological deficit might be at play.

"People think (psychopaths) are just callous and without fear, but there is definitely something more going on," Newman says. "When emotions are their primary focus, we've seen that psychopathic individuals show a normal (emotional) response. But when focused on something else, they become insensitive to emotions entirely."

Such studies certainly haven't been easy to do. Prison staff, space and financial resources are usually in short supply, and because inmate movements are restricted, Newman and his students routinely work under challenging time limitations. Still, the unwavering cooperation from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) has far outweighed any problems. Indeed, the willingness of the DOC to grant him research access was one of the main reasons why Newman, a New Jersey native, decided to join the UW-Madison faculty in 1981.

"The cooperation that exists between the Wisconsin DOC and my university project is unprecedented and enviable," says Newman. "Over the years, the project has involved thousands of inmates, prison staff, university research assistants and correctional officials. We have never had a negative incident or breach of confidentiality and I believe everyone has benefited from this collaboration and found it to be enjoyable."

Dale Bespalec, the psychologist supervisor at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, believes that Newman's work is crucial at a time when correctional authorities nationwide are struggling to understand the most effective ways to work with psychopathic individuals.

"We need to know more about this population as it presents unique challenges to the prison system and our efforts at rehabilitation and treatment," he says. " Everything that we can learn (about psychopathy) can impact our attempts to change people's patterns of behavior. Newman's work is likely to impact the entire field and not just Wisconsin."

But in order for psychopathy research to give rise to new behavioral treatment approaches, Newman says scientists need to get together, discuss ideas and continually challenge the status quo. "There has been a tendency to recycle the same intuitively appealing ideas rather than pursue critical tests of new ideas," he says.

To help generate fresh discussion and debate, Newman and others recently founded the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy. The group, which has about 100 members, held its first international meeting in Canada last year.

"In addition to attracting talent to the field, it is important for investigators to cooperate," says Newman. "We need to listen to each other to benefit from feedback, we need to acknowledge the importance of diverse questions, and we need to cooperate in communicating the importance of this significant mental health problem."

###
Paroma Basu
basu1@wisc.edu

Contact: Joseph Newman
University of Wisconsin-Madison
http://www.wisc.edu/

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=46444


edit to amend subject title.


Last edited by ramonmercado on 06-08-2010 12:37; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile 
GSX1400Offline
Grey
Joined: 24 Jan 2006
Total posts: 25
Gender: Unknown
PostPosted: 13-07-2006 12:28    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting stuff.

If there really are such things as psychopaths then I wonder if there are anti psychopaths who have the opposite characteristics. I can imagine this condition being quite debilitating. For example over empathising with someone else's needs might make a person self sacrificing to the point of stupidity.

I think that a happy medium between the two extremes would be best for most people because obviously there are times when 'a man needs to do what a man needs to do', which might require more psychopathic characteristics in one instance (for instance bombing civilians in the name of national security) and anti psychopathic characteristics in others (for example staying with an injured comrade instead of naffing off to save yourself).
Back to top
View user's profile 
again6Offline
Great Old One
Joined: 07 Nov 2004
Total posts: 421
Gender: Unknown
PostPosted: 19-08-2006 19:19    Post subject: Reply with quote

Newman claims that individuals previously labeled 'psychopaths' in fact suffer a condition which prevents them from processing peripheral cues. The OP article adds that Newman did not include violence or other crimes against the person, or to that effect.

However, when the public thinks of psychopaths, it thinks of violent murderers, serial killers, rapists, etc. -- not those who don't notice when a dog is labelled a pig. So I'm unsure what Newman's purpose is? Does the label lessen the nature of the beast; the crime?

In movies, tv, books, newscasts, etc., violent, murderous individuals are often referred to as 'psychopaths' and we're advised that psychopaths are unable to empathise with their victims or their victims' suffering; unable even to realise that murder, rape, torture etc. are 'wrong'. Labelled as 'psychopaths', these violent and murderous individuals are often described as 'not responsible' for their crimes because of their alleged psychopathy; they are pronounced insane etc.

I recently watched an interview with a successful US crime novelist who had previously worked for ten years as a real-life crime reporter for a leading Los Angeles newspaper. He said that during those ten years, he amassed several thick files of unsolved-murders which have never been solved and 'probably never will be'. The writer described the situation as one of licence to kill and of which the public is largely unaware.

For example, here in Australia, I lived in a house which had previously been lived in by a man and woman who were murdered in broad daylight in approx. 1978: a double murder which has never been solved. Australians are still trying to provide police clues that will help in the capture of those who snatched a young boy, again in broad daylight, from a bus stop some years ago. And the disappearance of the Beaumont children several decades ago from a busy beach in the middle of the day has never been solved. Hundreds of people are missing, presumed dead and hundreds more bodies have been found, but not the killer. The killers are all around us, free as birds.

We unknowingly sit next to killers every day in buses and trains. We consider some of them good neighbours. Some of them are related to us or known to us. Many of them go on to lead happy lives and die in old age, surrounded by their unsuspecting, devoted families.

Not long ago I watched a cold-crimes documentary in which a 76 year old man was finally apprehended re: multiple murders he'd committed over forty years before. His wife, children, neighbours, friends, ex-co-workers etc. protested that the man was a paragon of virtue, loved by his community. In court, the man admitted his crimes, which were horrific. He detailed how, after committing the murders, he'd moved interstate, changed his name and appearance, married and had a family, succeeded in business. He'd had a very long, happy and comfortable life. He had a wide circle of friends, including several policemen. He'd retired early and lived quite luxuriously while his victims' families and loved ones had endured a living hell. The killer apologised in court to his own family and those of his victims. His only excuse for the brutal murders he'd committed was to claim: ' I am not the beast I was back then'. So psychopathy is apparently able to be turned on and off at will.

Newman the psychologist claims psychopaths suffer a handicap: one of 'not being able to process peripheral cues'.

If you murdered or raped someone -- would you be able to hide it (and the physical and other evidence) successfully short and long term, from those who know you best: your spouse, children, parents, siblings, close friends and colleagues? No ? But 'psychopaths' can and do. And they do it by demonstrating ACUTE ability to process peripheral cues.

Those who investigate murder and other violent crimes are trained and expert in suppressing verbal and non-verbal -- also facial -- cues as to their suspicions, emotions, intent. They are trained to keep their voices and faces bland, emotionless. They are trained in role-playing; acting a part. They are trained in body-language --- and in how to disguise their own at the same time they are reading that of the suspect. They'd probably fool you or I. That's their job.

But they do NOT fool the psychopathic killer. He is able to 'read' all those minute cues (which the investigators believe they are concealing) at the same time he controls his own responses and reactions. The killer's life and liberty are at stake. And as facts show, there are plenty of psychopathic killers walking around, enjoying their lives and their freedom while their victims lie in morgues and undiscovered in shallow graves. So a lot of these psychopathic killers are extremely skilled at processing peripheral, overt and repressed cues, despite Newman's theories.

Oh, the psychopathic killers and rapists may CHOOSE to ignore the screams, pleading, terror and pain demonstrated by their VICTIMS -- because these may get in the way of the killer's fun: may in fact be a large part of the killer's fun. But AFTER the fun is over and the victim is lying in a bloodied, inert heap, the killer miraculously demonstrates very advanced skills at 'processing peripheral cues'.

The killers are capable of noticing that skilled investigators are surreptitiously moving around their neighbourhood or place of work, for example. The killers are able to work out that plainclothes police are loitering outside pubs and bus-shelters. The killers are HIGHLY observant and skilled at noticing things you and I would be oblivious to. THAT is how the killers evade capture. And they're able to remain vigilant and alert to the slightest danger throughout many decades --- at the same time as they hide their crimes from all those around them.

These people whom Newman claims are 'unable to process peripheral cues' are able to successfully bluff their way through intensive questioning by experienced detectives and psychologists. And they do THAT by 'reading' those detectives and psychologists: by picking-up on minute nuances in speech and expression; by noting tiny body-movements, flickers of an eyelash, a slight twitch at the side of a detective or psychologist's mouth; the rhythm of a detective's pencil on the table; a slight inflection during a question.

As history shows, many psychopathic killers have been in custody for questioning, only to be let go --- after which they've gone on to kill several more victims until they again being taken in for routine questioning a decade or more later. THEY 'read' the police far MORE successfully than those trained investigators were able to read them ! Several more lives were lost, needlessly. Yet Newman is telling us that psychopaths are 'unable to process peripheral cues' ! The reverse is often true: psychopaths are astutely aware of cues, as they have demonstrated time and time again.
Back to top
View user's profile 
OldTimeRadioOffline
Great Old One
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Total posts: 5532
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio USA
Age: 73
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 20-08-2006 07:28    Post subject: Re: "Psychopath" Psychologist Adds Scientific Insi Reply with quote

Quote:
[P]sychopathic individuals have difficulty processing peripheral cues, even when those cues are entirely obvious to everyone else.


But that's also true of us "social klutzes" who aren't even remotely psychopathic.

And it's one of the three tell-tale symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome.
Back to top
View user's profile 
OldTimeRadioOffline
Great Old One
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Total posts: 5532
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio USA
Age: 73
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 20-08-2006 07:37    Post subject: Reply with quote

GSX1400 wrote:
If there really are such things as psychopaths then I wonder if there are anti psychopaths who have the opposite characteristics. I can imagine this condition being quite debilitating. For example over empathising with someone else's needs might make a person self sacrificing to the point of stupidity.


Yes, they're called "anxiety neurotics." OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is probably the best-known example.
Back to top
View user's profile 
OldTimeRadioOffline
Great Old One
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Total posts: 5532
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio USA
Age: 73
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 20-08-2006 08:11    Post subject: Re: "Psychopath" Psychologist Adds Scientific Insi Reply with quote

Quote:
[P]sychopaths....display a chronic inability to feel guilt, remorse or anxiety about any of their actions.


That is, again, the very antipodes of an anxiety neurosis. Anxiety neurotics get swept by feelings of guilt and remorse for laughing at Wile E. Coyote just before he blows himself to smithereens with the Acme Portable Nuclear Bird Eradicator
Back to top
View user's profile 
KondoruOffline
Unfeathered Biped
Joined: 05 Dec 2003
Total posts: 5371
Gender: Unknown
PostPosted: 20-08-2006 20:05    Post subject: Reply with quote

ok Again6, who is the real crimminal, the person who commits a crime because they are ill, or the person who promotes it?

I gather from your talk, that you are an american, a nation well known for having a murder rate, that by european standards is abnormal.

(and european murder rates are abnormal by japanese standards.)

so why?

Assuming that levels of mental illness are pretty much the same everywhere, why the difference in results?
Back to top
View user's profile 
tamyuOffline
Great Old One
Joined: 22 Dec 2004
Total posts: 275
Location: Japan
Gender: Unknown
PostPosted: 21-08-2006 11:32    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Psychopathy" actually runs in my family. My great grandfather, great uncles, uncle and mother all fit perfectly. We have consulted doctors, but do you really think that anyone will sit and be analysed?

My great grandfather died in a mental "hospital". My great uncles were serial killers. My uncle is incapable of understanding human emotion, and my mother is the coldest, most manipulative and selfish person I have ever encountered. From the inside, I can see this, but she spends half her efforts into presenting an image of perfection.

Autism ALSO runs in our family. It seems you get either one or the other with few exceptions. I don`t doubt that there is a connection.
Back to top
View user's profile Visit poster's website 
Anonymous
PostPosted: 27-08-2006 18:09    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is strange - I'm sure I studied a number of papers (offering scientific insight) into psychopathology; including such ideas of secondary psychopathy, and fitting the behaviour to an evolutionary model. I don't see what's new - not even the notion of the dangers of labelling. Must have a check.
Back to top
OldTimeRadioOffline
Great Old One
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Total posts: 5532
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio USA
Age: 73
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 27-08-2006 19:06    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is psychopathy an "illness"? Psychopaths are clearlty sane by legal standards; that's why we send 'em to prison rather than to the asylum. They are TERMINALLY SELFISH, but selfishness is rarely if ever described as an illness.

Perhaps the best layman's definition came from a friend:

"Look, I collect juke boxes in my basement. John Wayne Gacy collected DEAD PEOPLE in his. Now my hobby is socially acceptable, while John's was entirely forbidden. But BOTH are matters of free choice and neither one strikes me as 'crazy.'"

If the psychopathic murderer "can't help taking human lives," and therefore merits no censure, then the late Mother Theresa "couldn't help saving human lives," and deserves no praise.
Back to top
View user's profile 
rynner
Location: Still above sea level
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 27-08-2006 19:13    Post subject: Reply with quote

tamyu wrote:
My great uncles were serial killers.
Shocked
Have you seen this thread, Tamyu?
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2348
Back to top
View user's profile 
Anonymous
PostPosted: 27-08-2006 19:18    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well; it depends. There are arguments for brain damage and or genetic reasons. There is an argument based on the notion that psychopaths cannot access higher emotions, thus not have any feeling of guilt. The evolutionary reasons posit game theory strategies (e.g. the cheater). Indeed, psychopaths may have been honoured in societies that needed warriors (and would look after their sons if they died in battle). This would explain why this trait hasn't been bred out - psychopathy is clearly a successful strategy for survival; just not a nice one. By modern western standards (including law and order), I believe that psychopathy should be viewed as a mental disorder - I'm not sure prison proper is the best place for a psychopath.
Back to top
EnolaGaiaOffline
Joined: 19 Jul 2004
Total posts: 1541
Location: USA
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 27-08-2006 20:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've always had problems with the notion there's an coherent or fixed 'psychopath' character (nature; temperament; whatever...) that is universally manifest in most if not all persons whose behavior is construed as 'psychopathic'.

I readily acknowledge (and have observed) all the various symptoms attributed (in varying permutations) to 'psychopaths', such as:

- inability to acknowledge feelings / emotions / needs in others
- inability to acknowledge the same in oneself
- inability to account for effects of one's actions on others
- a 'tunnel vision' focus on one's own impulses / needs relative to others'
- apparent predisposition or affinity for cruelty, violence, etc.
- proclivity for dominating others (up to and including extinguishing them)

I don't dispute such symptoms, and I don't dispute their manifestation in many people who've done things for which they've been understandably vilified (... imprisoned, or even executed). I *do* dispute that there's some specifiable combination of these attributes that distinguishes all (or a meaningful proportion of...) said people as a labeled 'class' or 'set' sufficiently coherent and robust to serve as a diagnostic category.

For example - the 'peripheral cues' facet of Newman's research can be construed as suggestive of a persistent 'tunnel vision' attitude or operational state that could contribute to performing ghastly acts solely because they were 'optimal paths to a narrowly-defined end goal'. This has no necessary relationship to an attitude or stance in which other people are engaged or treated as if they were 2-dimensional cardboard figures whose inner workings or 'shared humanity' were denied ...

After all these years I still suspect the construct of 'psychopath' represents a futile attempt to delineate a single 'template' for all chronic perpetrators of certain odious acts - i.e., a discrete designation for a grab-bag of things ....
Back to top
View user's profile 
OldTimeRadioOffline
Great Old One
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Total posts: 5532
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio USA
Age: 73
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 27-08-2006 20:49    Post subject: Reply with quote

GadaffiDuck wrote:
Indeed, psychopaths may have been honoured in societies that needed warriors (and would look after their sons if they died in battle). This would explain why this trait hasn't been bred out - psychopathy is clearly a successful strategy for survival; just not a nice one.


But in general, berserkers weren't considered bloodthirsty in times of peace, in civilian life.

Look at the witty and urbane actor David Niven, who gained the reputation of beiing a genuine berserker during World War Two battles. I'd certainly have no slightest qualms about turning my back on him while he sliced meat in a kitchen.
Back to top
View user's profile 
OldTimeRadioOffline
Great Old One
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Total posts: 5532
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio USA
Age: 73
Gender: Male
PostPosted: 27-08-2006 20:55    Post subject: Unwillingness Reply with quote

Enola, how do you differentiate between "inability" and "unwillingness"?
Back to top
View user's profile 
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Fortean Times Message Board Forum Index -> The Human Condition All times are GMT
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
Page 1 of 5

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group