General, Research, Technology

What you need to know about the mind of psychopaths?

Psychopaths are capable of the most monstrouscrimes, but often they are so charming and so skillfully manipulate others that they can hide for years, and maybe even their whole life behind a dazzling mask of normality. Those who are exposed, often gain world fame, such as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and many others. Moreover, the results of several scientific studies show that 1 out of 100 people are psychopaths, inclined to merge with the crowd, like cold-blooded chameleons. Psychopathy is defined as a condition (sometimes called personality disorder), characterized by a lack of empathy and a tendency to manipulate. But is the brain of psychopaths different from the brain of everyone else?

Frame from the cult film Stanley Kubrick's "Shine"


  • 1 Who are psychopaths?
  • 2 The difference between psychopathy and sociopathy
  • 3 Causes of Psychopathy
  • 4 How common is psychopathy?

Who are psychopaths?

The term "psychopath" appeared in the mid-end1800s and comes from the Greek psykhe and pathos, which means "sick mind" or "suffering soul". In those years, this state was considered a kind of moral insanity. But things began to change in the mid-twentieth century, when a psychiatrist named Hervey Cleckley published the book The Mask of Normality, which described in detail the portraits of psychopaths in his care at a university hospital in Georgia, USA.

Cleckley called psychopaths "forgotten people inpsychiatry. " He understood that many of them were cruel criminals, but even repeat offenders, as a rule, served short prison sentences, or were released from psychiatric hospitals, as they showed “an ideal mask of genuine sanity, impeccable superficiality, indicating in all respects a strong mental health."

About whether it is true that the brain copies the thinking of others with the help of observations, read in our material.

Unfortunately, Cleckley's work is pretty muchhas been ignored by the medical community. Towards the end of the 1960s, the Bible of Psychiatry, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), replaced the definition of “psychopathic personality” with “antisocial personality disorder,” which still did not include such characteristic psychopathic traits as lack of empathy and heartlessness. This DSM classification is valid today, but while most psychopaths are diagnosed as antisocial; most people with antisocial personality disorder are not psychopaths.

Psychopathy, like many other conditions,is a collection of certain qualities. Common traits inherent in psychopaths can include things like superficial charm, grandiose self-esteem, pathological deceit, manipulation, lack of remorse or guilt, lack of empathy, problems with early behavior, impulsivity, as well as reduced emotional reactions.

The difference between psychopathy and sociopathy

In 2017, the work carried out by researchersfrom the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed structural differences in the brains of psychopaths and ordinary people. The results also showed the presence of weak neural connections in the areas of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety, empathy and sentimentality.

Recent research has shown that the psychopathic brain is very different from other people's brains.

It should be noted that the terms “psychopath” and “sociopath” are often used interchangeably, however, this is not the same thing, and the difference is fundamentally important. Sociopath - This is a person with antisocial tendencies specific to social or environmental factors. Psychopath - one whose personality traits are innate. Also, psychopaths often manipulate others, but in the eyes of others they lead an unremarkable, often charming, “normal” life, while sociopaths are more unstable, prone to outbursts of anger and unable to maintain the appearance of normality.

To keep abreast of the latest news from the world of high technology and popular science, subscribe to our news channel on Telegram.

Causes of psychopathy

Brain anatomy, genetics and the environment cancontribute to the development of psychopathic personality traits. However, it is important to note that not all psychopathic traits and inclinations mean that a person will necessarily grow up a psychopath. But what is the tendency to psychopathy? The most famous example is the case of Beth Thomas. According to the plot of a 1990 documentary titled “Child of Wrath,” Beth began to show a tendency to psychopathy at an early age immediately after being sexually abused by her biological father.

Later moving to a foster family, where she couldto get all the necessary help, the film tells about a disturbing thought process in the brain of a 6-year-old girl, which led to a tendency to develop psychopathy. However, Beth, with the help of a foster family and professionals, grew up as an ordinary young woman who works as a nurse and co-authored a book entitled “More Than a Thread of Hope,” which she co-authored with her foster mother. And yet, the main thing you need to know about psychopathy is that the brains of such people are significantly different from the brains of others in their structure and functions.

In the photo, Ted Bundy is one of the most famous serial killers in history.

You will be interested: What does science know about psychopaths?

According to a study published in the journal,psychopaths have weak neural connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the amygdala, which are responsible for sentimentality, empathy, and guilt. The tonsil, in turn, mediates fear and anxiety. The results not only showed that there are differences in how these parts of the psychopathic brain function, but this is generally the first study to show physical (structural) differences in the brain of psychopaths.

How common is psychopathy?

Although a unified answer to this question is possible, wewe don’t know, several studies have been conducted, the results of which can give us an idea of ​​how common psychopathy is. According to the results obtained in most cases, psychopaths make up about 1% of the world's population. Have you ever talked with a psychopath? Share your story in the comments on this article, and also join the participants of our Telegram chat.