Cause Of Psychopathy

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Introduction This essay will briefly look at the background of psychopathy including various psychopathy evaluation tools. It will then move on to the supporting evidence behind both genetic / biological factors before looking at the modern portrayal of the psychopath and environmental cause before deciding which, if either is solely responsible. There are several different definitions of psychopathy. Hare, (2002) describes Psychopathy as a serious personality disorder associated with a particularly severe and violent pattern of antisocial behaviour. Kiehl, (2006) defines psychopathy as a complex personality disorder that includes interpersonal and affective traits such as glibness, lack of empathy, guilt of remorse, shallow affect and…show more content…
Le Doux stated that the amygdala is involved in aversive conditioning and instrumental learning (as cited in Blair 2003) It is also involved in facial expressions and all the processes that when impaired are the functional impairments shown in psychopathy, therefore amygdala dysfunction is implicated in the pathology of psychopathy (Blair, Morris, Frith, Perrett, & Dolan, 1999). As one of the main symptoms of psychopathy set out by Cleckley, Hare and Lilienfield is an inability to recognise emotions and feelings in others this would suggest that psychopathy is of a biological nature. The orbital frontal cortex is one of the most notable areas involved in psychopathy in regard to Dr Harlow's Phineas Gage case study in 1948. According to Dr Harlow, Gage suffered major trauma to the prefrontal cortex and was transformed from a responsible railroad manager to an impulsive, irresponsible verbally abusive individual. Blumer and Benson (1975) argue that damage to the orbital frontal cortex as described in Phineas Gage case study leads to a condition called "pseudopsychopathy" (as cited in Kiehl…show more content…
Whereby Kiehl does not speak about violence or severe antisocial behaviour in his definition it is obvious that he has based his definition on Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. Hare would appear to be the most popular reference when discussing psychopathy and indeed is noted as a contributor to many of the papers surrounding psychopathy including Kiehl’s. It would appear that psychopathy is caused by a combination of both biological and environmental causes, with biological factors appearing to be in the majority. If acquired brain damage can induce psychopathy symptoms there must be a biological cause otherwise this “pseudopsychopathy” would not occur. Hill et al (1957) found that following a temporal lobectomy, improvements were reported in patients behaviour including reduced hostility, violence and inappropriate sexual behaviour in addition to increased empathy. In other words, psychopathic symptoms present before the lobectomy had decreased significantly thus changing the psychopath label. If this is combined with Harlow’s Phineas Gage case study is becomes apparent that psychopathy has a biological
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