Psychopaths, Justice & the Brain Scan Imaging Debate - A Wasted Opportunity

Psychopaths are never who they seem to be...
Psychopaths are never who they seem to be...

Scientists can now detect a psychopath using functional brain imaging. I think this news should be celebrated as a monumental victory world over in the sense that there is now a tool that can be effectively used to distinguish victims from perpetrators, to ensure justice prevails in the multitude of cases (particularly in family violence/child abuse cases in civil & family court) where the lack of evidence allows sadistic, calculating, premeditating and dangerous predators to continue perpetrating by simply mirroring their victims' allegations and being charming enough to camouflage their guilt with big shadows of doubt.

But instead the news has led to a debate over whether convicted psychopaths guilty of horrific crimes should receive reduced punishment due to their lack of emotions. Does anyone else think there is something wrong with this picture? A mentally challenged person may be unable to understand the wrongness of their crime, however psychopaths are very much aware that what they are doing is wrong. They just don't give a sh!t.

It is the lack of emotions that allows these people to continue to commit crimes for years without being caught. They are mostly very intelligent, and therefore more able than most to hide the trail of evidence, and because they don't feel guilty for what they have done, any attention they do attract is usually neutralized when the investigators detect not the slightest hint of guilt driven nervousness at being questioned.

FUNCTIONAL brain imaging scans are the ones used to determine psychopathy. The article Inside A Psychopath's Brain: The Sentencing Debate describes the process:

" On the screen flashes three types of pictures. One kind depicts a moral violation: He sees several hooded Klansmen setting a cross on fire. Another type is emotional but morally ambiguous: a car that is on fire but you don't know why. Another type of photo is neutral: for example, students standing around a Bunsen burner.

The subjects rate whether the picture is a moral violation on a scale of 1 to 5. Kiehl says most psychopaths do not differ from normal subjects in the way they rate the photos: Both psychopaths and the average person rank the KKK with a burning cross as a moral violation. But there's a key difference: Psychopaths' brains behave differently from that of a non psychopathic person. When a normal person sees a morally objectionable photo, his limbic system lights up. This is what Kiehl calls the "emotional circuit," involving the orbital cortex above the eyes and the amygdala deep in the brain. But Kiehl says when psychopaths like Dugan see the KKK picture, their emotional circuit does not engage in the same way. "

This technology NEEDS to be used in court, but to protect victims, and help ascertain the truth, instead of to provide excuses for perpetrators. This is a tool that can and should be used to serve in the course of justice, not to pervert it! Justice can only be served when the real truth is established. Law is about protecting society and sentencing of a convicted criminal should be very much secondary to that.

To establish the truth of a situation is the whole point of any court case is it not? Here is the tool that would prove invaluable in determining truth in cases of family violence, but instead the only people using it are the lawyers of convicted criminals who are trying to get the lightest sentence for their clients.

We need to demand that the courts start using this technology. If you have a tool that could clearly demonstrate who has been traumatized and who is incapable of emotions such as guilt, remorse or even strong, unconditional love, then not using that tool could only mean that it would not suit the agenda of those meant to protect innocent victims from callous, hyper-selfish abusers, in which case, they should be made to explain exactly what their hidden agenda is.

This is something we should all be pushing for. If a judge or magistrate says your allegations are false and the other party's are true, when it was a case of family violence, you should be able to tell the judge to prove it with brain scans. It is not a psych evaluation that a skilled / knowledgeable psychopath or sociopath could "fake". It does not rely on the person providing truthful answers about their state of mind/feelings etc... It shows exactly what is going on in the brain.

If a victim claims to suffer from PTSD and really has the disorder, the scans of that victim's brain will prove it. If they are a vengeful, liar, they will show a different result, personality disorder etc... If a remorseless, violent perpetrator claims to be the victim and is lying, their scans will show that their brain does not work properly, and resembles the brain of convicted serial murders or child rapists. If both parties have the scan, the images will certainly tell a story of their own, OR if one party wants to have scans done, and the other refuses, then the judge would have to ask what they were trying to hide.

I would like to clarify that I only think this would be useful in instances where there are 2 people who both claim that they are the victim and the other the perpetrator of violence. Considering the high rate of PTSD in victims/survivors of family violence, and the high rate of psychopathy (albeit in varying in degrees) in serial perpetrators (studies have shown that up to 70% of repeat offenders succeed in fooling experts, including psychiatrists, into believing they are innocent), then in such cases, functional brain imaging scans of both parties would SUPPORT testimony and circumstantial evidence of the party telling the truth, because the perpetrator would be shown to NOT have PTSD, but an abnormality in the parts of the brain responsible for moral ethics and impulse control, where as the opposite would be shown in the victim. I know I would be more than happy to have a scan. I know what my scans would show and I know Mr psycho's scans would certainly render his psychiatrist speechless...

I guess the point is moot however, because the family courts are a corrupt, money making machine, and this technology would put thousands out of a job. Child abuse and family violence are profitable in modern society.

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Please Note:

All names in this article have been changed for legal purposes and to protect the privacy of the Author. Except where otherwise credited, or where text forms part of an external link, this article is under the following copyright:

Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last", of Perth, Western Australia. All rights reserved.


All persons, places and objects shown in the images in this hub are are shown for illustrative purposes only. They bear no relation to any real person or event. All persons shown are paid models. Unless otherwise credited, all images are under the following copyright:

Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last" and Licensors Nodtronics Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Comments 14 comments

Mira esto 4 years ago

Childhood trauma linked to schizophrenia

21/04/2012 04:55 (16 Day 08:04 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- Researchers at the University have found that children who experience severe trauma are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia in later life.

For further information on schizophrenia see Wikipedia "Interpretation of schizophrenia" by Dr. Silvano Arieti:

Family etiology

Arieti then describes the psychogenic factors that lead to the disorder. The family environment and psychodynamics in the etiology of psychosis comes under scrutiny. Arieti describes the building of neurotic and psychotic defense mechanisms; the emerging schizoid personality, and fully developed schizophrenia understood as an injury to the inner self. Arieti believes that a state of extreme anxiety originating in early childhood produces vulnerability for the whole life of the individual.

A characteristic of Homo sapiens is a prolonged childhood with a consequently extended dependency on adults. This, according to Arieti, "is the basis of the psychodynamics of schizophrenia", a claim that also appears in later writers on child abuse such as Alice Miller and Colin Ross. Arieti reviews the paper by Frieda Fromm-Reichmann about the "schizophrenogenic" mother and reaches the tentative conclusion that only 25 percent of the mothers of schizophrenics in his clinical experience fit that image. However, he adds that only in a minority of schizophrenia cases "the child is able to retain the good maternal image". Arieti also mentions the work of Theodore Lidz, another trauma model author of schizophrenia. Like Lidz, Arieti emphasizes the weakness of the father of the schizophrenic patient in the paternal role. In Arieti's own words:

In the first edition of this book I have described one family constellation [...] when a domineering, nagging and hostile mother, who gives the child no chance to assert himself, is married to a dependent, weak man, who is too weak to help the child [...]. In these families the weak parent [...] becomes antagonistic and hostile toward the children because [...] he displaces his anger from the spouse to the children, as the spouse is too strong to be a suitable target.

The roles can be reversed when the domineering spouse is the father. Arieti is convinced that each schizophrenia case is representative of those human situations in which something went extremely wrong. "If we ignore it, we become deaf to a profound message that the patient may try to convey". For example, Arieti states about one of his patients that "his adolescence was a crescendo of frustration, anxiety and injury to self-esteem". Arieti also mentions a catatonic patient who, after introjecting the mother's engulfing behavior, believed that by moving he could produce havoc. The patient's feelings, according to Arieti, became reminiscent of cosmic powers that may cause the destruction of the universe, so the patient chose immobility. For Arieti, the selectivity of certain motor actions is proof that catatonia is not a biological disease or illness, but rather a disorder of the will.

[edit] Inner world of the schizophrenic

In Part three of Interpretation of schizophrenia Arieti describes how in spite of its efforts to stay in reality, the patient's defenses finally succumb. When the patient "cannot change the unbearable situation of himself any longer, he has to change reality". Arieti examines the inner world of the schizophrenic.

When a patient states he is Jesus he is compensating a feeling of extreme humiliation at home. The paranoid schizophrenic, Arieti explains, resorts to "teleologic causality" or animism to understand the world. He writes that whatever occurs to the patient is interpreted as willed by the parental alters of the patient. In deterministic or teleologic causality, if Nature's happenings were not willed they simply would not occur. In paranoid projection the schizophrenic takes out from him/herself a disagreeable part of the self onto the world. In Interpretation of schizophrenia Arieti illustrates all of the above theoretical constructions with concrete cases of his clinical experience as a psychiatrist.

Arieti maintains that in every case of schizophrenia that he studied serious family disturbance was found. When the patient idealizes the parent the idealized image of the parent is maintained in the patient's mind at the expense of an unbearable self-image. He speculates that psychosis starts only when the malevolent image of the parent is transformed "into a distressing other". The parent or parents alters enter the mind accusing the patient of "bad child" or other equivalent accusations in voices that the adult patient hears.


Claudia 5 years ago

Well, what if both the victim and the abuser are Psychopaths? And what if the abuser isn't a psychopath?


Jed Fisher profile image

Jed Fisher 6 years ago from Oklahoma

Well, psycopaths won't mind being locked up because they don't really care about anything, so I suppose everyone can be happier that way.


kschang profile image

kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

If psychopaths cannot be "adjusted" (or in law parlance, "corrected") due to their lack of emotion, then they should be locked up for life in order to protect society from them.

Nothing wrong with detecting them. The military may want to use it to screen recruits.


Alicia 6 years ago

I hope it is used wisely.


safe-at-last profile image

safe-at-last 6 years ago from Western Australia Author

SB the FUNCTIONAL brain imaging scans are the ones used to determine psychopathy. One article describes the process:

" On the screen flashes three types of pictures. One kind depicts a moral violation: He sees several hooded Klansmen setting a cross on fire. Another type is emotional but morally ambiguous: a car that is on fire but you don't know why. Another type of photo is neutral: for example, students standing around a Bunsen burner.

The subjects rate whether the picture is a moral violation on a scale of 1 to 5. Kiehl says most psychopaths do not differ from normal subjects in the way they rate the photos: Both psychopaths and the average person rank the KKK with a burning cross as a moral violation. But there's a key difference: Psychopaths' brains behave differently from that of a nonpsychopathic person. When a normal person sees a morally objectionable photo, his limbic system lights up. This is what Kiehl calls the "emotional circuit," involving the orbital cortex above the eyes and the amygdala deep in the brain. But Kiehl says when psychopaths like Dugan see the KKK picture, their emotional circuit does not engage in the same way. "


Shahid Bukhari profile image

Shahid Bukhari 6 years ago from My Awareness in Being.

Bio-Electrical Imagery of the Human Brain is general ... The Concentrations, may at times, describe a certain overloading ... but the fools, are prone to describe these as, a certain Syndrome, and associate it, with a distinct Mental disorder.

For little difference is observable in Imagery ... distinguishing a hearty laugh, from the hysterical guffaw.

I agree, it's a useless effort, towards Definitive Determining of a Mental Abnormality or sub-normalcy.

Scans ... the Brain's Imagery, are Approximations, not the Definitive Tool, for the Correct Understanding of Human Mind.


Cheryl J. profile image

Cheryl J. 6 years ago from Houston, TX

Very powerful and amazing. A useful technique for discovering different disorders. A great hub.


safe-at-last profile image

safe-at-last 6 years ago from Western Australia Author

Yes, they can distinguish between acquired brain injuries and also many different types of mental illnesses includin g AD/HD, PTSD, Bi Polar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Temporal Lobe Syndrome, schizophrenia and psychopathy. From what I have read, they can also detect brain damage from substance abuse....


ApplesTH 6 years ago

My only fear is that my brain scan are abnormal due to damage caused by me having Multiple Sclerosis. I have 12 scars in my brain. What if those scars resemble a psychopath's? Then what? :( Is it possible to see the difference of a damaged brain such as mine due to MS?


spiritual1rav profile image

spiritual1rav 6 years ago

It does work, and it can't be faked. I one hundred percent believe it should be mandatory in family court when it comes to abuse cases, and fights for child custody. When I first learned about this a few years ago, I wish my ex had been made to take it. The judge was bribed, and what's worse, all of the other judges knew it as my case was well known as the worst divorce in Cobb County, Ga.

I also believe we should use the information found to help to cure the area of the brain which has no conscience. It is not so much an excuse for this behavior because the offenders do know the difference between right and wrong, and as has been stated, don't give a shit. This should be seen as the brain damage which it is and there has to be a way to heal the part of the brain which needs healing.

Most especially, we should use this tool the first time a child kills an animal, bullies, or is violent in any way. If there is a way to heal the brain in psychopaths, it should be mandatory in these cases so they cannot grow up to perpetrate evil upon society. The child's parents should be examined too, because it is also true, bullies come from bullies most often. To protect society this must happen.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

If it really works this would be a God send. Elimination of false accusations and the ability to have something to beck up those that are real would save both the courts and families thousands and thousands of dollars. Wish they could have saved mine :-D


safe-at-last profile image

safe-at-last 6 years ago from Western Australia Author

MA, I too considered that, and that is why I think it would only be useful in instances where you have 2 people who both claim that they are the victim and the other the perpetrator of family violence. Considering the high rate of PTSD in victims/survivors of family violence, and the high rate of psychopathy (variying in degrees) in serial perpetrators (studies have shown that up to 70% of repeat offenders succeed in fooling experts, including psychiatrists, into believing they are innocent), then in such cases, functional brain imaging scans of both parties would SUPPORT testimony and circumstantial evidence of the party telling the truth, because the perpetrator would not be shown to have PTSD but an abnormality in the parts of the brain responsible for moral ethics and impulse control, whereas the opposite would be shown in the victim.

I guess the point is moot however, because the family courts are a corrupt, money making machine, and this technology would put thousands out of a job. Child abuse and family violence are profitable in modern society.


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

The only problem I would have with the use of this technique,is the pheripherral or colladeral false positives this procedure might produce;)

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