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Making a Case for Psychopathy

Updated on February 23, 2016


Crazy notion, isn't it? This idea that psychopaths and sociopaths might still have a functioning and perhaps even positive use in society is a radical notion, given how society views people who aren't "normal".

A case for ethics in dealing with psych disorders...

A quick note on definitions: I tend to consider sociopaths to be power-hungry manipulators, but not themselves violent(they are good at manipulating violent people to do the "physical labour" for them), whereas I see psychopaths as those who readily integrated physical violence into their behaviours and agendas.

At least one author, presumably speaking for New York University's Langone Medical Center Department of Psychiatry, doesn't seem to make such distinctions, however. Both sociopaths and psychopaths are placed under the umbrella of Antisocial Personality Disorder, as illustrated on their website.

From a legal and safety perspective, I think making the distinction between violent and non-violent behaviours is important, particularly as it pertains to high-functioning individuals, but the person to ask, really, is Dr. Robert Hare, a noted Professor of Psych with 40 years of research under his belt.

The Difference


I follow Neuroscience News on Google+ and they shared a link to this informative news article called

A Neurological Basis for the Lack of Empathy in Psychopaths

It is quite an interesting piece, as is par for this website.

I really love how we are discovering more about how our minds work and how different iterations of behaviours manifest themselves, however, the progress that I'm not seeing from the scientific community is from an ethical standpoint, and perhaps that shortcoming on my part is because I'm expecting ethics and science to move forward together in parallel.

I commented thusly:

Great write-up, thanks for sharing linking to it. I'm glad to see that scientists are identifying neurological bases for psychopathy, but suggest that disorders be looked at from a utilitarian point of view.

I'd like to make a point of view from an ethics standpoint.

These states of mind which we have labeled "disorders" are generally naturally occurring are they not? Wouldn't it serve us better to match these disorders up with areas in the social ecosystem where their natural expressions are most productive, as opposed to exposing people to shame, guilt, and stigma, as well as medical/psychological experimentation, in trying to cure them of who they are naturally?

Just off the top of my head, I can think of two occupations where a high-functioning psychopath (one who can more or less function within society's parameters of acceptability) would be an asset: "front line" military and medical fields.

Please be aware that I am not saying that those who are now in these fields are all psychopaths. I'm simply pointing out these two fields are where psychopaths may do well emotionally/psychologically.

The military application is obvious: we need people who can kill people with little or no thought or care for the humanity of the enemy. Those with strong to medium psychopathic tendencies may very well suffer little trauma for doing their jobs ( and as mentioned in the article, may actually derive pleasure from their jobs).

On the medical front, consider EMT's or ER doctors/nurses. These are people who have to endure seeing people suffering with life threatening conditions, and I'm sure on a low-grade or non-psychopathic person, this results in constant exposure to harmful emotional/psychological trauma. A high-functioning psychopath might very well, by the natural state of his/her mind, not suffer the exposure to the trauma of the environment, while still being able to do what needs to be done to save a given patient.

Again my comment speaks to high-functioning psychopaths.

Just a thought. Thanks again for posting this fascinating piece!


As with my Job Skillset: Autism - Feature, not a Flaw hub, addressed to employers, I would love to see a society that has grown past shame-baiting, guilting, and stigmatizing those which they don't understand into one that realizes that "alternative" yet still naturally occurring expressions of psychological being still have a productive place in society. There is a place for everyone in the social ecosystem. All we have to do is try a little harder to help some find that place.

Someday, maybe.

Do you think there is a place for psychopaths to contribute productively to society?

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