Psychopath and Crime Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1449 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology

Psychopathic Personality Disorder

"Psychopath" is a colloquial term that is often used in popular parlance and entertainment media to describe extremely deviant social behavior. It is particularly often associated with notoriously depraved acts of violence such as in connection with serial murder and with spontaneous violent attacks against strangers and acquaintances, such as in cases of murder in the workplace (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009. Schmalleger, 2009). That common perception of psychopathic personalities is somewhat inaccurate because it restricts itself to a very narrow area of deviant human behavior: namely, antisocial personality disorder. In fact, many authorities in the field of psychology suggest that psychopathic personalities may be fairly common in society (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009. Schmalleger, 2009). As in the case of other areas of psychology, there are different theoretical explanations for psychopathic personalities and different corresponding beliefs about whether or not and to what degree psychopathic personalities are capable of changing through treatment.

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In principle, antisocial personality disorder describes a relatively small subset of psychopathic individuals who are prone to violence (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009. Schmalleger, 2009). By contrast, psychopathic personalities are typically nonviolent and extremely adept at maintaining the outward appearance of social conformity and normalcy. However, they are deliberately manipulative, remorseless, and often exhibit nearly complete disregard of ordinary moral checks on their behavior. They may also sometimes explode in outbursts of violence, but much more frequently express their pathology nonviolently through spontaneous recklessness, compulsive (often purposeless) lying, and may achieve professional success and demonstrate other outwardly-appearing signs of normalcy that enable them to keep their pathology hidden, sometimes indefinitely (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009. Schmalleger, 2009).

Theoretical Perspectives

Term Paper on Psychopath and Crime Assignment

Within the field of psychology, behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner have traditionally postulated that all psychological behavior is substantially attributable to the influence of environment on the individual (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Pinker, 2002). According to that view, psychopathic personalities develop when individuals are neglected emotionally or subjected to abuse within the family of during their formative stages of psychological development. Specifically, they regard the characteristic emotional detachment and lack of empathy among psychopaths as a learned long-term compensatory reaction to those early formative experiences (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Pinker, 2002).

The psychoanalytic perspective regards psychopathic personality as a function of the unconscious conflicts and to related reactions such as suppression, projection, and overcompensation (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Mitchell & Black, 1995). Sigmund Freud was the theorist who introduced the psychoanalytic or "Freudian" school of psychology. Like the behaviorists, Freud and other psychoanalytic theorists accept the proposition that events and environmental conditions during the formative years, especially in relation to relationships within the family of origin. However, unlike behaviorists, psychoanalytical theorists focus on the specific psychodynamic responses to those experiences outlined by Freud (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Mitchell & Black, 1995).

Finally, cognitive psychological theorists such as Jean Piaget view the origin of psychopathic (and other) disorders as being functions of insufficient or incomplete negotiation of specific stages of normal personality development (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Pinker, 2002). This theoretical perspective also includes the bio-psychological framework according to which many deviant (and non-deviant) behaviors are mainly attributable to variations in biological structures and neurological and hormonal processes that are determined by genetic inheritance. As evidence of this conclusion, they point to examples of multi-generational psychopathology. Meanwhile, behaviorists point out that such conclusions may be difficult to support because of the concurrent influence of environmental circumstances such as those at issue in connection with multigenerational learned behavior patterns within families (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Pinker, 2002).

There is no consensus among professional psychologists in terms of the capacity of psychopaths to undergo successful treatment (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009. Schmalleger, 2009). Naturally, some psychoanalytical psychologists and behaviorists and maintain that therapeutic intervention can help psychopathic personalities. Typical approaches would include Freudian psychodynamic analysis to identify, address, and resolve fundamental issues in the subconscious realm (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Mitchell & Black, 1995; Pinker, 2002). Meanwhile, bio-psychological cognitive psychologists generally believe that the best (and perhaps, the only) way to treat psychopathic personalities is through pharmacological intervention designed to change the neurochemistry that they believe underlies all psychopathic behaviors (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Pinker, 2002).

Notorious Historical Examples of Psychopathic Personalities

The most notorious examples of psychopathic personalities are those such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer (Innes, 2007), mainly because of the gruesome and violent… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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