Thursday, August 12, 2010


A pair of researchers recently put the “socio” back into in socio-economically disadvantaged. The study is the first to identify a specific gene associated with psychopathic traits in youth, a gene related to variances in how serotonin is processed in the brain. The twist is that this gene only seems to produce psychopathic traits in those children from low-socioeconomic backgrounds.

The researchers focused on sociopathic traits, rather than diagnosing the youths. The characteristics they were looking for include: “tend to be less attached to others, even if they have relationships with them. They are less reactive to emotional things in the lab. They are charming and grandiose at times. They’re better at conning and manipulating others, and they have low levels of empathy and remorse. For example, these folks tend to have less anxiety and are less prone to depression, qualities that might be useful in dangerous or unstable environments. In most cases, their cognitive abilities are also intact.”

The research showed that kids with one variety of a serotonin transporter gene are more likely to show psychopathic traits if they are also raised in a lower socio-economic environment. (Previous studies have shown that people with psychopathic traits typically have more brain serotonin than their peers.)
These children reportedly exhibited less empathy, they were more prone to arrogance and deceitfulness and were less emotionally responsive to negative events than their peers. In contrast, youth with the [same gene] who also had high socioeconomic status scored very low on psychopathic traits suggesting that the long allele is susceptible to socioeconomic environment, for better or for worse.
Yet another reason to be nervous when your car breaks down in a bad neighborhood.


  1. Or it could be that in a harsh environment only the individuals who have the right traits survive, whether it's considered to be sociopathic or not.

    As far as researching on kids, this is a complete waste of time. Their brains aren't fully developed so any conclusion would be unscientific. Now if they scan the brains of adults and they find a higher percentage of sociopathic brain types, then you have scientific research.

    Behavior is determined by environment. Sociopathy on the other hand is a physical deficit of the brain and has little to do with the environment. It's more likely that a child hit in the head will be a sociopath as an adult than a child who grows up in a bad environment.

  2. Yeah, but if kids take example of the adults, then you got a research

  3. They're likely confusing 'psychopathic traits" with covert schizoid symptoms.

    There are some similarities -- evidently 'moral unevenness' and grandiosity are typical of people who have hidden way their emotional self due to a harsh home-life and neglectful parenting. There was some study floating around that characterized 40% of inner-city youth as schizoid.

  4. Blank frank there is another aspect that hasn't been considered. Pollution may influence brain development and it might be a better avenue of research to look into how environmental pollution damages the developing brain.


    What we do not need to do is diagnose or attempt to diagnose incomplete brains, Children cannot be diagnosed as psychopaths because they aren't going to be as smart as they are ever going to be, so moral unevenness is sorta pointless because morality depends entirely on the environment, ethics may be important to study but with ethics you have to analyze the exact situation each child is in to analyze their choices to make sense of whether or not they were right and traits if voluntary may be adopted in response to the environment.

    We need to focus on analyzing actual brain patterns, growth patterns, and see if there is a difference in brain development. We probably should also look at ethical development, unfortunately most adults in general have limited concept of ethics and just follow morality from the bible. To know if they are ethical we'd have to look at situations they are in very similar to the prisoners dilemma from game theory to determine if their behavior was in their best interest while also being in the best interest of others.

    Drug dealer or thief may be doing exactly what is in their best interest and their behavior may be very ethical, and still be very illegal. So we cannot correlate illegal behavior with psychopathic traits because anybody in the same situation has a certain probability of selecting certain behaviors as a way out of it. To view it under a math viewpoint you'd have to know whether or not these children have a higher probability than other children to commit crimes when there is no external and internal pressure on them to commit crime. Take for example the amount of rich kids who commit copyright infringement and compare it objectively and you see that poverty, class, etc has little to no influence on how many crimes a person commits, so maybe there is more to it.

  5. @ Savagelight

    "Behavior is determined by environment."

    Most research shows that both inherited traits and environmental conditions affect personality and behavior.

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