Despite Popular Opinion, Psychopaths Can Show They Care"):
The quintessential psychopath shows callous disregard for others, a complete lack of empathy, a glibness and superficial charm, and an impulsive and antisocial lifestyle. We would never, given this set of qualities, expect such individuals to make decisions that would benefit anyone but themselves. Their lack of empathy should make it nearly impossible for them to understand how other people are feeling. Yet, when you think about it, the ability of psychopaths to con and smooth talk their way into situations that allow them to take advantage of people requires some pretty sensitive people-reading skills. Perhaps behaving in psychopathic ways isn’t a matter of lack of ability to empathize, but is instead due to lack of proper incentive. If that’s the case, it should be possible to put the psychopath’s people-reading skills to good use.
Following this logic, psychologists Nathan Arbuckle and William Cunningham (2012) explored the possibility that, under the right circumstances, people high in psychopathy would willingly behave in ways that would benefit someone other than themselves. The people in this study were not hardened criminals, but were drawn from the somewhat ordinary psychology study population of college undergraduates. However, based on the notion that psychopathy isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of trait, Arbuckle and Cunningham reasoned that even college students can have at least some of the remorseless selfishness and glibness shown in clinical populations. In fact, the questionnaire measure they used to measure psychopathy seems capable of sniffing out the “everyday” psychopaths who stroll through college campuses.
They set up a game where "participants would either benefit themselves alone, or benefit themselves and the person for whom they were playing (team member vs. stranger)."
In the first study, the findings supported the hypothesis that people high in psychopathy would be more likely to take bets that would benefit their team rather than a group of strangers. However, the findings could suggest that the people high in psychopathy were simply trying to improve their own situation, and not necessarily that of the group’s. Therefore, in the second study, the setup was slightly different. Now the bets would benefit only the team, not oneself alone. With this slight tweaking of the experimental condition, the people high in psychopathy continued to make decisions that would benefit their team even when they, personally, didn't stand to benefit from their bets.
Along that same vein, my sister emailed my family this recent NY Times op-ed, "The Gift of Siblings." My brother said he cried at this paragraph:
My siblings have certainly seen me at my worst, and I’ve seen them at theirs. No one has bolted. It’s as if we signed some contract long ago, before we were even aware of what we were getting into, and over time gained the wisdom to see that we hadn’t been duped. We’d been graced: with a center of gravity; with an audience that never averts its gaze and doesn’t stint on applause. For each of us, a new home, a new relationship or a newborn was never quite real until the rest of us had been ushered in to the front row.