Friday, May 31, 2013

Sociopaths = team players

So says the Psychology Today blog ("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.

25 comments:

  1. This is so cool. I am such a huge fan of their work. I really am impressed with how much you have worked to make this website so enjoyable

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  2. These college studies are such bs. To say that students have some such traits so I can make inferences on the people who have full-blown case is similar to analyzing people with pre-cancerous cells to learn something on how to help people with end-stage cancer diagnosis. Hmmm, now that I set that up I see potential learning especially if they will look at the genes, and find a root-cause but all they seem to do is decide how much chemo how much radiation.

    Anyhow my point still applies to the kind of conclusion these guys are making, that sociopaths are team-players You did not need this study for that. Sociopaths will appear to be team-players in the short run and prior to conflict, for two reasons one they can handle short run and the other they are consistent with self-interest rationality.

    As for the personal attorney injury above.. It's hilarious that he did not leave his card. I wonder if he was cut short in his posting. Try again, Mr. Attorney, this place suits you.

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    1. Hover over the name, it's a link.

      Also, I have a thought. If we assume that the proportion of men and women who are sociopaths is about the same, and the prison population is enriched for sociopaths, why are there so many more men in prison? Is it biological, that women tend to not commit crimes that are that serious? Are they convicted less often because it's easier for a jury to sympathize with a woman? Or is it cultural, because women are raised to be demure and passive?

      If it's the latter, then it suggests sociopaths are not unsalvageable, they can be socialized such that violent crimes are less appealing. Early detection of male sociopaths (I'm assuming the women are all raised passive) could lead to a focused learning environment that allows them to curb violent impulses, and could greatly reduce the incidence of crime, and the prison population.

      I'm not sure what's worse, the stigmatization of a group of people, or their high frequency of incarceration, usually with no chance of reduced sentences due to their sociopathy. It's just an idea, so please don't bite my head off. I have neither the expertise nor the inclination to pursue or properly support such a proposal.

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    2. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I suspect that in addition to the reality that female aggression tends to be more of the mind game/relational stuff that will drive you crazy while men are wired to act out physically, there is another more sinister reason less women get caught.
      When sociopathic men abuse other men or romantic partners, those individuals generally have other people in their lives that raise a complaint. I think that the primary victims of sociopathic women are children who have been socialized to remain voiceless victims. The saying "some women shouldn't be mothers" applies here, I think.

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    3. If sociopathy is characterized by some defect in oxytocin signaling, this may be true. It is natural for women to love their children, but it's part chemical and part emotional. That's far outside of my expertise, though, so I'd have to talk to a sociopath mother to determine if that physiological mechanism is intact.

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    4. I think it's a result of physical strength difference. If I knew I could be the one coming on top I'd definitely be seeking physical solutions. Sociopaths are capable of feeling fear. It is only rational that in a physical altercation a woman is more fearful compared to a man given the size difference.

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    5. There are more sociopathic men than women, glassy.

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    6. I'd ask you to provide evidence for that. My evidence is anecdotal, in that there are many men here who recount tales of being with sociopathic women, which is remarkable because men usually keep that shit to themselves. Also, the most convincing sociopaths here are women.

      Of course, if you can provide evidence to back up your claim, I'll accept it if it's from a reputable source :)

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  3. @Machavellianempath : "that female aggression tends to be more of the mind game/relational stuff that will drive you crazy while men are wired to act out physically"

    Men are wired to be more aggressive, but it doesn't mean it has to be physically. Nowadays, physical violence can have such harsh legal consequences that it's stupid to express aggressiveness that way. Smart men now do it in a less risky way, it's still the same agressiveness, but expressed differently.

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    1. Violent crimes leading to jail punishment is almost only committed by men.

      Interviews I have read with criminal steroid abusers, and the same type that I have known personally have described getting emotionally colder, more risk taking, and less empathic.

      Testosterone creates a hunter/fighter in the caveman world. A emotional hunter is a bad and most likely useless hunter.

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  4. It's good to have allies. I think of life as a world war. Can't trust that at the end of the day, allied nations won't have their own interest in mind, but it's valuable to maintain a sense of diplomacy.

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  5. Suspect to have befriended a sociopath ones. He had no trouble being on a team. He was incredibly good with people, good liar, good manipulator. He was notoriously unfaithful, he had no remorse, never felt guilt or obvious nervousness. He could seduce almost any women he wanted. Even those who initially rejected him. He loved fights. Every weekend it was either a barfight or some girl. He was a rush, but also a cold total asshole. Loyal friend though, for the time we had fun.. unless...

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  6. It takes a village to benefit a sociopath. Team work in corporate environments is critical. Greed likes company.

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  7. Hi :) Never too busy to stop in and say hi to you

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  8. Have to watch our for cats.

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    1. Whoooooooooops :p I meant *out*

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  9. i work just fine in a team until being on a team stops working for me. i encourage teamwork and work to get everyone better at work but if they take any hours from me i go behind their backs to take those hours back

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  10. From Reddit, perfect summary of most of you :)

    As someone who was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder a few years ago, and after 3 years of therapy can now look back on my old self, I can say with sureness that this person is a narcissist. I used to have the same feelings of sociopathy, but the reality was I was just self centered and wanted to feel power over my environment. A real sociopath would have a lot more trouble adjusting to society, as is implicit in being a sociopath. This sounds a lot more like a narcissist with typical delusions of grandeur, that has fallen in with the glorification of sociopathy that has overtaken our culture, and seeks to feed her ego by misdiagnosing herself with a disorder she feels will make her superior.
    If only she knew that in many cases sociopath's have smaller frontal lobes, and an overall lower IQ. They are damaged people. They are not the hyper intelligent killing machines with ultimate control over their environment these serial killer shows and movies try to present.
    Most serial killers were fucking retarded, and I mean that literally, as in they have extremely low IQ's.

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    1. 1. that would refer to low functioning sociopaths (i.e. those found in jail) not high functioning sociopaths (i.e. the ones that psychological studies theorize to be the C.E.Os of powerful businesses)
      2. serial killers arent actually sociopaths for the most part (though there are of course exceptions), they actually have more in common with a blend of schizophrenia and O.C.D then they do with sociopaths.
      3. serial killers arent retarded, they simply have a warped view of reality due to their disorder, their brain works differently then the empaths or even the socios. they believe things that cant be true and act on logic that doesnt make sense to any but themselves

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    2. "they believe things that cant be true and act on logic that doesnt make sense to any but themselves"

      You just described 90% of the population.

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    3. but serial killers are actually frequently delusional. some believe that theyre saving the world and the those they kill are demons or some such nonsense

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    4. And you just described all of the Christians. Come on, are you even trying man?

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    5. lol, its not nessesarily demons, it can also be aliens, evil time travellers or anything else you can think of. there isnt even always a delusion, sometimes there is simply a requirement to kill certain people in a certain way. and if you ever talk to a severe OCD they will tell you that trying to deny a compulsion is one of the most uncomfortable experiances ever, therefor serial killers dont have a choice in what they do, thats what marks them out from your common murderer.

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