And it’s of particular interest that twin studies have shown that the key component of psychopathy (i.e.
lack of guilt or remorse and callous use and abuse of others rooted in empathy deficits) also appears to be influenced by biological factors.
Whether it’s the result of genes, a peculiar mindset, an ingrained pattern, or even an evolutionary variation, psychopathy is a very different and dangerous animal indeed.
And according to De Becker, nature has given us the “gift of fear” (e.g., hair standing up on the back of our neck, uneasiness and queasy stomach, etc.) to alert us when we’re in the presence of a predator.
Show most people a picture of something typically associated with a sentiment (e.g., a wedding ceremony), and areas of the brain that process information about the event as well as areas of the brain involved in emotion both show activity.
But show the same image to a psychopath, and although the area of the brain recognizing the image or event is active, the area of the brain typically associated with an emotional response appears dormant.
Interest in the most severe form of character disturbance (psychopathy) has grown rapidly in the past several years, thanks mainly to the research conducted by Dr. And one of the more interesting findings to come out of clinical studies on brain functioning is evidence of a possible biological basis for the psychopath’s diminished capacity for empathy.
We’re also gradually coming to understand the phenomenon of character disturbance within the context of evolutionary history.
The “concordance” rate between twins reared apart for the various traits associated with APD, DPD, psychopathy and sociopathy is not strong enough to confirm a strictly genetic basis, but there can be no doubting a strong biologically-based predisposition.
And one fairly recent study on monozygotic twins reared apart demonstrated that the biological predisposition toward empathy deficiency shows up even in children as young as 7 years old (see: ).
And I make the case that the degree to which genetics outweighs other factors as the main causal agent for a disturbance varies.
Suffice it to say, however, that when it comes to severe character disturbance, the evidence is strong that biology might be the greater culprit.