Psychopath Unable to Process Punishment

Posted on February 28, 2015

Photo: flickr

Psychopathic violent offenders might be unable to repent and learn from punishment due to the presence of abnormalities in their brain. Through a MRI study, researchers have found that there are abnormalities found in areas of the brain that are associated with learning from punishment.

"One in five violent offenders is a psychopath," states study author Prof. Sheilagh Hodgins. "They have higher rates of recidivism and don't benefit from rehabilitation programs. Our research reveals why this is and can hopefully improve childhood interventions to prevent violence and behavioral therapies to reduce recidivism."

The co-author of the study, Dr. Nigel Blackwood, explained that psychopathic offenders are different from regular criminals. Regular criminals respond to threats swiftly, are usually aggressive and quick-tempered, while psychopaths generally have a low response level to threats, are often cold.

The team recruited violent offenders with antisocial personality disorder, with and without psychopathy. Their brains were contrasted to 18 healthy non-offenders. Those with psychopathy, showed reductions in gray matter volume were found in the areas of the brain associated with empathy, moral reasoning and the processing of emotions such as embarrassment and guilt.

Decision-making often involves weighing between the pros and cons of the consequences of their action. Prof. Hodgins believes that those with psychopathy might have neglected the potential negative consequences. Thus, their behaviour often do not lead to the benefits/rewards that they expected, but rather to the punishment instead. Punishment is a sign for the individuals to change their behaviour. But not all, could change.

Most violent crimes are committed by men who had behaviour problems since young. Thus, learning-based interventions focus on the brain mechanism that underlies their behaviour pattern, therefore changing the behaviour would help to reduce the amount of violent crimes.

Category(s):Aggression & Violence

Source material from Medical News Today

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