Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Psychopath Might Be The Closest Present-Day Similarity We Have To Our Palaeolithic Past

The title of this blog post is based on a kind of half-awake, half-asleep dream I had last night (possibly brought about by the recent mass shooting in Orlando, and the killing of MP Jo Cox in West Yorkshire, although one can't be sure).

Psychopaths have always been a bit of an enigma to psychologists: their morals, their empathy levels, what their inner-self is like, and how they perceive the outside world have been topics of study for many years (which is also one of several reasons why I think we are best not putting people to death, even for heinous crimes).

Psychopaths are certainly different to most other humans, and this plays out with a complex combination of genetic factors (as evidenced by studies of monozygotic twins and their genetic predispositions for genetic personality disorders) and, of course environment and the concomitant socialisation.

It’s worth considering just how similar to each other we are as a species – phenotypically, genotypically – we are so alike in our mental composition that if we had a shared existence in exactly the same culture, the same environment, the same health and well-being, and with the same access to knowledge, we would reach the same conclusions about a great many more things than we do.

It may surprise you to hear this but biologically (that’s genotypically) we are almost identical to Paleolithic man – and those primitive traits that helped those distant ancestors reproduce are not all that absent in modern humans.

There's probably a pretty good evolutionary truth in that – and we know that post-social contract humans are behaviorally enormously different from the more primitive homo-sapiens, and this is so much truer regarding our distant ancestors, whose comparable absence of conscience and empathy would violate even the basic social norms and expectations for modern social harmony.

Picture in your head two things:

1) A modern day psychopath.

2) A primitive man alive long before we began to develop any formal, communicable sense of morality.

While it's obviously a lot more complex than what I'm now going to say, there may well be a kernel of truth in the fact that when one considers those well known tendencies we observe in modern day psychopathy, such as cunningness, lack of remorse or guilt, emotional shallowness, lacking in empathy, failure to accept responsibility for their own actions, revocation of conditional release, a parasitic lifestyle, poor behavioural control, lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsiveness, and irresponsibility, we can see that these all bear quite a close resemblance to traits of our primitive-human past, in that they might well have qualified as being in some way comparable (stress the word 'comparable', not the same) to a modern day psychopath if they were brought into modern day social surroundings.