Monday, May 12, 2008

Aftermath: surviving psychopathy

As this blog's title suggests, we are not just writing about color perception. This is a good time to put some entropy in our blog. Last summer I reviewed a few books on psychopathy, which generated quite a bit of feedback email. Here is an update.

Very loosely I started with a Science magazine paper on contributors, slackers and quitters, and then moved over to a book with a perspective from a psychologist specializing in psychopath victims, Hare's classical Without Conscience, to the more more updated book on psychopaths in the next cubicle, and finally to a book taking a broader perspective in time and from neurosis to psychopathy. According to the blog traffic log, these posts are still of great interest, so I think I should give an update.

In the past 15 years we have learned a lot on the functioning of the brain, and there is strong evidence, that when the brain gets rewired from back to front during adolescence, in some people with a genetic predisposition the speech area does not get wired up to the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus, preventing the development of emotions and of the conscience.


As described in Snakes in Suits, we are increasingly exposed to psychopaths at work. Yet, only few of us have access to an fMRI system at work and even when we do, it may not practical to scan the potential psychopaths in our lives. Since there is no test that can administered by us laymen and psychopaths are not required to wear a bell, we are confronted with the problem of having to deal with the psychopath's victims.

I received an email from a prominent researcher in this field, that a web site for people with psychopaths in their lives has been set up under the name Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy. It has several forums and a very useful Primer on Psychopathy by the foremost experts David Kosson and Robert Hare themselves, as well as a number of links to other resources.

If you think there might be a psychopath in your life, check this aftermath web site. If you know somebody who you think might be a victim, send them this link.


  1. HI
    I am a survivor of psychopaths (family & an ex partner) Both my ex and my mother were violent to siblings as children, and many other factors suggest theit psychopathy did not start at adolescense. The reseach cited in "Zero empathy" indicates several genes are involved. I hope one day a screening program can ensure both early warning and intervention

  2. >> I hope one day a screening program can ensure both early warning and intervention

    I hope not. Otherwise, who will be our Corporate America CEOs or provide "fair and balanced" reporting on Fox News? And who will run for political office, or run our banks, or... Oh, wait!

    Neeeeeever mind.