The other day Dave posted a story riddle with a creepy punchline: the people who answer it "correctly"—i.e. a certain way—think like psychopaths. (Sorry to spoil the surprise.) It’s meant to illustrate a particular way of thinking that pyschopaths exhibit: that of other people—even family—as impersonal tools to be used for their own benefit.

(Fortunately, I didn’t answer the riddle "correctly.")

Of course, I make random connections, as I am wont to do, and I remembered this older post on Boing Boing about psychopathy:

Are psychopaths genetically adapted to survive by exploiting the rest of us?

[CBC’s Quirks and Quarks] talks to research psychologists about the biological basis for psychopathy — and the fact that psychopaths are sexually profligate and have lots of kids. Psychopathic rapists target fertile women — not children or old women.

Dr. Marnie Rice is a psychologist with the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene, in Penetanguishene, Ontario. She studies criminal psychopaths who are incarcerated there. She views psychopathic behaviour as an evolved survival strategy. She says that there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that psychopaths are mentally ill but there’s good reason to believe that their disturbing behaviour is an evolved trait. She says psychopaths have evolved to capitalize in a particular environmental niche — namely preying on the rest of society.

Yeah, it’s kind of an odd thing to be ruminating about. But it’s a weirdly compelling idea to imagine that psychopathy is a possible result of natural selection. It makes a certain sense. I wonder what the "particular environmental niche" is referring to—large cities? Seems to me (from a purely layman’s perspective) that’s where this particular trait would take hold and be successful in an evolutionary context.

For reference, here’s Wikipedia’s article on psychopathy.

Anyway, cheery thoughts to take you into the weekend.

2 thoughts on “Psycho!”

  1. I’m a geek. I’ve always been a geek. The kind of guy picked on by big, strong macho guys trying to make themselves feel good. I’ve always hated guys like that. But if my village was attacked by monsters or another tribe, I’d probably be glad we had big muscle-headed guys to help defend the village. I’ve always viewed diversity as an asset, and I try to remember that when a particular type of person annoys me. Sheep and caribou need predators to keep the herd strong. We probably do too.

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