“The psychopathic personality and human evolution” and why can’t women recognize psychopaths

“Dr. Robert Hare, who did seminal work in identifying psychopaths, refers to them as intraspecies predators.” This prompted questions from a Lovefraud reader who asked,

  • If psychopaths are indeed natural predators (by implication, their design is part of nature’s plan to maintain some balance) then would we ever be able to weed them out of society?
  • Do they have a purpose in the natural order of things?

In this article, I’m going to address the second question. Then, next week, I’ll suggest an answer to the first question.

I don’t know about a purpose, but there are researchers who believe psychopaths are around us today because they survived the natural selection process of human evolution.

These researchers call psychopathy “a nonpathological, reproductively viable, alternate life history strategy.” This theory is outlined in Coercive and Precocious Sexuality as a Fundamental Aspect of Psychopathy, a paper published in 2007 by Grant T. Harris, PhD; Marnie E. Rice, PhD; N. Zoe Hilton, PhD; Martin L. Lalumiere, PhD; and Vernon L. Quinsey, PhD.”

http://www.lovefraud.com/blog/2010/01/18/the-psychopathic-personality-and-human-evolution/

This article was written by Donna Anderson at  Lovefraud Blog.  The comment I posted is below.

I think it’s worth looking at other species. Another phrase with the same meaning as ‘intraspecies predator’ is biological ‘cheater strategist’.

Some spadefoot toad tadpoles become cannibals while the rest eat the normal algae (http://www.centre.edu/web/news…..storz.html). If there is enough food and the water doesn’t dry up (which is the norm) the normals keep their numbers up and things are more or less in balance. If the ponds dry too quickly then the faster growing cannibals are much more likely to survive to adulthood and reproduce. If the proportion tips in favor of the cannibals they eventually have to turn on themselves and the population crashes. In the rebuild, the normals again come to the fore. Rinse. Repeat.

Spadefoot normal and cannibal tadpoles

Imo, the achilles tendon of psychopaths is parenting. Being in a state of arrested development themselves and pathologically ego-driven, they are incapable of nurturing healthy children.

On a side note, there is also a question of the evolutionary relationship between normals and psychopaths. Specifically there seems to be a biological prohibition that keeps normal human females from recognizing psychopaths. It’s a defect that might as well be invisible to them (in the majority, imo). Why would this be?

I used to think that psychopaths simply had the “evolutionary jump” on normal women, in the same way that introduced predators have on island animals that have never experienced predation. Forgive this example, but the most well known instance of this is probably the flightless pigeon, the dodo, that sailors could just walk over to and hit on the head. In this scenario human females would simply not have evolved a response quickly enough.

However what does evolution “want?” Evolution simply passes on genetic traits that produce greater number of offspring that survive to maturity and reproduce themselves. So evolution “wouldn’t care” (“want” and “wouldn’t care” are simply shorthand ways of speaking) if the father was a normal or a psychopath. If a psychopathic child grew up and murdered their mother, if it was past the mother’s childbearing years, then this would be of “no concern” to evolution. In evolutionary terms, the passing on of one’s genes, that mother would still be an evolutionary “winner.”

In otherwords I’m now inclined to believe that normal women have an evolved blindness to male psychopathy. When I first read Cleckley’s Mask of Sanity I found it very hard to believe the stories of normal female/psychopathic male interactions. However the sheer number wore me down and then I started seeing examples in real life (actually I had often seen real examples but now I could recognize them for what they were).

So where does this leave us? I dunno . . . .

I’m bringing in the two comments below to expand the main idea:

durr

A leeetle angry at the ladies, eh?

pathwhisperer

That’s not the way I look at it. Have you ever read “Mask of Sanity” or witnessed/experienced a female devotee’s devotion to a male psychopath? “Devotee” is a description I proudly claim originator of, in this context. (Obviously there are male devotees also, but I believe they’re relatively rarer and qualitatively different.) There comes a point where there is nothing a female devotee can’t explain away, nothing about the beloved psychopath that the devotee can’t translate into acceptableness. Challenger: “You don’t know his last name.” “You don’t know his first name.” “You don’t know where he lives.” “You don’t have his phone number.” “Did you know he spent time in prison and/or a mental hospital?” “He derides you in public, saying he’s only playing you.” Devotee: “Oh yes, he explained that all to me. And the last, why that’s just locker-room tough talk.” Challenger: “OK, maybe I was wrong, please share and enlighten me.” Devotee: “Oh no, he requested my confidentiality.” Challenger: “Ahhhhhhh! . . . But, . . he throws passes at all of your friends!” Devotee: “That mad impetuous boy, he doesn’t know what he wants. I’m the one he needs, the only one who understands him!” Challenger (the long defeated challenger): “He has no more feelings for you than an alien reptilian shapeshifter illusionist!” Devotee: “Oh pshaw, you don’t think a mother knows her little defiant two year old!!!” Not those words exactly of course, but the impluse, the intensity, the root cause is identical. The “hook” of the male sociopath is triggering aspects of the mothering instinct.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

26 thoughts on ““The psychopathic personality and human evolution” and why can’t women recognize psychopaths

  1. rich people don’t raise their own kids.

    poor pyschopaths are bad parents and abandon or seriously neglect their kids but if they are raising little psychopaths they probably don’t need much nurturing.

  2. I think they come from the Steppes of Central Asia. The Scythians, the Mongols, the Huns also the Pastoral Nomads from other regions too, that ended up rulling others through conquest.

    Most royalty and Nobilty in Europe and Asia are descended from Conquering pastoral nomads.

    Predatory raiding as a way of life is the selection pressure that led to it in my opinion.

    Thorstein Veblen I think was on the right track with this in “theory of the liesure class” Basically the book is about how upper class people preserve their ties to barbarism. He even pointed out traits of arrested development. He pointed out how kids get in fights but in upper class circles it continues on well into adulthood and institutionalized into duelling.

    He also pointed out how walking sticks are used by underclass criminals and also upper class people. Because basically its carrying a weapon. This was written a hundred years ago.

  3. Or a less dramatic way to look at it, would be that most vertebrates possess a ‘social brain deficit’, in human terms. And that the phenotype of psychopaths lacks capacities for empathy, self-awareness etc for that reason.

    The social brain evolved in relatively small primate groups to the level of hunter gatherers where everyone knows one another. As societies grew so did the impersonal, secondary social organisation within society which regulate production, reproduction, exchange, and consumption within and between groups and sociocultural systems.

    As empathy can be a deficit in such situations where people cannot be informed by personal experience as to the track record of a stranger he must do business with, its not surprising that certain genes become adaptive and survive.

    Some people are born with Devonian polydactyly or a tapeta lucida, others are born with empathy deficits and it does not make us monsters,it is human biodiversity like homosexuality.

    • The nature of a psychopath goes well beyond just empathy deficits. Unfortunately mainstream psychology has filed psychopathy under a blanket term called antisocial personality disorder. So now it’s confused with social ineptness and in the same category as a sheltered middle-class ‘nerd’ along with Asperger’s Syndrome.

      What our society calls genius are people who often socially lacking. They appear to lack empathy, mostly because they don’t have experience with it. They are not lacking in emotions most of the time, however. They are also capable of understanding and experiencing empathy.

      A psychopath is completely different. Lack of empathy is the primary trait, but they are also lacking in understanding abstract words. They cannot appreciate artwork from an artistic standpoint, they only see the technical aspect. They get not enjoyment out of music and can only understand the literal meaning of the actual song lyrics. They have dry senses of humor because their sense of humor is based upon observation of society and what appears to be ‘funny for most’

      It is almost as though they are mimics. Despite something being ‘wrong’ about their socialness, they have no problem adapting and fitting in socially. Once you have a an experience with one of these monsters and are finally free of it, you will think very differently about their nature. What really irritates me is convincing others. Most people never believe it until it’s too late.

      They are monsters in a sense that they are compatible with normal people. They lack all the traits we identify with the human experience. Their functioning defies most of what I understand about the brain, their lack of using their Cerebrum almost entirely is completely baffling. This is not human biodiversity, they are not ‘human’ in the sense that we are human. There are methods of weeding them out of society too, but unfortunately people’s emotions and gullibleness want to give them ‘human’ rights.

      • It seems that people can only be educated about psychopaths by their own experiences. Unfortunately that means they have no protection from that first psychopath, who may very well devastate their lives. People are much too dedicated to the cult of the expert, and since the ‘experts’ don’t warn them, then . . .

        The other side of the coin is that millions of unsuspecting individuals are happily married to psychopaths (or happy being miserable – ‘he/she disrespects me just like mom/dad, it feels like home’). If 1 in 20 is psychopathic, a percentage I’m very comfortable with, the numbers are huge.

  4. Pingback: The Four Elements

  5. Pingback: http://earthwaterfireair.com/the-art-of-war/zhao-an-xin-bingfa-the-anxin-art-of-war/5-formulation-of-goals-and-strategies/a-formulation-of-goals/1-result-in-net-positive-gains/

  6. Are you saying it is rare for a male to be fooled by female psychopaths? Men are so blind to psychopaths that for generations there have been crude “explanations” for their peculiar behaviour. e.g. “Men are led around by their own genitals” or “men only have enough blood flow for one organ to work at a time, either the brain or the genitals” or “females tend to be more discerning because they think long-term, about raising children, while men sow their wild oats, not thinking long-term, they don’t care about the character of the person they are sleeping with. Evidence of this fact is that even wealthy men are caught sleeping with prostitutes, no matter how ugly or filthy in the light of day. There isn’t a similarly thriving sex industry catering to women. The majority of women are a little more discerning about “mating”.
    Psychopaths will use whatever “play” to hook their prey: helplessness or self-sufficiency, whatever works. Totally convincing to her prey, laughably transparent to those for whom she doesn’t have a use.

    • Well, certainly Anna Nicole Smith and Mae West (I’m not saying she was a psychopath, but her character certainly was) did fine with the gents. Mae West’s “A hard man is good to find” — the eternal quest of the friction orgasm restricted female.

      Of course, it behooves us all to know our weaknesses, vanities, illusions, self-delusions (which hopefully are not at the psychotic stage) — psychopaths will use them all to design their “play”. This is good advice for everyone. The absolute worst thing to do, is to deny weaknesses — you may be able to lie to yourself, but you won’t fool a sociopath.

      In terms of whether there are male instincts that female psychopaths tap into, in the way that I claim happens in the reverse, I say yes and no. Such manipulations exist but I argue they lack the strength of the mother-two year old connection. The main manipulation I’m aware of is relatively small scale. Of course as a male, I may be blind to other manipulations — as a female you may know of more. One other point though, not that I want to shock anyone, is that sex has quite different meanings, psychologically and emotionally, to men than to women.

      Anyway the manipulation of male instinct that I refer to relates to an early stage of female sexuality (don’t shoot me, I’m simply the reporter). There is a point in late adolescent/early adult female sexuality that is akin to a peach at the peak of ripeness, a flower at full bloom — sort of a mix of pure innocence (no “eye-hardening” experiences of soul injury yet) and a very healthy sexuality. A wide-eyed “Sex, what’s that?” To which any red blooded male will respond, “Hubba, hubba. . . Let’s see. . . I might just have an opening in my mentoring schedule.” Anyway, I have known adult female psychopaths who maintain this same aura of innocence and sexuality despite prodigious histories, and attract men like flies to honey.

      Of course I am interested in hearing of any other manipulations of male instincts.

  7. <>
    What rubbish. My father married a psychopath, remained blind to that fact until shortly before he died (was killed?) She fooled a number of other people, my father was the second of her husbands to die suddenly. There are other instances of female serial killers. All of them just as persuasive and manipulative as the male kind and the men as blind to what’s going on as female victims.

    • It’s all a matter of degree. Certainly men get fooled, I have hired psychopaths myself. However, my argument is that with men it’s more individualistic, with women it seems practically classwide. I and others argue that as part of their all-encompassing arrested development they are able to trigger mothering instincts — this is their big “get-over”. What I call “devotees” of psychopaths tend to be predominantly female. For examples of devotees, see the Frontline episode on Willingham.

  8. Last time I herd the notion of psychopaths place in nature, I was watching a documentary. It latched on and now because of you my interest in this subject is rekindled.

  9. Men are just as blind to female psychopaths. I listened to my father giving all the same excuses for his wife’s behaviour as she exploited, abused, humiliated him; held him for a fool; bad-mouthed him to his sons and turned them against him. She killed him 10 years after they got married, just months after he’d changed his will, in exactly the same way she had killed her first husband. Nobody had her charged with murder, she was after all such a sweet old lady. Actually she was ugly and repulsive and cold and what baffled me most, was that my brothers laughed cynically about the way she “used tears to get her way” about how cold-blooded she was “nothing weeps as copiously as a block of ice”. Yet she managed to co-opt them into her camp against my father. Psychopaths are simply people without a conscience. Therefore normal people, men and women who have a conscience and scruples, are like the unsuspecting dodo who can be clubbed to death at will. Those of us who were not taken in by a psychopath – it is not because we were so smart, but simply because the psychopath didn’t have a use for us. Furthermore, a child is so powerless and has no credibility, so that there is no risk of exposure when revealing her full repulsive cruelty to a child. Whatchagonnado?

  10. I’ve read your article found it quite interesting, although a little lapse on the detail.

    I’ve been happily called a psychopath before by an ex partner (I’d actually taught her about psychopaths and other mental illness, purely because I have an obsessional reading hobby on psychopathology and psychology in general).

    It reminded me of your attitude towards people you have ‘devoted’ yourself to. I might be a little fairer here.

    Psychopaths are rarely diagnosed outside of the criminal justice system. It’s more often than not that someone will commit a series of bizarre crimes (crimes that the normal prison population would not usually commit – such as say ‘murder of loved ones for a financial gain) and in the aftermath a prison psychiatrist diagnoses them with NPD or APD. I wonder whether the person you are dealing with is just really a normal guy who you dislike very much. More importantly, I wonder whether they have a real accurate diagnosis from a psychiatrist. I think the latter is very unlikely.

    I think in your instance misattribution applies on more rational grounds. Although before you may have been ‘devoted’ to your partner, after the breakup, and with your self-taught knowledge in psychopathy, it’s not surprsing that you gradually attribute their behaviour to a personality disorder. Maybe it helps you come to terms with things. Your partner telling a few white lies becomes pathological lieing. The charming behaviour you loved so much at the start becomes superficial and glib. By the end of it your mind is storming with neurotic thoughts about the relationship that was over long ago. They are not only

    • In terms of your statement that I’m “a little lapse on the detail” — what can I say, this is a blog. I don’t have all the time in the world, unfortunately it doesn’t pay the bills. Also I may not even hunt down references, relying on my long-term memory being better than my short-term — owww. On the other hand, sometimes I think it’s better to just give a flavor of sociopathy, to point out in what direction sociopathic behavior lies. I hope to start a line of reasoning in the reader.

      I’m not sure what you are referring to with the phrase, “people you have ‘devoted’ yourself to.” The word devotee refers to the mark, the conned victim (often romantic) of a sociopath. It is the same word that is used to refer to followers of cult leaders (who are themselves often sociopathic).

      I am unaware of how psychiatrists could give a “real accurate diagnosis” of sociopathy. People in normal jobs and daily life probably have more experience with sociopaths than psychiatrists do. I don’t believe there is any alternative to being self taught on the issue, it’s why I write the blog.

      It is true that the claim that the “leaving partner must be a sociopath” must not be a claim of convenience. Obviously it can’t be used like a Monopoly Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card to magically extract oneself from an emotional scrape.

  11. i was tricked by a psychopathic women when i was 19, now i have a turd for a son. the [_____] should have taught me this in high school. but then he would have been teaching me about himself. sad but true [I deleted a pejorative term in the bracket above. I’m not comfortable altering comments but I feel this comment is otherwise worth posting, so I made the change. PW]

    • Nice way to talk about your own child, as a comment to a blog post making a blanket statement that all sociopaths are bad mothers.

      Maybe you should have practiced birth control or sexual abstainence, before creating a child at 19yo by impulsive sex.

  12. I am a young man and one of those you discuss. I have been given the option to be sent back to America and be studied a few doctors and professors or spend the rest of my life in a foreign prison, and I chose the first.
    Those I must visit with are good men, and I want to do the right thing.

    I will keep my name and contact information to myself but I am intrigued by some of the things you write, pathwhisperer.
    Please post if you have any advice for me

  13. Wow you really know psychopaths (in a good way)! The biological game theorem above really makes sense, and as someone who (unfortunately) has had my whole life dominated by psychos, this fits perfectly.

    The idea that women have evolved to be blind to psychos us also intriguing. It explains a lot of the stereotypical ‘bad boy’ who gets the girl despite herself. I know girls who have said ‘every girl knows a guy she really hopes she doesn’t fall in love with, but feels herself slipping towards love anyway’. Most likely, due to being charming with everyone, women are sucked in by genetic manipulation, but it is true that there is no evolutionary reason to resist making psycho kids.

    Furthermore, on the old idea, my mother always said of my (psycho- 39/40 out of 40 on Hare’s scale) dad that he is best in a crisis, which fits with psychos prospering in difficult times. Though I only scored 12, I too feel that my happiness is indirectly proportional to the happiness of those around me- I’m best in difficult times, normal life is boring. It seems some genetic groups are made for, and by, hard times. My family were one of the few to fully survive the Irish Potato Famine, and did so by ruthlessly taking and hoarding food. It may be that particularly distressed populations may have more psychos, and may bring down society indirectly by their antisocial actions so they can return to harsh times where their genes will prosper- some people may not be built for progress and prosperity.

    • There’s no question that psychopathic traits come into their own during scavenger times. That’s a good point. Not being burdened by a conscience can be a plus in hard times. Also psychopathic women won’t be destroyed by becoming prostitutes since their sex/soul development is so primitive (think Anna Nicole Smith). ( . . . Now there’s an idea. . . Don’t even go there PW! . . . Satan, get thee behind Pathwhisperer! . . . I’m all better now, please ignore that lapse in proper thinking. My better angels are back in charge.)

  14. Excellent.

    On a side note some skeptical type on the Transsociopathica facebook page is claiming that sociopaths and their misery they ravage they cause is good for evolution.

    **********************

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=315044840235&ref=nf

    Look at the human species as a whole and profile it. You will find the sociopath behavior is not only about individuals, but in the whole species. Furthermore it can be debated whether or not these kind of people are necessary for the health of the population as a whole. You may as well expand your claim to: “The human species is a demonic species…”
    *********************

    I wonder how people who are victims of sociopaths feel about such insights.

  15. I received this comment at Lovefraud and am copying it here.

    Kathleen Hawk says:

    pathwhisperer, that’s a really interesting post.

    I wonder if that “blindness” might not be some genetic “wiring” that may have been designed for a different cultural environment. Our forbears were originally more nomadic, I believe, and also organized into something like packs or tribes.

    The female attraction toward strong, competent, dominant men makes a lot of sense, given women’s need for assistance in supporting offspring in a world where endurance, practical life skills (like hunting), and social precedence (in dividing the spoils) would have determined how well she and her offspring survived during growing up years. Likewise the hormonal aspects of sexual and maternal bonding would make it more likely that the females would mate exclusively, and would naturally take on the role of caretaker to keep the group together and healthy.

    But in these environments, it might have been very different in terms of mutual community support among women, as the acceptance that men had more mobility and freedom, as well as strength, especially during women’s childbearing years (which would have been most of their lives). So the family-related expectations of men, beyond being providers, might have been minimal, and their “success” in these communities might have been largely determined by their status among other men. This pursuit of status also seemed to be genetically programmed.

    This scenario is not necessarily the case. There have been a lot of studies on actual or imagined communities that are more women-centric, though they tend to be vulnerable to conquest and assimilation by more men-centric groups. And I suspect, that the transition from wandering to permanent settlements (due to the rise in agriculture) made the polarization of gender roles more dramatic. I think that some of the things we see in Islam communities are a hangover from times when the protection of women in the close quarters of village became an issue, because of the assumption of male strength and dominance.

    We live in a very strange time, from an historical perspective. It’s a transition time, still, but for the first time perhaps in all of human history women can bear offspring independently without requiring male support. It is not only economically feasible, but socially accepted in cultures where it was previously a kind of social suicide for both the mother and children.

    But it doesn’t mean our genetic programming has caught up with our career options.

    I’ve joked about men having testosterone poisoning. But I something think that estrogen can be just a s big a problem for women. In my adult life, I know that I literally could not help bonding in a “mate” way, if I became sexually involved with someone. Although oxytocin is the hormone that does that, estrogen enhances the effect of oxytocin. And testosterone counteracts it. It’s a simple reason why men, as a gender, are better able to manage casual or recreational sex than women. One of the most dramatic examples of that is the difference between the social cultures of gay men and lesbian women.

    I’m not sure, but I think I read something recently about woman’s sense of attractiveness being more inclusive of character issues than men. But I can’t remember. It would be nice if it were true.

    http://www.lovefraud.com/blog/2010/01/18/the-psychopathic-personality-and-human-evolution/#comment-61355

    • That’s not the way I look at it (but perhaps the photo was a little much). Have you ever read “Mask of Sanity” or witnessed/experienced a female devotee’s devotion to a male psychopath? “Devotee” is a description I proudly claim originator of, in this context. (Obviously there are male devotees also, but I believe they’re relatively rarer and qualitatively different.) There comes a point where there is nothing a female devotee can’t explain away, nothing about the beloved psychopath that the devotee can’t translate into acceptableness. Challenger: “You don’t know his last name.” “You don’t know his first name.” “You don’t know where he lives.” “You don’t have his phone number.” “Did you know he spent time in prison and/or a mental hospital?” “He derides you in public, saying he’s only playing you.” Devotee: “Oh yes, he explained that all to me. And the last, why that’s just locker-room tough talk.” Challenger: “OK, maybe I was wrong, please share and enlighten me.” Devotee: “Oh no, he requested my confidentiality.” Challenger: “Ahhhhhhh! . . . But, . . he throws passes at all of your friends!” Devotee: “That mad impetuous boy, he doesn’t know what he wants. I’m the one he needs, the only one who understands him!” Challenger (the long defeated challenger): “He has no more feelings for you than an alien reptilian shapeshifter illusionist!” Devotee: “Oh pshaw, you don’t think a mother knows her little defiant two year old!!!” Not those words exactly of course, but the impluse, the intensity, the root cause is identical. The “hook” of the male sociopath is triggering aspects of the mothering instinct.

      • I would like to comment on what ‘pathfinder’ said about a typical woman’s devotion to a male psychopath. ANYONE who falls in love with someone will find ways to expalin away their love interest’s deviant behavior. That’s where the expression ‘love is blind’ came from. It has nothing to do with whether or not the male in question is psychopathic or non-psychopathic. However, due to the fact that our female ancestors were more inclined to become attached to powerful males with the ability to gather resources (something which someone with an indifference to consequence and no conscience can achieve quite easily) they might have been more likely to be attracted to someone with psychopathy, but then again, there were certainly powerful men with similar abilities, but not the abnormalities, which mated with these women, this type being even MORE prevalent in the world. If psychopathy was such an evolutionary advantage, don’t you think that more than 1% of the population would be psychopathic, if your idea that women can’t recognize male psyochapths (and therefore would be more likely to mate with them) were true?

        • I think the percentage is way higher than 1%. I wouldn’t be shocked if the male percentage was between 5 and 7%, and the female 3-5%. I keep waiting for genetic studies to offer definitive numbers and I’m still waiting. I would argue that 1 in 25 or 1 in 20 are easily sociopathic.

          I wouldn’t say that psychopathy was normally an evolutionary advantage, but it is an evolutionary strategy, a conning strategy. Individual men are fooled everyday by sociopathic women who read their weaknesses and vanities, as are women also. But in the case of women I argue that it is class wide. Male sociopaths might as well be shape shifting alien illusionists — the defect is that invisible to women (and on top of everything else they induce the mothering instinct) . With women in frequent management positions this has become a vast societal problem (or a “subterranean societal problem of vast proportion involving sociopathy” as I put it, “subterranean” because it it not generally recognized). In my opinion, this is a much bigger problem than a glass ceiling — in thinly staffed for-profit entities talent needs to be recognized or the entity goes under. The glass ceiling will change automatically, but I don’t know how to approach sociopath recognition problems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s