Post Redux: “THE SOCIOBIOLOGY OF SOCIOPATHY: AN INTEGRATED EVOLUTIONARY MODEL”

From “THE SOCIOBIOLOGY OF SOCIOPATHY:  AN INTEGRATED EVOLUTIONARY MODEL“, Linda Mealey, Ph.D. [http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/archivos_pdf/sociobiology%C2%AD_of_sociopathy.pdf — other webpages carrying it have disappeared over time, if you want a permanent copy I’d suggest printing or downloading it.  Dr. Mealey uses the word sociopathy as a synonym for psychopathy I believe.]:

Linda Mealey

“Sociopaths are “outstanding” members of society in two senses: politically, they command attention because of the inordinate amount of crime they commit, and psychologically, they elicit fascination because most of us cannot fathom the cold, detached way they repeatedly harm and manipulate others. Proximate explanations from behavior genetics, child development, personality theory, learning theory, and social psychology describe a complex interaction of genetic and physiological risk factors with demographic and micro-environmental variables that predispose a portion of the population to chronic antisocial behavior.

. . .

Sociopaths, who comprise only 3-4% of the male population and less than 1% of the female population (Strauss & Lahey 1984, Davison and Neale 1994, Robins, Tipp & Przybeck 1991), are thought to account for approximately 20% of the United States’ prison population (Hare 1993) and between 33% and 80% of the population of chronic criminal offenders (Mednick, KirkegaardSorensen, Hutchings, Knop, Rosenberg & Schulsinger 1977, Hare 1980, Harpending & Sobus 1987). Furthermore, whereas the “typical” U.S. burglar is estimated to have committed a median five crimes per year before being apprehended, chronic offenders- those most likely to be sociopaths- report committing upward of fifty crimes per annum and sometimes as many as two or three hundred (Blumstein & Cohen 1987). Collectively, these individuals are thought to account for over 50% of all crimes in the U.S. (Loeber 1982; Mednick, Gabrielli & Hutchings 1987, Hare 1993). Whether criminal or not, sociopaths typically exhibit what is generally considered to be irresponsible and unreliable behavior; their attributes include egocentrism, an inability to form lasting personal commitments and a marked degree of impulsivity. Underlying a superficial veneer of sociability and charm, sociopaths are characterized by a deficit of the social emotions (love, shame, guilt, empathy, and remorse). On the other hand, they are not intellectually handicapped, and are often able to deceive and manipulate others through elaborate scams and ruses including fraud, bigamy, embezzlement, and other crimes which rely on the trust and cooperation of others. The sociopath is “aware of the discrepancy between his behavior and societal expectations, but he seems to be neither guided by the possibility of such a discrepancy, nor disturbed by its occurrence” (Widom 1976a, p 614). This cold- hearted and selfish approach to human interaction at one time garnered for sociopathy the moniker “moral insanity” (McCord 1983, Davison & Neale 1990).

. . .

My basic premise is that sociopaths are designed for the successful execution of social deception and that they are the product of evolutionary pressures which, through a complex interaction of environmental and genetic factors, lead some individuals to pursue a life history strategy of manipulative and predatory social interactions. On the basis of game theoretic models this strategy is to be expected in the population at relatively low frequencies in a demographic pattern consistent with what we see in contemporary societies. It is also expected to appear preferentially under certain social, environmental, and developmental circumstances which I hope to delineate.

. . .

2.1.3  Sex differences and the “two-threshold” model Cloninger put forth a “two threshold” polygenic model to account for both the sex difference in sociopathy and its spectral nature (Cloninger, Reich & Guze 1975; Cloninger, Christiansen, Reich & Gottesman 1978). According to the model, sociopaths are individuals on the extreme end of a normal distribution whose genetic component is (1) polygenic and (2) to a large degree, sexlimited.  [Sex- limited genes, not to be confused with sex-linked genes, are those which are located on the autosomes of both sexes but which are triggered into expression only within the chemical/ hormonal microenvironment of one sex or the other. Common examples include beard and mustache growth in men, and breast and hip development in women.] If a large number of the many genes underlying sociopathy are triggered by testosterone or some other androgen, many more men than women will pass the threshold of the required number of active genes necessary for its outward expression.  According to the two-threshold model, those females who do express the trait must have a greater overall “dose” or “genetic load” (i.e, they are further out in the extreme of the normal distribution of genotypes) than most of the males who express the trait. This proposition has been supported by data showing that in addition to the greater overall risk for males as opposed to females, there is a also greater risk for the offspring (and other relatives) of female sociopaths as compared to the offspring (and other relatives) of male sociopaths. This phenomenon cannot be accounted for either by sex-linkage or by the differential experiences of the sexes.  Besides providing a proximate explanation for the greater incidence of male sociopathy and crime, the two-threshold model also explains on a proximate level the finding that males are more susceptible to environmental influences than females. Somewhat paradoxically, while a male will express sociopathy at a lower “genetic dose” than is required for expression in a female, the heritability of the trait is greater for females, meaning that the environmental component of the variance is greater for males (8).  The two-threshold model thus explains in a proximate sense what sociobiologists would predict from a more ultimate perspective. The fact that males are more susceptible than females to the environmental conditions of their early years fits well with sociobiological theory, in that the greater variance in male reproductive capacity makes their “choice” of life strategy somewhat more risky and therefore more subject to selective pressures (Symons 1979, Buss 1988, Mealey & Segal 1993). Sociobiological reasoning thus leads to the postulate that males should be more sensitive to environmental cues that (1) trigger environmentally-contingent or developmentally-canalized life history strategies or (2) are stimuli for which genetically based individual differences in response thresholds have evolved. (Recall mechanisms 3, 4 & 5 for the maintenance of mixed-strategy ESSs in a population.)”

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/archivos_pdf/sociobiology%C2%AD_of_sociopathy.pdf
http://generallythinking.com/research/mealey-1995-the-sociobiology-of-sociopathy/
(the latter perhaps still available thru the Wayback Machine)

So that’s why female sociopaths tend to be so spectacular — that full genetic dosage (with an element of ‘being set free’ by high testosterone levels in these particular women), for example, Stacy Castor (https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/ah-those-spectacular-female-psychopaths-stacey-castor-the-black-widow/).  I also recall a documentary on a woman who convinced her new husband that she had cancer, disappeared for months, came back and told her husband that his wife had died from the cancer and that she was her own twin sister, took up a conjugal living arrangement with her own husband, the neighbors however called the authorities, who discovered she had murdered her earlier family (a quick search could not find the source, but I believe it was from a Kurtis Productions documentary (American Justice or Justice Files)).  Kurtis Productions has an excellent series of documentaries on psychopathy which are never re-shown (for some reason).

Unfortunately Linda Mealey passed away in 2002 from colon and liver cancer (induced?) (https://www.csbsju.edu/psychology/faculty/linda-j-mealey-phd).  If she had been able to continue her research I’m confident that sociopathy (psychopathy) would be publicly understood to a much greater extent than it is now.  I do believe that all the ‘big questions’ of psychopathy have been answered, but by psychopathic psychopathy experts and scientists who hold the answers closely.

In an unsuccessful search for her CV, I found this discussion, Evolution and Machiavelliansim (p. 253), from Barbara Oakley’s “Evil Genes”, which may be of interest.

Final versions of The Sociobiology of Sociopathy may be available for download (at cost) here:  https://philpapers.org/rec/MEATSO-2, and https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences/article/the-sociobiology-of-sociopathy-an-integrated-evolutionary-model/A5F1DDC8F0D32E036B725FE7BFA761AF.

My original post from 2011:  https://pathwhisperer.info/2011/08/07/the-sociobiology-of-sociopathy-an-integrated-evolutionary-model-linda-mealey/.

“THE SOCIOBIOLOGY OF SOCIOPATHY: AN INTEGRATED EVOLUTIONARY MODEL” – Linda Mealey

I read this quite a few years ago, recently looked it up again (http://generallythinking.com/research/mealey-1995-the-sociobiology-of-sociopathy/).  [Still available at http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/archivos_pdf/sociobiology%C2%AD_of_sociopathy.pdf.]

Sociopaths are “outstanding” members of society in two senses: politically, they command attention because of the inordinate amount of crime they commit, and psychologically, they elicit fascination because most of us cannot fathom the cold, detached way they repeatedly harm and manipulate others. Proximate explanations from behavior genetics, child development, personality theory, learning theory, and social psychology describe a complex interaction of genetic and physiological risk factors with demographic and micro-environmental variables that predispose a portion of the population to chronic antisocial behavior.

. . .

My basic premise is that sociopaths are designed for the successful execution of social deception and that they are the product of evolutionary pressures which, through a complex interaction of environmental and genetic factors, lead some individuals to pursue a life history strategy of manipulative and predatory social interactions. On the basis of game theoretic models this strategy is to be expected in the population at relatively low frequencies in a demographic pattern consistent with what we see in contemporary societies. It is also expected to appear preferentially under certain social, environmental, and developmental circumstances which I hope to delineate.

. . .

2.1.3  Sex differences and the “two-threshold” model Cloninger put forth a “two threshold” polygenic model to account for both the sex difference in sociopathy and its spectral nature (Cloninger, Reich & Guze 1975; Cloninger, Christiansen, Reich & Gottesman 1978). According to the model, sociopaths are individuals on the extreme end of a normal distribution whose genetic component is (1) polygenic and (2) to a large degree, sexlimited.  [Sex- limited genes, not to be confused with sex-linked genes, are those which are located on the autosomes of both sexes but which are triggered into expression only within the chemical/ hormonal microenvironment of one sex or the other. Common examples include beard and mustache growth in men, and breast and hip development in women.] If a large number of the many genes underlying sociopathy are triggered by testosterone or some other androgen, many more men than women will pass the threshold of the required number of active genes necessary for its outward expression.  According to the two-threshold model, those females who do express the trait must have a greater overall “dose” or “genetic load” (i.e, they are further out in the extreme of the normal distribution of genotypes) than most of the males who express the trait. This proposition has been supported by data showing that in addition to the greater overall risk for males as opposed to females, there is a also greater risk for the offspring (and other relatives) of female sociopaths as compared to the offspring (and other relatives) of male sociopaths. This phenomenon cannot be accounted for either by sex-linkage or by the differential experiences of the sexes.  Besides providing a proximate explanation for the greater incidence of male sociopathy and crime, the two-threshold model also explains on a proximate level the finding that males are more susceptible to environmental influences than females. Somewhat paradoxically, while a male will express sociopathy at a lower “genetic dose” than is required for expression in a female, the heritability of the trait is greater for females, meaning that the environmental component of the variance is greater for males (8).  The two-threshold model thus explains in a proximate sense what sociobiologists would predict from a more ultimate perspective. The fact that males are more susceptible than females to the environmental conditions of their early years fits well with sociobiological theory, in that the greater variance in male reproductive capacity makes their “choice” of life strategy somewhat more risky and therefore more subject to selective pressures (Symons 1979, Buss 1988, Mealey & Segal 1993). Sociobiological reasoning thus leads to the postulate that males should be more sensitive to environmental cues that (1) trigger environmentally-contingent or developmentally-canalized life history strategies or (2) are stimuli for which genetically based individual differences in response thresholds have evolved. (Recall mechanisms 3, 4 & 5 for the maintenance of mixed-strategy ESSs in a population.)

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/archivos_pdf/sociobiology%C2%AD_of_sociopathy.pdf

So that’s why female sociopaths tend to be so spectacular — that full genetic dosage, for example, Stacy Castor (https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/ah-those-spectacular-female-psychopaths-stacey-castor-the-black-widow/).  I recall a documentary on one woman who convinced her new husband that she had cancer, disappeared for a while, came back and told her husband that his wife had died and that she was her own twin sister, took up a conjugal living arrangement with her own husband, the neighbors weren’t fooled however and called the authorities, who discovered she had murdered her earlier family (a quick search did not find this, but I believe it was from a Kurtis Productions documentary (American Justice or Justice Files) — they have an excellent series of documentaries on sociopathy).  Imagine the nerve of that female Lehman Brothers HR SVP canceling my freelance assignment for giving friends some eight pages on how to recognize sociopaths, never imagining she would/could be recognized.

Transsociopathica always said that the sociopathic women he knew were all high in testosterone.  It turns out that’s true. (I no longer believe Transsociopathica was who he seemed to be (before I realized this I totally freaked out when his blog disappeared, which was immediately after I had discovered that Linda Mealey and Kathy Krajco had died prematurely), but he still spoke many truths.)

“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.

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