The biological etiology of psychopathy

Authored by: Rheanna J. Remmel , Andrea L. Glenn

The Routledge International Handbook of Biosocial Criminology

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415722131
eBook ISBN: 9781315858449
Adobe ISBN: 9781317936749


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Psychopathy has been widely studied within recent decades, and recently the search to determine its biological causes has intensified. Psychopathy can be described as a psychological disorder which includes exhibition of callous and antisocial behavior, lack of empathy, shallow affect, lack of guilt, and lack of remorse (Hare, 1996). It can additionally be described as a developmental disorder exhibiting lack of emotion, manipulative behavior, irresponsible interpersonal relationships, impulsivity, and possibly violence (Wu and Barnes, 2013). Its characterization as a developmental disorder implies that it is present at a relatively early age, and may involve early biological mechanisms. Although social and environmental factors have been shown to influence the development of psychopathic traits (Raine, 2002), it is important also to understand the biological factors which lead some individuals, but not others, to develop psychopathy. Before examining these factors, it is important to have an understanding of how we conceptualize and measure psychopathy.

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