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What is a psychopath? Research by Yale makes new revelations


Psychopaths because of their unusual personality and acts that defy any concern of the society have long interested the masses. The lack of reason behind their acts is precisely what makes them so intriguing. We ask ourselves, why do psychopaths do what they do? Why? Science has given us many answers to all these questions. Each year we come across some new revelations, which make the picture even clearer. The research by Yale is one such revelation.

Why psychopaths behave the way they do?

traumatic childhoodPsychologists have often rightfully linked any psychopathic behaviour to a traumatic childhood. The brain of a child is not fully developed, and any event that he/she experiences during his/her upbringing has a significant effect on brain development. However, not everyone with a traumatic childhood becomes a psychopath. This makes us speculate if there is an inherent tendency in a person that makes him/her more likely to become a psychopath. Recent research by Yale University has brought us one step closer to the answer by giving us one more clue in that direction.

Psychopaths can’t feel what others feel 

While watching a movie about a psychopath or reading a book, which tells us about a psychopathic behaviour, we might know how being a psychopath feels like. But, while acting spontaneously, it is clear to us that we aren’t psychopaths.

The same is the case with psychopaths. They might be able to think about what other people think. But, when acting spontaneously, they are free from any such concern. The research by Yale University has solidified this fact.

What does the research by Yale say?

The research found a particular thought pattern that is very peculiar to the psychopaths. It was designed to judge the subconscious reaction of one person to another person’s perspective. And in that, psychopaths deviated considerably from the normal people.

In the research, the subject was shown the picture of a room having some dots on the wall. In the same room, the subject could also see another person who was either facing the wall or not facing the wall. That is the person, which the subject could see in the picture, could either see or not see the dots.

Then the subject was asked about how many dots he could see on the wall. When both the subject and the person in the picture could see all the dots, the subject took about one second to respond to the question. However, when the person in the picture was not looking at the wall with the dots, the subject took a slightly longer time to answer the question.

In the case of non-psychopaths, the delay was about 100 milliseconds. But in the case psychopaths the delay was about 60 milliseconds, that is they took almost half the time. This test measured the subconscious reaction of the subject to another person‘s perspective. And it proved that psychopaths are not as strongly affected by the feelings of others as normal people are.

Psychopaths can’t imagine empathy 

In short, if a psychopath could truly express what he thinks about the human feeling of empathy, then he would certainly be called it a disease from which the others around him suffer, and from which he is free. A psychopath cannot imagine empathy in the first person. He simply doesn’t feel it.

Should we feel empathy towards the psychopaths?

What is normal for us is not normal for everybody. The reason why we get so shocked when we hear about some gruesome and notorious deed done by some psychopath is that we can’t imagine how somebody could do it. It simply defies our feeling of empathy, which is something that comes very naturally to us. When one psychopath might hear about another psychopath, he might not be getting the same feeling of empathy, for exactly the same reason why we get it. It is something not present inside them. They have not killed this feeling consciously over time. It was simply not there to begin with.

Though psychopaths might appear to be extremely intelligent. They never feel remorse for what they did. This is something that annoys us and makes us imagine that psychopaths are diabolical beings, and they should be given a gruesome punishment for whatever they did. However, we must understand that if having empathy is the characteristic of a normal human being, then psychopaths are sick beings. Being a psychopath is a mental condition. And they do deserve some empathy for us, as only then we would be able to find a cure to their condition.

Aren’t we all a bit psychotic?

The same behavioural traits, which make psychopaths so dangerous are also present in many of us to some degree. Two types of people in particular share a lot with psychopaths, and with each other. Being similar in some behaviour traits, however, these two personality types have some significant differences that differentiate them. Let us see what these personality types are and what those differences are:

Narcissist vs. Psychopath


Just like psychopaths, Narcissists too have a slight tendency of not knowing what the others feel. However, this tendency is not as pronounced as it is in the case of psychopaths. Narcissists would certainly become aware of your feelings if they seem to gratify them in any way. For example, if you adore a narcissist, they would really like it, they would immediately have a liking for you. But if you do the same to a psychopath, the reaction might not be the same. At best, psychopaths would think about how they can use your affections to meet their own not-so-sweet ends.

Sociopaths vs. Psychopaths 

Sociopaths too disregard the feelings of others. But in their case, it’s not because they don’t know how others feel. They know it very well. It’s just that what others feel simply does not concern them. Their focus is on something else. Nevertheless, if they can manipulate the feelings of others to move closer towards that something else, they would definitely do that. But, no matter how hard they try to suppress it, they feel empathy. Psychopaths, on the other hand, can’t feel what others feel, and can’t relate to others when it comes to empathy. Psychopaths are more natural. Sociopaths are comparatively artificial.

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