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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why doesn't sociopathy spread like wildfire?

A commenter, "GT," noticed that Casey Anthony had broken her silence recently and posted a link to an article about her on the post about her here.

He mentioned that she is "still 100% grade A sociopath," and gave some examples to prove his point.

I agreed, and pointed out that my favorite line in the article he linked was:

"Caylee would be 12 right now. And would be a total badass" [said Anthony.]

I then pointed out that Anthony was actually right: a girl whose only influence is her sociopathic mother is almost certainly going to turn out to be a sociopath herself, and Caylee probably would have been a badass.

GT then asked an interesting question:

I hope for Caylee's sake her grandmother would have provided a positive female role model. Caylee's grandmother was the one that reported her missing when the mother (Casey) kept making excuses about her daughters location. I could envision that Caylee would have grown up looking for a mother's love but never finding it.

On to a more specific point that I have been thinking about for awhile. If sociopaths are created, which I think in the vast majority of cases they are, what keeps the sociopathic population at 3%? It seems that it would start to snowball after awhile; like a virus. A sociopathic father or Mother could create several sociopathic offspring and so on and so on... Would love to hear your thoughts.

I agree that sociopaths are for the most part created by their environments, so I completely agree with the premise of GT's question.

I wrote here about how sociopathy is in fact evolutionarily adaptive as long as they're a small fraction of the population to fly beneath the radar. So one force that keeps sociopathy in stasis is that if they ever became a sizable fraction of the population, people would get wise to their ways, and they wouldn't be able to get away with their devious tactics as easily.

But how exactly does the proportion of sociopaths in a population stay in check? Part of the answer must lie in the strong natural maternal instinct: unless that instinct is somehow abused and twisted at an early age, it will emerge. It seems quite possible for orphaned girls to feel affectionate and protective toward their children even if they themselves did not receive much love as children. We see that protectiveness throughout the animal kingdom, and if that instinct were not powerful, species would simply go extinct.

Mankind's natural state simply doesn't seem to be sociopathy. Only extreme circumstances can foster it. Even if you have one parent who is a sociopath, having another who is not could conceivably prevent it.

Another part of the equation is that those females -- like Casey Anthony -- who lack the maternal instinct are less likely to have children who survive to reproductive age themselves. You needn't even be murderous for that to happen; merely careless and neglectful.

We're lucky that sociopathy does not generally spread beyond 3% of the population, but in fact, it's not just luck. Nature has predisposed us -- especially mothers -- toward empathy, and that's what keeps the proportion of sociopaths at a relatively manageable level.

Evolution gave us certain instincts for good reason; and the same instincts which help us survive as a species seem to keep sociopathy to a minimum.


Jokah Macpherson said...

A man can produce thousands of offspring in his lifetime while a woman can produce at most only a dozen or two. That's why I don't understand why the proportion of people who are men stays in check at around 50%.

Anonymous said...

It seems like a comparison could be made to the mother and daughter of Hillary Clinton. In reading about Hillary's background it appears that her mother was a sociopath, Hillary of course exhibits sociopathy, not sure about Chelsea yet.

In spite of her upbringing by a sociopath and with all the negative media attention and her probable knowledge that she is not Bill's daughter, she seems like a well adjusted thoughtful person.

Maybe over time with the influence of an attentive father figure the effects of sociopathy can be dimimished in females.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I have not gotten the impression that Chelsea is well-adjusted and thoughtful, to be honest. And her father, or father figure, is a sociopath himself. I think that Clinton marriage is one of the rare cases where two sociopaths married each other. I wrote about Bill here:

Anonymous said...

It can't be purely genetic of course. But I do wonder why it seems so unbroken historically especially with tyrants. Why would Ghengis khans descendants take part in atrocities, its not like every single child a sociopath has will be a sociopath that will birth more sociopaths. But we keep seeing tyrants having tyrants as children too consistently. I talked about Kim Jong Un with my mom and asked about sociopathy. She said "Sociopaths include 1-4% of the population, but if you are talking about people who are just really messed up like Kim Jong Un that's like 10% of everyone).

John Craig said...

Anon --
Yes, tyrants do seem to beget tyrants. Papa Doc Duvalier had Baby Doc Duvalier. Saddam Hussein had Uday and Qusay, and as you point out, Kim Jong il begat Kim Jong un. You're right, the list goes on.

By the way, I'm not sure I'd include Genghis Khan among those types of sociopaths. The Mongols were particularly fierce warriors, and Genghis was their leader, but when taking over new Chinese cities he would generally avoid bloodshed when he could. And if you look into his life, he was regarded as a wise leader if not always a benevolent one. In the past 850 years his name has become synonymous with bloodthirstiness and gore, and he was certainly capable of being rapacious, but he was also a great man inches own way. I've always thought that the famous quote from him, about how man's highest job is in conquest, may have been said for effect, rather than a reflection of how he really felt. (Better to have your enemies fear you, that way they won't put up resistance and you won't have to do battle with them.)

Anyway, to your point: I'm not surebwhat your mother meant by "really messed up," but yes, some of this seems to be situational. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If I were somehow magically given absolute dictatorial powers somewhere, and I could do whatever I pleased without fear of consequence, would I be well behaved? I can almost assure you, the answer to that is, no, I wouldn't be.

Anonymous said...

Evidence shows that when performing a task and thinking about money, it makes people less generous. Narcissism can have a genetic basis, but there is a basic level every human may have that can be acquired with enough wealth or fame. Of the cluster b conditions, I suspect narcissism has the greatest environmental basis (though there is a genetic component probably). Had an uncle, wasn't narcissistic, but then he became super religious and suddenly became a textbook example. The others are more genetic, but I still have no clue what histrionic is.


John Craig said...

An0nimous --
It's always been my impression that the Cluster B conditions are mostly environmental in origin. (And I believe mostly in a genetic basis for practically everything else, including intelligence.) If you look at the personal histories of serial killers, for instance, there's almost always abuse early on. And many times it's really horrific abuse. And it's also always been my impression that while outright abuse from the parents is likely to create a sociopath, mere neglect is likely to cause narcissism (if your parents don't love you, then you end up "loving" yourself in a blind way). These are obviously not hard and fast rules, and I've seen plenty of exceptions, but there does seem to be a correlation.

I've always seen narcissism as sociopathy's "baby brother." (A very unscientific, over-generalized way of looking at it, but also sometimes helpful.)