Psychopaths have an "empathy switch"?


The Force is Strong With This One
Hi nature,

this is off-topic, but since it says in your signature:

"Please apologize my english and correct me"

That sentence is incorrect. You can apologize for your English, it means to say sorry. But we can't do that ;) You could say: "Please excuse my English" or "I apologize for my English".

Just my kind corrections. :hug2:


The Living Force
Ant22 said:
Good point about the two types of empathy. The way I understand the article is that this the difference between people with emotional capability for spontaneous empathy and psychopaths who at best "can mentally 'put themselves in another's shoes'", like you said.
Lol, psychopaths don't do that, as they are incapable of empathy, although, I think OPs might. An OP may be perfectly capable of using the intellect to 'put themselves in another's shoes'. At least that's how I see it. Simplistically speaking, of course. It's just an idea.


The Force is Strong With This One
This makes sense, or rather, it never made sense to me that psychopaths lack empathy entirely.

See, there are plenty of people who are or are not psychopathic and are simply oblivious to others' needs. Many narcissists or self-centered people are just totally clued out around other people; only their own needs matter. And yet they don't go out of their way to con people or engage in criminal activities. When they do manipulate others it is usually via infantile behaviours such as emotional outbursts or temper tantrums.

I've long thought that in order to swindle a person, you need to be tuned in enough to others to figure out their needs or wants in order to manipulate them. In order to do that, they have to be able to see the world from the perspective of others, and then press the mute button on that inner voice saying what they do is wrong. Or, as Jordan Peterson pointed out, they rationalize it by convincing themselves the other person shouldn't be so stupid around them.

Jeffrey of Troy

Padawan Learner
Follow up research has now been published which may help clarify these issues. It's not that psychopaths can turn empathy (actually feeling caring for others) on & off; what they can turn on & off is "putting yourself in someone else's shoes." It's about perspective, not feelings of caring.

As Ant22 hypothesized in original post of this thread, they use this to pursue their goals more effectively.

After assessing the 106 volunteers, she then gave them a computer-based task. They saw a picture of a human avatar in prison khakis, standing in a room, and facing either right or left. There were either two red dots on the wall in front of the avatar, or one dot in front of them and one dot behind them. Their job was to verify how many dots either they or the avatar could see.

Normally, people can accurately say how many dots the avatar sees, but they’re slower if there are dots behind the avatar. That’s because what they see (two dots) interferes with their ability to see through the avatar’s eyes (one dot). This is called egocentric interference. But they’re also slower to say how many dots they can see if that number differs from the avatar’s count. This shows how readily humans take other perspectives: Volunteers are automatically affected by the avatar’s perspective, even when it hurts their own performance. This is called altercentric interference.

Baskin-Sommers found that the psychopathic inmates showed the usual level of egocentric interference—that is, their own perspective was muscling in on the avatar’s. But they showed much less altercentric interference than the other inmates—the avatar’s perspective wasn’t messing with their own, as it would for most other people.

Of course, not all psychopaths are the same, and they vary considerably in their behavior. But Baskin-Sommers also found that the higher their score on the psychopathy assessment test, the less they were affected by what the avatar saw. And the less affected they were, the more assault charges they had on their record.
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