Re: Sociopaths (was Re: Reforming Education)

Anders Sandberg (
20 Oct 1999 14:20:14 +0200

"Clint O'Dell" <> writes:

> >"Damage" is a tricky word. Have feral children damaged brains? Certain
> >parts never developed well during the critical periods of development (for
> >example language in some cases), emotional neglect and abuse have
> >programmed very dysfunctional behavior programs and reactions into their
> >limbic systems and deprived environments have likely decreased overall cell
> >and synapse count. I would say they have damaged brains, their brains are
> >not just different, they work worse than "normal" brains. The same goes for
> >antisocial personality disorder, it is not just an alternate normative
> >system, it is a syndrome of personality and behavior changes that usually
> >leads to serious problems for the person and impairs their decision making
> >ability.
> I think I'll just have to meet a few of these people suffering from
> antisocial personality disorder and find out for myself.

It might be hard to achieve in a controlled manner, but I think it can be a learning experience.

> I've been reading
> a lot about this ever since this thread started and none of my reading has
> me convinced it's a disorder.

The big problem when dealing with personality disorders is that there is no obvious demarcation between normal people and ill people, it is a continuum. There are normal people, people who are a bit antisocial and irresponsible, there are people who have antisocial personalities but maybe not serious enough to cause much trouble for themselves and others, and there are people who are downright handicapped by their lack of inhibitions and empathy; where do we draw the line? In the end, it is a cultural issue, but that doesn't make the disorder unreal.

Cultural differences can make a certain personality or mental state more or less useful or acceptable (I'm nuts if I hear voices in my head here in Stockholm, but at a Voodoo temple it would be a normal phenomenon), but in the end a depressed person in Kongo feels just as bad as a depressed person in London.

> Perhaps there are some documentation on the
> web covering brain development differences? I find it very hard to swallow
> that the frontal lobe is not developed fully or damaged in some way to cause
> this.

Why? Would you say it was unlikley that bad sight would be likely if the occipital lobe is not well developed in a person? Social behavior and personality are just as much brain functions as memory or taste.

> Have there been any cases of a person developing antisocial
> personality disorder as an adult after a head injury? As extreme as
> sociopathy?

Yes. The classic example is Phineas Gage, who got a metal rod straight through his frontal lobes and survived - but developed an antisocial personality. I recommend Antonio Damasio's _Descartes' Error_; the first chapter deals with the story of Gage and his life in detail. There are other cases, try a medline search.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y