Genetics of Psychopathy

December 10, 2022•  .   . Listen

Although the genetic effect on the molecular level is unknown, the genetic effect on psychopathic behavior causes emotional dysfunction; I’m not. However, it appears to affect the functional integrity of the amygdala and orbital/ventrolateral frontal cortex (and possibly additional systems) (Glannon, 2013). The deterioration in these two neural systems causes a deterioration in the ability to change stimulus-response relationships. These disorders impair the effect of standard socialization techniques and increase the risk of reactive aggression due to this disappointment. “Psychopathy, self-centered, manipulative, deception, and lack of empathy, is a socially destructive personality disorder defined by the combination of emotional, interpersonal, and behavioral features such as guilt or regret and a tendency to violate social and legal expectations and norms” (Hare, 1999).

Many experimental studies have found that psychopaths in childhood and adolescence are very similar to psychopaths in adulthood. Research using the youth psychopathic index shows that the psychopath in youth can “be reliably assessed and the nomological network surrounding the structure is quite similar to the adult psychopath around it” (Salekin, Leistico, Trobst, Schrum & Lochman, 2005). Research has found that youth psychopaths are strongly associated with low levels of environmental compliance and conscience and deficiencies in emotional processing and blocking. Psychotic people lack conscience and feelings for others. Their own prosperity and aspirations are always at the forefront for them. They take what they want at all costs and move on without guilt or regret. Psychopathy is among the oldest and most undisputed, researched, verified, and radical personality disorders.

A striking characteristic of most of the antisocial behaviors that psychotic individuals exhibit is that it is often mediated. So, targeted, aimed at achieving money, sexual opportunities, or a status increase (Cornell, Warren, Hawk, Staffor, Oram & Pine, 1996). The emotional distortion found in these individuals prevents socialization and the individual does not learn to avoid antisocial behavior. The amygdala in our brain is about deterrent conditioning and instrumental learning (LeDoux, 1998). It is also included in response to frightened and sad facial expressions (Whalen, Shin, McInerney, Fischer, Wright & Rauch, 2001). In light of all this, the amygdala is thought to be part of all processes that lead to functional degradation by psychopathic individuals, which means it is one of the basic neural systems that play a role in psychopathic pathology (Whalen et al., 2001).


Cornell, D. G., Warren, J., Hawk, G., Stafford, E., Oram, G., & Pine, D. (1996). Psychopathy in instrumental and reactive violent offenders. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology64(4), 783.

Glannon, W. (2013). Brain, body, and mind: Neuroethics with a human face. Oxford University Press.

Hare, R. D. (1999). Without conscience: The disturbing world of the psychopaths among us. Guilford Press.

LeDoux, J. (1998). Fear and the brain: where have we been, and where are we going?. Biological psychiatry44(12), 1229-1238.

Salekin, R. T., Leistico, A. M. R., Trobst, K. K., Schrum, C. L., & Lochman, J. E. (2005). Adolescent psychopathy and personality theory—the interpersonal circumplex: Expanding evidence of a nomological net. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology33(4), 445-460.

Whalen, P. J., Shin, L. M., McInerney, S. C., Fischer, H., Wright, C. I., & Rauch, S. L. (2001). A functional MRI study of human amygdala responses to facial expressions of fear versus anger. Emotion1(1), 70.

Featured Image Credit: MAXPIXEL 

About the Author: Burcak Unal is a Junior Researcher with the IACS.

About the Author

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