Dr. Robert Hare, who did seminal work in identifying psychopaths, refers to them as “intraspecies predators.” This prompted questions from a Lovefraud reader who asked,
- If psychopaths are indeed natural predators (by implication, their design is part of nature’s plan to maintain some balance) then would we ever be able to weed them out of society?
- Do they have a purpose in the natural order of things?
In this article, I’m going to address the second question. Then, next week, I’ll suggest an answer to the first question.
I don’t know about a purpose, but there are researchers who believe psychopaths are around us today because they survived the natural selection process of human evolution.
These researchers call psychopathy “a nonpathological, reproductively viable, alternate life history strategy.” This theory is outlined in Coercive and Precocious Sexuality as a Fundamental Aspect of Psychopathy, a paper published in 2007 by Grant T. Harris, PhD; Marnie E. Rice, PhD; N. Zoe Hilton, PhD; Martin L. Lalumiere, PhD; and Vernon L. Quinsey, PhD.
This article was written by Donna Anderson at Lovefraud Blog. The comment I posted is below.
I think it’s worth looking at other species. Another phrase with the same meaning as ‘intraspecies predator’ is biological ‘cheater strategist’.
Some spadefoot toad tadpoles become cannibals while the rest eat the normal algae (http://www.centre.edu/web/news…..storz.html). If there is enough food and the water doesn’t dry up (which is the norm) the normals keep their numbers up and things are more or less in balance. If the ponds dry too quickly then the faster growing cannibals are much more likely to survive to adulthood and reproduce. If the proportion tips in favor of the cannibals they eventually have to turn on themselves and the population crashes. In the rebuild, the normals again come to the fore. Rinse. Repeat.
Spadefoot normal and cannibal tadpoles
Imo, the achilles tendon of psychopaths is parenting. Being in a state of arrested development themselves and pathologically ego-driven, they are incapable of nurturing healthy children.
On a side note, there is also a question of the evolutionary relationship between normals and psychopaths. Specifically there seems to be a biological prohibition that keeps normal human females from recognizing psychopaths. It’s a defect that might as well be invisible to them (in the majority, imo). Why would this be?
I used to think that psychopaths simply had the “evolutionary jump” on normal women, in the same way that introduced predators have on island animals that have never experienced predation. Forgive this example, but the most well known instance of this is probably the flightless pigeon, the dodo, that sailors could just walk over to and hit on the head. In this scenario human females would simply not have evolved a response quickly enough.
However what does evolution “want?” Evolution simply passes on genetic traits that produce greater number of offspring that survive to maturity and reproduce themselves. So evolution “wouldn’t care” (“want” and “wouldn’t care” are simply shorthand ways of speaking) if the father was a normal or a psychopath. If a psychopathic child grew up and murdered their mother, if it was past the mother’s childbearing years, then this would be of “no concern” to evolution. In evolutionary terms, the passing on of one’s genes, that mother would still be an evolutionary “winner.”
In otherwords I’m now inclined to believe that normal women have an evolved blindness to male psychopathy. When I first read Cleckley’s Mask of Sanity I found it very hard to believe the stories of normal female/psychopathic male interactions. However the sheer number wore me down and then I started seeing examples in real life (actually I had often seen real examples but now I could recognize them for what they were).
So where does this leave us? I dunno . . . .
I’m bringing in the two comments below to expand the main idea:
A leeetle angry at the ladies, eh?
That’s not the way I look at it. Have you ever read “Mask of Sanity” or witnessed/experienced a female devotee’s devotion to a male psychopath? “Devotee” is a description I proudly claim originator of, in this context. (Obviously there are male devotees also, but I believe they’re relatively rarer and qualitatively different.) There comes a point where there is nothing a female devotee can’t explain away, nothing about the beloved psychopath that the devotee can’t translate into acceptableness. Challenger: “You don’t know his last name.” “You don’t know his first name.” “You don’t know where he lives.” “You don’t have his phone number.” “Did you know he spent time in prison and/or a mental hospital?” “He derides you in public, saying he’s only playing you.” Devotee: “Oh yes, he explained that all to me. And the last, why that’s just locker-room tough talk.” Challenger: “OK, maybe I was wrong, please share and enlighten me.” Devotee: “Oh no, he requested my confidentiality.” Challenger: “Ahhhhhhh! . . . But, . . he throws passes at all of your friends!” Devotee: “That mad impetuous boy, he doesn’t know what he wants. I’m the one he needs, the only one who understands him!” Challenger (the long defeated challenger): “He has no more feelings for you than an alien reptilian shapeshifter illusionist!” Devotee: “Oh pshaw, you don’t think a mother knows her little defiant two year old!!!” Not those words exactly of course, but the impluse, the intensity, the root cause is identical. The “hook” of the male sociopath is triggering aspects of the mothering instinct.