Psycho killer, qu’est que c’est?

Cambridge: The term is done. To celebrate, and inspired by the ongoing Umbrian struggle against freemasonary, witchcraft, sexual perversion and other matters diabolical, I attend a talk about psychopathy given by world-renowned psychopathy expert James Blair (no relation, though it is an interesting coincidence that various people have speculated — perhaps trying to make him seem more interesting than he is — that Tony Blair is a psychopath).

I make several learnings from the talk:

1. Psychopathy is correctly pronounced with the stress on the ‘o’, not on the ‘a’.

2. Contemporary neuroscientific research suggests that psychopathy is connected with insensitivity/low response in the amygdala and other parts of the brain that process emotional (as opposed to rational) response. This results in psychos not noticing the fear/distress/pain they cause to others. Mr Blair highlights an example from his own work of a psychopathic mugger who reasoned it was best to hit his victims over the head with a brick from behind, because this minimised the chances of them fighting back. The psycho failed to notice it also left his victims with stoved in heads.

3. Psychopathy is not to be confused with sadism. It is not part of the psychopath’s essential make-up that he enjoys causing suffering to others. He tends to be neutral on the question of the enjoyability of inflicting pain, and is afflicted instead with a sort of moral and emotional failure to empathise. The sadist is a different animal. An individual like sadism legend Jeffrey Dahmer, suggests Mr Blair, would likely fail to score the requisite 30 out of 40 points on the standard Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist.

4. If my children do not respond to my imprecations, and do not grow up as I intend, it could be because they are psychopaths. The news that there would have been nothing I could do is almost as comforting as the two glasses of red at the drinks reception after the talk. Of course, since only an estimated 20 percent of the prison population would score 30 on Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, it is unlikely that all of my children are psychopaths. Nonetheless, I have dozed through enough quantitative methodology classes to know that it is not impossible.

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