Posts Tagged ‘prison’

Huffington Post Features Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Famed Revealer of Systemic and Situational Factors Involved in the Emergence of “Evil” and Heroism

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Last week, The Huffington Post featured someone whose name should always be in the mix when discussing ponerology: Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., a man who has spent much of his life investigating the science of what makes people act in ways we might deem “good” vs. “evil.”

In our recent piece about Dr. James Fallon, we discussed the three ingredients that Fallon believes are required for the creation of a psychopathic killer.

These included:

  • Certain structural and functional characteristics of the brain
  • Certain variants of particular genes
  • An environment that triggers the expression of these biological predispositions

While psychopathic killers can cause great harm to a certain number of people, they are relatively rare. The greater danger, from the perspective of society at large, is the emergence of “evil” on a broader scale within systems. And, as Andrew M. Lobaczewski makes clear in Political Ponerology, for that to happen, not only must people with disorders other than psychopathy be drawn into harmful activities, but so must some percentage of biologically healthy, normal people.

Zimbardo’s work has primarily focused on investigating how this latter event occurs – how everyday, average people can end up participating in destructive events.

Zimbardo has been a psychology professor at Stanford University for over forty years. He is best known for leading the team that conducted what has come to be known as the Stanford prison experiment back in 1971. (more…)

Psychopathy as Adaptive Strategy vs. Mental Disorder: Debate Emerges in Evolutionary Journal

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

One of the most useful perspectives from which to consider questions in ponerology is that of evolutionary psychology. This is the field that asks how and why certain psychological traits and characteristics came about and were selected for during our long evolutionary past. And a number of thinkers have commented on how psychopathy might be viewed through this lens.

I shared some of these evolutionary views of psychopathy in previous writings, discussing:

  • What a profound evolutionary development the emergence of humans without conscience was
  • Whether psychopathy is best understood as an aberration of normal human capacities akin to blindness or deafness or, rather, as a reflection of a different type of human being practicing a different, perhaps detestable to many, but also successful survival and reproductive strategy
  • Why some experts view psychopaths as “intraspecies predators” or even a separate subspecies of Homo Sapiens

Recently, a debate has been raging about these very issues. (more…)

New Study: Inmates with High PCL-R Factor 1 Scores Recognize Victims by Gait

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Could the way you walk be a tip-off to a violent person that you are an easy target?

A new study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence reinforces the fact that, under certain conditions, this might be the case.

The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), the current gold standard test for psychopathy, assesses a person on a variety of elements that are classified into two main categories called “factors.” The first, Factor 1, consists of the person’s interpersonal or affective traits, basically measuring the extent to which they have an aggressive narcissistic personality. The second, Factor 2, consists of the person’s actual behavior and measures the extent to which they exhibit an antisocial or socially deviant lifestyle.

Previous research has shown that certain aspects of body language, including walking style, are characteristic of victims and that those scoring high on the Factor 1 measures of the PCL-R are more accurate than others in judging someone’s vulnerability simply from watching them walk.

Now, in “Psychopathy and Victim Selection: The Use of Gait as a Cue to Vulnerability,” researchers Angela Book, Kimberly Costello and Joseph A. Camilleri studied 47 inmates at a maximum security penitentiary in Ontario, Canada and found that not only, as expected, do the inmates scoring high on PCL-R Factor 1 more accurately than others judge people’s vulnerability by observing their gait, but they are also more likely to actually explicitly mention the victim’s gait in explaining why they perceived them as vulnerable. (more…)