Sunday, 3 June 2012

Dogs, Wolves, Foxes and Psychopaths

Recently, the news seems to be a depressing parade of real-life horror stories of cannibalism and psychopaths. Clearly, there is very little in any of this that could be decribed as remotely beautiful, but the mindset of a psychopath is certainly very weird. In recent years, though, advances in our understanding of human and animal brains are finally giving hope of understanding the "causes", or, at least, the neuroanatomy of psychopathy. What the legal system chooses to do with this information, of course, is an entirely different issue. In any case, one of the better articles on the brains of psychopaths online is this piece: Anatomy of a Psychopath..: by Dr Jonathan T. Pararajasingham-->

For a long time, it has been known that it is possible to breed "tameness*", even "empathy" (apparently empathetic behaviour), into animals (compare the average golden retriever with a wolf...), which strongly implies a genetic component to tame and apparently affectionate behaviour. In this case, can "we" find a genetic component to the lack of empathy and shallowness of emotions that characterise psychopaths?


*The most famous experiments on this subject were Dmitri Belayeav's studies on the domestication of silver foxes-


  1. Very interesting and deep.

  2. Thank you, Barbara.

    Update: a story published today on dog-empathy