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Murderers, fiends, offenders, crooks, abusers -- criminals and criminal behavior have always been a part of the human landscape. The reasons for their behavior have stumped the best minds on the planet and there is no surefire way to identify who will become a scourge of humanity and who will become an upright citizen. Nature vs nurture has been an ongoing debate in the social sciences with nurture -- as it does offer some glimmer of hope -- often winning out. However, new research points out that we are relying too much on a sociological viewpoint to explain crime and violence. Biology plays in important role too, and in some cases genetic inheritance is the only explanation that makes sense.

Join us on this episode of The Health and Wellness Show where we discuss the genetic and evolutionary aspects of antisocial behavior and attempt to answer the question: Are some people born to be bad? And stay tuned for Zoya's Pet Health Segment, where she discusses how to pet your cat without suddenly getting scratched or bitten!

Running Time: 01:25:46

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Jonathan: Welcome to the Health and Wellness Show everybody. Today is Friday, November 24, 2017. Happy Thanksgiving. My name is Jonathan. I'll be your host for today. Joining me in our virtual studio from all over the planet we have Doug and Elliot, Erica, Gaby and Tiffany, a full crew today. Hey everybody.

All: Hellos.

Jonathan: Almost. We are missing Gaby. I'm not on the ball. Off the ball.

Tiffany: Maybe your brain is potholed.

Jonathan: Yeah. Well today we are going to talk about potholed brains; more precisely evil brains, and even more precisely, the connection between biology and crime. This is an interesting topic. A lot of our listeners may be and probably are aware of psychopathy and the study of psychopathy. That's a big part of what we're going to talk about. But the overarching concept is that there is a biological aspect to crime and criminal impulses, not necessarily as sociological aspects.

So we're looking at the way the brain works and what kind of impulse it causes or doesn't cause. So the interesting part of this is the social construct around crime. What is crime? Because there are certain things that are on the books as laws that would be technically a crime but many of us would agree that they should not be criminalized. So where does this notion of crime come from? What do you guys think if we're talking about criminal psychopathy as opposed to vanilla psychopathy?

Doug: It's kind of tricky because crimes are actually a social construct so it's not the things that the SJWs(Social Justice Warriors) always tell you are social constructs. Law are already a social construction so it's something that we just kind of makeup. It's good. There are certain things that need to be laid down as guidelines and if you go against those there should be some kind of repercussion to discourage that sort of behaviour. But then when you're talking about the biology of crime, these biological factors aren't social constructions as much as the SJWs would like to tell you that they are. Where do those two things meet?

Tiffany: I think that for me, a crime is taking something from someone without their permission, whether it be food, sex, their life, things like that, or doing something to someone that they don't want you to do to them.

Jonathan: Right. I've heard that described in the Libertarian viewpoint as "theft is underlying issue or problem" because even murder is the ultimate theft of someone's life. Because that's what they say when you talk about anarchy - not the upheaval of everything anarchy, but the idea that people could be autonomous, how much government is necessary, all that kind of thing - it comes down to "well how do you deal with issues like crime?" And that's one of the things that's generally proposed, to the best of my understanding, is that you use theft as the basis for judgment of a crime.

Tiffany: Yeah. Adrian Raine said that also in Anatomy of Violence. He says most crimes are a way to take resources from other people and it's a profitable endeavour for a small subset of society.

Erica: That's the whole concept of neuro-criminology, the study of the biological roots of criminal behaviour.

Jonathan: That's a large aspect of behavioural analysis too. A lot of that is sociological constructions about what is and what is not appropriate behaviour. But for instance what the FBI seeks to do with behavioural analysis is to create these profiles that allows them to more effectively track people down, serial killers and things like that. They dabble in and understand very well - at least from what I understand - psychopathy and how it manifests.

So it's an interesting thing. I think when we're talking about what is a crime, it comes down to violent crime; not just physical violence but theft is a form of violence. So what causes the propensity in people to do this, aside from the obvious desperation, I think everybody understands that a hungry person would steal an apple. So you have that.

Tiffany: I wouldn't steal an apple. I'd steal a side of beef. {laughter}

Doug: A whole side, wow.

Tiffany: As much as I could carry.

Doug: I would give you the van.

Jonathan: I had mentioned at the beginning that most of our listeners are probably aware of the study of psychopathy, but just to break down what we're talking about, the concept of what would cause someone to take pleasure in someone else's suffering. What we're talking about what I guess you'd call a condition or an existence, the type of person - however you want to define personhood - who lacks the mechanism for empathy, completely lacks it. You can't turn it on because it's not there.

So that basic principle cascades into a lot of other areas of life, as you might imagine because a lot of what we do is fuelled by how we treat others and are accepted into and work within a community.

Tiffany: And you don't necessarily have to be a psychopath to engage in criminal behaviour.

Jonathan: Right.

Doug: It's interesting actually. Tiffany brought up Adrian Raine and he brings up a very fascinating topic where he's talking from an evolutionary basis for crime. He cites Dawkins' work on the selfish genes and that's basically the idea that we're just machines that further the goals of our genes, which is just to reproduce and get our genetics out there into the world. It's pretty amazing when he's talking about how many different things can be explained by this concept, that all these crimes that you're baffled by. He brings up different ones, like why mothers will sometimes kill their babies and why it's 100 times more likely that a person will be killed on the day of their birth than on any other day. He talks about the crime where a husband rapes his wife. He picks these things apart and shows how they can be explained by this idea that it's the drive behind this to spread your genes which is something that goes on at an unconscious level.

Tiffany: Can we get into that whole thing about mothers killing their babies? I thought that was just so bizarre. He said they were 18 times more likely to kill the baby on the first day of the baby's life than at any other day. And he said that they were mostly unwanted children, unplanned and not born in a hospital. So we've all heard stories about a young mother giving birth in a toilet stall or something, or putting her baby in a garbage dumpster the first day that it's born and I was always so perplexed by that. Like he said in the book, one of the reasons - looking at the selfish gene perspective - is if you're going to kill your baby you might as well do it before you invest a bunch of time and energy and resources into that baby.

But in my view, nine months is an investment! You carried the baby for nine months and then as soon as the baby comes out you're going to get rid of it?

Erica: What state of mind could even do that?

Tiffany: I guess carrying a baby doesn't really take much effort. A lot of people can do it and lots of people have done it so maybe people don't really consider that an investment. Maybe that's part of the whole unwanted and unplanned thing, about it.

Jonathan: I think there's an issue here with doing an academic analysis of a situation like this where obviously a person who would do that is not operating at full capacity. They're not thinking clearly. So we're trying to apply logic to that, where that person who kills their child may not be a psychopath. They may be legitimately mentally ill or they may have had an extreme circumstance that caused some kind of a psychotic break. Any number of things could happen but I think you would have to address it from that point. You would have to discuss it from the point of what went wrong to lead to that. I guess it is the same question, how could it happen. But applying normal thinking to it doesn't work.

Doug: You can't think of these women would be "Oh, I think that I'm going to kill my baby because I'm still young and I have the potential to get another mate and I don't have much going for me right now so I can't really further my genetics into this world so I may as well start over." I'm sure there's some kind of narrative there that they're running but the impulse might actually be coming more from this genetic basis. So they might be crazy too. That's a possibility.

Erica: Or also just the whole hormonal thing that happens after a pregnancy and just not being aware of how that hormonal chemical - like you said Doug - that biology just completely takes over for survival.

Doug: But actually Raine addresses that and he says that although that would certainly the incidents of mothers killing their babies, apparently it's pretty common for fathers as well. They don't have any kind of post-pregnancy going on. Their hormones aren't all jacked. They're the same as they were before the baby was born, from a biological perspective. So how do you explain that then?

Tiffany: Maybe you have to factor in the scarcity in the environment because a lot of these murders - not to say that rich people don't kill their babies too - but a lot of these murders happen in the lower classes where poverty is rife and there just isn't enough to go around.

Doug: From a very cold perspective, it's like if a woman is giving birth and the father has left the picture and she doesn't have the resources she needs to raise that child and actually have a successful transferring of her genes into the next generation then it's like "Well, I could put all kinds of energy into raising this kid. Having a kid is a serious detriment to actually attracting another mate." The male is generally the provider and the protector. So it's like being a single mom is a pretty serious detriment. So it's like, "Well, I can try and make it by or I can get rid of this kid and try my chances with the next guy who comes along."

Like I say, that's a cold kind of perspective but if you're taking our own empathy out of the picture and it's just going from these biological drives it kind of makes sense. Raine brings up a type of bird where the parents work cooperatively to raise the kids and apparently if the father dies the mother will actually abandon the nest because it doesn't make sense for her to try and do that on her own. So she has a better chance of actually getting her genetics on into the world by finding another mate and starting over. So there's a precedent for it in the animal world.

Jonathan: I was just thinking about the biological aspect of this, the evolutionary biology and what causes people to get to this point. One thing I think that makes it very interesting and "dangerous" tentative grounds to discuss is that assigning a genetic basis for social behaviour and that crossover where that happens, I guess long story short, it could be misused, right? Once you start seeing it without some level of discernment, start labelling people psychopaths in your life when they may not be. I think that's one of the things that Hare talked a lot about. You can't nor should you try to diagnose this condition because even the experts have a really hard time with it.

So I'm curious about in talking about the "evil genes", what do you guys think about the possibility that it could be taken out of hand as well?

Tiffany: I don't know because I kind of lean towards the fact that it's not given enough weight. There's a story that Raine talked about in the book where I think this guy was adopted and allegedly he had a fairly normal upbringing, good parents, but he just went on to commit all these crimes. I think he murdered a couple of people and he was always in and out of prison. He found out later in his life that his biological father was a prisoner and he had killed a couple of people too and he was in prison.

So I think maybe it falls on a spectrum. For some people maybe genes explain a lot more than we give it credit for and then for other people they are on the other end where they may have some awful genetic inheritance but they are still able to overcome their genes through having a good environment.

Doug: Yeah. I think it's really interesting because one way you can look at this is we're all just complete prisoners of our genetic roulette, everything is determined genetically and if your father was a career criminal then you're going to be a career criminal too. The same thing could be looked at from the perspective of diseases as well. "Oh, my mother had breast cancer therefore my chances of breast cancer are really, really high and I'm going to get breast cancer".

Erica: And addiction too.

Doug: And addiction too. There's all kinds of different things that there is a genetic basis for. It brings up the idea of epigenetics as well I think and the idea that just because you've got the genes present doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to be expressed and what causes a gene to be expressed or not has more to do with the environment. Now this example of the guy who was adopted and still had a good family and environment and then goes on to be a criminal anyway, I don't really know what's going on there. That's kind of crazy. We couldn't come up with a genetic test, I don't think anyway, for psychopathy and suddenly every single person who carries those genes has to be shipped off to an island or something like that. I think it really has to do more with whether or not the genes are being expressed or not.

Jonathan: Yeah, I agree. I guess my concern in bringing that up was the boogie man thing, in creating another boogie man because I agree with what you said Tiff, that it's an extremely important issue. It certainly doesn't get enough attention as being one of the major problems in our culture these days, the existence of psychopathy and the understanding of it. My concern is that if it were to catch on and get more attention, which is what we want, but then people would use it to create a new boogieman and it would be used to point fingers and stuff like that. It may be inevitable. I don't know.

Erica: Sandra Brown talks about that too, the woman who wrote Women Who Love Psychopaths and How to Spot a Dangerous Man. She said it's like the number one health risk that's not addressed, that there should be public pathology education where at least people have a small idea of what you're dealing with. Because as we know, it's almost contagious.

Tiffany: I think these days a lot of it is falling onto the socialization aspect. There's the whole gender as a social construct thing and all this embracing of one's victimhood. Like if you're black and you grew up in the 'hood it excuses all kinds of poor behaviour - I kind of lost where I was trying to go with this. I don't think that we're at any kind of risk - maybe just my opinion - that genes are going to be blamed for everything. I think if anything, it's going to be socialization that's going to be blamed for everything.

Doug: Well that's kind of the way it is right now. it seems like every time anybody, a criminal of some kind, a rapist, with all these different things often seem to be that the upbringing gets pulled out; "they were abused as a child" or "they had this difficulty in their childhood". People really want to use these environmental factors as an excuse for this kind of behaviour. I think it's just starting now where the biological aspect is coming into play.

Tiffany: But then again - I'm talking about in today's environment or milieu, if you're talking about men and their toxic masculinity from the radical feminists point of view, they would say that all men are born rapists and born abusers. So it's kind of weird, schizophrenic black and white thinking, depending on who is putting the theory forth I guess.

Doug: Very true.

Erica: Sandra Brown talked about that too. That's how psychopaths essentially find their victims in women. The first story is always a sad story that elicits empathy.

Tiffany: A pity hook.

Erica: A pity hook. Which may or may not be true.

Jonathan: That's the thing with psychopathy, right? They lack empathy but it's not like they don't understand it, at least the intelligent ones. I think it's important to understand the distinction between the brute psychopath like the Mountain from Game of Thrones who just ravages the battlefield, that kind of monster versus someone who's very intelligent and can play chess with their malintentions.

Doug: Like Little Finger. {laughter}

Elliot: Or Cersei.

Jonathan: Yeah. My point being, while lacking the impulse for empathy or the ability to feel it, they understand it and they understand how to manipulate it.

Tiffany: Yeah, they know that other people have it.

Jonathan: Yeah. People have this weird thing that stops them from doing stuff. Apparently I can use that. I think it's kind of the way it goes.

Erica: As Doug mentioned earlier in the Selfish Gene, the idea that a small percentage of what he called cheats survive in an altruist society because they essentially go undetected. And cheats lose out when there are other cheats because there's competition.

Jonathan: Right, it has to be a small enough percentage.

Doug: It's interesting because he says that it actually is a viable strategy for genetics to propagate. On the one hand it makes sense for you to be more altruistic because in a group setting, your chances of survival go up and if you're cooperating with other people and being against the elements or neighbouring tribes or whatever, you have more of a chance. Everybody's cooperating to get food and resources and that makes sense.

But it seems like there is this other strategy which is completely self-centered "I'm only out for myself" kind of strategy, that they can benefit from being in an altruistic society by cheating and especially if they can do it undetected by taking more than their share or screwing over other people. If you think about it, in an altruistic society most couples are monogamous and they have a family and they raise children together cooperatively and that's their strategy for getting their genetics out there.

Well a guy who cheats, who just goes out there and spreads his seed far and wide and doesn't stick around to take care of the kids and just lets it go out there, that's actually a viable strategy if you're just looking at it from a genetic point of view, of getting your genes out there. So it's like there can't be a lot of cheats, but in a small percentage it seems like it is actually a viable strategy. So it maybe explains why we can see this in a small percentage. The number of psychopaths that exist in any given society is from anywhere from one to five percent, according to the experts.

Jonathan: So do you think if you boil it down that that percentage of the population exists because it can? Like roll us forward another 500,000 years and there's a completely new society, do you think it would just come up again because that's part of the equation?

Tiffany: I do think it's part of the equation. I think that's probably one of the lessons that people are put on this earth for. It just comes as part of the lesson plan I think, as part of being on earth and that's something that we have to learn and that's probably why we have such a hard time telling who is a psychopath and who isn't. I think that they're supposed to be here for some reason, maybe from a genetic evolution standpoint that their genes just really have as much a viable right to be here as anybody else's genes. Adrian Raine brought up a good point in his book where he was talking about how in rapes there is a higher percentage of pregnancies versus consensual sex. He said that he thought it was not that the rapists are going around thinking "Oh, this lady looks really fertile let me go get her", but maybe genetically their genes are thinking "Oh, this lady looks really fertile, let me go and get her so I can propagate my genes some more".

Doug: Yeah. He might just be thinking "That woman looks attractive" but what's driving that might be "Fertile! Fertile! Go get her!"

Jonathan: I feel like I know the answer to this question but just to bring it up for discussion, what do you guys think of the idea that psychopathy is malleable, changeable? Can it be cured, essentially?

Tiffany: No!

Doug: No, I don't think so.

Jonathan: That's the consensus too among psychiatrists and researchers as well but it's basically a...

Tiffany: Some of them seem to think that it can be though.

Doug: Yeah, yeah. In fact a lot of the articles we read for this would actually say "We did this study and we found out that psychopath's brains are different in this way so that's going to lead to treatment modalities". It's like they have this idea that if they figure it out then it can be cured. But I don't know! If you're talking about actual biological differences I think that that's a tricky one.

Tiffany: Or maybe we should say that true psychopathy, if there was really a 100% sure-fire way to diagnose somebody as a psychopath then no, they cannot be cured. But psychopathic behaviour or antisocial behaviour in somebody who is not a genetic psychopath cannot be cured. Why not? It would take a lot of work and maybe the person wouldn't be up for it. It's going to take a lot of work on their part, not just on the part of other people in the helping professions. But then again, at the end of the day, whether the person is a genetic psychopath or they just act like a psychopath, it's still the same effect and people need to stay away from that person.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Doug: Yeah. That brings in the whole issue of actually having to be able to determine whether the person is actually genetically different, broken I guess you could say, or if they actually early environmental exposure in some way created them. I think in those kinds of situations that it might be that serious therapy could turn it around. I remember seeing a video and I don't know if this will be a very good story because I don't remember a lot about it but it was basically a little girl who was in an abusive situation and was taking it out on her brother and doing these absolutely awful things to her brother, psychopathic kind of things. But because it was caught early and they were actually able to help her and therapeutically deal with it she did have a turnaround where she was actually quite empathetic and protective of her brother after all was said and done. So I think it is possible.

Jonathan: And that could be a case where maybe she wasn't - to use the term - "genetic psychopath" or sociopath and she was just battered to the point where that impulse was beaten out of her.

Tiffany: One of our chatters says if it's developmental and caught early maybe they might be able to treat it. I agree with that because certain behaviours and ways of thinking can become hardwired in your brain after a while and there are all these periods during childhood where children are open to certain impressions or certain influences and if they pass that window there's no going back. But this would require some very smart parents who had a network behind them that was able to identify the problem. They have to be really looking at their child and know what they were seeing in order to catch these things before they could blossom into a turd - turd blossom. {laughter}

Jonathan: That's the slippery ground. Any kind of time that you determine the chance of somebody committing deviant behaviour when they haven't yet - if they have yet, obviously much easier and you have evidence - but trying to determine that ahead of time I think is slippery ground. I don't think that you can just test all the psychopaths and throw them into Oklahoma with a fence around the state {laughter}.

Tiffany: Why Oklahoma? Because it's flat?

Jonathan: It just came out. Sorry Oklahoma.

Doug: It just came out, Oklahoma.

Tiffany: But there have been studies where they try to identify certain behaviours that will give a clue as to who will grow up to be a criminal and who won't. There was one interesting article that we put up on SOTT not too long ago. It was in a classroom setting and they looked at young boys and they found that the ones who were less likely to join in on laughter with their peers were more likely to engage in antisocial acts. I guess they can't empathize enough with other people to even find things funny?

Jonathan: Sure.

Doug: Could be. They talk a lot about psychopaths and how they will watch normal people and observe and then go home in the mirror and try to mimic their emotional reactions. So it might just be that they're young and maybe they never had the potential to get the joke. But at that point they don't even know enough to fake it. I don't know.

Tiffany: Well there are other studies that they've done. They were studying the temperament of young toddlers and they found that kids who show less fear and less inhibition and seek out stimuli or are more social by the age of three have a higher propensity for becoming a criminal or engaging in certain acts. So maybe that's something that parents should look for; if your kid doesn't want to join in on laughter or they always climb the highest tree in the neighbourhood and don't care about falling.

Doug: Then what do you do? Trade them in for a new one? {laughter}

Erica: Before the first birthday?

Tiffany: Before you invest any more resources?

Doug: Don't invest in that one.

Jonathan: I think that's a big issue. I've known and do know a few people - obvious nameless - who have what you might call problem children. They're either just precocious and little assholes or in some cases they really are kind of scary. But whether or not you want to say that somebody is actually an essential psychopath could be classified as human or not because they're more like purely predatory. In that case, you're a parent, you have a child, you're dealing with a human being and you can't just kick them to the curb. What I see, the difficulty in that is the cognitive dissonance between "this is my child and I love them" and "but something is drastically wrong here".

No crimes have been committed, no animals have been killed, anything like that. You can see, in normal interactions that certain aspects are missing.

Tiffany: A good movie to watch is a movie starring Tilda Swinton is We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Tiffany: Did anybody see that?

Jonathan: That was a scary movie.

Tiffany: It's kind of like what you said. He did do some weird things and his mother noticed that he just didn't have any feelings but it wasn't until he was older like high school age he just went and shot up a bunch of people at the school. But she always had her doubts about him and their relationship was very strained so that's a good movie to watch if anybody wants to see the evolution of a child psychopath.

Doug: Interesting.

Jonathan: I think in a lot of places - and again this is just from my own experience - but a lot of people that do have an innate understanding of psychopathy don't necessarily have an understanding of the psychiatric vocabulary around it. But they understand it because they've had somebody in their family or in the circle of people they knew who acted that way and had damaged their life in some way so they have this intimate understanding of it. They can almost point that behaviour out more effectively than somebody who's an academic.

Doug: More of a visceral understanding.

Jonathan: Yes.

Tiffany: But I think with that visceral understanding has to come the knowledge "Don't dare try and fix them.'' {laughter}

Jonathan: Right.

Tiffany: Because I know some people, like someone in my family will call these type of people reprobates yet she continuously gets involved with these people knowing the kind of person that they are looking back on her own history.

Jonathan: Yeah, or like scoundrels.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Jonathan: "He's a scoundrel".

Tiffany: So what are some of these brain differences if we were to look at it purely from a structural standpoint? Or even before we get into the brain differences, another thing that Adrian Raine talked about in his book was his experience where he was staying in a hotel in Turkey, I think it was, and he got robbed. His first reaction was to jump up out of bed and confront this guy which he did but he ended up getting cut. He got his throat cut but not so much that he died, but he said that he could see the guy who robbed him - the moonlight was coming in through the window - and he recognized the guy because they caught a bunch of guys in the hotel lobby later after the incident and he said that the guy had a very distinctive look about him, like he was squat and sturdy. People have tried to link certain physical characteristics with criminal behaviour in the past, like with the study of phrenology, looking at the lumps and bumps and things on your head and try to determine whether you're a criminal or not, but in the book Anatomy of Violence, Raine talks about how some of these criminals have sloped foreheads, prominent brows.

Doug: Lobaczewski talked about that too.

Tiffany: Yeah. Certain physical characteristics that shouldn't be discounted in some cases.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Doug: That can lead to a slippery slope too; "Round up all the people with sloped foreheads"...

Tiffany: Yeah, and large jaws and a single palm crease. They're not really much to go on.

Jonathan: Plus I think that term "phrenology", especially if you're talking to any progressive folks, PC folks, they see it as a dog whistle for racism because that was what was used as the impetus for a lot of racist acts throughout history. So it is a slippery slope. It doesn't make it any less of a biological factor. Let's just plow forward and talk about it and just be a human being while you're talking about it.

Doug: It's tricky because in a way it does make sense. If we're saying that there might be a genetic component to this, then it would make sense that that genetic component would express itself in different ways and they might have very physical ramifications. What I would imagine - and I'm not quoting a study or anything like that - but I would imagine that just because someone has a particular type of build doesn't necessarily mean that they are for sure going to be a criminal or a psychopath or whatever the case may be.

So I think if you notice a certain physical characteristic that you've read about that can correlate with psychopathy or criminal behaviour or violence, then maybe it's something you want to keep in mind. I think it's something where you can't necessarily be like "Well, I am absolutely 100% not going to have any contact with this person because they have a sloped forehead. {laughter}

Jonathan: Yeah.

Erica: Or everyone you meet you look at their palms to see if they have one line.

Doug: Exactly. Become a palm reader.

Tiffany: There are some people that probably do that too. "Let me look at your palm. Oh, you have more than one palm crease. I'm going to be your friend now."

Doug: "I know you're a good person."

Jonathan: So Tiffany you had mentioned what are the actual differences and one of the articles we were looking at The Neuroscience of Psychopathy actually mentions Adrian Raine, this book that we've been talking about, The Anatomy of Violence by Adrian Raine, is pretty good. It's available on Amazon. Raine did a study in 2010 that too MRI images of the brains of around 90 individuals at risk for antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy, looking specifically for signs of a damaged or underdeveloped septum pellucidum, a structure in the limbic system of developing foetuses.

Long story short, it says "Prenatal neural maldevelopment is associated with the presence of a cave of septum pellucidum, a cavity in this septum and it's suspected to result from exposing the foetus to alcohol. Raine hypothesized and later confirmed via MRI that those who suffered from neural developmental abnormalities in the limbic and septal structures were predisposed to psychopathy.

But who knows if that could be a description across the board. I don't know if this condition contributes to other mental or physical/mental illnesses because there are certainly plenty of psychopaths, even essential psychopaths who are perfectly healthy and operate normally in the world.

Doug: It's been stated a number of times actually and Raine even said it a number of times in the book, that despite the fact that there's differences in MRI scans between normal people versus psychopaths, it's like there will never be just an MRI test, put everybody through an MRI test and you'll know who the psychopaths are. I imagine there's a whole array of differences that you can see and it's kind of like almost more like a tendency. Didn't he say at one point that his brain was kind of similar to that?

Erica: Yeah, he conducted the same test on himself just as a control, that he did have similar brain abnormalities and did share that because I listened to an interview. It must have been on NPR or something, with him and he said that he felt that he did not act out those tendencies because he had a good upbringing - so back to that environment. But it was interesting, as Tiffany was talking about, when he shares in the book his being attacked. When they actually found the attacker and it came time to sentence him, that he felt he should be eliminated, that there was this rage in him that there should be a serious penalty for that behaviour.

Tiffany: Not all mothers drink when they're pregnant. There's foetal alcohol syndrome definitely and that can actually cause behavioural problems and impulsive behaviours and risk-taking behaviours. But are those kids necessarily psychopaths? I wouldn't say that they are. But even in mothers who don't drink, how do these brain changes occur and is there really any way to actually know? That's the whole thing, you can't know for sure in any of these cases.

Jonathan: And if we're going with the hypothesis that this is how things work then it will always happen, right? So it's just like a luck of the drawer that a certain percentage of humans will be born this way.

Tiffany: Another thing that kind of lends credence to differences in brain, either function or formation is normal people, mostly men, who through war or sports injuries or car accidents, end up with a traumatic brain injury and it completely changes their personality and their behaviour. Some of them start behaving very badly.

Doug: Yeah, there was the example that Raine gave of the guy who suffered head trauma and up until the time he suffered head trauma he was a good student, very social, well-liked and then he suffered a head trauma. I think a crowbar fell on his head or something like that, and from there all of a sudden he started this life of crime. He as in prison constantly and all kind of anti-social behaviours that he was engaged in after the fact. So it's kind of creation of psychopathy.

Erica: I think it is also important where the head trauma happens, right?

Doug: Yeah.

Erica: Because it seems like a lot of the information that we read is about deficits in the prefrontal cortex.

Doug: Yeah. That's where this guy suffered damage actually.

Erica: It made me think about that saying when somebody asks, "Oh, did that baby get dropped on its head?"

Tiffany: Yeah.

Doug: Yeah.

Tiffany: "Did your mother drop you on your head when you were a baby?

Doug: But then there's also the idea where we can't just necessarily say "Okay, so it's a prefrontal cortex thing" because Raine also brings up the one serial killer who was operating, I think in the '70s, and he was picking up hitchhikers, like men, and doing all these horrific tortures and raping them and doing all kinds of absolutely horrific things to them. And his brain scan actually showed a perfectly functional prefrontal cortex. In fact it was quite active and they were making the differentiation between someone who is impulsive and acts in violence when the situation is in a certain way, versus somebody who is much more methodical and planning, just creepy, methodical about it because that actually requires somebody who has a very functional prefrontal cortex. They're not just acting on the fly. They're thinking about it, they're planning. They have a strategy. So again, we can't just look at it and say "Oh well, it's prefrontal cortex."

Tiffany: Maybe that's what makes the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful psychopath. An unsuccessful one might end up in prison for the rest of his life and maybe a successful one will be a mover and shaker on Wall Street.

Erica: And with lack of knowledge the general populace wouldn't be able to tell.

Jonathan: Well obviously not all psychopaths are just blundering ogres. I know there's some debate around whether or not they can plan long-term. But I have to think that some of that exists because they certainly execute manipulations of people which requires planning.

Tiffany: Is Elliot there? He said something interesting in the chat.

Jonathan: Yeah, we were having some tech issues.

Tiffany: Oh. Let's see if he's going to say anything. He might be on mute.

Jonathan: Yeah. Oh, no connection. Okay, he can't get on. Too bad.

Tiffany: Okay.

Jonathan: One of our chatters brought up something interesting here. The prefrontal damage is correlated with reactive aggressive types (non-psychopaths) and unsuccessful psychos who can't regulate their behaviour. So the damage seems to be more associated with that blundering kind of personality.

So I don't know. There's that term - and I've said it a couple of times - essential psychopath which I think, when you're talking about a successful psychopath would mean the same thing. What do you guys think is the percentage of that? Because we hear bandied around for psychopaths in general, six percent, anywhere from five to ten percent.

Doug: Well a lot of experts seem to say it's one percent but then in prison populations it tends to be higher. But I don't know. I think everybody's just kind of giving it their best guess because it is something that's very difficult to actually detect. So unless they're out there self-reporting I think it's always going to be kind of a mystery.

Tiffany: Well there have been several studies. They studied the brains of prisoners, so these are psychopaths in prison and they found that they have significantly smaller amounts of grey matter in their brain regions that are associated with processing, empathy, moral reasoning and emotions such as guilt and embarrassment. So we all know through study in psychopathy that they have pretty much no empathy and really can't feel guilt or embarrassment about anything. So that kind of makes sense there.

But there's also something called a warrior gene and there's a compound called MAOA which produces this enzyme that breaks down serotonin and it can calm you down but these people that have this gene can't regulate their levels of serotonin. So basically they can't calm themselves down. They're always hyper-alert or hyper-aroused and this can lead to higher levels of violence.

Erica: That made me think about this whole thing with SSRIs and suicidality and violent side effects. When people are taking those serotonin reuptake inhibitors, one of the side effects is being violent. So I wonder if that...

Tiffany: Or have erratic behaviour.

Erica: Yeah.

Tiffany: "Tell your doctor if you start experiencing these symptoms". {laughter}

Doug: Violent, bloody rage.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Jonathan: One thing that's interesting too about this I think, from a societal perspective is the glamorization of psychopathy where if normal people were to actually encounter and be damaged by a psychopath in your daily life, you'd be horrified. You'd be damaged, depending on the severity of the encounter of course. But it's not what it's portrayed to be. But then we have movies like Seven Psychopaths. I don't know if you guys saw that one. But pick pretty much any of the top crime thriller movies. A lot of the protagonists also have psychopathic tendencies. Granted in good writing you have that good and evil kind of struggle, but there's also a glamorization of the cold, calculating James Bond-type character.

Doug: There was a book that came out a while ago called The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton and it was basically saying that these psychopathic traits, not letting your emotions get in the way and be able to be cold and calculating when the situation demands it, then that's actually a good thing so we could learn a lot from psychopaths and in certain conditions being a psychopath would actually be an advantage. So I think there is kind of a certain level of glorification there.

Jonathan: I feel that myself sometimes too. I wish I could have more confidence, or in business situations where you're required to be a little bit calculating, I wish I was a little bit more comfortable with that kind of stuff. But that's not saying I wish I were a psychopath, those are just character traits. {laughter} I think that you have this thing and we see it in the writings of Lobaczewski where he talks about the term ponerogenesis, the idea that the psychopathic attitudes kind of trickle down throughout society. I think we can definitely say that we're seeing that happen now, but not just in the way that we operate as, say the United States as a nation or people as a culture, but it's also - how do I say this? It's worming its way into our minds deeply, to the point where highly lucrative films and TV shows are about characters who are psychopaths that we're fascinated by.

Erica: It's just normalizing behaviour.

Jonathan: Right.

Tiffany: But they call it creating a very complex character.

Jonathan: Yeah. And then you discover that people actually are that way, like Kevin Spacey's character in House of Cards. It comes out that he's a predator and everybody's like "Holy shit!! That's real!"

Doug: Yeah, that's kind of a crazy thing actually because also even the ties to pedophilia. In the movie American Beauty he played somebody who was lusting after a young girl.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Doug: So it's a weird parallel to reality there.

Jonathan: He's actually very often played psychopathic characters. I find that a really interesting point about a lot of different actors and actresses. If you look at the roles they play there are some who lean more towards those types of roles. There's a terrifying Kevin Spacey movie where he was a business manager, I forget whether it was real estate or banking or something and he drove an employee to a psychotic break to where the employee then tortured him because of that.

Doug: Yeah. Swimming with Sharks.

Jonathan: Yes. That was a scary movie.

Doug: It's very scary. It's really good but at the same time very disturbing.

Tiffany: Well in Hollywood a lot of these psychopathic performances are lauded. They'll win Oscars for that. Say for instance Denzel Washington. He did all that great work in Malcolm X, didn't get an Oscar nomination I don't think and then when he was in Training Day and played that psychopathic copy he won an Oscar.

Erica: It almost seems so strange for him to actually play a role like that because that's not normally the kinds of roles that he plays in movies.

Tiffany: Yeah and look at Anthony Hopkins too. After he played Hannibal Lector his star power shot up big time.

Jonathan: Yeah. Sure. What was the Daniel Day Lewis Movie? There Will Be Blood. That was highly lauded and that character was an absolute psychopath. Absolutely. I don't know if anybody saw the film. It's not even a question, a debate about it. He was portrayed that way. But you see a lot of that in that era too, turn of the century, late 1800s, early 1900s, mostly men that were rising in the industrial revolution, a lot of psychopathy taking over.

Of course we could talk about psychopathy all day long. I think that the topic that we're discussing is particularly interesting because we see a rise in violent behaviour. To distill what I'm saying, I'm curious more about violence than crime because if you take the criminal aspect out of it and just look at violence you have to include police too and you see a lot of that happening I think. Whether or not the percentage is higher of psychopaths in police forces, I don't know if that's debatable or not. It seems like it would be.

Doug: It makes sense in a certain way because one of the characteristics that's often talked about with psychopaths is that they tend to be drawn to positions of power. So you can see there is the idea that a lot of world leaders are actually psychopaths because they have that draw to power and being able to hold power over people. But you can imagine that the ones who aren't that smart and aren't able to manipulate their way into these higher positions of power, becoming a cop is the lower end of the spectrum as far as ability is concerned.

So I can see that maybe your less successful psychopaths might be drawn to that and maybe would only be drawn to that because they only want to be able to hold power over people insofar as it's physical power or being able to use brute force, being able to unload your weapon on somebody's dog or a racial minority or whatever the case may be. I can see how it would draw more of that kind of conscienceless individual into that sphere.

Jonathan: Yeah. That's the dichotomy of the position that they hold, allegedly to serve and protect, but the existence of the police force is based on a threat of violence if you don't conform to a set of laws. That's the whole issue that anarchists have, that there are no innocuous laws. Every law on the book is a threat of violence if you don't conform because if you escalate, let's say you refuse to do "X", like pay a ticket, well then there's a warrant out for your arrest and the police come to your house and you refuse to go with them then it escalates and at some point they're going to exert force to force you to comply with the law.

So that's the dichotomy. We see them as protectors when in reality their position was established to enforce law through violence. So it really messes with your head. It's like a society-wide cognitive dissonance.

Tiffany: And it's not even necessarily through physical violence that they gotcha. It's taking away your resources or locking you in prison.

Erica: Which is like college for criminals. {laugher}

Jonathan: Yeah. I think that's the point, to get to prison they have to threaten violence if you don't comply. It all comes down to that. So if that being the construct, you would want police who are not going to second guess their orders every time they have to arrest someone. It's also tricky because there are a lot of cops who are good and put themselves in dangerous situations for the benefit of people with an actual impulse to help. So that muddies the water even further because here you have, right alongside with the angels of our society, the demons as well, in the same uniform.

Doug: It's kind of funny because I was just reading an article recently about police in France and apparently the suicide rate among police in France is escalating a lot. It's interesting because it made me think that a lot of stuff in France right now with the state of emergency - it's not called a state of emergency but something else along those lines - basically they're on terror alert all the time and you hear all these stories about them forcibly getting migrants out of their country and things like that. I wonder if a normal person with a conscience seeing the enforcing of the police state is wearing on them. It's getting to a point where a lot of them are breaking and they can't deal with this anymore, seeing their fellow officers doing things that they shouldn't be doing as far as pepper spraying and beating people. I don't know if there have been similar shootings in France but I can see how anybody who is a normal, functioning individual and is actually looking to help, they have culturists tendencies to be put into a situation where they're forced to just strong-arm.

It's the same thing with veterans of wars, the high suicide rate there.

Tiffany: Not even suicide but just PTSD in general.

Doug: Yeah.

Tiffany: They might not go as far as to kill themselves but they just can't deal with it.

Jonathan: And there's a lot - well, I don't know if there's what you count as being a lot. That was actually a misnomer because I can think of two particular stories that have come out specifically to expose either abuse of power or within the department or against suspects and stuff like that and they've been harassed and even murdered. So not only is the culture set up for them to be part of the brotherhood and keep their mouth shut but there are real consequences for that. It's not just like your life might be kind of hard. Your life will be destroyed or you might even be killed if you speak out in those realms. So even cops who are good people per se, when they get into situations where they're stretching the law or outright breaking it, they're not going to say much.

So that's an interesting problem, but trying to effect some kind of study of psychopathy within law enforcement I think would be pretty hard. It would be hard to get funding for that.

Doug: We should talk to Adrian Raine about it.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Tiffany: So getting back to smart genes or selfish genes whose only goal is to propagate the species, this conversation really makes me think about why certain traits are attractive to women. If you look at these gangster movies or men in positions of power, they have all these women around them all the time, whether they're married or not. They might be married and they have two or three girlfriends on the side or whatever. I think I read somewhere that these men who have these traits, whether they're genetic psychopaths or not, they actually have more children than men who don't have these traits. So it strikes me as funny, but not ha-ha funny, that once again genes are winning out.

Doug: It's kind of like violence gets the chicks. That's what it seems like. There's a whole phenomenon of women writing to serial killers in prison and stuff like that because they want to hook up. It's a thing. The guy who wins the bar brawl goes home with the girl. It's an odd thing. But I guess it comes down to a woman on a genetic level is probably looking for a man to be someone who is the strongest and most capable and the best protector.

Tiffany: Bring home the bacon whether he steals it or not.

Doug: Yeah, exactly. Somebody who can get by, by force is a good provider on some level.

Jonathan: Or a lot of women who find themselves in that situation say they were charmed by a man and didn't realize he was abusive. And then they're afraid to get out because they'll be punished for that. "I can't leave or he'll kill me". Or kids. God forbid there's kids in the picture and then the man will threaten the children for the woman to stay.

Tiffany: Doug, you brought up a point in the book Anatomy of Violence about men who rape their wives and the genetic reason behind that, like the man is threatened, not just him as himself but on a genetic level. His genes are threatened because he does not want to be stuck in a position where he has to provide for another man's child so his raping her is a way for his genes to get rid of the competition.

Doug: It's in a situation where there's cheating suspected.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Doug: He suspects that his wife has been cheating. Apparently what Raine was saying is that what drives them is often jealousy. So the man suspects his wife of cheating and then that ends up in rape and there might be any number of narratives running there. Most people think that it's a way of punishing indiscretions. On some level it might be but it's like there is actually a genetic strategy towards that because once sperm from more than one male in a female will actually fight each other. His way of trying to ensure that his progeny will win out over this strange man's. It's kind of crazy to think about.

Tiffany: Well that happens in the animal kingdom too. With some apes the male will have sex with the female and then he'll plug something up into her vagina so even if she does go and have sex with another ape her chances of getting pregnant by that other ape are lower because of the plug that he gave her.

Doug: Jeez. I didn't know that.

Tiffany: Yeah. I read about that a long time ago. I thought that was just bizarre and I can't remember what they made the plug out of.

Jonathan: Conversely, on the other side of things, female ducks have dead ends in their sexual organs so that if they so choose they can redirect a male so that they won't be fertilized.

Doug: I heard that.

Jonathan: So they can essentially choose whether or not to be impregnated.

Doug: That's handy. {laughter}

Jonathan: Right.

Doug: It's interesting too because Raine was talking about how when it comes to infidelity apparently men are more distressed by the idea of their woman having sex with another man whereas women tend to be more concerned about an emotional infidelity, the man being more emotionally satisfied by a woman. It's interesting to look at that on the genetic level because for a man, if his woman has sex with another man then she might get pregnant and then he's wasting his resources getting another man's genetics out into the world, versus a woman, once she has conceived, is looking more that she's going to be taken care of and that the man's going to be around and to provide and give resources to the raising of that child and getting their genetics out into the world.

So a woman is more concerned about being left. If the man's getting his emotional satisfaction from another woman then he might leave versus a man where it's like "I don't want to raise some other guy's son or daughter".

Tiffany: Since we can't figure out who's going to become a psychopath or even who is a psychopath currently, what can we do?

Jonathan: I think one of the keys is watching for it in your personal life and avoiding interactions with suspect people. You don't need to go around diagnosing people but in your day-to-day interactions if you've made a new friend or a business acquaintance or whatever and you can see these traits popping up, just cut and run and involve yourself with different people.

Doug: I think networking comes into it as well. If you're talking to other people about things and you're sharing information then it's much more likely that you're going to be able to connect some dots because you might have seen one incident but on its own it doesn't really say anything. But if you connect that with a bunch of other incidents that other people have witnessed then suddenly you've got a bigger picture and you can maybe determine exactly what is going on.

Jonathan: Yeah, because people are hesitant to gossip about other people but there are cases I think, where you might call it gossip but it's relevant in cases where there's manipulation at play or lying, things like that, deception, that it's reasonable to network about that. You're not just gossiping.

Tiffany: Well even from a parent's perspective, say that there's a woman who for some reason or another had a child with a guy who has criminal tendencies. She shouldn't just throw up her hands. Genetics aren't necessarily destiny. Sociological factors and biological factors both play a part so as parents it's the duty of the parent to maximize the sociological factors and be the best parent they can be and expose their children to the best influences possible and then the rest is up to nature.

Doug: You don't think they should cut and run? {laughter}

Tiffany: I'm talking about just in general. If their kid is showing signs, pull in some professional help, but just with kids in general. Give them the best socialization that they can possibly have.

Erica: And also parents being aware that there's even a possibility.

Tiffany: And I think being aware of that within yourself on an individual basis, the more knowledge and the more awareness that you have about reality and about brain function and psychology and all that, can only help you.

Jonathan: Yeah, knowledge is power, right?

Doug: Yeah. Read Adrian Raine's book The Anatomy of Violence.

Erica: And also Sandra Brown's Women Who Love Psychopaths. It's not just for women.

Doug: She's got a men's version too.

Erica: And How to spot a dangerous man. When our daughters were dating that was required reading before they could go out on a date just because it's learning how to recognize those red flags even if they turn out not to be a full-blown psychopath at least recognizing when your body is giving you a signal that something's not right. You were saying Doug? Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you.

Doug: No, I kept on cutting you off. I was going to say she does actually have a version that's for men. I think it's called How to Avoid Dating Dangerous Women. But it's along similar lines just more aimed at men.

Erica: Another good book is Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders.

Tiffany: Anna Salter.

Erica: Yes. I read that when my children were young and unfortunately it was at the soccer field and it probably wasn't the best place to be reading that book but a parent did ask me and I naively responded with what I was reading and their face got all squinched up and they said, "Well why would you want to read something like that?!" It just came out, "I want to know. I want to know what I'm dealing with so I'm prepared. So if my child goes to someone's house and I don't have a good feeling about it that I can feel okay saying "Yeah, I think we'll not be coming to your house today." I remember at the time I felt like "Oh, maybe I shouldn't be doing this" and then I doubled down. "No, it could only help to know."

Jonathan: Right. Well I think that's a good closing statement. We're coming up on our time so let's go to Zoya's pet health segment for today and we will wrap up when we come back.

Zoya: Hello and welcome to the pet health segment of the Health and Wellness Show. My name is Zoya and today I'm going to share with you a recording by Jackson Galaxy, the famous cat whisperer where he is going to explain to you how to pet your cat without getting scratched or bitten. Apparently there is an explanation for their duplicitous behaviour and it even involves electricity. Yup! So listen up and have a great day.

Jackson: We are here to talk about why your cat beats you up. Now let's go get catified. Today we are in the land of the supermarket questions. The supermarket question is "Jackson, I've got this cat. He is really, really cool and every time we're sitting together, out of the blue randomly he attacks me." Of course it's never out of the blue. It's always because of something. And secondly, yes, you may have bites and scratches on you but is that an attack? Most times when folks are hitting here just like me and him, we're just sitting around, we're not doing much of anything - "Good PC, Good PC. Oh I love PC." Look at this. "Bye PC. See you PC. '' Right? And gone. Why is that?

Petting induced overstimulation aggressive. And what happens there is that certain cats - and this is physiological, this is not a matter of temperament - cannot take being petted like this over and over and over again. It actually fills them with a sort of static, like a balloon filled, filled, and then bang! You don't realize when you're sitting watching TV with your cat how you're petting them.

So what is the cure for this? Let's look at number one. Be observant. Know when your cat is getting worked up. As you're petting you're going to notice the tail start to twitch just a little. And then that graduates and then it starts going like this and then you are going to get bit. Then there's what I call back electricity, right down the back. The cat goes "oooh-ugh". In terms of stimulation they're just getting to that point. It's up to you to notice these things. And if you notice that, the aggression is not going to happen. Know where your cat enjoys being petted and for how long.

I'm going to demonstrate with Valoria the opposite of the full body pet. Valoria here, 23 years old of fun. Now watch, out comes the finger. You see how she guides me? Look at that, see how she guides me? This is a technique. I wish I had a better name for it. Right now I call it the finger nose. I present my finger like a nose to the cat. The idea is to let them pet you. Overstimulation happens constantly with cats because they are this direct channel for energy and proactivity is key folks. You've got to play with your cats. You've got to get that energy out on a regular basis so then when they're sitting on your lap, that balloon is not filled to 90% so all it takes if five pets and kaboom! they blow.

Again, remember, you are in control of putting air in the cat balloon. Let that air out as the day goes on. Don't keep putting air into it and don't be surprised when the balloon pops. From now on when it does happen to you - I know this is really hard - pull yourself emotionally out of that moment and say "What just happened here?" When you understand that part of things you can stop blaming the cat for doing things to you. Alright folks, you can find me pretty much anywhere. If you want to find me #teamcatmojo, #mycatfromhell, #teamanimojo. You'll see a lot of these hashtags. Just hashtag. I'm still looking for more cats and dogs watching my cat from hell so if you just #catswatchingmcfh or #dogswatchingmcfh we'll have a lot of fun doing that. And also send me in examples of what you've done to your house to environmentally enrich that place, #catification and be on the lookout for that book Catification with my co-author Kate Benjamin coming out in October. Couldn't be more psyched for that one. Alright folks, until next time, all light, all love and all mojo to ya. Love ya.

Erica: Misunderstood!

Jonathan: There's no air in those goat balloons. They're well taken care of. Alright, on that positive note let us end today's show. I just want to say thank you to everyone for tuning in and to the chat participants. We had a pretty busy chat today so that's cool to see. Be sure to tune into the SOTT Radio Show on Sunday, at noon eastern time, and we will be back next week. Thanks everybody.

All: Goody-byes.