research proposal

Psychopath is closely related with criminal behavior and violence nowadays. The seminal 2012 FBI report states that 15-20 percent of the two million prisoners in the U.S., which are 90 percent male, are psychopaths. Many researches have been done to analysis the behavior of psychopath and the most commonly believed reason for them to commit crime so easily is that they lack the ability to empathize with others. In other words, they fail to understand and share the feelings of others, so they are not inhibited by guilt, fear, anxiety or remorse. However, there are also many researches indicating that psychopath, to some degree, is capable of empathizing with others, or at least ‘knowing’ what others feel. I find this argument very interesting and very closely related to our class discussion because it explores the nature and pro-social attribute of empathy.

The critical question in this topic is ‘Do psychopath lack empathy, or it just be hidden inside?’. Answering this question is important, since if there’s enough evidence that psychopath does have empathy and it just be hidden inside intentionally or unintentionally, we may be able to help them with cultivating empathy such that the criminal rate can be largely reduced.


Scholarly sources:

Pain & Central Nervous System Week, ‘A Neurological Basis for the Lack of Empathy in Psychopaths’, NewsRX LLC, 2013.


Meffert. H, et al.  “reduced Spontaneous but Relatively Normal Deliberate Vicarious Representations in Psychopathy.” Brain: a journal of neurology, vol. 136, no. Pt 8, 2013.


Newman, Joseph P., et al. “Attention Moderates the Fearlessness of Psychopathic Offenders.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 67, no. 1, 2010.


Lishner, David A., et al. “Evaluating the Relation between Psychopathy and Affective Empathy: Two Preliminary Studies.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, vol. 56, no. 8, 2012.


Cleckley, Hervey M. The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify some Issues about the so-Called Psychopathic Personality, Mosby, St. Louis, 1955.


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