When I was at university we had to write an essay in our final year that was on the topic of cognitive psychology and we had to find research that used cognitive methods in order to do so. I wanted to write an essay on psychopathy – I have always been interested in mental health, the idea of “good” and “evil” and believed I had a relatively good, but brief, understanding of what psychopaths are. I knew the common theme of a typical psychopath is that they lack empathy – they don’t feel for other people, which is how they are capable of doing what they do, whether that is cold blooded murder, or becoming a successful businessman or politician. They don’t care about other people. I wanted to see if this was entirely true – surely they must feel something for other people, that’s what makes us human, right? So I gave the idea to my lecturer and, despite him having no background knowledge in psychopathy, he let me write it.
It was my most successful essay, completely boosting my overall mark of my degree, and the most enjoyable one I’ve written throughout my academic career. I’ve decided to post it on my blog for that reason – I enjoyed writing it. I’ve edited it slightly, giving more indepth definitions to those of you who are not psychologically or scientifically inclined, edited it from an essay structure to a blog post layout, and have taken out the majority of in-essay referencing as it’s not necessarily needed (a full reference list will be posted at the end for those who want to do some further reading).
So read on if you wish to find out the answers I discovered on my research pathway to see if psychopaths can feel empathy at all, or if they really are separate from what makes us human. Any questions? Just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.