• Question: What's makes psychos who they are?

    Asked by ellascientist to David, Jonathan, Pete, Sam on 4 Jul 2012.
    • Photo: Pete Etchells

      Pete Etchells answered on 4 Jul 2012:

      That’s a difficult one, Ella! ‘Psychopath’ is a bit of a contentious term, because it’s not clear whether it’s an individual thing in its own right, or whether it’s more of an umbrella term for different types of disorder. In general, it’s characterised by things like emotional disorders (like an inability to feel certain types of emotion), antisocial behaviour, impulsivity, and so on. A lot of these sorts of behaviours are linked to specific areas of the brain, so it might be the case that psychopaths have differences in the structures of these brain areas that makes them more susceptible to these sorts of deficits. On the other hand, the environment in which we’re brought up will have a profound effect on our behaviour – if someone has been brought up in a very unusual or inappropriate manner, then this may make them more susceptible to psychopathy. I think it has to be a combination between environmental factors and genetics – it could be the case that some people are genetically predisposed to making rash decisions or being impulsive, and coupled with an upbringing that doesn’t provide them with a chance to learn what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour, may result in psychopathic behaviour later in life.