Thursday, October 6, 2011

"The Psychopath Test" Chapter 4

In this reading, Jon Ronson meets with Bob Hare and discusses about his studies on psychopaths which is “The Psychopath Test”. Bob Hare is an influential psychiatrist who did many findings of the psychopath brain anatomy. To determine how different the brain anatomy from psychopaths and non-psychopaths, Hare performed two different studies. One of the studies being that the psychopath and the non-psychopaths were strapped by an EEG that gave the patients a painful electric shock. As a result, the psychopaths did not have any emotion or even break any sweat. In the test, the amygdala that is part of the brain should have encountered the unpleasantness of the electric shock and sent the signals of fear to the central nervous system to create a reaction, but it did not for the psychopaths. Due to this, Hare came to the conclusion that psychopaths had a different brain structure than regular brains, and they had no memory of the pain. Another study that Hare had done was the Startle Reflex Test. In this test, psychopaths and non-psychopaths looked at visuals of grotesque images of crime scenes, such as someone's face being blown apart. As a result, the psychopaths were not disturbed or horrified by the pictures. If anything, the psychopaths were more fascinated by the obscure pictures. From this, he created the twenty-point Hare PCL-R Checklist that determined if someone was a psychopath and at what item they were at, such as item 1, item 2, and so on. Corresponding with the item is the behavior that goes along in describing the psychopath. Ronson came to learn more about “The Psychopath Test” from attending Hare's three-day residential course where a group of psychologists, prison officers, and budding criminal profilers would also attend. At the beginning of the course, Ronson and the other members were a bit skeptical on Hare's checklist. As the course went on and Ronson provided many videos that included psychopaths who were convicted of any felony. Along with the videos, Hare's checklist had correlated with the psychopath's behavior. Towards the end of the seminar, Ronson was enlightened by Hare's theories and findings. From the seminar, Ronson believes that Hare was correct and now he himself feels like he has the great ability to spot psychopaths and that he now has a long journey ahead of him.

Based on the reading, I feel that the twenty-point Hare PCL-R Checklist is not very effective because some people can inhibit one of the behaviors, but they are not necessarily considered psychopaths. Some of the things on the checklist are such as Item 15, which is irresponsibility. I feel that sometimes I am irresponsible, but that does not make me a psychopath. Although I feel that the psychopath checklist is not very effective, I thought that the reading was really interesting, and I liked how in depth each of the cases on the psychopaths were told. 

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