Tag Archives: psychopath

The Remorse of a Reptile: Making Sense of the Alleged Murder of Chelsea King

7 Mar

 

The recent case of Chelsea King, a 17 year old girl who went missing while jogging on a trail in the San Diego area, has garnered much media attention.  Now that John Albert Gardner III has been charged with the rape and murder of Chelsea King many are left questioning how someone could commit such a horrific crime against another human being. John Gardner has a history of sexually violent acts against minors, and previous court documents reportedly describe him as “callous and vicious.” This extreme callousness and lack of remorse for others has actually been linked to a deficit in the brain of people like him. In some ways, these individual’s brains are more like that of a reptile than a human.

Individuals with a serious lack of remorse and who prey on other human beings are often referred to as psychopaths. This term is often used interchangeably with the term sociopath.  Essentially, what these terms refer to is a specific personality structure in which in an individual lacks remorse for their actions, demonstrates extreme narcissism and has a predatory nature towards other human beings. They have no sense of empathy and are almost completely motivated by self-interest. Although many psychopaths are criminals- not all are. It has been suggested that they tend to be overrepresented in politics, top ranks of corporations, law enforcement agencies, law, and in the media.

Robert Hare, Ph.D. is a specialist in the area of psychopathy.  He defines some of the key characteristics of psychopathy as:

  • Aggressive narcissism
  • Glibness or superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning / manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow
  • Callous / lack of empathy
  • Tendency to engage in a socially deviant lifestyle
  • Need for stimulation
  • Parasitic lifestyle (living off of others, taking advantage of other peoples’ kindness)
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • A history of juvenile delinquency

 

So how are the brains of psychopaths different from other humans?  Research has found that they vary in several ways.  One is the difference in how their limbic system operates. The limbic system is a part of the brain that is essentially right in the middle of your brain.  It is responsible for regulating emotions, some aspects of behavior, long-term memory, and other functions.  What researchers have found is that the limbic system in people considered to be psychopaths processes information differently. Brain scans have shown that there is little to no activity in the part of the limbic system that produces a sense of empathy. The part of the limbic system that modulates affect and emotions and the parental response to offspring that is present in mammals, is essentially non-active in the brains of psychopaths. It is as if this part of their brain is functioning similar to how a reptile’s would. In a sense they really are “cold-blooded.”

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