Sociobiology of Sociopathy: BBS Call for Commentators

Stevan Harnad (harnad@PRINCETON.EDU)
Mon, 29 Aug 1994 15:00:07 EDT

This article has been accepted for publication in Behavioral and Brain
Sciences (BBS), an international, interdisciplinary journal providing
Open Peer Commentary on important and controversial current research in
the biobehavioral and cognitive sciences.

Commentators must be current BBS Associates or nominated by a current
BBS Associate. To be considered as a commentator for this article, to
suggest other appropriate commentators, or for information about how to
become a BBS Associate, please send email to: or harnad@pucc.bitnet or write to:
BBS, 20 Nassau Street, #240, Princeton NJ 08542 [tel: 609-921-7771]

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your areas of expertise to bear if you were selected as a commentator.
An electronic draft of the full text is available for inspection by
anonymous ftp (or gopher or world-wide-web) according to the
instructions that follow after the abstract.


Linda Mealey
Department of Psychology
College of St. Benedict
St. Joseph, MN 56374

ABSTRACT: Sociopaths are "outstanding" members of society in two
senses: politically, they command attention because of the
inordinate amount of crime they commit, and psychologically, they
elicit fascination because most of us cannot fathom the cold,
detached way they repeatedly harm and manipulate others. Proximate
explanations from behavior genetics, child development, personality
theory, learning theory, and social psychology describe a complex
interaction of genetic and physiological risk factors with
demographic and micro-environmental variables that predispose a
portion of the population to chronic antisocial behavior. Recent
evolutionary and game theoretic models have tried to present an
ultimate explanation of sociopathy as the expression of a
frequency-dependent life history strategy which is selected, in
dynamic equilibrium, in response to certain varying environmental
circumstances. This target article tries to integrate the proximate,
developmental models with the ultimate, evolutionary ones. Two
developmentally different etiologies of sociopathy emerge from two
different evolutionary mechanisms. Social strategies for minimizing
the incidence of sociopathic behavior in modern society should
consider the two different etiologies and the factors which
contribute to them.

KEYWORDS: sociobiology, sociopathy, psychopathy, antisocial
personality, evolution, criminal behavior, game theory, emotion,
moral development, facultative strategies
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