Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dexter - Dr Vogel says Psychopaths are not a mistake of nature

A few days ago a colleague and I fell into a discussion about Psychopaths – wondering if psychopaths have distinct brain structure, the impact of early childhood experience, etc. And, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that we both came to think about the popular Showtime series Dexter.

A few days later I find myself watching the new season 8.

It took us 8 seasons before we finally see Dexter experiencing a kinda serial killer’s version of a midlife crisis. Not only is he still talking to his dead foster father Harry - a constant since Season one – but now he’s getting a play by play in video form, courtesy of the mysterious Dr. Vogel.

Dr Evelyn Vogel is introduced as a as a psychiatrist that is also called the 'psychopath whisperer' reveals she was the mastermind behind the “Code of Harry” that he lives by. “I helped create you,” she says, and he responds, “You sound like Dr Frankenstein.”

What the good doctor says to a shocked Dexter next is fascinating - consider

“Psychopaths are not a mistake of nature – they are a gift, they are alpha wolves that will help the human race survive long enough to become civilized – an indispensible demographic. She goes on to tell Dexter that psychopathic traits can be found in the most successful CEOs and the most effective politicians. Without the psychopaths mankind wouldn’t exist today. “

As we know several studies have been conducted to try and better understand psychopathy. One of the more common theories regarding psychopathy is that psychopaths are incapable of emotional learning, due to abnormalities in their amygdala, which is responsible for regulating emotion and aggression. Psychopaths do not learn from punishment, and so never gain a social conscience. This, in turn, is the reason they lack empathy for others and feel no remorse for their violence.

But is there is evolutionary value or basis for the traits that define 'psychopathy?


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  2. Psychopaths likely perform functions for society that society itself frowns upon. They are able and willing to do what may be necessary and not possible for more normal people, or the government, to accomplish. The Dexter character itself is a good example. Not all psychopaths are killers and not all killers are psychopaths. Someone without a conscience, say, in a CEO position, may be able to take on those tasks that someone with empathy cannot, and in doing so, ensure the health of the corporation. Police are likely very highly represented by psychopaths. They perform a valuable function, obviously, and as we've seen lately, many of their actions are frowned upon, even when their "victim" is a walking, talking moral and social disaster. So yes, I'd say that on some level, psychopaths are necessary. Obviously there are elements that we do not desire...those that harm individuals for the gratification of the psychopath, for instance.