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Psychopaths fixate on the reward – you

March 15, 2010

Once you’re in the crosshairs of a psychopath, the normal rules of society don’t apply.

Normal people have a sense of conscience, some fundamental feeling of right and wrong. Even if we get an urge to attack someone — and who among us hasn’t — we don’t because we know it’s wrong and we know we’ll face unpleasant consequences.

These rules don’t apply to psychopaths, and research coming out of Vanderbilt University helps to explain why.

The brain’s positive response to getting a reward is caused, in part, by the release of a hormone called dopamine. When dopamine floods the brain, we get a psychological lift. We feel good. So researchers tested the extent of the brain’s dopamine response in two groups: normal people and people who have psychopathic characteristics. The results are alarming for those of us in self-defense.

The dopamine response in the “psychopath” group were far stronger than the normal group. That means the psychopath’s hormonal drive to get what he wants — the reward — overpowers just about everything else, including the negative consequences of his actions.

“It may be that because of these exaggerated dopamine responses, once they focus on the chance to get a reward, psychopaths are unable to alter their attention until they get what they’re after,” said Joshua Buckholtz, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and lead author of the new study.

The self-defense lesson: Don’t assume that any amount of begging, pleading or reasoning can get you out of the grip of a true psychopath. The normal rules just don’t apply.

Source.

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