UPDATE: More on How Brains Get Different
UPDATE: To answer questions that natually arise from my last post.
By the way, no two brains are the same. Each has developed somewhat differently. I have a different set of experiences stored in memory (by residual transmitter substance in the gaps between brain cells) than you. I think differently than you. So if you look close enough, you will detect slight differences in how our brains have developed. But you must look very close to see those differences, because they are almost invisible to current technology.
In the case of psychopaths, the differences are startling, largely because activity in emotional centers has been so repressed that these areas are a good deal less developed than they would be in my brain or yours. This explains why you and I would experience empathy at the heartrending sight of child blown up by terrorists, while the psychopath would feel nothing and just think, "What's it to me?" If you habitually refuse to relate to suffering humanity, never allowing yourself to feel pity, it gets to be a habit, and your brain will show the effect of this habit in its less-developed emotional centers.
In fact, that is no surpise. What IS surprising is that that the DIFFERENCE of development in these centers of a psychopath's brain is so far out of the normal range. To the point of virtually no emotional involvement at all. This amounts to a fundamentally different WAY of thinking, doesn't it? What Dr. Robert Hare calls a different thinking "strategy." But it stands to reason: you'd have to think this way to do the terrible things a psychopath does. Otherwise you couldn't: your human feelings would "weaken" you, so that you couldn't be so cruel.
This needn't be damage or malfunction of any sort. It could very well be a kind of perverted "natural learning." Actually, to be more precise, a kind of "natural anti-learning" = "resistence to learning empathy." Note that children are not born with it: they LEARN it.
If you are interested in the subject and care to translate from "learning how to hit a tennis forehand" to "learning how to be brutal," you can see these two lessons on my tennis tips and instruction website: Learning How to Play Tennis and Dynamic Balance. Just keep in mind that these two kinds of learning occur in different areas. Your forehand is coordinated in the cerebellum, and your emotions register in different centers. Nonetheless, the process of natural learning is the same throughout the brain, because brain cells (no matter which transmitter substance they use) all work the same way.
And don't make the mistake of thinking that everything we learn can be blamed on some "teacher," like an abusive parent. Indeed, an abusive parent WILL serve as an example. But so does the other parent, and the child can choose between these two ways of life. (I did!) In fact, we teach OURSELVES the lion's share of what we learn in life. We can choose to win "the game of life" by cheating, or we can choose to be someone we can bear to see in a real mirror - one that doesn't lie like a narcissist's warped mirrors lie. This could very well be why many psychopaths come from good homes.
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism