This chapter will explore the current literature on the neurobiology of antisociality. The term "antisociality" will be used in distinction to "criminality", which can refer to behavior defined purely in terms of its legal status. Antisociality and the related terms, psychopathy and sociopathy, refer to the personality traits which are characteristically associated with antisocial behavior. Antisocial behavior will be defined as that which is intended to serve the short-term interest of the actor but is clearly harmful or destructive to the public at large and expressly transgresses against cultural norms and frequently legal strictures. Further, the individual who performs this behavior is fully cognizant of its implications.
Antisocial traits have been divided into two components (Hare, 1991), antisocial attitudes and antisocial behavior. Antisocial behavior is often associated with behavioral dyscontrol and impulsivity, while antisocial attitudes are characterized by a dearth of empathy, guilt, and sense of responsibility towards others. The construct validity of these two components has been consistently confirmed by factor analyses (Hare, 1991; Soderstrom, 2002). Although these factors are highly correlated, (with a correlation coefficient of about 0.5 according to Hare, 1991) they are nonetheless, dissociable. In fact the crimes of psychopathic murderers were found to be far less impulsive and far more instrumental than those of non-psychopathic murderers (Woodward, Porter, 2002). In light of this distinction, James & Blair (2003) propose a definition of psychopathy that focuses solely on attitudinal/emotional deficits, such as lack of guilt and empathy, omitting consideration of behavioral dyscontrol. In this chapter, however, I will address both behavioral and attitudinal components, in keeping with the diagnostic traditions of
Lisa J. Cohen • Beth Israel Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
DSM-IV (APA, 1994), ICD-10 (WHO, 1992) and the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (Hare, 1991).
I will also propose that the attitudinal aspect of antisociality may be further subdivided into the moral and affective/interpersonal aspects. The former refers to the failure of an individual to regulate his/her behavior according to a belief system, which puts value on the partial subordination of individual interests in the interest of the public good. This might otherwise be termed a system of values, or a knowledge of "right" and "wrong." The basis of such a value system develops within the first decade of a child's life and is centrally dependent on cognitive development as well as significant environmental input (Kohlberg et al, 1983; Gilligan, 1982; Eisenberg, 2000). The study of moral development has received considerable attention within the field of developmental and social psychology (Eisenberg, 2000). What I would term the affective/interpersonal aspects of antisociality are less strictly conceptual, less tied to fairly advanced cognitive development and more dependent on the capacity for emotional empathy. Such affective capacity is heavily dependent on early attachment experiences (Schore, 1994).
In contrast, the behavioral component of antisociality has been largely linked to the concept of impulsivity. Impulsivity can be defined as the tendency to act towards short-term, pleasurable goals with insufficient consideration of the long term negative consequences (Cohen et al, 1997). There is a fairly large literature on the neurobiology of impulsivity and behavioral dyscontrol (Coccarro et al, 1989; Hollander et al, 1994; Kavoussi & Coccarro, 1996). In this chapter, I will first discuss the neurobiological literature on impulsivity, then consider the neurobio-logical research on the attitudinal aspects of antisociality, which is less developed, and finally the interaction between genes and environment in the etiology of anti-sociality.
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