Description: Have you ever watched an episode of the TV show Criminal Minds which fictionally focusses on the activities of an FBI behavioral analysis unit that hunts psychopaths? In the show there are many discussions of the sorts of developmental histories that amplify some psychopathic behavioral tendencies and of the sorts of things that can “trigger” or “escalate” psychopathic behavior and violence. It can be fascinating and creepy and even terrifying. A question that is NOT often asked in the show is what it is about the brains of psychopaths that gives rise to their particular patterns of immoral, violent behaviour. The article linked below looks at this question more generally, in terms of criminality rather than psychopathy, and involves looking to see if there are correlations between criminal behavior and certain brain issues. What area(s) of the brain do you think might be involved? Think about it and then read the article linked below to see what the research suggests.
Source: Brain lesions, criminal behavior linked to moral decision-making network. ScienceDaily, Science News
Date: December 18, 2017
Photo Credit: prathaan/Fotolia
Links: Article Link — https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171218154935.htm
The researchers make a number of important points. First, they are studying something called “acquired sociopathy” or antisocial behavior that does not appear to be based on “inborn” features or tendencies or brain structures. The researchers also showed that the brain lesions that seemed to be associated with criminal behavior were not in a specific place in the brain but, rather, in a network of brain areas that has been shown to be involved in morality and values-based decision making. Beginning understandings of the networked nature of brain functioning have lead to new insights into how the brain works, especially in complex tasks like making moral decisions and regulating one’s behaviour moral/ethical ways. While more research is certainly needed in this and related areas it is time to start thinking about some of the questions that will arise as this line in enquiry develops – like, how shall we, or should we use what it suggests for identifying and regulating particular individuals?
Questions for Discussion:
- What does the brain lesion research discussed in the linked article suggest about one possible correlate of criminal behavior?
- What sorts of additional research is needed if we are to better (and to properly) understand this possible connection between moral decision-making brain networks and criminal behavior?
- What ethical considerations should we be discussing or at least preparing to discuss in relation to the implications of this type of research?
References (Read Further):
Darby, R. R., Horn, A., Cushman, F., & Fox, M. D. (2017). Lesion network localization of criminal behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201706587. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/12/12/1706587115.full
Adolphs, R., Gläscher, J., & Tranel, D. (2017). Searching for the neural causes of criminal behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201720442.
Poldrack, R. A., Monahan, J., Imrey, P. B., Reyna, V., Raichle, M. E., Faigman, D., & Buckholtz, J. W. (2017). Predicting violent behavior: what can neuroscience add?. Trends in cognitive sciences. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joshua_Buckholtz/publication/321301246_Predicting_Violent_Behavior_What_Can_Neuroscience_Add/links/5a2ada5345851552ae7a81d4/Predicting-Violent-Behavior-What-Can-Neuroscience-Add.pdf
Nahmias, E. (2017). Your Brain as the Source of Free Will Worth Wanting: Understanding Free Will in the Age of Neuroscience. https://philpapers.org/archive/NAHYBA.pdf
Güney, S. (2017). Psychopathy: The Reflection of Severe Psychosocial Dysfunction. In Psychopathy-New Updates on an Old Phenomenon. InTech. https://www.intechopen.com/books/psychopathy-new-updates-on-an-old-phenomenon/psychopathy-the-reflection-of-severe-psychosocial-dysfunction