Study: Psychopaths Can Choose to Have Empathy
They just have to flip the empathy 'switch'
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Jul 26, 2013 11:09 AM CDT
Alex gets his switch turned on the hard way in this screenshot from "A Clockwork Orange."   (YouTube)

(Newser) – Psychopaths aren't devoid of human empathy, they just have the ability to switch it on and off, a new study suggests—though they do tend to default to "off". The study hooked criminals diagnosed with psycopathy up to a brain scanner, and showed them video clips of two hands touching each other: in neutral, violent, caressing, or rejecting ways. If researchers asked the subjects to identify with the person whose hand was being treated that way, the part of the brain related to pain lit up, the BBC explains. Otherwise, it lay relatively dormant.

Researchers are calling the phenomenon the "empathy switch," and say it offers new hope for psychopaths. "The predominant notion had been that they are callous individuals, unable to feel emotions," the study's senior author says. "Now that we've shown they have empathy—even if only in certain conditions—we can give therapists something to work with."

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Showing 3 of 28 comments
Jul 27, 2013 10:36 AM CDT
Their brains light up when they see pain, not because they have "empathy" but because they enjoy other people's pain.
Jul 27, 2013 2:44 AM CDT
Ochen' Horror show. As for psychopaths, I've always said they are the future of human race if not new species. We're been evolving away from animal instincts for some time now.
Jul 26, 2013 10:38 PM CDT
Is this "Crap" studies day or what? Just as long as you are not a tall women, You drink a couple of cups of coffee a day and arent devoid of human empathy. Studies day you should be alright.