Mealey Comm blair

From: Whitehouse Chantal (
Date: Thu May 07 1998 - 17:46:12 BST

>R.J.R. Blair/a and John Morton/b

>Mealey joins the growing band of authors (e.g., Fagan & Lira, 1980;
>Moffitt, 1993) who distinguish between primary and secondary
>sociopaths. The groups display similar behaviour which we might
>expect to be controlled by roughly equivalent cognitive structures.

I see how primary and secondary sociopaths display similar behaviour
which I'd imagine to be the result of using similar "cheating"
(non-altruisitic) stratergies but I'm not convinced they would be
controlled by, "roughly equivalent cognitive structures". How can the
biological hardwear of a person who is born with a genetical deficit
(or difference) be the same as that of a person who is born the same
as you or I (whose behaviour is later changed by social
circumstances). Social circumstances would change the person's
behaviour (softwear) to be the same as a primary sociopath but it
wouldn't be able to change the hardwear. Surely this is the main
point of the distinction between the two.

>Finally, we are in total agreement with at least one of her
>descriptions of the sociopath; that he/ she will acquire a theory of
>mind without access to empathic responding.

"Theory of mind" allows a person to determine the mental states of
oneself and of others. We all have a theory of mind but unlike us, a
primary sociopath has no feelings of empathy.Our theory of mind may
lead us to the conclusion that a certain person would not call the
police if we stole their car but we also know that they'd feel bad if
this happened and so feelings of empathy (and related feelings of
guilt) would stop most peple from doing this. A primary sociopath
however would not have these feelings of empathy and guilt to prevent
them from committing the crime. A theory of mind without access to
empathic responding can therefore be a powerful weapon.

>Indeed, some of the core features of her model, for example,
>cheating strategies, are not considered at a cognitive level at all.

Doesn't the theory of mind do this to some extent? If people use
their theory of mind to determine the most successful stratergy in
each situation, and if they are NOT restrained by empathic feelings,
the cheating stratergy will often be the most logical solution. So
the primary sociopath in the prisoner's dilemma situation will always
choose to rat on his partner because it is logically the most
successful solution for himself.
>Mealey claims that rape and spouse abuse are "genetically
>influenced, developmentally and environmentally- contingent cheating
>strategies" that have been selected for. It seems unlikely that
>these behaviours per se are part of the phenotype; that motor
>programs for antisocial behaviours such as spouse abuse are laid
>down in the genotype.

I agree. Rather than specific cheating behaviours being selected for
I believe that sociopaths (primary definitely, I'm not so sure about
secondary) deal with every situation in the same logically analysing
type of way. If they find that logically a cheating stratergy would
be most successful, an antisocial behaviour such as rape would then

>Mealey makes the assumption, as others in the sociopath/ psychopath
>literature have done before her (e.g., Eysenck, 1964; Patterson &
>Newman, 1993), that moral socialisation is achieved through the use
>of punishment. The difficulty with this assumption is that there is
>no evidence for it. Indeed, the evidence that exists indicates that
>moral socialisation is best achieved through exposure to and focus
>on the victims of moral transgressions (see, for review, Hoffman,

If it is the case that moral socialisation is best achieved through
exposure to and focus on the victims of moral transgressions it would
explain quite neatly why primary sociopaths have no social morality
(because if they have no social emotions they can't empathise with
victims). However, how does this relate to secondary sociopaths who
don't have this deficit of social emotions.Is it that they are not
exposed to victims of moral transgressions. This is highly unlikely
considering the fact that secondary sociopaths come predominantly
from low socioeconomic families with poor parenting. Is it then that
their social upbringing somehow teaches them its benefical to ignore
or switch off these social emotions? I'm not convinced that social
emotions can be completely switched off.

Secondary sociopathy does seem to be a lot harder to conceptualise
and explain than primary sociopathy.


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