Mealey 3.3

From: Walker-Hall James (
Date: Thu May 07 1998 - 18:58:48 BST

Mealey concludes with two different strategies for dealing
with the prescence of primary and secondary sociopaths:

>(1) "Primary sociopaths" are individuals of a certain
>genotype, physiotype, and personality who are incapable of
>experiencing the secondary, "social" emotions that
>normally contribute to behavioral motivation and
>inhibition; they fill the ecological niche described by
>game theorists as the "cheater strategy" and, as the
>result of frequency-dependent selection, will be found in
>low frequency in every society.

According to mealey primary sociopaths are inevitable in
any society, they exist because both the EEA and the
current environment have a small space for cheaters. Their
condition can not be 'cured' by therapy in the traditional
sense as mealeys' claim is that their genetic make up will
drive them to cheating behaviour.

Mealey is therefore really saying that as they can not be
changed, society has to be changed around them...

>(1b) To minimize the damage caused by primary sociopaths,
>the appropriate social response is to modify the criminal
>justice system in ways that obviously reduce the benefits
>and increase the costs of antisocial behavior

Firstly, it would seem difficult by definition to
reduce the benefits of antisocial behaviour. The mealey
article (and game theory in general) implies that
anti-social behaviour is desirable, as we would all do it
if we were not constrained by conscience.

Secondly, and following from the above point, these proposed
solutions really demand radical and ideological changes to
be made to society. They therefore have low political and
practical validity, as Steven pointed out in the lecture.

Mealey also adds that cheating by primary s'paths could
also be reduced by...

>simultaneously creating alternatives to crime which
>could satisfy the psychophysiological arousal needs of the

Firstly, practical and political limitations again apply
here. For example, although it is viable that family
environments could be changed to offer children more varied
and extensive stimulation, this would clearly not be
easily acheived in certain deprived areas.

Secondly, if mealey claims that the psychophysiological
arousal needs of the primary sociopath, (a result of the
primary sociopath genotype) are fundamental to the
condition, then her own distinction between primary and
secondary sociopaths becomes blurred somewhat. The
behavioural manifestation of such genetically driven needs
are clearly highly dependent on environmental
contingencies. I would guess that Vandalism and boxing
satisfy similar arousal needs, but one is not 'cheating'.
This would suggest a continuum model of sociopathy in the
population rather than a dictchonomous distinction.

Thirdly, the general suggestion that one genotype underlies
primary sociopathy can also be doubted. For example,
continuing the focus on arousal, as Steven pointed out the
link between sociopathy and novelty seeking is not 1:1.
Further, a study in the commentaries also suggests that a
single genetic class of primary sociopaths is unfounded as
sociopaths who commited impulsive and premeditated crimes
differed on pyscho-physiological measures of processing.

>(2) "Secondary sociopaths" are individuals who use an
>environmentally-contingent, facultative cheating strategy
>not as clearly tied to genotype; this strategy develops in
>response to social and environmental conditions related to
>disadvantage in social competition and will thus covary
>(across cultures, generations, and even within an
>individual lifetime) with variation in immediate social

Secondary sociopaths are those who have 'decided' that
cheating is the most effective strategy in their own
particular envinromnent. As they are constrained by
emotions, (unlike primary s'paths) the personal benefits of
cheating are substantially large enough so that they
outweigh the emotional and reputational costs.

>(2b) To reduce the frequency of secondary sociopathy, the
>appropriate social response is to implement programs which
>reduce social stratification, anonymity, and competition,
>intervene in high-risk settings with specialized parent
>education and support; and increase the availability of
>rewarding, prosocial opportunities for at-risk youth.

The solution to secondary sociopaths is that we need to get
make deprived areas prosperous...

James Walker-Hall

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