Mealey states that antisocial (`cheating') strategies in both primary
and secondary sociopaths can also be applied to other groups of
criminals as well as people in the general population. Indeed, she
describes situations where antisocial behaviour is
acceptable under the correct social and cultural circumstances.
Christie (1970) notes that people who seek to control and manipulate
others often become lawyers, psychiatrists, or behavioral
scientists; Jenner (1980), too, claims that "subtle, cynical
selfishness with a veneer of social skills is common among
scientists" (p 128).
Antisocial behaviour is rife amongst some salesmen as well as in other
circumstances, such as war and thus it is a trait that exists within
society as a whole. Mealey goes on to describe the personality "Mach"
scale (Christie and Geis, 1970), which measures variation in antisocial
personalities, in subclinical populations. High Machs, have lower
levels of empathy, more resistence to confession after cheating, are
more plausible liars and have a lack of emotion within interpersonal
relationships. In sum, high Machs have a manipulative personality and
have an :
instrumental cognitive attitude toward others (Christie & Geis, p
277), and, because they are goal-oriented as opposed to
person-oriented, they are more successful in face-to-face bargaining
situations than low Machs.
Mealey, compares those scoring high on the Mach scale, to sociopaths.
One can thus easily think of Machiavellianism as a low-level
manifestation of <sociopathy. It even shows a sex difference
consistent with the two- threshold model (Christie & Geis 1970), an
age pattern consistent with age variation in testosterone levels
(Christie & Geis 1970), significant positive correlations with
Eysenck's psychoticism and neuroticism scales (Allsopp, Eysenck &
Eysenck 1991), and a correlation with serotonin levels (Madsen
However, it must be remembered that the link between these two traits
is only a hypthesis. There may be correlations between Mach traits and
sociopathic traits but there is no direct evidence that they are one
and the same thing.
Interstingly, Mealey discusses the idea that high Machs (and
sociopaths) use a different approach when judging others, to most
`normal' people (low Machs).
In one study, Geis & Levy (1970) found that high Machs (who were
thought to use an "impersonal, cognitive, rational, cool" approach
with others), were much more accurate than low Machs (who were
thought to use a "more personal, empathizing" approach), at
assessing how other "target" individuals answered a Machiavellian
attitudes questionnaire. Even more interesting is the result (from
the same study) that the high Machs achieved their accuracy by using
a nomothetic or actuarial <strategy_..Low Machs, on the other hand,
used an idiographic approach, and although they successfully
differentiated between high scorers and low scorers, they grossly
underestimated the scores of both, guessing at a level that was more
reflective of their own scores than those of the population at
The important idea behind this, is that empathy based approaches (which
is the strategy used by most to assess others) are not necessarily any
more accurate than an impersonal cognitive approach, thought to be used
by sociopaths and high Machs. The former approach still has a
cognitive bias (an emotion based bias), just as sociopaths may have a
rational, hostile bias. Indeed, empathy based approaches are subject to
being exploited by others who use the impersonal cognitive approach;
indeed, high Machs outcompete low Machs in most experimental
competitive situations (Terhune 1970, Christie & Geis 1970).
in situations where voluntary, long-term coalitions can be formed,
the personal, empathizing (and idealistic) low Machs might
outperform the more impersonal, cognitive (and realistic) high
Machs, since low Machs would be more successful than high Machs in
selecting a cooperator as a partner.
In effect, both strategies have their inaccuracies when judging others,
and Geis & Levy's study demonstates this:
the sociopaths underestimated their differences from others, while
the control subjects substantiallyover-estimated their differences
from others, suggesting that sociopaths (like high Machs) were using
a nomothetic approach to prediction, while controls (like low Machs)
were using an idiographic approach.
2.5.2 The role of mood
Mealey suggests that mood and emotion are closely related, and
highlights the importance of mood in any model explaining sociopathy.
Mood might be thought of as a relative of emotion which clearly
varies within individuals but is perhaps less an immediate response
to concrete events and stimuli and more a generalized, short- to
mid-term response to the environment. As such, the role of mood must
be addressed by any model that relies so heavily on the concepts of
emotion, emotionality, and emotionlessness, as determinants of
She quotes evidence that demonstrates that sad and happy affect can
have a profound effect on the strategies used in social interaction.
Positive mood and feelings of success have been demonstrated to
enhance cooperative behavior (Mussen & Eisenberg-Berg1977, Cialdini,
Kenrick & Baumann 1982, Farrington 1982)_.To the extent that sadness
and feelings of failure follow losses of various sorts, individuals
in these circumstances should be expected to be egoistic and
selfish. In children, this is typically what is found (Mussen &
Eisenberg-Berg 1977, Baumann, Cialdini & Kenrick 1981). In some
children, and more consistently in adults, on the other hand,
sadness and feelings of failure can facilitate prosocial behavior.
She also provides evidence that hostility and depression can produce
biased cognitions which in turn, affect the strategies used in social
Dodge and Newman (1981) showed that aggressiveness in boys is
associated with the over-attribution of hostile intent to others.
Furthermore, guilt, anxiety and sympathy are all associated with
prosocial behaviour. However,
Since guilt, anxiety and sympathy are social emotions that primary
sociopaths rarely, if ever, experience, there is no reason to expect
that they might moderate their behavior so as to avoid them.
Sociopaths however, are likely to experience fluctuations in mood in
response to the environment (eg between a generally positive or
negative mood). Mealey offers a solution, although she does not
state exactly how it would be put into practice
To the extent that we can manipulate the sociopath's mood,
therefore, we might be able to influence his behavior.
2.5.3 Cultural variables
Competition within a society is associated with use of prosocial
strategies, and varies across cultures. High levels of competitiveness
are associated with high crime rates.
Competition increases the use of antisocial and Machiavellian
strategies (Christie & Geis 1970) and can counteract the increase in
prosocial behavior that generally results from feelings of success
(Mussen & Eisenberg-Berg 1977). Some cultures encourage
competitiveness more than others (Mussen & Eisenberg-Berg 1977,
Shweder, Mahapatra & Miller 1987) and these differences in social
values vary both temporally and crossculturally.
Similarly, population density (which varies in different parts of the
country) is related to competition, and thus has an effect on
strategies used in social interaction.
High population density, an indirect form of competition, is also
associated with reduced prosocial behavior (Farrington 1982) and
increased antisocial behavior (Wilson & Hernnstein 1985).
Finally, the level of similarity (genetically or otherwise) between the
person and their interactive partner is a factor thought to be related
to prosocial behaviour.
Based on models of kin selection and inclusive fitness, individuals
should be more cooperative and less deceptive when interacting with
relatives who share their genes, or relatives who share investment
in common descendents. Segal (1991) reported that identical twins
cooperated more than fraternal twins playing the Prisoner's Dilemma.
Barber (1992) reported that responses on an altruism questionnaire
were more altruistic when the questions were phrased so as to refer
to relatives (as opposed to "people" in general), and that
Machiavellian responses were thereby reduced.
Thus, the aspects of social psychology touched on by Mealey, have given
insights into our understanding of sociopaths, and human nature in
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