Mealey 2.5

From: Topping Jane (jt295@psy.soton.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 08 1998 - 15:58:01 BST


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
   1985).

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
   large.

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).

However,

   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
   behavior.

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
interaction.

   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
general.



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