Is Society Becoming More Psychopathic?

I’ve been thinking for quite a while that it is, and now a research psychologist at Cambridge University has some thoughts on the matter:

Over a 28-year-old single-malt scotch at the Scientific Study of Psychopathy’s biennial bash in Montreal in 2011, I asked Bob Hare, “When you look around you at modern-day society, do you think, in general, that we’re becoming more psychopathic?”

The eminent criminal psychologist and creator of the widely used Psychopathy Checklist paused before answering. “I think, in general, yes, society is becoming more psychopathic,” he said. “I mean, there’s stuff going on nowadays that we wouldn’t have seen 20, even 10 years ago. Kids are becoming anesthetized to normal sexual behavior by early exposure to pornography on the Internet. Rent-a-friend sites are getting more popular on the Web, because folks are either too busy or too techy to make real ones. … The recent hike in female criminality is particularly revealing. And don’t even get me started on Wall Street.”

He’s got a point. In Japan in 2011, a 17-year-old boy parted with one of his own kidneys so he could go out and buy an iPad. In China, following an incident in which a 2-year-old baby was left stranded in the middle of a marketplace and run over, not once but twice, as passersby went casually about their business, an appalled electorate has petitioned the government to pass a good-Samaritan law to prevent such a thing from happening again.

And the new millennium has seemingly ushered in a wave of corporate criminality like no other. Investment scams, conflicts of interest, lapses of judgment, and those evergreen entrepreneurial party tricks of good old fraud and embezzlement are now utterly unprecedented in magnitude. Who’s to blame? In an issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, Clive R. Boddy, a former professor at the Nottingham Business School, contends that it’s psychopaths, pure and simple, who are at the root of all the trouble.

4 comments to Is Society Becoming More Psychopathic?

  • Sean Paul Kelley

    Naw, humans are just as terrible to each other as they have always been. Just read the Old Testament or the Iliad or Digenis Akritas or Dante’s Inferno.

  • It’s the reverse of “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.

    First we excuse psychopathy as an unfortunate exception to the norm, then we try to marginalize it with ridicule, then we condemn it but ignore the underlying causes, then we institutionalize it and elect it to high office.

  • steelhead

    You recognize what my late Mother lamented about. Lack of manners, respect and a general “I don’t give a shit about anyone but me” attitude. It may be escapism or a lack of a supportive family structure. Who knows? The societal damage has been going on since the Baby Boomers started having kids.

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