According to the article “My Brain Made Me Do It: Psychopaths and Free Will” by Maia Szalavitz, judges give out shorter sentences to convicted psychopaths when their behavior is blamed on the brain. Many people have debated the question of whether murderous psychopaths should be punished less severely if their behavior can be blamed on brain differences and genetic structure. Additionally, people have debated the converse question of whether longer sentences should be imposed on psychopaths because their biology makes them more dangerous than other criminals.
A recent study published in Science explored these questions by asking judges to impose a prison term on a hypothetical convict. When the judges were initially told that the offender was a psychopath, they tended to consider it an aggravating factor in sentencing, but when they heard additional expert testimony that biological factors could explain the guilty man’s behavior, they saw that information as mitigating and handed down a shorter sentence.
According to the study the trend seems to be that judges give shorter sentences when they are given biological explanation about the convict’s psychopathy. In the September 2012 issue of Scientific American magazine, Kevin Dutton explains “The Wisdom of Psychopaths” and his studies about their proven success in certain business realms. The article presents convincing information that business moguls and serial killers share a similar mindset. Apparently, some of the most successful people are psychopaths –looking at the checklist of psychopath characteristics got me thinking about how many of these charactertistics are valued in the practice of law. Lawyers are supposed to have egos to confidently combat opponents, they are valued for possessing superficial charm with clients and in a courtroom, lawyers are supposed to be somewhat conning and manipulative – only law firms call it “strategic” and lawyers are supposed to be somewhat emotionally callous – or at least be able to push aside their emotions completely for their clients. It seems apparent then that psychopaths are likely very successful in law as well as business and what I would like to know is how to possess the “valued” traits without simultaneously cultivating the negative, immoral and antisocial traits as well. Dutton’s article suggests that there is much to be learned from psychopaths if we aim for successful careers and perhaps we should look to them as models of the hallmarks of success – how to do so without going over the edge is moral dilemma lawyers must deal with if they try to actively embody these traits.
See article: http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v307/n4/full/scientificamerican1012-76.html