An Intelligent Calculus – Psychopathic Reasoning in the Absence of Conscience

I’ve written several times on the nature of conscience and its absence in the psychopathic mind.  While not a diagnostic criterion for confirming psychopathy, a lack of conscience is common in those whom are psychopathic.  Whereas the neurotypical will feel some visceral and gut feeling regarding an ethical dilemma, the psychopath tends not to.  This is certainly advantageous for the psychopath as she need not stand still while others are paralyzed by the command to satisfy their conscience.  However, a lack of conscience should not imply automatic and consistent antisocial behavior.  The reason for this is simple: the “good” choice need not be without reward.

The fallacy that many neurotypicals employ is that a lack of conscience implies immediate antisocial behavior whenever a psychopath is confronted with the choice between prosocial and antisocial behavior.  This implies that the antisocial choice is always more rewarding.  This is fallacious reasoning.  Society, while subject to antisocial whims of their own on both a global and individual level, tends to reward prosocial options.  At the very least, it tends to punish antisocial activities.  Therefore, it is in the psychopath’s best interest to choose the prosocial option when available, and many successful psychopaths realize this.  A lack of conscience merely implies that a different calculus is involved when choosing between a prosocial and antisocial action, it does not imply that no calculus is involved.

With society putting their collective finger on the scales, tipping the prosocial side further down than the antisocial side, the reward must be extraordinary for the successful psychopath to take the antisocial route.  The thoughts that go into choosing which action to take are certainly more well-defined than those of the neurotypical.  Whereas the neurotypical may choose automatically (so they claim) the prosocial option out of fear of those gut feelings associated with an antisocial choice, the successful psychopath will think carefully and weigh the pros and cons of the situational response.

A lack of conscience cannot imply automatic bad behavior from those without.  It is fallacious to believe so and precludes the possibility of an intelligent calculus used by the successful psychopath.  There may be no moral stake or sick stomach involved, but the psychopath can often reach the same conclusions that the neurotypical does – just with different reasoning and different values placed on the options at hand.

What More Do You Want From Me?


  1. Miss x says

    “Nurotypicals” chose according to a moral compass, not because they “fear of those gut feelings associated with an antisocial choice,” Right action feels better. Fear is not the driving force. When you act right there are no consequences to worry about or fear.

    What you have described is manipulation: Behaving in a way to secure an outcome with the aim to change the perception or behavior of others. Psychopaths can do this because of the absence of conscience and actually are the ones who do this because they fear the outcome of making the antisocial choice (losing control). Reading this post felt like total projection. You are projecting your thought process onto “Nurotypicals.” A heathy minded “Nuerotypical” won’t operate like that.

    • FNP says

      You seem to have a lot of trouble spelling neurotypical.

      Also, there’s no reason that choosing the antisocial option means losing control.

      Though I can easily think of situations where you act in a morally good manner, and there are still consequences. Edward Snowden comes to mind.

  2. Miss x says

    Ya, well “Neurotypical” is a strange word to explain a non-psychopath. Why not just call us “normal?”

    A psychopath generally wants to stay in control, right? So then, to remain in control a psychopath would have to “pretend to be social,” or potentially lose the control he has on a person or situation. That’s the whole reason of putting on the fake persona.

    Edward Snowden is a bad example. Isn’t the post about interpersonal relationships?

    I am curious why psychopaths feel the need to constantly compare their thinking processes to the thought processes of what you call Neurotypicals? It comes off as a need to be better & superior. It also seems like you are trying to justify a not so nice personality trait.

    There are so many non psychopathic people who behave morally right, are nice, fun and just great to be with. They don’t have to pretend to be what they are not which eliminates frustrating mind games. Playing mind games is a mental drain and a waste of energy.

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