Follow US:

Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Why do some people become psychopaths? (30 Jan 2014)

Difficulty: 0

>> Good afternoon, everybody.

A very warm welcome to today's UCL Lunch Hour lecture.

It is my great pleasure to introduce Essi Viding,

professor of Developmental Psychopathology

in the UCL division of Psychology

and Language Sciences.

Professor Viding's lecture for us today is entitled,

Why do some people become psychopaths?

>> Thank you.

Individuals with psychopathy tend

to capture public imagination.

People are fascinated by what makes these individuals

so different.

And there has been a tendency

to at times sensationalize the condition and the description

of the condition in the media.

And I guess one of the signs

that these individuals really do capture the public imagination

is that they have featured in a number of popular films.

So here we have a picture of Jacob,

a character from Buckham [assumed spelling] Films

and he's very impulsive and he's also entirely unconcerned

about the impact of his behavior on other people

and he seems to lack empathy.

We have Kevin who is from the movie,

We Need to Talk about Kevin.

This is a very chilling description

of a child who's not capable of forming attachment relationships

with his parents who's cruel to animals and cruel

to younger children who ends up by the end of the film

and the book that it's based on becoming a killer.

He kills family members and also people at his school.

We have Anton Chigurh who's an absolutely chilling contract

killer in the current Coen Brothers film,

No Country for Old Men.

And if anyone has seen the film, I think one of very scary things

about observing this character is when you see shots

that are focused directly at his eyes

and there really is no emotion coming back

to you from those eyes.

And then there's probably everyone's favorite psychopath

from movies, Hannibal Lecter from the Silence

of the Lamb film; and he is again, a very good example

of a psychopathic character in that he's entirely void

of empathy for other people and he's also extremely skillful

at manipulating other people to his own ends.

And in fact, if you asked members

of the general public what springs to mind

when they hear the word psychopath,

people often think about serial killers.

And real-life serial killers include characters

such as Ted Bundy who killed

at least 30 women in America in 1970s.

He was very bright and extremely handsome, and he often posed

as somebody who was in a position of authority or someone

who was very reliable to entice these women to come with him,

and then he murdered them in a very cruel way.

And people think that he actually may have committed many

more crimes than he confessed to.

His description of himself was

that he's the most cold-hearted son

of a bitch you'll ever likely to meet.

And interestingly his defense lawyer didn't have a lot

of good things to say about him either and said

that he was the very definition of heartless evil.

So this was a man who was able to be very charming,

was able to convince other people to come with him,

but he actually turned out to be somebody

who felt absolutely nothing for his victims and didn't seem

to really feel any guilt for what he had done.

But, of course, not all psychopaths are serial killers.

In fact, only a very few are.

So what are the characteristics

that define an individual with psychopathy?

Well, one of the most prominent characteristics is their lack

of remorse and guilt.

So they simply do not feel bad about the things they have done.

They may sometimes say that they do if they perceive

that as getting them something that they want

such as early release from prison.

But it's very clear from the way they behave and --

that they do not actually experience remorse

for what they have done.

They don't feel bad about what they have done.

They're very shallow affect.

Their emotions appear ingenuine and often very short lived.

They don't form typical attachment relationships.

They don't look after the people around them.

They can often have superficial charm.

So if you meet these individuals for the first time,

you may be very, very alert by them.

They may seem very gregarious, very charming, very nice.

But once you get to know them for a longer period of time

that charm tends to wear off.

They often have a grandiose sense of self worth.

They think they are better

and more deserving than other people.

They're pathological liars and they are typically very good

at manipulating other people to their own ends.

As a developmental psychologist I'm very interested

in how these characteristics develop.

It's unlikely that anybody's born a psychopath

but clearly you don't get this sort of conditions

as a birthday present when you turn 18 either.

So the research in our group has been focused

on investigating what makes some children developmentally

vulnerable to developing these sorts

of personality traits as an adult.

And you can focus on various different levels of query

when you try and understand the development of this condition.

So we can look at how children who are at risk

of becoming adult psychopaths look like behaviorally.

What differentiates these children

from typical developing children or other children

who may have behavioral problems

but who don't exhibit these cold characteristics

of lack of empathy and guilt.

We can study how these children see the world around them

so we can use experimental tasks to focus

on their psychological level analysis.

And we can see if these children's brains react

differently to information around them

which is what you would expect if their behavior

and if their way of processing information is different.

And you can also use genetically informative designs

to study the relevant importance of genetic

and environmental factors

in developing this type of condition.

And you can also try and look for specific risk genes

and risk environmental factors

that in concert might promote the development of the disorder.

Now we'll first tell you a little bit

about what makes these children behaviorally different

from their typically developing peers but also

from other children who have behavioral problems.

So there are several early behavioral warning signs

of children who are at risk for psychopathy

and these look very different from the kinds

of characteristics we see in adult psychopaths.

The person who first formally downward extended this

psychopathic criteria to children was Paul Frick

and this was work that started 20 years ago

in the United States and now several different research

groups across the globe have studied these behavioral

characteristics in children and in young people.

These children lack remorse and guilt so they don't express

that they're sorry for what they've done.

They lack empathy and this can be often manifested

by them behaving cruelly amongst other children, bullying,

being very physically aggressive in a way

that is really showing no concern

over developing of the other person.

They are also sometimes cruel to animals

such as pets in the family.

They have shallow affects so many of the parents report

that they don't feel like they can connect with this child.

They may have a perfectly nice relationship

with their other children and if anyone has read the book,

We Need to Talk About Kevin, I think that's a very good example

of a mother who was able to form an attachment relationship

with one of her children, but really felt

like there was nothing coming back from the child who went

on to develop psychopathy.

These children can manipulate other people for their own gain.

And they have a sense of being more important

and more deserving than other people.

And in combination this constellation of traits

in children is called callous-unemotional traits.

So clearly we don't want to label children as psychopaths

but this constellation of traits gives you a warning sign

that the child who scores very high on these traits may be

at risk for developing psychopathy in the adulthood.

They're kind of like the warning sign.

You want to start thinking about doing something

to help this child if they display this constellation

of characteristics.

There's now quite a bit of good longitudinal research showing

that these sorts of traits are predictive of persistent,

violent and severe antisocial behavior and psychopathy

in adolescents and adulthood.

They don't predict that every child who's score high

on these sorts of traits will inevitably become an antisocial

adult but they do index that that child is

at a significantly increased risk

of developing the antisocial presentation in adulthood.

Antisocial behavior in children is called conduct problems.

And if you think about this circle that I'm showing to you

as representing all the children with conduct problems

and the blue circles as representing the minority

who also has high levels of callous-unemotional traits

and you get an idea that they are a minority

but they are a sizable minority.

So people estimate that somewhere between 25 to as high

as 50 percent of the children who are diagnosed

with conduct problems also have this presentation

of high callous-unemotional traits.

And what sets them apart from other children

with conduct problems is that they often engage in proactive

or planned acts of aggression.

So while the aggression in other children

with conduct problems is typically quite impulsive

and in reaction to something external that happened,

for instance, a perceived threat or slight to the child,

these children can engage in aggression

if they think it's going to get them something they want.

It might get them status among peers.

It might get them some goods that they desire.

As I've already said they lack guilt.

They don't worry about hurting other people

to get what they want and they often have low levels

of anxiety.

And this is in contrast with the remainder of children

with conduct problems who have low levels

of callous-unemotional traits and who often aggress

when they feel under threat

and whose aggression is often impulsive.

It's not premeditated.

And when these children have had a chance to reflect

on what they have done, they actually often feel bad

and guilty about having hurt other people

or having done something that has caused their parents

or their teachers to feel sad.

And this presentation can also occur

with high levels of anxiety.

So you already are beginning to see from this behavioral data

that the reactivity, emotional reactivity profile

of these two types of children

with conduct problems is quite different.

You have a group that seems to be more cold and calculated

and unemphatic, and then you have another group who seems

to be more hot headed, reactive, and impulsive

but who also has the capacity to empathize with other people.

So these different behavioral profiles have got psychologists

interested in how these children may see the world

around them differently from typically developing children

but also their peers with conduct problems.

And we can focus on the study of the psychological level

of analysis by giving children experimental tasks

which we often present on a computer, for instance,

and these tasks can give us an idea

of how they process information such as facial,

emotional expressions.

So I want you to have a go at doing one of the tasks

that we do with the children.

Here's a face that is starting

with a neutral rather calm expression and I'm going

to press a button and it's going

to start slowly developing an emotional expression.

And when you think you know what the expression is,

please shout it out loud and don't be shy.

Okay. Happy.

Very good.

So you can see fairly early on in the development

of this expression that this is somebody who's looking happy,

their corners of the mouth are going

up which you can see a display of teeth.

This is a happy looking chap.

And here's the same chap putting a different expression.

And again shout out when you think you know what emotion this

person is displaying.

Scared. So I'm hearing people say scared

so this is somebody who is fearful.

And you can see that this person is scared

because they are showing a lot of eye white.

This is one of the very, very ecologically valid signs

that somebody's scared

when their eyes are looking a little bit large

and you can see a lot of the eye whites.

Now children who have conduct problems and high levels

of callous-unemotional traits have difficulty in recognizing

and reacting to other people's emotions particularly emotions

of distrust, such as fear and also sadness which is --

you see here at the top right-hand side -- sorry.

Bottom right-hand side.

And people have used facial stimulus --

that's what I just showed to you to assess this.

But people have also used stimuli that is auditory

so people doing vocalizations that emotional or body postures.

And this work by our lab and labs

of our colleagues have very conclusively shown

that these children really do not appear

to process other people's emotions in a typical fashion.

They seem to be underreactive to these displays of emotions

and unable to recognize them as effectively

as typically developing children do.

Interestingly they also report feeling less fear themselves.

And one of the things that we're interested in researching

in our lab at the moment is whether the reason they have

such difficulty in processing other people's emotions stems

from the fact that they don't feel those same emotions very

strongly themselves.

So it's probably tricky to empathize with other people

and to recognize their emotions

if you have an impoverished experience

of those same emotions yourself.

We also know from standard learning paradigms

that these individuals who have conduct problems

and high callous-unemotional traits are less responsive

to punishment.

So when you have to learn about which stimuli is good to go for

and gives you points and which stimuli is bad to go for

and doesn't give you points,

these individuals are typically poorer

at modulating their behavior in response to the punishment used.

And people have theorized that one

of the reasons why these children may be tricky

to socialize is that two very powerful tools

of socializations are not as effective for them.

So anyone who has small children in the audience or has dealt

with small children knows that when they misbehave,

we often give them sanctions.

So in my house at the moment

with the three-year-old we have a naughty step

and he sits there relatively regularly and so it's something

that I employ in my house.

It's very effective.

He doesn't like sitting on the naughty step.

He said he'll kind of improve his behavior

and he usually comes and joins us

and he indeed does improve his behavior because he doesn't

like being excluded from the activities.

And we also do empathy induction.

So anyone who's dealt with toddlers has basically repeated,

well, think how Johnny is going to feel if you whack him

with the toy car until they're blue in the face.

So we try and get the children to focus

on how their behavior might impact somebody else

and somebody else's emotions.

Now if you are really incapable

of feeling perhaps those emotions yourself

and also feeling for other people,

and if you don't react very much to the punishments,

there are two very powerful socialization tools

that are not going to be as effective in bringing you

up as they are in typically developing children.

So really what we see in these children is this diminished

emotional responsivity to both, kind of,

more material punishments but also in terms

of their reactivity to other people.

And this profile is in contrast with the profile we see

for children who have conduct problems but who have low levels

of callous-unemotional traits.

These children, if anything,

seemed to be a bit emotionally overreactive.

They have what psychologists call a hostile attribution bias.

So they tend to see threat in even stimuli

that typical individuals don't perceive threatening.

So they might see an ambiguous face and think

that this is somebody who's trying to get at me

so I'm going to aggress first.

So in this group what we see really is increased emotional

reactivity at least to some types of stimuli.

And these data have got ourselves

and also other groups interested in looking

at how these children's brains look

like when we show them emotionally charged stimuli.

One of the ways in which we can study how the brain processes

information is by scanning children using functional

magnetic resonance imaging.

This is a noninvasive technique that involves scanning

for children's brains as they lie inside the magnet.

And they do tasks that we have sent to them.

We can then look at their brain activity

as they are doing the tasks and this gives us an idea

of what parts of the brain are engaged

in processing the information that we show them.

One of the brain areas that researchers

on conduct disorder have or conduct problems have focused

on is called the amygdala.

And this is a very small almond shape part of the brain.

It's a very preserved structure even reptiles have it.

It's there for basically alerting you

that there's something salient in the environment

that you're to pay attention to.

And this salient information

for human beings includes emotions of other people.

And studies of children

with conduct problems using emotional stimuli have been a

little bit mixed.

Some studies have reported increased amygdorial [assumed

spelling] reactivity to emotional stimuli.

Other studies have reported decreased amygdorial reactivity

to emotional stimuli.

And our group recently wanted

to investigate whether it's the callous-unemotional traits

that determine whether the children's brains are

underresponsive or the amygdors are underresponsive

to emotional stimuli

or overresponsive to the same stimuli.

So we have carried out a range of paradigms recently.

I will talk about two here in the talk.

And here's an example of a recent task

that we've used called masked fear task.

And in this task we presented either fearful faces which is

on the left-hand side there or calm faces which is

on the right-hand side there

for very short duration, only 17 milliseconds.

And then we replaced those faces with a calm face

of a different identity.

And the replacement of the face happened so quickly

that the participants are not consciously aware

that they've seen a fearful face.

So the advantage of this task is that we can look

at very early preconscious processing of emotion.

In other words, we get an idea

of how automatically the brain attunes

to the emotional stimuli.

And when we contrast the fear

and the calm conditions we find a pattern of brain responses

where children who have conduct problems

and high callous-unemotional traits show very low amygdorial

reactivity to these preconsciously presented

fierce stimuli.

The typical children are somewhere in the middle

and the children with conduct problems

and low callous-unemotional traits show, if anything,

overreactivity to these fear faces

that we present pre-attentively.

And here I'm showing you a plot of the data from the children

with conduct problems alone.

And on the left-hand side

on the Y axis you can see the brain activity estimates

from the FMRI analysis

and on the right-hand side you can see the child's

callous-unemotional traits score.

And you can see that the higher the callous-unemotional trait

score, the lower the amygdorial response to these fearful faces.

We also used a more complex emotional tasks such as the task

that showed scenarios of other people in distress.

So this was a cartoon task where the children saw a scenario

where the mother is reading a newspaper, a child is going

down the slide, and the child ends up hurting himself

and falling off the slide.

And then the person inside the scanner gets two choices

as to what is the appropriate ending to the task.

And most children even the children

with conduct problems are very able to say

that the appropriate response is for the adult to go

and comfort the child.

So behaviorally the children --

process this task very similarly.

But interestingly again, the amygdala of the children

with conduct problems particularly those children

with conduct problems

and callous-unemotional traits is less reactive

to observing other people in distress

in this very complex social scenario.

And the kind of contrast we can use

in a scanner is we have a similar scenarios

but without the emotional contents

so we can really extract the emotional response of the brain.

So the data from this behavioral psychological

and brain emitting studies is really showing this picture

of shallow affect and lack of empathy and demonstrating it

in different levels of analyses.

So we know from naturalistic behavioral settings

from more experimental behavioral settings and also

from brain imaging settings that these children really seem

to have this underreactivity to other people's emotions,

perhaps particularly distress.

So these sort of data obviously begs the question

as to why do these children process the information

around them so differently.

Are they genetically at risk for being this way?

Are there some environmental risk factors that mean

that they come to be very unemphatic,

very emotionally underreactive.

And one of the ways in which you can wrote the origins

or the etiology of any given trait or disorder is

by classical twin design.

And the twin design relies on a comparison between identical

or monozygotic twins and nonidentical or dizygotic twins.

The identical twins are the result

of a single fertilized egg splitting so they are

for all intents and purposes each other's genetic clones.

And an example I often use here, I run the research group

with Dr. Eamon McCrory who's an identical twin.

And his brother has three children

but if they did a paternity test,

they couldn't tell whether it's the brother

or whether it's Eamon who's the father.

So these are two individuals who have identical DNA.

Then we have nonidentical or dizygotic twins

who are the product of two separate eggs being fertilized

by two separate sperm.

So they're like any other sibling pair

but they have been born at the same time

which makes them a good comparison in the studies

for the identical twins.

And you can use the twin studies to infer the relative importance

of genetic and environmental influences

on variation on any given trait.

And the way you can do it is you can compare how similar do these

clones look to each other on any given behavior

and how similar do these nonidentical twins look

to each other on any given behavior.

And you can conclude that there is more than likely

to be genetic influence on a trait

if the identical twins look more similar to each other

than the nonidentical twins.

So if genetics are important in driving similarity,

then the individuals who share hundred percent

of their DNA should look more similar to each other

than individuals who share on average 50 percent of their DNA.

You can also conclude that there may be environmental factors

that make family members similar to each other.

If the nonidentical twins correlate with each other

or resemble each other more than the half

of the identical twin resemblance.

So if you think that only genetics are important

for driving similarity then the dizygotic twin resemblance

should be exactly half of the identical twin resemblance.

Now if the dizygotic twin resemblance is actually larger

than half the identical twin resemblance, this tells us

that there are some environmental factors that act

over and above genetic factors to promote similarity

between family members.

And we can also infer that there are some individual specific

or nonshared environmental factors

if the identical twins are not 100 percent identical

in the trait.

So these [inaudible] of the genetic clones to the extent

that they differ on any given feature,

there must have been some environmental influences

that differed between the twins.

And an example I often use to drive this point home is

if you manage an identical twin who grew up in Britain

versus an identical twin who went to live in Australia,

you would expect that there are chances and differences

in pigmentation between these twins because one

of them is exposed to constant sun and the other one has

to deal with the kind of weather

that we've been having last week.

So this is environmental factor that differed between the twins

and drives differences between family members.

And we have used the twin design

to ask whether there are differences

in the relative importance of genetic

and environmental factors for the development

of conduct problems in children

who have high callous-unemotional traits

and in children who have low callous-unemotional traits.

And I've been fortunate to work with a very big twin registry

that is headed by Robert Floman [assumed spelling]

of the Institute of Psychiatry here in London.

And what we were able to do

because this was a very large twin sample is

to select those children who are in the top 10 percent

for conduct problems for the twin sample.

So they are scoring

in an atypical range for conduct problem.

And then we divided this extreme group to two.

We took those children where either 1 or 2 members

of the twin pair also scored in the top 10 percent

for callous-unemotional traits.

And then we looked at children where neither member

of the twin pair scored in the top range

for callous-unemotional traits.

And within each of these groups we were able

to compare the identical and nonidentical twins

to give us an indication

of how heritable are the conduct problems for children

who have callous-unemotional traits

and how heritable are conduct problems for children

who have low levels of callous-unemotional traits.

What we found was that for children

who had high callous-unemotional traits the conduct problems were

strongly heritable.

Whereas for children who had low levels

of callous-unemotional traits environmental influences both

shared and nonshared were more important

for the development of conduct problems.

Now that doesn't mean that the children

who have high callous-unemotional traits are

somehow genetically destined to become antisocial.

And but it does mean that they will probably have more

vulnerability, innate vulnerability

for developing conduct problems.

Similarly it doesn't mean that the children who have low levels

of callous-unemotional traits have no genetic risk whatsoever

but it may be that that takes different form

and may require some environmental factors to express

or more environmental factors that you may need

to express this vulnerability

if you have high callous-unemotional traits.

Of course the twin studies only give us an idea

of the relative importance of genetic

and environmental factors

and they don't tell us what the actual genes are

or the actual environments.

And currently there is very scarce data

about the actual genes and actual environments particularly

for children with high callous-unemotional traits.

So ourselves and other people have speculated

that the risk genes for high callous-unemotional traits

and low callous-unemotional traits type antisocial behavior

may be different.

And this would be in line with the fact

that the other group is associated

with low emotional reactivity whereas the other one is

associated with high emotional reactivity.

So in a way you would expect there

to be different vulnerability genes for the two groups.

Perhaps genes that confer low emotional reactivity

and arousal indicates children

with high callous-unemotional traits,

and there's certainly some data to support

that this may be the case.

So a genotype called serotonin transporter polymorphism has

been associated with callous-unemotional traits

and the allele or the type of that genotype

that was associated was the one

that confers slower emotional reactivity.

We know that from imaging genetic studies.

But this is just a single study.

Interestingly this genotype only conferred risk in children

who lived in low resource neighborhoods.

So it suggests that you may have propensity

to lack emotional reactivity or lack empathy.

But whether that expresses itself

as callous-unemotional traits or not may depend

on your environmental conditions.

There are also some studies that have suggested the genes

that may be associated

with attachment processes could be important

such as the oxytocin receptor gene.

But ultimately there haven't really been replications

of these findings.

We have ourselves conducted a genome line association study

which means that we combed

through the whole genome looking whether there is anything

that crops up and there really weren't any big hits.

And there hasn't been [inaudible] case

in either our study or any of the other studies.

So it's very early days.

But if this particular phenotype goes in line with what we know

from other behavioral phenotypes and I have no reason to expect

that it would be different, we're likely

to be spending a long time looks for those genes.

They are going to be small genes that probably -- sorry.

Genes with small effect size

that probabilistically increase the risk

for developing this sort of behavioral outcome

and it is more than likely that any

of this genotypes will require the presence of other risk genes

and environmental risk factors in order

to penetrate as a risk phenotype.

Again, ourselves and others have proposed that for those

with no callous-unemotional traits we might be interested

in looking for genes that confer high arousal

and reactive aggression.

And again there's some sensitive data suggesting that these sort

of genotypes may be associated

with the low callous-unemotional type of antisocial behavior.

And genome interaction may be particularly important

with regard to this subtype.

So there are a number of good studies suggesting

that if you have a polymorphism of monoamine oxidase A gene

that confers increased unemotional reactivity.

And if on top of that you experience maltreatment,

then you are at substantial increased risk

for developing conduct problems.

But very, very early days and all

of these studies need more replications

and we probably need to really wait for a lot

of methodological developments before we can reliably start

finding genes associated with this condition.

Similarly, the risk environments may differ

for the two condition.

So we have reasonably good data

for the low callous-unemotional trait subgroup.

It's reliably associated with hard

and inconsistent parenting and maltreatment.

But we have less of an idea

of what our environmental risk factors that promote development

of callous-unemotional traits.

And our own work using identical twin differences design

where we rely on the fact that they are each other's clones

and any differences in phenotype and risk response

to environmental factors such as parenting should be

where we can reliably say that that's environmental.

Using that sort of methodology we haven't been able to show

that hard and inconsistent parenting, for instance,

predicts increase in callous-unemotional traits.

So that doesn't seem to be something

that impacts development of those traits or at least not

as reliably as it does for the children

who have low callous-unemotional traits.

And there's some very interesting early data.

There's a funny looking carafe with lots of little data points

but I will talk you through it.

Paul Frick and his colleagues looked at the relationship

between hard and inconsistent parenting and conduct problems.

And when you look at children who have conduct problems

and low callous-unemotional traits,

you can see this [inaudible] response relationship.

The higher the frequency of hard and inconsistent parenting,

the higher the level of conduct problems for these children.

But in contrast children who have conduct problems

and low levels

of callous-unemotional traits appear to have high levels

of conduct problems regardless of whether they receive less

or more of the hard and inconsistent parenting.

Now this is not to say

that environmental influences don't matter

for these children at all.

And in fact there is some very interesting new work showing

that for instance parental warmth is associated

with lower levels of callous-unemotional traits.

So the children may be responsive

to some positive environmental influences.

There have also been treatment studies that have shown

that some parenting focused interventions can be effective

in reducing callous-unemotional traits and conduct problems.

And there is a Meads [assumed spelling] and --

study showing that if you add empathy training

to normal parent training programs,

children who have high levels of conduct --

callous-unemotional traits may particularly benefit

from this sort of training.

At least when it's done with children who are

at the preschool, early primary school age range.

So some evidence that there are protective environmental factors

that can be very helpful for these children.

So why do some people become psychopaths?

I'm afraid that we have only taken baby steps sofar

in terms of research.

So we have some inclination but we really don't have a good idea

of the development trajectory particularly

at different levels of analysis.

So there's indication that these children may be more genetically

vulnerable but I hasten to add not genetically destined

for this sort of outcome.

It may be that they lack environmental buffers

or they have some risk environmental factors

which we don't know what they are that mean

that the genetic vulnerability expresses itself

as callous-unemotional traits.

And we know that they are not very emotionally reactive,

empathetic and sensitive to punishment and this sort

of presentation at the cognitive emotional level is probably

going to make them more resistant

to typical socialization efforts.

But we also know from longitudinal studies

that not all children who have conduct problems

and high callous-unemotional traits grow

up to be adults with psychopathy.

So we really do need more longitudinal studies

that combine different methodologies and will enable us

to really study what are the environmental risk factors.

How may they be different at different time points?

How do they influence the development

of these children's cognitions and affect processing?

So how does the atypical emotion develop over time?

And it's interesting to find out that this is something

that we are studying at the moment

in our group is whether these children can empathize

under any circumstances.

So if we focus their attention differently or if we use stimuli

that they themselves report as sadness or fear inducing,

do we then see an emotional response.

And if we do can that be harnessed

to teach them a bit more about how

to empathize with other people.

So can we help them to see the world differently?

I think that's kind of an important research question

for the next 10, 20, 30 years.

I know that there are specific interventions being developed

that really focus on the difficulties

that these children experience and I'm sure

that there will be a lot of cross talk

between these interventions and the basic science researchers.

Some of our basic science findings will feed

into how these interventions are tailored more specifically

to meet the needs of these children.

And of course there is the hope

that eventually there will be very few of the individuals

who develop psychopathy as an adult outcome.

I want to finish by very much acknowledging all the people

who are working on our team at the moment and who've worked

on our team in the past.

This sort of research requires a lot of theoretical knowledge,

technical skills, statistical skills, and first

and foremost a lot of people skills

and when we recruit the samples so when we test the children,

we have a very capable team of people

who are involved in the research.

And I particularly want

to acknowledge Eamon McCrory who's there at the Center

with me who codirects the research group with me.

And also I want to acknowledge the people

who are very generously funded our research.

And I'm very happy to take questions.

Thank you.

[ Applause ]

And I should also mention that you can go to our lab's website

and there will be information about our research

and materials in that website.

>> Thank you very much.

Thank you very much.

We have time for one question.

>> Sorry.

>> Anybody has a good question.

It has to be the very best question that can be asked.

>> If our high callous-unemotional traits are

genetic, that would suggest that maybe one or both

of the parents also share some of those traits;

so could that be an environmental factor leading

to problems?

>> So that's an excellent question.

So the question was that if these traits are heritable and 1

or 2 of the parents share the traits does that mean

that the child is more likely to be exposed

to environmental risk.

In short, yes.

It's a phenomenon that we call gene-environment correlation

which is that the parents parent according to that genotype

that they pass on to their children so that the child kind

of has the double whammy of having genetic vulnerability

and then perhaps having a parent who's not really able

to provide the optimal parenting environment either.

There is some interesting data suggesting

that that may not always be the case so there's data

from colleague of mine in Australia,

Mark Datt [assumed spelling] that has looked

at how the children and the parents engage with each other

and interestingly at least in the case of the mothers,

the mothers of these children try and look for eye contact,

try and engage the children just in the same way

as any typical mothers do,

but the children themselves don't engage in the same way

so they don't look the mothers in the eyes.

They don't kind of give back in the same way.

So while I'm sure that you're right that there are a number

of times where the environment is also impoverished

because of the parents vulnerability.

It's not always the case and sometimes these kind

of attachment difficulties may be driven by the child

and the very difficult temperament that the child has.

>> Thank you very much.

Will you join me in thanking Professor Viding again

for an excellent lecture?

[ Applause ]

The Description of Why do some people become psychopaths? (30 Jan 2014)