Neuroethics Publications

Evolutionary Theory and Psychopathy

Andrea L. Glenn
Robert Kurzban
Adrian Raine

Document Type Journal Article

Aggression and Violent Behavior

Volume 16, Issue 5, September-October 2011, Pages 371-380

Evolutionary Approaches to Explaining Violence


Psychopathy represents a unique set of personality traits including deceitfulness, lack of empathy and guilt, impulsiveness, and antisocial behavior. Most often in the literature, psychopathy is described as pathology — a disorder that has been linked to a variety of biological deficits and environmental risk factors. However, from an evolutionary perspective, psychopathy, while it could be a disorder, has been construed in the context of an adaptive strategy. In this article we will examine the strengths and weaknesses of two models suggesting that psychopathy is an adaptive strategy, and one model suggesting that it is a form of pathology resulting from accumulated mutations. Overall, we do not find that there is strong enough evidence to draw firm conclusions about one theory over another, but we highlight some areas where future research may be able to shed light on the issue.


Date Posted: 28 June 2012