Can chimpanzees be psychopaths?

Psychopaths have long pricked the curiosity of philosophers; they do after all, say a lot about what it means for humans to be morally aware social agents.

But why should we presume that only human beings are psychopaths? If indeed some non-human animals are conscious beings, then it seems by the same token that some may suffer from psychopathy.

Here’s what philosopher, neuroscientist and prolific blogger Andrew Vierra had to say:

“...the DSM-5 defined psychopathy in terms of behaviors. Individuals who had (e.g.) repeatedly broken the law and pathologically lied could be diagnosed as psychopaths, without the need for a personality inventory or fMRI scan.

One interesting consequence of defining psychopathy in terms of behavior is that it is at least theoretically possible for non-human animals (or perhaps extraterrestrial beings) to exhibit the requisite behaviors sufficient for a diagnosis.”

Recent behavioral research into psychopathy was recently conducted using chimpanzees as a model. A research team led by academics from Georgia State University studied three traits in chimpanzees which they took to be indicative of psychopathy:  disinhibition, meanness, and boldness.

While the paper was not intended to be a foray into animal psychiatry, it is, nevertheless, food for thought for those interested in related philosophical debates.


MORE ON THESE TOPICS | animal rights, law, neuroethics

This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

 Search BioEdge

 Subscribe to BioEdge newsletter
rss Subscribe to BioEdge RSS feed

comments powered by Disqus