Accepted Paper:

The neuroscience of psychopathy between medicalization and criminalization  

Author:

Torsten Voigt (RWTH Aachen University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I analyze neuroscientific investigations in psychopathy and show that there are two distinct research approaches that either frame psychopathy as a mental disorder or a predictor or criminal behavior.

Paper long abstract:

Since the 1990s, neuroscientists have made fundamental progress in the study of psychopathy. Advances in neuroscience and the development of new biotechnologies have helped to elucidate genetic variations and neural correlates of psychopathy such as polymorphisms in the MAOA gene, alterations in serotonin activity, or dysfunctions in the neural circuitry of emotion regulation.

This paper provides a comprehensive overview and critical analysis of the neuroscience of psychopathy from a sociological perspective. I analyze how psychopathy is studied in neuroscience, and outline the social implications associated with this research. I show that there are to distinct research approaches that either frame psychopathy as a mental disorder or a predictor or criminal behavior. Depending on the respective theoretical framework and assumption psychopathy is studied significantly differently, both with regards to the methods used and the interventions suggested. Theoretically, the paper contributes to the analysis of processes of biomedicalization and criminalization in society as well as the concept of genetic risk and genetic susceptibility. The argument is based on an extensive literature and document analysis as well as fieldwork in two neuroscience laboratories in the USA.

Panel T096
Emerging biotechnologies in psychiatry and clinical psychology