Psychopaths Capable of Empathy, Study Says

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A latest study found that psychopaths are actually capable of emphasizing by determinedly switching it on.

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The research involved psychopathic criminals, who were placed in a brain scanner while watching videos of people hurting each other. They were requested to empathize with the person experiencing pain on the video. Once asked to picture out the personal pain, the pain receptive area of the brain lights up.

Scientists say their study supports the idea that psychopaths can be both heartless and charming. They believe that there is potential in assisting psychopaths to turn on their "empathy switch." This can be helpful in their treatment or rehabilitation.

The senior author of the study, Christian Keysers from the University of Groningen said it could transform the common conceptions on psychopathic criminals.

"The predominant notion had been that they are callous individuals, unable to feel emotions themselves and therefore unable to feel emotions in others, ” Keysers told BBC News.

"Our work shows it's not that simple. They don't lack empathy but they have a switch to turn it on and off. By default, it seems to be off," he added.

"Now that we've shown they have empathy - even if only in certain conditions - we can give therapists something to work with," Prof Keysers told BBC News.

Prof Keysers said the results in the study may have positive effects. However, he clarified that it is still uncertain if self-willed empathy could changed into natural empathy.

Source: BBC News Science & Environment