Horizon meets researchers studying psychopathic killers to try and determine what makes people good or evil. Also featuring the man who believes he has found the moral molecule.
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What makes us good...
Scientists are daring to investigate this unsettling question.
They're trying to peel back the mask of the psychopathic killer.
I hate to use the term evil, but there is something pretty scary about them.
These are people without a conscience.
What separates us from these terrifying people?
Psychopaths really aren't the kind of person you think they are.
They're exposing the biology that divides vice from virtue.
If there's a chemical involved, we can not only measure it but we can manipulate it.
What they're finding reveals something about the good and evil in us all.
Bingo. When we broke the code, there it was.
That group were the killers.
Who, or what, is evil?
I killed Leslie Bradshaw.
Now, scientists are rewriting our ideas of right and wrong,
even of crime and punishment.
This is what one might call novel science, in that it is a new kind of science.
I think this did affect whether he would live or die.
What they're finding could turn your world upside down.
In London, a group of researchers have devised a rather unusual experiment.
They wanted to see, if we have a moral instinct,
what might it look like in action?
They've invited volunteers to face a stark moral choice.
But they've added a twist.
They're not going to rely on what their volunteers say they would do,
but what they actually do.
They've created an alternative world.
No-one really knows themselves that well to know how they would respond in an extreme situation.
Now, we wouldn't want to manufacture extreme situations in physical reality.
But in virtual reality, you can.
Everybody knows what they do has no real consequences.
But nevertheless, there's a basic part of the brain that doesn't know virtual reality.
It just makes people respond like they would in reality, at maybe a lesser level of intensity.
The volunteers find themselves in an art gallery.
Their role is to operate the lift and take visitors to the first floor.
Five people are on the first floor and one on the ground floor.
A man comes in and asks to be taken to the first floor.
GUNSHOTS AND SCREAMING
The man has started shooting the five people upstairs.
Do they move him down, risking the life of one person on the ground floor in the hope of saving the five?
Or do they do nothing?
If they move the gunman down, they will be responsible for the death of that one person.
If they leave him there, more people will die.
But it won't be their fault.
They actually have to do the action.
They actually have to make the lift come down.
It's like they're pressing a button to potentially kill one.
One of the questions Mel is asking is how volunteers make this tough decision.
GUNSHOTS AND SCREAMING
I wasn't really thinking too much.
I definitely acted with my emotions in there.
Once he started shooting it was very much instinctive.
I should get him out of the way of these people.
GUNSHOTS AND SCREAMING
I was stressed. I panicked.
I was surprised and I couldn't manage to operate the buttons properly.
Because I lost the plot! Basically.
I was thinking, it's going to be a case of lots of people turn up at once, who do I put across?
And then a gunshot happens.
And all that logical thinking goes out of the window and you have to revert back to your instincts.
I tried to move him down as quickly as possible, pressed the wrong button!
Mel studied hundreds of people and has found a consistent pattern.
I think it's a conflict between reason and emotion.
There's an immediate reaction, an immediate need to do something.
Then layered on top of this, a bit slower, is the cognitive response,
the kind of rational, analytic response.
But by that time it's already too late.
Something had to change, something had to move.
It just seemed better to get him downstairs, back where he came from.
They may, post-hoc, be making a rationalisation.
Yes, I wanted to save the majority.
But my guess is that they just react out of instinct.
I have to do something and do it fast.
I didn't really think about the guy on the ground floor.
I just thought, get him away from where there's lots of people.
I don't think there was time to calculate or come up with anything clever.
You just did what seemed the right thing to do.
I couldn't control the lift as well as I would have hoped to have done.
I forgot which was left and right.
In the heat of the moment, they'd all instinctively tried to save the five.
But once Emma had time to apply reason, she started to have doubts.
I don't know... I'd like to tell myself I did that because in killing that one...
If you yourself aided that, that's a bad thing and that would be on your conscience.
It was confusing!
No-one is right in these circumstances.
If they choose to save the one, they're doing a moral act.
If they choose to save the five, they're doing a moral act.
Empirically, the majority do decide to try to save the five and sacrifice the one.
I get the impression that people are moral beings and people really care about other people.
And they try to do the best in the situation.
And the remarkable thing is that they are driven, even though these are not actual human beings.
It seems that when we are confronted with a difficult moral choice, we're confused, distressed.
We may not know the right thing to do
but we seem to have a moral impulse to try and do good.
But just how embedded is this feeling?
And where does it come from?
What instincts, if any, are we born with?
At Yale University, scientists have designed an ingenious experiment.
They wanted to see if babies are born good or bad.
Hundreds of parents have volunteered their children.
The two scientists behind the project are Karen Wynne and Paul Bloom.
I would give a year of my life to spend five minutes as a baby.
To recapture what if feels like to be that sort of creature.
I'm interested in the origin of morality, the origin of good and evil.
We want to see what people start off with.
Do they start of with a moral sense?
With good impulses or evil impulses?
And when you have a sense of that, you can ask,
how does this develop into the adult sense of right and wrong, adult moral behaviour?
They wanted to find out what is in a baby's brain.
To try and unlock this secret, they've devised a kind of morality play that each baby will watch.
So, this character has a ball that he is playing with.
And he passes it to this other fellow,
who returns it in a nice, reciprocal manner.
But now, he's playing with his ball again.
And he is now going to pass it to this other fellow,
who takes it and runs away with it.
What they're waiting to see is which character the baby will prefer.
But how will they know?
As an adult seeing this, the person who gave back the ball is good.
The person who ran away with the ball is kind of a jerk.
And for an adult, you just say, "Who's the good guy and who's the bad guy?"
You can't do that with a young baby.
So what you do is you hold them out and you get the baby to choose.
The experimenter who hands the two puppets to the baby,
she doesn't know which puppet was the good one and which puppet was the bad one.
So she can't unconciously influence the baby's preference.
Do you remember these guys from the show?
Look at me. Which one do you like?
Which one do you like?
-That one? Good job!
-OK, that was the nice one.
Aasrith had chosen the good puppet.
The fact is, about 70% of babies do.
Paul and Karen believe this is a sign that these babies are drawn towards kindness.
And that this is a glimmer of a moral feeling.
I was surprised that these experiments worked out as well as they did.
These are very strong findings and we get them over and over again.
That one? All right! Good job!
I think we are tapping something that babies feel strongly about.
These are not subtle effects.
Rather, babies analyse these scenes in a rich and powerful way and respond accordingly.
But if 70% choose the good guy, that leaves 30% who don't.
So what does that say about those babies?
We have always wondered about that.
What do you do about the babies who reach for the bad guy?
The sort of sexy explanation is these are psychopath babies,
babies who see the world differently.
Who actually prefer the bad guy.
And I think that's a logical possibility.
I think it's more likely that in any experiment you run,
if you test 100 babies, 20 of them are going to act funny, no matter what.
Because they just fall asleep or they get distracted.
It's an open question whether babies who reach for the bad guy
are different kinds of babies with a different moral code.
As opposed to, it's just noise, it's the sort of noise you get in every experiment.
The high percentage of babies who do pick the good puppet is striking.
These are the first experiments to show that a moral instinct really seems present in babies.
I'd suggest the moral sense we have as adults is already present by the time we reach our first birthday.
Most of us seem to start life with good impulses, not bad.
The inclination to help each other, to empathise, seems to be built into our brains.
We feel distress when we see someone in pain.
The fact that this is such a strong feeling has inspired a new and bold scientific quest.
Human beings are obsessed with morality.
We need to know why people are doing what they're doing.
And I, indeed, am as obsessed with morality.
I really want to know when people are good and evil, and why that occurs.
Paul Zak is a neuroscientist.
His mission is to try and trace the basis of our morality.
So I was really looking for a chemical basis for these behaviours.
If there is a chemical involved, that means we can not only measure it but we can manipulate it.
Paul wanted to find the actual chemicals that drive our behaviour.
And to do that, he's doing an experiment he's never done before.
He's bringing his lab outside to see if he can catch good, co-operative behaviour.
He's using a group of people who don't know each other well
but are going to have to work together if they want to succeed.
Hi, guys, thanks for coming out and burning part of your Saturday to be with us.
So, we want to do this experiment where we want to find out how do you bond as a group?
And that's intuitive.
But we want to find some neuroscience behind this.
Paul thinks their brain chemistry may undergo a transformation.
They may release a chemical that will make them feel empathy.
If this is true, this chemical could be driving our morality.
It could be the moral molecule.
We see lots of cooperation in the world but we don't know why.
So I began wondering if there was an underlying biological basis for co-operation.
If there was,
could there be an underlying chemical foundation for this?
One of the chemicals he's interested in he knows is active within families.
But he has never looked for it in a team of relative strangers.
This chemical, oxytocin, that motivates co-operation, is triggered in a variety of ways.
It's released in little children when they are nurtured by their mothers when they are breast-fed.
It's released during touch.
We found it's even released when complete strangers trust us.
So the next question we want to ask is,
are there a variety of rituals that may induce oxytocin release
and lead to bonding among groups, even among groups of strangers?
One of these rituals could indeed be the pre-match warm-up.
So we are going to take a baseline blood draw
and find out what his baseline physiologic state is
and then we'll measure after the warm-up how it changes.
So each individual is different so it's important to get a baseline for each individual.
What they are really doing is training their movements together,
getting in sync, so they are actually forming themselves as almost a super organism.
Coming together, they're warming up their muscles.
At the same time, they are warming up their brains.
Their brains are starting to bond together.
So as a group they can be aggressive against the other team.
OK, we're starting the second blood draw in just a minute.
At the end of the warm-up, Paul prepares for the second blood draw.
As the blood is sent back to the lab, the match got underway.
This is where we are seeing the real payoff from that warm-up.
They're working as a group.
Oh, look at him go! He almost made it.
Two weeks later and Paul had the results.
This is a brand-new experiment.
We don't really know what we're going to find.
The oxytocin levels of the players had, in fact, converged,
getting them in sync with each other.
This would have helped them feel bonded
and confirms what Paul has found in his many laboratory experiments.
Oxytocin seems to be the key to empathy.
I call oxytocin the moral molecule.
When oxytocin is released we feel empathy, we feel attachment, we connect to people.
But the results showed something else.
Another hormone, testosterone, had increased.
And this drives aggressive behaviour.
So is testosterone the opposite of the moral molecule?
Oxytocin makes us more selfless and testosterone makes us more selfish.
What's interesting in the ritual setting like with the rugby team
is that sometimes these run together.
So if the rugby players want to be both selfless, they want to support their team
but also selfish, they want to grab goals from the other team.
And that's pretty interesting, so they're not always in conflict.
Paul believes that what happens on the sports field reflects our moral battlefield in life.
The way to think about this is that rugby is like society in miniature.
We have to co-operate as a group to achieve a goal.
But yet we have another group that's trying to stop us from doing that.
So there's a balance between testosterone and oxytocin.
There's a way to understand how societies work.
What we experience as a battle between good and evil may be a chemical battle waging inside us.
Perhaps being moral means achieving a balance.
For each one of us, that process will be different.
But what happens if you try and disturb that balance?
If you make someone more aggressive than they naturally are?
What does it do to a human if you suppress their own moral instinct?
Not all experiments are planned.
Here in Quantico, Virginia,
Marines are part of a radical training programme
that has implications far beyond this camp.
The two warriors at the centre of it are Captain Hoban
and Lieutenant Colonel Shushko.
'Marines know from day one
'if they are given a mission. they have got to accomplish it.'
That does mean they will have to take a life,
so how do you train to take a life?
You're going to grab your training knives, batons,
and then set up on LZ6...
'What the marines must do goes against
'their natural moral instinct.'
It's not in human nature to take somebody's life.
I don't think it's easy to kill somebody.
It's not easy to even think about killing somebody.
Because it's so unnatural, the marines learn step by step.
'When we start a marine out, we do have him crawl, before he walks.
'before he runs.'
To the head, to the head!
'Learning the basics of standing, falling
'throwing punches, throwing kicks, being thrown.'
Then we add a simple thing like a knife.
'How to hold a knife, how to use a knife with your good hand.
'with your bad hand.'
Switch hands with the knife, kill him!
'How to use a baton. Same thing, how to use a pistol.'
Then you practise it over and over again
They start getting more confident, so it becomes second nature.
From constantly training, it becomes muscle memory
and your body naturally reacts.
I'm a firm believer that if you practise something,
after 21 days it becomes a habit.
The act of repetition is aimed to push men over the natural barrier
that holds them back from harming.
A combat mindset is being able to turn the switch on when you have to.
So that when the time comes
and it's my life or yours
or an innocent bystander's life, we know how to react.
And we don't think twice about it.
-So if that means killing someone, you're able to do it?
Equipping them with the ability to kill must be combined
with the motivation to do so.
In the past, that motivation was often hate.
When I was trained, we were trained as killers.
The easy way out.
Fill in the blank with some pejorative of a subhuman,
whether it's a gook in Vietnam
or a hajj in the conflicts we are in now,
"He did this, he's subhuman. Kill him like an animal."
Well, it turns out that you can try to take that approach,
but it comes back to haunt you.
What they found was that ignoring the Marines'
natural sense of morality was starting to destroy them.
We had people abusing their families and their wives.
they're knocked so far off that way, that now everybody is the enemy.
they start to lose respect for all life,
including former friends and family.
Taking away all their ethical parameters
was removing something fundamental to their brains.
Human beings are not natural killers.
When we have tried, over the centuries,
to make soldiers more effective killers,
we may have been effective in the short run.
But when they get back afterwards
and they think about what they've done,
it's not psychologically healthy for them.
They had to come up with a new plan that somehow worked
with their moral instinct, not against it.
What we did is we backed up and thought "What are people?"
If they're not killers, what are they?
If you think about it, people are naturally protectors.
So if you work off that,
would people protect and defend
to the point of killing?
Yes, they would. But only when necessary
to protect and defend life.
What we think is if we calibrate their moral compass,
make them ethical warriors,
whose mission is to protect and defend life,
killing only when necessary to protect life.
'So for the Marines, morality has had to become part
'of their new narrative.
'It seems our moral instinct cannot be suppressed
'without paying a heavy price.'
Don't fly too early. You don't want to get tracked.
But if our natural instinct is to do no harm,
how can we explain those who seem totally devoid of this feeling?
Who have no revulsion at taking a life?
Scientists have embarked on a new, dark voyage to understand evil.
They've turned to the serial killer psychopath.
One man has done more than anyone to understand the mind of a psychopath.
Psychologist Professor Bob Hare
set out on this trail 30 years ago.
He was determined to penetrate what lay beneath the mask.
I'm looking at two pictures of very well-known,
infamous serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy.
When you look at the pictures, you see ordinary people.
That was their strong point. They looked perfectly ordinary
when they were out in society.
After the fact, of course, we realise they were far from normal.
They're very deviant, cold-blooded killers.
This was a world he came into by accident.
I needed a job,
the only job I could find at the time was as the sole psychologist
at the OBC Penitentiary,
a maximum security institute near Vancouver.
Bob found himself face to face with psychopaths.
When I was first starting out, I had no idea at all
about the sorts of people with whom I was dealing.
They were people. Some would be very difficult to deal with.
You could see there was something strange about them, even predatory.
I hate to use the term evil, but something pretty scary about them.
But many of them were open, warm-appearing people
until you find out what they've done.
'NEWS REPORT: Parts of 11 different bodies were found in Dahmer's flat
'when he was arrested on Tuesday.'
He wanted to find the rules of a psychopath.
'I'm the same person I was on the street, except for the killing.
'I'm still someone's brother, someone's son.'
I tried to find out what makes them tick. What they have in common
and why do they have these things in common.
'I never once had any guilt.'
Who are they?
How do we go about assessing this guy, saying he's psychopathic?
'I never once shed any tears.'
We had to have some sort of diagnostic criteria.
Bob drew up a checklist
defining their core personality traits.
The essential features of psychopathy
would include a profound lack of empathy.
I don't mean a general, I mean a profound lack of empathy.
A general callousness towards other people.
these are people without a conscience, shallow emotions.
"I'm number one in the universe, there's nobody else."
He then devised an experiment looking into their brains.
A psychopathic killer who volunteered was Anthony Frazzel.
If we assume, and the evidence supports this, that psychopaths
have a severe blunted emotional life,
the emotions aren't as powerful,
they don't have the same range they have for most people,
it should be reflected in things like their language.
Bob showed Frazzel both real and made-up words
and asked him to spot the difference.
Some of those words would have an emotional charge.
Most people can decide very quickly when it's emotional.
More quickly than a neutral word. There's a difference.
The brain responses to the emotional words are quite different
than they are to neutral words.
For psychopaths, there was absolutely no difference.
A word was a word was a word.
The word rape had the same emotional impact as the word table or tree.
He ran the experiment with dozens of psychopaths
and got the same result.
They were so dramatic that reviewers simply didn't believe the findings came from real people.
So we rewrote it, explained it in more detail
and sent it into another top journal, Psychophysiology.
It was published and it's actually a seminal study.
Bob Hare identified one of the lines that might separate good from evil.
It was our emotions.
Psychopaths simply did not seem to have the feelings of empathy
that stop the rest of us from harming.
The search had begun.
What else could we see if we peered into the brain of the psychopath?
In California, neuroscientist Jim Fallon found himself almost by accident picking up the quest.
He had specialised in standard clinical disorders.
Now he was about to become an expert in the brains of psychopaths.
I spent a lot of my research career
looking at different brain abnormalities.
Mostly schizophrenia but also depression and addictions of different sorts.
And then my colleagues started to do something different.
They asked him to analyse a variety of brain scans.
What he didn't know was some of them were the brain scans of murderers.
They brought me these scans and said,
"What do you think of these? What do you see?"
There were normals mixed in.
People with schizophrenia, depression and there were killers.
But I didn't know the mix. It was just like, "Here it is."
About halfway through I noticed a pattern. It was fascinating.
This one group, no matter what other damage they had or didn't have,
they always had damage of the orbital cortex above the eyes.
The other part of the brain that looked like wasn't working right
was the front part of the temporal lobe which houses the amygdala.
That is where your different animal drives are.
I said, "This is extraordinary."
So I separate out the piles and I said, "This is a different group."
And bingo, when we broke the code, there it was.
That group were the killers.
It was really one of those "ah-hah" moments.
The areas that looked abnormal
were crucial for controlling impulsivity and emotions.
Fallon's images seem to confirm what Hare's work had suggested.
It looked like we were getting closer to the signature brain profile of the serial killer.
This is about as dramatic as a difference can be in a PET scan.
It's just a mind-blower, really.
The location of these abnormalities
indicated to Jim
why psychopaths could be driven towards extreme behaviour.
Just to get up to the point of being satisfied of feeding the amygdale,
that whole system, some of these psychopaths do extraordinary things.
Somebody like that may have to fly to Vegas and get drunk,
and be with a bunch of prostitutes or snort cocaine,
or kill somebody over and over again.
It really indicated that there was a biological basis,
a really hardcore brain basis, for this urge to kill.
That brings the other question,
is that enough to cause someone to be a psychopath or a killer?
Or are there other factors?
That moment was immediately followed by a bunch of question marks.
Once it seemed that the brains of psychopaths were different,
the next urgent question was why?
Back in Vancouver, the direction seemed clear.
The path to pursue was genes.
Once we had determined there were certain differences in brain function and structure,
the next question is, where do they originate from?
That brings up questions of genetic factors.
All behaviour, all physical features have strong genetic contributions.
The search was on.
Where there genes that linked to violence?
In 1993, the breakthrough came with one family's history.
Here all the men had a background of violence
and all lacked the same gene.
There was one gene that was missing
and it was in the men and all these men were violent.
What was important was that the loss of one gene profoundly affected behaviour.
That kind of supported idea that one gene really controlled behaviour.
It then emerged that just being born with one variant of this gene
could also predispose you to violent behaviour.
The MAO-A gene became known as the warrior gene.
That was pretty exciting because it implied first off
that we could identify specific contributing factors to psychopathy
but also because it suggests that
this particular area of research is bound to be fruitful.
It seemed that it could be possible to trace the hallmark of evil
in people's brains and genes.
So did this mean that if you had both elements
you were destined to become a killer?
For Jim Fallon, this question was about to become deeply personal.
At a regular family party,
a casual remark by his mother took him by surprise.
As we were discussing this, and different brains, I said to him,
"You should look into your own history."
I said, "Did you ever hear of Lizzie Borden?"
and I started telling the story about Lizzie Borden
and how she had murdered her father and mother.
I said, "There's a cousin of yours."
Well, he was shocked
and, of course, started to delve a little further into this.
It was pretty startling.
I knew it was true. She doesn't make things up.
There were quite a few murderers in that family.
At least 16 murderers in the one line.
Hearing this, Jim took the bold decision to run a check
on the entire family for the genes and brain structure
linked to violent psychopathic behaviour.
The results of the brain scans came back first.
There were many, many sheets and they all looked normal. Fantastic.
And then I came to one and it was the last one, as it turns out,
and it looked very abnormal.
This particular PET scan had no orbital cortex activity.
It had no temporal lobe activity.
The whole limbic system was not functioning.
I said, "Oh my god, it's one of these killers.
"It's the exact same pattern as a killer."
When I looked down at the code, it wasn't one of the killers. It was me.
It was really a shock but I tried to think, "That's really interesting."
"I'm not in jail, haven't killed anybody or done that stuff.
"At least I don't have the genes. I just have the brain pattern."
I said, "OK". I felt better.
He then did the gene tests, looking not only for the warrior gene
but for other traits, like impulsivity,
that make up the profile of a psychopath.
Back came the results.
Again, everybody had a mix of things in our family.
It looked like an average mix of these different genes
that have to do with aggression and all sorts of behaviours,
except now again there was one that showed all of these high risk genes.
And it was mine.
What are the odds of getting these?
To throw the dice 20 times and it comes up six-six, six-six, six-six?
It's millions to one.
Now Jim started asking himself some unsettling questions.
This really became probably more serious in my mind
because it's like, who am I really?
People with far less dangerous genetics
become killers and are psychopaths than what I had.
I had almost all of them.
But the reaction from his family was to unsettle him even further.
I knew there was always something off.
It makes more sense now that, it's clear he does have the brain
and genetics of a psychopath.
It all falls into place, as it were.
He's got a hot head.
Everything you'd want in a serial killer, he has in a fundamental way.
Because I've been scared of him a few times.
It was surprising but not surprising.
Because he really is in a way, two different people.
Even though he's always been very funny and gregarious,
he's always had a stand-offish part to him.
And that's always been there. That's always been there.
We'll drink to Shannon who's not here.
Having heard what his family thought,
Jim felt forced to be honest with himself.
I've characteristics or traits,
some of which have that a psychopathic, yes.
I could blow off an aunt's funeral if I thought there was a party that day.
I would just take off.
And that's not right.
The thing is I know that now but I still don't care.
And so I know something's wrong, but I still don't care.
I don't know how else to put that, you're in a position where,
that's not right, I don't give a shit.
And that's the truth.
But Jim still had a puzzle to solve.
If he had the brain and the genes of the killer, why wasn't he one?
The answer is that whether genes are triggered on not will depend
on what happens in your childhood.
Simply having the warrior gene doesn't necessarily mean you'll be violent.
If you've the high-risk form of the gene and you were abused early on in life,
your chances of a life of crime are much higher.
If you have the high-risk gene but you weren't abused,
then there really wasn't much risk.
So just a gene by itself, the variant doesn't really dramatically affect behaviour,
but under certain environmental conditions, a big difference.
And that was a very profound finding.
So what was it about Jim's environment that cancelled out his unlucky genes?
It turns out I had an unbelievably wonderful childhood.
When I went back to look at old movies and pictures,
and smiling and as happy as a lark.
You can see it all the way through my life.
There's a good chance that offset all these genetic factors,
the brain development and everything.
And it washed that away.
It seems your genes can increase your chances of being a violent psychopath.
Though it's your environment that shapes whether you'll ever be one.
But understanding the world of the psychopath is now leading
scientists beyond the world of prison walls.
Scientists could be looking for psychopaths in a place near you.
When you walk in the city, you're not thinking of psychopaths.
And yet the chances of passing one are higher than you think.
Psychopaths have been adopting a camouflage,
taking even the experts by surprise.
I met my first psychopath a little over 25 years ago.
And it wasn't someone in a prison,
it was someone who was working for a company where I was a consultant.
When I talked to people about it, half thought he was a wonderful leader.
The other half of the team members felt quite the opposite.
They thought he was the devil incarnate.
So I was somewhat puzzled by this and I called Bob Hare,
and at the end of the conversation he said, yep, you got one.
When Paul called me and described the characteristics in the people he was dealing with,
the concept hit me right between the eyes, of course.
Paul applied Bob's psychopathy checklist,
and found this leader fitted the profile.
His high status had hidden the truth.
Psychopaths really aren't the kind of person you think they are.
In fact, you could be living with one, married to one
for 20 years or more and not know that that person is a psychopath.
In more modern times, we've identified individuals
who we might label the successful psychopath.
Whom do you think of when you hear the term psychopath?
Most likely it's Hannibal Lecter, or some other serial killer.
But the actual behaviours they engage in will depend upon
the context, on how bright you are.
What do you look like? What kind of upbringing have you had?
Being a psychopath doesn't mean you can't get a job.
Part of the problem is that the very things we're
looking for in our leaders, the psychopath can easily mimic.
Their natural tendency is to be charming.
Take that charm and couch it in the right business language,
it sounds like charismatic leadership.
You think of psychopaths as having at their disposal,
a very, very large repertoire of behaviours.
So they can use charm, manipulation, intimidation, whatever is required.
Psychopaths can also turn their lack of emotion to their advantage.
The psychopath can actually put themselves inside your skin
intellectually, not emotionally.
They can tell what you're thinking in a sense,
they look at your body language, listen to what you're saying.
But what they don't really do is feel what you feel.
What this allows them to do is to use the words to manipulate
and con and interact with you without the baggage of having
this, I really feel your pain.
Paul then constructed his own survey to see how many psychopaths
had infiltrated big business.
The answer? Almost four times as many as in the general population.
These were all individuals who were at the top of an organisation.
Vice-presidents, directors, CEOs, so it was actually quite a shock.
But the biggest surprise was
when they looked at their actual performance.
The higher the psychopathy, the better they looked.
These people walked into the room and everybody got excited, watching them, the room lit up.
Charisma, lots of charisma, and they talked a good line.
But if you look at their actual performance
and ratings as a team player and productivity and so forth, dismal.
Looked good, performed badly.
And that was really quite a dramatic finding.
Their ability to communicate, to charm,
to manipulate those around them overshadowed the hard data.
Paul thinks this is just the beginning.
Corporate culture today seems ideal for the psychopath.
They're thrill-seekers, they're easily bored.
What better place to work than a place that's constantly changing?
That's the perfect environment for a psychopath.
So how do you tell the high-power, high talent MBA
student from the lying, cheating, deceitful, manipulative psychopath?
Very, very hard to do.
So the blend of genes and environment determine not only who will be a psychopath,
but whether they end up in the boardroom or behind bars.
Now this new science is about to challenge us all.
It's about to make us question not only our ideas of good and evil,
but even of crime and punishment itself.
I was asking him, "Please." I was begging him to stop.
And he wouldn't stop.
In 2006, a brutal murder took place that rocked the state of Tennessee.
It was a horrible crime.
Everybody knows that Mr Waldroup had committed a murder.
He attempted to murder his wife
and he did murder the friend of his wife.
And it was done in a very violent way.
At one point, he had a machete, he ran after her, he cut her.
So it was a pretty grisly scenario.
This was the kind of crime where there is no question who did it.
I killed Leslie Bradshaw.
I cut my wife.
In the state of Tennessee,
that meant Bradley Waldroup was facing the death penalty.
But in this case, the man who could save Waldroup was not a lawyer,
but a forensic psychiatrist.
A fundamental question would lie at the heart of Waldroup's defence.
He may have done it, but was he to blame?
I think in the opening statements,
the defence attorney said that, we are not disputing who did this crime,
but what we would like to talk about is why it happened.
Dr Burnet agreed to gather the evidence.
I first saw Mr Waldroup. We arranged to do an evaluation at Vanderbilt
and I met him in this room.
The Sheriff sits on the other side of the window,
but Mr Waldroup himself was... He's a middle-aged man.
He's pleasant. He's talkative. He's co-operative.
In other words, this is a normal-looking man, who is conversant
and fairly articulate, but who has a story.
And, in his case, I think the story was very important.
Waldroup's actions suggested a brutal, destructive personality.
My initial impression was that this was an unusually violent act.
This was a murder case and it was also a capital case,
meaning that the state of Tennessee were seeking the death penalty.
The evaluation was going to include a new and controversial element.
Did Bradley Waldroup have the warrior gene?
After a week or so, we got the result back
and it was, I guess what one would call a positive result,
in the sense that he had the low-activity version of the MAOA gene.
But this gene would only be relevant to his defence
if he'd also had an extremely difficult early environment.
The question is, does he have a history of child abuse? And he did.
Mr Waldroup described times of getting physically disciplined
where he had welts, he had bruising, and that this was a fairly regular experience for him.
So we thought that that might be important in court.
This genetic evidence was so new,
that Burnet had to work out how he was going to explain it to the jury.
We basically thought back!
We didn't get out old textbooks. We did collect pictures.
We thought that images would be very important.
We obviously want to keep their attention.
It can be very boring to be on a jury for several days.
The DNA evidence revolved around one idea.
A gene composed of four segments is safe. Three, and you're at risk.
But would a judge accept this evidence?
It had never been used in court before.
The day of the trial arrived.
I drove down to this small town in Tennessee.
We were mainly thinking would the judge let us testify about this topic?
This is what one might call novel science, in that it's a new kind of science.
We were the first people, as far as I know,
to introduce this gene environment interaction in a trial.
Despite strong objections from the prosecution,
the judge allowed Burnet to take the stand.
Burnet knew he could be making history.
The jury is sitting in the court and we're asked to go to and testify one at a time.
When Penny tried to run, he intentionally drew that weapon up
and she was running behind that trailer, and fired twice.
Remember Penny's testimony. She says that is why she got hit in the back.
That's the best description...
We were assuming that he would be found guilty of first-degree murder,
and then the jury would have to decide
whether he would get the death penalty or something else.
So we thought the fair outcome would be for them to take it into consideration at that time
and to not give him the death penalty.
Burnet had described Waldroup up as a highly troubled man
with a gene that that made him vulnerable to rage.
Then, it was over to the jury.
What actually happened really surprised us.
This jury, after hearing the testimony,
did not find him guilty of first-degree murder,
but found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
So I think the jury was really influenced by the testimony
regarding behavioural genomics.
One juror's comments show just how important it was to them.
-A diagnosis is a diagnosis. You know. It's there.
A bad gene is a bad gene.
I think this testimony did affect whether he would live or die.
The implications of the verdict are enormous.
They could rewrite the fundamental rules of crime and punishment.
So was it right?
I think we have to be really careful how we state this.
This increases a person's vulnerability, but it doesn't make the person commit a crime.
In his particular case,
I would say that his free will had been diminished.
I don't think I would ever say it vanished,
but I think it had been diminished.
The verdict has set a powerful precedent.
It's ushering in a brand new era of neuro-law.
I think there's an avalanche coming.
There are hundreds or thousands of research projects on behavioural genomics.
And, I think in 10, 15 years, there will be more information than we have now.
The new science is starting to explain the basis of good and evil
and why we are different from each other.
I am pretty sure if I had not had this very positive environment,
I would have turned out poorly. I would have been a real behaviour problem
and I'm pretty sure of that.
But while this science is giving us more information,
it's also undermining our certainties.
Whether we're good or whether we're evil lies partly in our genes
and partly in our environment.
But as we don't choose either,
are we really free to choose at all?
Subtitling by Red Bee Media Ltd
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What makes us good or evil? It's a simple but deeply unsettling question. One that scientists are now starting to answer.
Horizon meets the researchers who have studied some of the most terrifying people behind bars - psychopathic killers.
But there was a shock in store for one of these scientists, Professor Jim Fallon, when he discovered that he had the profile of a psychopath. And the reason he didn't turn out to be a killer holds important lessons for all of us.
We meet the scientist who believes he has found the moral molecule and the man who is using this new understanding to rewrite our ideas of crime and punishment.