Four to five percent of the population is born without a capacity for empathy. It is a neurological lack. A psychopath may be a genius and become a multimillionaire, but he will never be able to understand empathetic values. In fact, because of the grandiosity of these personalities and consequent intense denial they have toward their shortcomings, they are arguably less capable of understanding empathy than a congenitally deaf person is of understanding music. Their minds are closed. Psychopaths treat the empathetic majority as the defective ones and seek relentlessly to remake the world in their own image, to proselytize their viewpoint and values and to "teach" their "defective" empathetic fellows to think like them.
Unfortunately, they can. A psychopath can never learn to think like an empathetic person. The functioning brain tissue is just not there. But people with a normal capacity for empathy can turn off that capacity and think like psychopaths.
To a certain extent, the empathetic do this as a matter of evolution. As studies of war, racism and genocide indicate, humans draw what Martha Stout called circles of empathy. They behave empathetically toward those in the circle and psychopathically toward those outside the circle. However, we are not hardwired for xenophobic violence like chimps. For us it is a function of learning and culture.
Normally empathetic human beings need linguistic cues to switch to psychopathy mode. The alarm cry of the animal world morphed into the language of demonizing hate. The ancient Greeks and the Founders of our country understood the devastating destructiveness of the language of demonizing hate, particularly to democracies. They called the charismatic psychopaths who excelled at its practice "demagogues." More recently, neuroscience has provided evidence how demonizing hate radically alters the way the human brain processes information, making subjects immune to reason, increasingly intolerant and even violent and easily manipulated. Most tragically, there is a drug-like pleasure aspect to this process. Subjects in its grip mistake this pleasure for proof they are right and righteous when the opposite is the case. - Marcella Mroczkowski
Marcella Mroczkowski is a lawyer, activist and Huffington Post Citizen Journalist.