Blog 3- How are psychopaths and sociopaths genetically similar/ different?

How are psychopaths and sociopaths genetically similar/ different? 

Sneaky Signs of a Psychopath | Reader's Digest

As I’ve mentioned in my project plan, I would be discussing traits, characteristics and the genetic influence of a psychopath. 

By definition, a psychopath is a person suffering from a chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behaviour. Psychopathy is a *neuropsychiatric disorder* [1] (branch of psychiatry that looks into links between mental illness and organic disease of the brain) with a lack of emotional response, empathy, behavioural control resulting in persistent antisocial behaviour. [2]

Signs/ traits of a psychopath:

  • callous/ manipulative behaviour [3]
  • repeated delinquency/ violence
  • antisocial behaviour [4]
  • narcissism
  • lack of guilt and empathy
  • need for stimulation (love for excitement, need for constant action)
  • rule-breaking
  • pathological lying
  • lack of realistic, long term goals

Psychopathy is an extreme form of antisocial behaviour, about 1 percent prevalence in the general population and 10-30% amongst the incarcerated offenders. [8] Cultural elements also play a part in the mental disorder. Materialism, social tolerance and desensitization to violence through movies and video games may influence social to nurture psychopathic behaviour. [5] There’s a phrase “Not all psychopaths are serial killers but all serial killers are psychopaths.” [6] This is merely incorrect, in fact, In real life, psychopaths are more likely to get promoted to leadership positions and less likely to serve time behind bars. [4] High functioning psychopaths are ambitious [5], often maneuvering their way to power and status in business and especially politics. Though the idea of a “good psychopath” is oxymoronic, such negative views of psychopaths are derived from studies done on men in prisons or hospitals [6] so it’s always going to be painted against a criminal that only cares about themselves.

The idea that genetics plays a role in psychopathy is a difficult pill to swallow, therefore it has remained a controversial topic for a while [9]. A study was done on 626 pairs of a 17-year-old male and female twins in the States on genetic and environmental contribution to psychopathic personality traits. [7] The experiment was done by looking at their Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire scores. Results show a significant genetic influence on distinct psychopathic traits. Another study on gene studies found abnormal expression levels of some genes in neurons explained 30-92% of the severity of psychopathy. Richard Wiebe of Fitchburg State College specializes in the link between psychology and criminology [9] stated that psychopathy does seem to be heritable, with some biological factors linked to it. A mature psychopath never develops a complete set of pro-social emotions like empathy or guilt, though that the heritability of underlying genetic factors had yet to be conclusively established. As there is no genetic or clinical test as yet, psychopathy is still diagnosed in terms of behaviour, but we do know that psychopathy, the dependent variable, is heritable. We don’t know enough about its causes to say that they are heritable. It’s useful to think of psychopathy as mainly the product of genes and sociopathy as more subject to environmental influences. Essi Viding, Co-Director of the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit at University College London, UK stated [9]

“Any gene alone will be neither necessary nor sufficient to predispose someone to high levels of psychopathic traits and as such, the responsibility for choosing to offend still resides with an individual,” she said. “Most ‘risk genes’ are common in the population and yet do not cause the majority of the individuals carrying them to offend.”

I hope you learnt something from this and the next post will be about sociopaths 🙂

1) (n.d.). Neuropsychiatry definition & meaning. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from

2) Anderson, N. E., & Kiehl, K. A. (2014). Psychopathy: Developmental perspectives and their implications for treatment. Restorative neurology and neuroscience. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from

3) Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, October 27). Psychopathy. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from .

4) Amy Morin, L. C. S. W. (2020, November 6). Could someone I know be a psychopath? Verywell Mind. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from

5) Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). 7 characteristics of the modern psychopath. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from

6) Heaney, K. (2018, August 10). My life as a psychopath. The Cut. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from

7) Blonigen, D. M., Hicks, B. M., Krueger, R. F., Patrick, C. J., & Iacono, W. G. (2005, May). Psychopathic personality traits: Heritability and genetic overlap with internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. Psychological medicine. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from

8) Tiihonen, J., Koskuvi, M., Lähteenvuo, M., Virtanen, P. L. J., Ojansuu, I., Vaurio, O., Gao, Y., Hyötyläinen, I., Puttonen, K. A., Repo-Tiihonen, E., Paunio, T., Rautiainen, M.-R., Tyni, S., Koistinaho, J., & Lehtonen, Š. (2019, August 27). Neurobiological roots of psychopathy. Nature News. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from

9) Hunter, P. (2010, September). The psycho gene. EMBO reports. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from

One Reply to “Blog 3- How are psychopaths and sociopaths genetically similar/ different?”

  1. Hi Ronnie,
    This was such a well written post, your paragraph was captivating and very fun to read!
    Im not sure what grade you are in but in grade 10 science we learn about hereditary conditions and how males are more predominant to get a certain gene, while biological females are more predominant to carry a certain gene due to the difference in an XY and an XX chromosomes.

    do you believe that the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths could lie within the genetic makeup of their parents and wether they have the certain gene or are a product of a carrier?

    unfortunately I was not able to find a link that explains what I mean but I found an interesting entry about the traits of psychopaths and etc.

    LOVED your paragraph and cannot wait to follow you through your research!!
    -Sanam. M

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