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Psychopaths and altruists

Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson

Psychopaths, who feel nothing for people, and altruists, who feel overwhelmingly for people, are two ends of a continuum on how people relate to each other, says Alison Gopnik, writing in the Wall Street Journal.

The amygdala, a particular part of the brain, reflects this continuum. It’s smaller than normal in psychopaths and larger than normal in altruists.

Gopnik’s article may be a revelation to many Wall Street Journal readers, but probably not for Lovefraud readers. What was shocking, however, was the New Yorker story of the psychopath that Gopnik referred to.

He was Scott Johnson, who was definitely at the high end of the psychopathy scale. In 2008, he was a 38-year-old man angry at the world, not working, wanted by authorities for passing bad checks, living with his mother so he didn’t have to pay child support, and being investigated for sexual assault, when he decided to shoot teenagers who were swimming in a river at a train bridge between Michigan and Wisconsin. He killed three of them.

Johnson told the Associated Press that being upset over the death of the teenagers was like being upset over spilled milk.

Read the articles:

The psychopath, the altruist and the rest of us, on WSJ.com.

At the Train Bridge, on NewYorker.com.



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