Washington: Prisoners who are psychopaths lack the basic neurophysiological "hardwiring" that enables them to care for others, a new study has found.
"A marked lack of empathy is a hallmark characteristic of individuals with psychopathy," lead author of the study, Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry at University of Chicago said.
Psychopathy affects approximately 1 percent of the United States general population and 20 percent to 30 percent of the male and female US prison population.
Relative to non-psychopathic criminals, psychopaths are responsible for a disproportionate amount of repetitive crime and violence in society.
"This is the first time that neural processes associated with empathic processing have been directly examined in individuals with psychopathy, especially in response to the perception of other people in pain or distress," he added.
The study could help clinical psychologists design better treatment programs for psychopaths.
The study is published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.