Adrian Raine is the Richard Perry University Professor of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and a leading authority on the biology of violence. After leaving secondary school to become an airline accountant, he abandoned his financial career and spent four years as a prison psychologist to understand why some individuals become violent psychopaths while others do not. His new book is The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime.
From Raine's Q & A with Maia Szalavitz for Time:
Are there differences between criminals who commit impulsive acts of violence and those who plot and plan, as in the Boston [Marathon bombing] case?--Marshal Zeringue
There’s a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is the seat of emotion. We find that part of brain to be structurally and functionally impaired in those people who will go out and lack remorse and empathy and use violence, [such as we see with] the more predatory, cold-blooded psychopaths. They know what they are doing and that it potentially could lead to someone being killed, but they don’t have those feelings that hold the rest of us back.
In contrast, with the more hot-blooded [types], we think it’s the other way around. Emotions are running out of control and the amygdala is overly responsive to mildly provocative stimuli. They lack the prefrontal regulatory control. The prefrontal cortex is right above the eyes, just behind the forehead and it’s involved in planning and regulating and controlling behavior. We think the more hot-blooded [types] are lacking the normal regulatory control of the prefrontal cortex and that’s why they act out impulsively.
Many people are concerned about focusing on the biology of violence, given historical abuse of such research. What do you say to these critics?
You can go back to the Holocaust. We can recognize the bad use made of biological research, which fueled disastrous social policies, and focus on the dark nightmare. It makes people skittish and you have to recognize and realize that and say we need safeguards on how this research is used and that has to be uppermost in everyone’s mind.
But the counter side is...[read on]