News Stories

Dangerous Brains

The brains of psychopaths are wired to keep seeking a reward at any cost, which is why they do such awful things to the rest of us. And A person can reach a high level of spiritual development without being emotionally and psychologically mature, which may help explain some of the pedophile priests who are stalking parishes worldwide.

But psychopaths are operating in the financial world as well: While high-profile white collar crimes like Bernie Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme grab headlines, thousands of smaller crimes are being committed each day in offices across America.

PhysOrg.com quotes psychologist Joshua Buckholtz as saying, "Psychopaths are often thought of as cold-blooded criminals who take what they want without thinking about consequences. We found that a hyper-reactive dopamine reward system may be the foundation for some of the most problematic behaviors associated with psychopathy, such as violent crime, recidivism and substance abuse."

Previous research on psychopaths has identified what they don't have enough of: fear and empathy. However, new research, however shows what they have TOO MUCH of: impulsiveness, risk taking and an addiction to rewards (the feeling of being "high" that they get from committing what the rest of us would consider to be a horrible crime). Psychologist David Zald says, "Our data is suggesting that something might be happening on the other side of things. These individuals appear to have such a strong draw to reward (to the carrot) that it overwhelms the sense of risk or concern about the stick."

Researcher Ofra Mayseless, who defines maturity as the capacity to control impulses and acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of one's actions, has examined the interplay between the two developmental domains. If these developmental domains are related, how do they converge and mutually interact? Is a certain level of emotional maturity required before an individual develops to be highly spiritual?

Meanwhile, Fraud costs around $994 billion a year with half of American companies experiencing the effects. Diann Cattani, who embezzled $500,000 while working for a consulting firm and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, says, "As you go out into management positions, it's important to hold people accountable. Don't assume employees are behaving ethically, because even trustworthy people behave differently in extreme situations."

Former Bear Sterns securities broker Justin Paperny, who was involved in a Ponzi scheme and served a year in prison after pleading guilty to violating securities laws, says, "Knowing right from wrong isn't enough to defeat temptation. From the first day of my job, I never understood my profession. My senior broker taught me how to lie and cheat so that we could line our own pockets. I was afraid to say no to him because I was a people-pleaser. If you're afraid to say no to people, they're going to own you."

Ofra Mayseless sums it up this way: "Psychological maturity can contribute to a person's level of generosity, while spiritual development may not add unique contribution after taking into account the person's psychological maturity. However, this was not the case. [Our] study has shown that both psychological maturity and being spiritually developed each contributes to an individual's generosity and pro-social actions, independently.

"The truth is, that I wanted to find that an individual reaching both types of maturity has an added value: That someone who is both psychologically and spiritually developed would demonstrate a higher set of values, such as generosity, endurance, pluralism. But this was not what we found."

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