Review of David Lykken, The Antisocial Personalities

David Lykken's brilliant book is a thoughtful, and articulate exposition of his theory about biological, psychological, and social causes of crime and antisocial behavior. It says:

  1. Various traits such as fearlessness, impulsiveness, aggressiveness, and muscular body type, are highly heritable.
  2. Those with average measures of such traits who are incompetently raised in asocial environments will go on to commit the majority of violent crimes; these are sociopaths.
  3. Those with very high measures of such traits, almost regardless of their nurturing environment, will become psychopaths—fortunately, these are much fewer in number.
  4. The solutions to the problems created by the sociopaths are better parenting training, use of alternative rearing environments (foster care), and parental licensing.

Along the way, you'll also get an introduction to evolutionary psychology, a review of various taxonomies of psychopathy and sociopathy, the evidence for Lykken's psychophysiological basis of psychopathy (low fear quotient), and even a short chapter on bull terriers. Lykken writes with a forceful and deeply personal, non-academic style, but avoids the lurid sensationalism of sadism and torture that attracts many readers (and writers) to the antisocial personality. He dispatches psychoanalytic theory in two paragraphs. Most of the book will be accessible to the intelligent layperson; the few more technical sections can be skipped without loss of the flow of his argument.

I first borrowed this from the library, but bought it and read it again; it's that good. It has profound implications for our current society. Liberals won't like the emphasis on behavioral genetics; conservatives might not like the state interference of his proposed parental licensing, so tough luck for ideologues of all stripes. Anyone who is a parent, might become one, or knows someone who is, should read this book.

Author: Steven Bagley

Date: 2017-05-28 Sun