Thursday, March 20, 2014


Heartiste's fascinated post about a bona fide psychopath got me wondering whether there is any evidence that psychopathy carries with it an identifiable evolutionary advantage in the contemporary western world. If it's genetically beneficial anywhere, the atomized, post-modern Occident is probably the place, since in other times and places it could get a practitioner ostracized or killed, whereas in the enlightened West, if anything, Good people just get worked up over those expressing disapproval of the psychopath's lifestyle. Live and let live, asshole.

Naturally, to attempt as much, let's tap the GSS. The survey doesn't deal with psychopathy and sociopathy explicitly, but a few variables feel like plausible proxies. First, a fertility comparison among men who both say there is nothing "seriously wrong" with cheating on taxes and who have also cheated on their spouses (psychos) and among men who find cheating on taxes to be morally objectionable and have not cheated on their spouses (suckers) (n = 223):


And, more explicitly, among men who say "a selfish person" is at least a "fair description" of themselves (psychos) compared to those who say it is an inaccurate self-description (martyrs) (n = 1085):


There is more fecundity in the first table because it only considers men who have been married at some point, while the latter catches all men (and also a wider range of years).

Hardly definitive, but at any rate the data doesn't provide any reason to think that psychopathic traits are evolutionarily advantageous any longer, if they ever were. That, of course, doesn't imply that they aren't sexually advantageous, especially among men sly enough to break the rules and avoid detection in so doing (purely speculative, but I'd guess high IQ psychopaths fair better relative to high IQ non-psychopaths than low IQ psychopaths fair relative to low IQ non-psychopaths).

For brevity, I'll subsequently refer to archetypal psychopaths and suckers. Clearly most men fall somewhere in between, some closer to one end, some closer to the other.

It's not difficult to conceive that, at some point in the fairly recent past, psychopaths may have successfully spread their seed more effectively than suckers did, perhaps after large scale movement into cities and out of the countryside but before the ubiquity of easily accessible birth control severely separated procreation from sexuality (so long as there is some amount of the latter existing, obviously--it may be the beta's time to be fruitful and multiply, but the omega never has and never will).

Similarly, it's not difficult to see why psychopaths would be 'hurt' (in terms of reproductive fitness) more from the widespread availability of contraception than suckers would be. Psychopaths are all about getting what they want. What they want is evaluated narrowly--as Heartiste puts it, the psychopath "is missing, or seductively convinces himself that he’s missing, a moral sense, save for that morality which accrues to the self". Suckers, stoics that they are, for various reasons (religious and otherwise) assign a lot of other duties to themselves, one of which is often raising a family. Psychopaths want sex but have no use for the attendant cramps that kids bring, especially the nearly unavoidable and legally sanctioned drain on their financial resources that come with. Suckers want sex, too, but they also want--or are at least willing to shoulder the responsibilities that come with--children.

Pat Buchanan famously called the pill the suicide tablet of the West, but it might be making us, ceteris paribus, more family-oriented people. When psychopaths see the following, it fills them with dread. When suckers see as much, they get an incomparably deep feeling of joy in the very marrow of their bones (yeah, I'm revealing myself to firmly be in the sucker camp, but go ahead and eat your hearts out):

Uh oh, there's more:

Hopelessly smitten orbiter at your service!

The big question is whether genetic selection for men with a nurturing instinct can outrun cultural solipsism and broader societal dissolution. Women who have children are, according to the GSS, modestly less likely to cheat than women who don't have any offspring are, so to the extent that women are hereditarily steering the ship one way or the other, it's gently in the direction of overriding the tingle/settling and away from harlots surrendering to their passions.

As Heartiste also points out, that female contribution is a feature rather than a bug. As an aside, the average number of children among SWPL women living in big cities is 1.40. Among conservative white women in small towns and out in the countryside, it's 2.05.

GSS variables used: EVSTRAY(1)(2), SEX, AGAPE(1)(2-5), SELFISH(1-3)(4-5), CHILDS


Jokah Macpherson said...

I think Sailer's Law of Female Journalism needs a corollary about people with babies coming up with excuses to post baby pics. A GSS table or two usually does the trick :)

Anonymous said...

I find it a bit bizarre to associate cheating on taxes with psychopathy! Your relationship with government is neither personal nor voluntary; it's a slave's relation to his master. Beyond fear of punishment, there is no moral component involved! Cheating is nothing more than rational if you think you can get away with it. This is not a valid proxy!

silly girl said...

The kid is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

In other words, feminism in the long run is doing a society a service because it allows non-feminine females to reveal their preferences and die without leaving heirs (while n the past they would be forced to marry and have children)


All hail the feminism (in the long run :) )

Audacious Epigone said...


... I plead no contest, your honor.


While I sympathize, as I suspect many other readers do, I'd wager that people with psychopathic personalities are far more likely to cheat on things like taxes, parking in handicap spaces, etc than non-psychopaths are.

Silly girl,

Yes, objectively so. I'll give him a kiss for you.


Funny how so many leftist causes (abortion, adopting children of a different race/ethnicity, higher education for everyone, etc) appear to be genetically self-defeating. As a refresher on the idea of this phenomenon, see Steve Sailer's Return of the patriarchy?.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Everyone's got a rationalization.

Anonymous said...

In all honesty, I often feel bad that I should be more true to my moral principles (or rather, have more balls) and "cheat" more.
As far as whether psychopaths do it more than others, are they risk-takers? Do they sky dive? If so, perhaps that's the link. Otherwise I still don't see the connection.

Dan said...

Congrats, again! No sarcasm here.

Anonymous said...

A relative of mine is a psychopath and any normal person notices very quickly that is something very wrong with her.
I bet that the women the psychopath in the story seduced were not merely needy, but psychologically interesting themselves (that is clearly stated about the attractive one)
Heartiste generalizing about "chicks" from these psychiatric ward romances is as silly as his repeated use of "beta"

anon said...

hey if you suckers want to believe they're your kids go ahead no child support off my ass

anon said...

Im a psycho and I doubt id have admitted to cheating bastard children or even my correct name
we are not stupid we just understand the fungibility of morality and its disadvantage to survival - if you dont go blabbing about having that edge to psychologists on surveys.Ive started to teach my daughter the code and always mentor a yougn psycho I happen upon to keep things on the DL lest the earthlings come with pitchforks

Anonymous said...

That, of course, doesn't imply that they aren't sexually advantageous, especially among men sly enough to break the rules and avoid detection in so doing (purely speculative, but I'd guess high IQ psychopaths fair better relative to high IQ non-psychopaths than low IQ psychopaths fair relative to low IQ non-psychopaths).

Note - The category who find cheating on taxes most acceptable have about 2/3 lower SD intelligence (about 10 points) if we convert from Wordsum.

There's a different pattern on the XMARSEX (Is extra marital sex wrong?) variable - the dumbest say that it is always wrong, the smartest it is always wrong, the wishy washy sometimes wrong are intermediate, and the not wrong at all crowd are only slightly smarter than the always wrong. It seems that a generally negative but flexible view is the sign of intelligence here.

For the EVSTRAY variable (ever cheated on your spouse?) the strayers are a little smarter. (Straying men seem to have slightly more children while straying females have about the same as non-strayers).

For these variables, when CHILDS (number of kids) is the comparison variable and Wordsum is the control, there's no major different pattern for the relative success of the lower intelligence compared to the higher in each category (although the sample sizes are not very good for TAXCHEAT).