A team of Canadian researchers explored the possibility that psychopathy may not be a mental disorder but part of evolution, in a study published last year in the journal Evolutionary Psychology. They made a case that psychopathy lacks certain symptoms of a disorder, so should be considered more like a function operating as intended.
The basis of the research is nature versus nurture. The reference is drawn from people using left hands and how earlier, they were deemed to be inclined towards crime. Cultural influences may also determine how much a person favors one hand over the other, allowing them to fit into communities that favor the right-handed.
External factors like stress or nutrition or exposure to pollution while in the womb can push a person’s genetic heritage for handedness into one direction or the other.
This leaves open the possibility that whatever genes are at work are operating as evolution elected, providing (as the researchers describe it) an ‘alternative life-history strategy’ for those who inherited them.
Psychopathy can be an alternative strategy to survival, helping in some social contexts before becoming a disorder in another.
Like psychopathy, is antisocial personality disorder (APD) which was officially given a place in the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II) in 1968. Even after several revisions, APD remains in the DSM, adjusted over time with criteria that can be observed and checked more objectively.
No matter how we regard disorders like APD, psychopathy can play a role in behaviors that disrupt and destroy the wellbeing of many.
This research was published in Evolutionary Psychology.