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Psychopaths

Date: 05-11-14
Host: Richard Syrett
Guests: Stefan Verstappen, William J. Beaty

Host Richard Syrett welcomed writer, adventurer, martial artist, and street youth counselor, Stefan Verstappen, for a discussion on the dangerous nature of psychopaths. He described these individuals as people who lack "the ability to connect, in a positive way, with their fellow human beings." Among the attributes ascribed to psychopaths by Verstappen were an inability to feel empathy or remorse as well as habitual lying and a lower fear threshold which leads to increased risk-taking. Additionally, he contended that the smaller range of emotions possessed by psychopaths allows them to utilize more brain power to focus on manipulating others.

While malevolent psychopaths, in the form of serial killers, receive a disproportionate amount of media coverage because their actions are gruesome and titillating, Verstappen warned that it is the ones who present themselves as 'normal' within society that are particularly dangerous. To that end, he lamented that such psychopaths seem to gravitate towards positions of power within government or business and are often celebrated for their cunning machinations and risk-taking abilities. Beyond that, he noted that the idea of psychopaths infiltrating our institutions of power is such a difficult concept for people to accept or grasp that it gives these devious individuals yet another advantage over the general population.

On how to recognize psychopaths in personal relationships, Verstappen stressed that everyone will occasionally exhibit some psychopathic tendencies, but the "ultimate red flag" is that these individuals require an inordinate amount of money, emotion, or time. When such a dynamic is observed, he said, ending relationships with these people is the only way to eliminate their harmful influence. He explained that this is because they "cannot be saved" and that "one of the worst things you can do" is to think that a psychopath can be helped or rehabilitated by "loving them more or giving them more empathy." However, Verstappen cited the research of neuroscientist James Fallon which seems to indicate that a positive upbringing can prevent the malevolent nature of psychopathy from manifesting later in life.

Electric Humans

During the first hour, engineer and science writer, William Beaty, talked about the rare phenomenon of "electric humans" -- people who can use their minds to control electricity. He revealed that there appear to be two distinct types of electric humans: those that unwittingly drain power from batteries or electronics and those that produce high voltage and "zap everything around them." These latter individuals are responsible for the 'slider' phenomenon where a person can seemingly effect street lights via their mere presence. Beaty credited the Internet for raising awareness of "electric humans" and expressed hope that scientific testing can be done on the phenomenon as more individuals come forward with their unique abilities.

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