The Early Attachment Experiences are the Roots of Psychopathy


  • Neha Khetrapal


This review proposes the ‘attachment and the deficient hemispheric integration hypothesis’ as explanation for psychopathy. The hypothesis states that since secure attachment to the parents is essential for the proper development of both the hemispheres in children, psychopaths with histories of neglect and abuse are unable to develop efficient interaction of both the hemispheres, important for emotional processing and regulation. Various studies have shown that without an efficient interaction between the two hemispheres psychopaths fail to perform adequately on tasks that require both language abilities and non-verbal emotional processing. The hypothesis also explains why psychopaths will perform inefficiently in conditions that selectively prime the left hemisphere resources as these people would have learnt to rely more on the language based mode of this hemisphere. The childhood  of psychopaths is marked by insecure attachment with their parents where the parents fail to respond to the needs of the preverbal infant thus leading to improper development of the right hemisphere abilities, one of which is decoding and showing appropriate non-verbal emotional signals resembling a pattern shown by the parents. The hypothesis is useful in explaining different findings on laterality in psychopathy as well as answering the nature-nurture debate of the disorder. Research carried out under the proposed framework can be helpful in understanding the nature of the disorder which will be ultimately useful in the prevention of its full blown manifestation.

Author Biography

Neha Khetrapal, Eindhoven University of Technology
This work was done while the author was at the Centre for Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences, University of Allahabad, Allahabad, India. New affiliation: Eindhoven University of