Oakland Effect: Can a lack of empathy lead to violent behavior?

Several months ago, I was talking to an Oakland police officer on the telephone, discussing a particular homicide investigation, when the conversation turned broad.


…science is increasingly showing us that repeated exposure to violence — whether it’s gang-related, domestic abuse, psychological torture, maternal separation or substance abuse — has the long-term effect of dulling and in some cases eliminating the trait of empathy. This is key. Empathy is paramount to socialization, understanding social cues, conversing and communicating with others. It is one of the things that makes us most human. Conversely, a lack of empathy, or a dulled and stunted sense of empathy, is a crippling handicap, as well as a pretty good marker of someone bearing the traits of a psychopath.

By Scott Johnson