Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Baskin-Sommers on the Neuroecology of Antisocial Behavior

Dr. Arielle Baskin-Sommers presented her work on the “Neuroecology of Antisocial Behavior” on March 28 as part of the Justice Collaboratory Speaker Series on juvenile justice. Baskin-Sommers spoke about the clinical, legal, treatment, and policy consequences of emerging knowledge on psychopathy and offending. Baskin-Sommers laid out the clinical criteria for psychopathy and pointed to the cognitive and environmental factors, such as chronic and direct exposure to violence, that impact on individuals’ involvement in offending.

Baskin-Sommers runs the Mechanisms of Disinhibition (MoD) lab at Yale. Her talk focused on several key domains that can be better understood through our knowledge of the neuroecology of psychopathy.

In her talk, Baskin-Sommers discussed the implications of her research on perspective-taking among individuals with psychopathy. Using computer-based research, she and her colleagues have found that individuals high in psychopathy demonstrated less behavioral interference when their own perspective differed from the perspective of others. She spoke about the implications of this research for sentencing contexts, where judges generally perceive individuals with psychopathy to be less remorseful than their peers.

Baskin-Sommers also spoke about her research on the experience of regret amongst psychopathic individuals. She and her colleagues have found that these individuals do experience retrospective forms of regret, but that their prospective models for regret are limited and may not inform their future actions. This has consequences for our understanding of risk-taking amongst psychopathic individuals, in particular as they are understood in prisons and the courts.

She commented on the consequences of her work with regard to legal practice and policy. She has done work on the treatment of psychopathic individuals in prison using computer-based models focused on improving the cognitive-affective functioning of individuals with psychopathy. These models have had some effect in reducing individual engagement in violent incidents in prison. She also pointed to the potential negative neurocognitive consequences of placing psychopathic individuals into punitive segregation in prison. Finally, Baskin-Sommers spoke about some recent research she has done in looking at the particular responses of psychopathic individuals to procedural justice-oriented interventions, and the need to be attuned to the specific mechanisms by which these individuals respond to procedurally just treatment. These kinds of interventions will have implications for the training of prison staff to be more attentive to the specific characteristics of people with psychopathy that might make them more or less responsive to certain kinds of interventions.