UEL lecturer’s book examines nature of psychopaths

Dr David W Jones with his book

Dr David W Jones with his book - Credit: UEL

What makes a person a psychopath?

A University of East London lecturer’s new book is set to challenge commonly held views on the causes and nature of people labelled just that.

Dr David W Jones was inspired to write Disordered Personalities and Crime: An analysis of the history of moral insanity because of an interest in issues surrounding mental health and criminality.

He said: “I was very struck by the paradox that these ideas have been consistently subject to such great criticism from within the medical and legal professions – who have often argued that these are not real disorders at all – and yet the diagnoses have survived.”

The book examines the change in attitudes over the centuries, arguing that Victorian judges and psychiatrists influenced how we understand insanity and evil.

“I am concerned we are seeing growing efforts to locate evil in the brains and dispositions of individuals, rather than as more complex problems that mean we need to understand not only the individual but the society and culture that surrounds them”, added Dr Jones, who is head of psychosocial studies at the university.

The book, which was published by Routledge, argues we can only understand such people and their behaviours in the psychological, social, physical and cultural realms or we risk “dangerously limiting our understanding”.

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Dr Jones said, “At times the story has been quite an uplifting one as people have been genuinely curious to reach a better understanding of ourselves and human weakness.

“At other times this has been a quite dismal tale of what happens when cruelty and evil are seen as existing only in ‘other’ kinds of people”.