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Custom games being used to treat psychopaths

Activities designed to help patients multi-task can assuage symptoms

Custom made, targeted games are being used to help treat criminals who have been identified as psychopaths, a report has revealed, with early results proving to be promising.

One of the key problems with psychopaths is that they struggle to empathise with others. That failure to consider the emotional impact of actions on other people is generally considered to be a reflection of a wider inability to reflect on information which is not directly related to the activity in hand, something which Yale psychologist Arielle Baskin-Sommers believes can be treated with games.

"They are also the world's worst multi-taskers and tend not to process information, such as pain and suffering of others, when they are engaging in criminal acts," Baskin-Sommers said to Yale News.

"Treatments for individuals with antisocial behavior, such as such psychopaths, are woefully inadequate. Hopefully, findings such as ours will lead to more efficient interventions for our most recalcitrant prisoners."

By playing specially designed games, patients can learn the importance of secondary information and learn to respond to stimuli which they may have previously ignored, and many in Baskin-Sommers early studies has shown a marked improvement in their ability to empathise and consider the implications of their actions.

However, the games used for treatment must be very specifically designed for the condition. In other cases in the study, playing these games has actually had a detrimental effect on the condition of the subjects. Games designed to treat psychopaths worsened the conditions of other patients, although Baskin-Sommers also found that programs designed specifically for their conditions were able to help.

The full findings of the study are due to be published tomorrow in Clinical Psychological Science.

Image courtesy of Yale News.

Dan Pearson avatar

Dan Pearson