Belief and OpinionsAre Genetics and Psychopathic Behavior Related?

Are Genetics and Psychopathic Behavior Related?


As children, we resemble our parents’ characteristics be it the behavioral aspect or the physical traits. The origin of our genes takes off after our parents who are the primary source of why we react to situations. The external stimuli do contribute to the effects and the impulsive actions that charter themselves in the psyche of a human.

Claims were made that genetics are very well interlinked with how human beings behave and bring out their impulsive motivations.

criminals and genetics

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Psychopathology is not a loose term that can be used anywhere, it requires to be dealt with on a more scientific and technical basis. Psychiatry and clinical practices are the ones who deal with this on a day-to-day basis. However clinically, how does genetics cater to the questionable acts and motivations of a potential serial killer?

Scientists have come up with numerous justifications, and theories that were even leaning toward becoming very controversial. After all, how could one single gene be singled out as a reason for becoming a psychopath?

Warrior Gene and Genetics

warrior gene is ingrained in the system and depends on how a person reacts in a given situation. It is said that the strong emotions that we feel within us are always influenced by the genes that have been given to us.

A woman discovering genetics with microscope
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Scientists have perceived that the “warrior gene” can be linked to negative impulses such as psychopathology.

Based on scientific knowledge, the warrior gene is a variant of the gene MAO-A which is a variant of the X-chromosome that is functioning in the human body. Studies have linked this gene to increased risk-taking behavior and heightened aggression.

Genetics and human impulses have been proven to be going hand in hand with each other. We could say it is an overgeneralization by the scientists to label it as a gene that is solely responsible for how it had turned out in society.

Scientists View: Born to Kill

The conclusions drawn by scientists were one of the reasons why the warrior gene remains a topic of discussion. It is one of the most misunderstood examples of how genetics work. Here’s what the scientists have continuously worked and debated upon with repeated experiments and scientific studies.

In terms of psychology, it is said that serial killers or psychopaths are born. Due to a variation thanks to the MAO-A gene which is a faulty gene, it tells us that such personalities are nurtured with them and there is nothing that could stop them from committing questionable acts.

Dr. Kanika Bell’s Views

In the eyes of Dr. Kanika Bell, who is an associate professor at Clark Atlanta University, the description was unique to this debate, if killers can be born or are nurtured by external circumstances.

Bell had said that some serial killers are ritualistic, who plan their impulses coldly and according to, and aspire to live a normal, human life, despite their motivations and desires. From this, it can be said that killers and psychopaths aren’t created out of one faulty cell, external circumstances such as accidents and traumatic incidents changed their psyche and warranted their actions.

She also stated as the MAO-A gene mutation was found by scientists and psychologists alike to be the gene that shows a deficiency in a man’s behaviors leading to anti-social actions and increasing aggression which separates them from society. She further backs up this claim by saying that the “warrior gene “becomes an easier explanation to understand and justify the actions of how a killer thinks which translates to desperation to find an answer.

Therefore, the warrior gene mutation might not be the only reason why psychopaths behave coldly and instigate violent behavior. One must understand that there is a variety of reasons why killers are motivated to target specific victims.

Sociological Factors

Today’s scientists and technicians are quick to club genes, and personality traits along with behavior that relates to psychopathic tendencies. The controversy regarding this stand can be neutralized by giving real-life examples. Therefore, practical reasons can be thought of.

The external factors have a much more profound impact on the people where the supposed chromosome is detected in concerned people. Examples like physical injuries, trauma, mentally challenging situation, and an abusive childhood might be the reasons why the individual might have warranted these tendencies inside their psyche.

Māori Case

One of the examples which had helped me understand the genetics and social factors relation much better is the Māori New Zealand case. 

In New Zealand wherein a community named Māori claimed that there was a case of “warrior gene” mutation within their clan, 2006. 

Two Kiwi researchers have come up with a theory that Marois tends to “commit more violent and brutal acts” and claimed that this is because of the effects of warrior genes that are present within them. With various research and scientific proofs, many scientists have come forward to debunk this theory. 

Unrecognisable Man with a White Mask
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Researcher Gary Hook came forward and was the first person to disprove this theory. Māori clans had generalized and claimed themselves to hold violent and prone to commit criminal acts. The reason that he had come up with was purely based on scientific and practical reasoning. 

Hook disproved this irrational reasoning by suggesting that Māori people, although convicted of acts of criminal violence and past behaviors there is no scientific proof and evidence that monoamine oxidized genes are found in the DNA of their particular ethnic group.

By further drawing comparisons with other ethnic groups, there was no deviation in behavioral attitudes by psychologists. Moreover, this was also viewed as a racial misjudgment by the researchers of the indigenous community.

Detection of Warrior Gene in the Future

The futuristic notions of the warrior gene will intensify in the modern years. However, this mere theory which has been repeatedly disproved by scientists can be a tentative subject to begin a type of research on. These situations can well be contemplated with the fading of generalizing that genetics may well be blamed for environmental and behavioral consequences.

The uncertainty that surrounds this phenomenon may also be the reason why scientists haven’t found the closure to what it may mean. 

What if We Could Predict It?

Another interesting possibility is to detect and predict where this MAO-A gene can infest and cause a deviation which could steer them away from morals and ethics constructed within them.

What if scientists could predict the motives of the criminals? Ideally, if we look at it that way, the law force will have no kind of job that society requires. Pre-determination of the crimes is based on genetics with the data of brain activity.

Could Scientists Controlling Psychopathic Behavior? 

Of course, the accuracy in predicting the actions and motives may differ from one person to another. Although in the constantly developing world, the tools and methods such as examining the brain activity along with its response to the behavior will help us predict the motivations of why the person turned out to be deviating from societal norms.

Predicting such behaviors in light of the course of actions leading up to psychopathic kills and results will help prevent the kills prior. One has to also keep in mind, that these kills and acts can be only predicted based on genetics.


Genetics and its prolonged effect in understanding impulse actions is a controversy that hasn’t found its scientific basis as of now. Therefore, genetic studies might not be accurate in understanding a drastic crime like killing and psychopathic behaviors.

It does stand a chance in helping understand the traumatic processes behind a killer’s psyche, but it doesn’t prove to be scientifically proven. Perhaps in the future, when genetics study gains more prominence, we will be able to fulfill the promise of being able to understand the contrast between environmental conditioning and genetic stimuli that constructs a “supposed” psychopath.

After all, what can’t be achieved without a little help from science and practical reasoning? We shall find what it is so, in the future, soon. 

Harini is an intern and is writing for the IcyDestiny webpage providing you content about scientific advancements and its relationship with different themes and situations in life. She is passionate about writing about the smallest, peculiar things in life that is forgotten easily. She is an undergrad student at Christ University, Bangalore and she aims to provide unique and inspiring content for users to engage in.


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