Psychopathy as a Conditional Reproductive Strategy in Boys and Men: An Evolutionary–Developmental Perspective
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AbstractPsychopathic traits (PTs) are a constellation of traits and behavior that places individuals at-risk for engaging in lifelong chronic and severe antisociality, particularly among boys and men. Evolutionary perspectives have suggested some adaptive benefits (e.g., mating) to expressing PTs, whereas developmental perspectives suggest both genes and environment affect its expression. Bringing evolutionary and developmental perspectives together, my thesis addresses whether the expression of psychopathy in boys and men is developmentally contingent on cues of social relationships that inform the costs and benefits of “deciding” to develop PTs. In Study 1, I use Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory to survey the developmental literature on PTs to examine whether both immediate and broad environmental features contingently affect the development of PTs. Results suggest that the expression of PTs is affected by multiple and interacting levels of the environment. In Study 2, I examine how PTs in boys might have costs and benefits in social relationships and the possible impact behavior with peers may have on peer reactions. Results showed PTs were associated with more coercive and fewer prosocial behavior with peers, the latter having a negative indirect effect on peer reactions in prosocial, social power, and dating domains. PTs also had a direct and positive association with receiving nominations as someone peers would like to date. The findings suggest PTs may have both costs and benefits in adolescence and suggest boys higher in PTs might deceptively manage their reputations with peers despite engaging in fewer prosocial and more coercive behavior. In Study 3, I examine how PTs affect trade-offs across adaptive domains of somatic (e.g., relationships, health), parental, and mating investment in men. Results suggest that men higher in PTs may trade-off somatic and parental efforts for mating effort, which may create a superficial yet effective mating strategy that enhances mating opportunities while foreclosing other opportunities (e.g., building relationships, skills). Overall, my thesis expands our understanding of psychopathy by considering both evolutionary and developmental perspectives together. In particular, the adaptive benefits and costs of expressing psychopathy may be directed by and located within a developmental ecology that contingently affects its expression.
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