Psychopaths in our orbit seem to chuckle when they cause fear in others and a recent report points to amygdala malfunctions.
Marsh AA, Cardinale EM. When psychopathy impairs moral judgments: Neural responses during judgments about causing fear. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2012 Sep 5. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22956667.
Psychopathy is associated with reduced activity in the right amygdala during judgments of fear-evoking statements (as compared to controls), and psychopathy is also associated with more lenient moral judgments about causing fear, according to a recent report. Plus, the higher individuals rated on a psychopathy scale, the less accurately they identified behaviors that cause fear – and, the more they judged being scary to be morally acceptable. (Here.) Another report demonstrates that psychopaths view inflicting accidental (unintentional) harm as being OK more than neurotypicals do. (Here). Taken as a whole, we see that psychopaths simply don’t really care about the fear of others.
So psychopaths are organically impaired in detecting or empathizing with fear in others. Yet, they get that thrill when they get power over others. So no wonder there is enjoyment in causing fear in others. Perhaps psychopaths perceive fear in others as some kind of discomfort or just weird facial expression.
We recall a certain executive-suite type who said he enjoyed firing people, and we immediately thought that he enjoyed watching the people in fear of losing their job. Perhaps this is why.