The researchers concluded that psychopaths can, in fact, consider the thoughts of others, but only when there is a specific goal they want to accomplish – such as winning a game, or climbing up the ranks of a company.
The goal for further research is to better understand how a psychopath’s mind works.
The introductory write-up in the PNAS explains the “significance” of the Yale research:
However, most empirical studies of psychopathy find that, despite their behavior, psychopathic individuals have an intact theory of mind: they successfully predict other’s perspectives. Here, we show that psychopathic individuals have a previously unobserved cognitive deficit that might explain their pattern of destructive and antisocial behavior. We report that psychopathic individuals fail to automatically take the perspective of others, but can deliberately take the perspective of others. These findings suggest that psychopathic individuals have the ability to take the perspective of others but lack the propensity to do so.
I like that language “a previously unobserved cognitive deficit”. It is not a “cognitive deficit” — they can think just fine. The real problem they are ruthless — they do not care what happens to someone else:
Romans 1:29–31 (ESV)
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Paul would say they are filled with sin. If love fulfills the law, then the “psychopath” is simply selfish. It is not as if selfishness were not a “virtue”; it is not as if being ruthless were looked down upon.
Proverbs 11:16 (NASB95)
A gracious woman attains honor,
And ruthless men attain riches.