Not all people who bully are pathological bullies , but some certainly are. And the amount of damage they can cause is disturbing. Underlying causes and excuses aside, in many cases , bullying is a learned behaviour that can be unlearned.
In 2004 I spoke at a union conference where the topic of discussion was ‘workplace bullying in which clinical psychologist Keryl Egan, claimed in that profiling that could identify “psychotic bullies” who terrorise workplaces.
Egan highlighted three types – ‘accidental’ bullies who bully when they’re under stress, ‘destructive’ bullies who lash out when challenged, and ‘psychotic bullies’, who bully “because they can”.
AT least now, medical research is catching up. The interesting point about this research is that early intervention programs can be developed.
BULLIES enjoy seeing people in pain in the same way others get a thrill out of gambling or taking drugs, new brain scan research shows.
Australian experts believe the discovery partly explains why some people get satisfaction out of things that repulse others.
The findings could help in developing programs to combat antisocial behaviour in young people.
Scans of aggressive youths’ brains by researchers at the University of Chicago showed an area associated with rewards was highlighted when bullies watched a video clip of someone inflicting pain. Those without unusually aggressive behaviour did not have the same response.
“This is the first time MRI scans have been used to study situations that could otherwise provoke empathy,” Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry Dr Jean Decety said.
Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute executive director Dr Ian Hickie said it was a very important finding. “The study confirms what people have always thought – that people who indulge in these kind of behaviours process information, including emotional information, differently from other people,” he said.
“It’s like differences between men and women – when you look at brain scans they’re different. The processing of emotional information is different from person to person.”
Mr Hickie said a person’s brain kept developing until the early 20s.
Psychologist Dr Helen McGrath from the National Centre Against Bullying said a link between reward and pain showed it was a learned behaviour: “Usual intervention with kids who are antisocial is to get in as early as possible – there are programs that start when they are four.
“The Government should continue to fund early intervention.”
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