, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 55–65 | Cite as

Psychopathy, Executive Functions, and Neuropsychological Data: a Response to Sifferd and Hirstein

  • Marko JurjakoEmail author
  • Luca Malatesti
Original Paper


Katrina Sifferd and William Hirstein, in their paper ‘On the criminal culpability of successful and unsuccessful psychopaths’, argue that neuropsychological data show that unsuccessful psychopaths have diminished mental capacities that warrant a partial or diminished responsibility defence. We respond that the currently available neuropsychological evidence does not warrant their conclusion that unsuccessful psychopaths should not be deemed completely legally responsible. Instead, we maintain that the current state of this type of research suggests that psychopaths might be suffering very specific cognitive impairments. However, the impact that these impairments might have on the specific criminal behaviours that courts have to assess is far from clear.


Executive function Legal responsibility Neuropsychological evidence Psychopathy Sifferd Hirstein 



Many thanks to Zdenka Brzović and Lovro Savić for reading and giving us valuable comments on different drafts of the paper. We would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and Neil Levy, the editor of Neuroethics; their comments helped us to improve greatly this paper. In addition, we thank the organisers and participants of the following events, where parts of the paper were presented and discussed: Mente e medicina, Uniser, Pistoia, Italy 8/9/2016; Invited talk, Faculty of Media and Communications, Belgrade (Serbia), 9/6/2016; Conference: Ethical Issues: Theoretical and Applied, Bled (Slovenia) 6-10/6/2016; Invited talk, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Nijmegen (Netherlands) 12/04/2016.

The Croatian Science Foundation (HRZZ) funds our research (project CEASCRO: grants n. 8017 and n. 9522).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, CEASCRO ProjectUniversity of RijekaRijekaCroatia

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