What is Psychopathy?
A personality disorder in which an individual manifests
immoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or
establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme
egocentricity (self-centeredness), failure to learn from
A Brief History
It has been anecdotally recognized for centuries.
Evidence for psychopathy has been found in literary,
historical, political, and religious texts.
It has also been found cross-culturally.
Philippe Pinel is thought to have created the first
written record for psychopathy in the mid 1800’s.
In 1941 Hervey Cleckley became the first to
catalogue psychopathy's specific traits.
Psychopathy differs from other
personality disorders in 3 distinct ways:
1) Arrogant interpersonal style
2) Deficient affective experience
3) Impulsive behavioral style
Snakes in Suits
Not neurotic or psychotic; they are calm, cool, and
Excessive users of Instrumental Aggression.
Cyclical behavior patterns.
Under-aroused nervous systems.
Psychopaths lie A LOT.
However, although they lie easily, they openly contradict
themselves from one sentence to the next.
They blame others for their own downfalls.
They look out for “numero uno”.
“One of our subjects, who scored high on the Psychopathy
Checklist, said that while walking to a party he decided to buy a
case of beer, but realized that he had left his wallet at home six
or seven blocks away. Not wanting to walk back, he picked up
a heavy piece of wood and robbed the nearest gas station,
seriously injuring the attendant” (Hare, 1995, pg. 58-59)
The typical criminal psychopaths begin criminal behavior at a
young age and continue until around 40 years of age, where
the number of crimes decreases.
Psychopathy, Recidivism, and Drug
Within a year of release, psychopaths are 3 times more likely
than non-psychopathic inmates to recidivate and 3 to 5 times
more likely to recidivate violently.
Smith and Newman found those with psychopathy were
significantly more likely than non-psychopathic offenders to
meet diagnoses of alcoholism, drug disorders, and
Psychopathy and Therapy
• Psychopaths have self-inflated images and are generally happy
• This results in low motivation to do well in therapy and early
drop out rates.
• They can also pick up on a variety of reasons to justify their
“These programs are like a finishing school. They teach you
how to put the squeeze on people”
Snakes in Skirts?
- More rare than male psychopathy.
- Make up an estimated 15% of incarcerated female
- Less violent than male psychopaths.
- Lower rate of recidivism than male psychopaths.
Never indulge in serious criminal behavior (or never are
Excel in business.
CEO’s, politicians, etc.
1 in every 100 people in the U.S.
2 in every 100 people in Britain
Make up an estimated 20% of the incarcerated male
Theories of Psychopathy
Psychopathy has been attributed to:
Genes, Society (such as an abusive home-life), Environmental
Insult (as in birth complications, brain damage, or physical
anomalies), Molecular Neuroscience (like abnormal
serotonin levels in the brain), Amygdale Dysfunction,
Frontal Lobe Dysfunction, Cognitive Dysfunction, and other
Restrictions to Psychopathy
Measures of Psychopathy
The Golden Standard: The Psychopathy Check List (PCL-R)
- Two factor structure of psychopathy: Personality and
- 20 item clinical interview, accompanied with review of
criminal and health records.
- Score of 30 or higher indicates psychopathy
A divide in the community
1) Arrogant interpersonal
2) Deficient affective
3) Impulsive behavioral
A pervasive pattern of disregard for and
violation of the rights of others
occurring since age 15 years, as
indicated by three (or more) of the
- Failure to conform to social norms;
- Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
- Irritability and aggressiveness;
- Reckless disregard for safety of self or
- Consistent irresponsibility; and
- Lack of remorse
80% of the United States prison population meets the
diagnostic criteria for ASPD, while only 15 to 25% meet the
criteria for psychopathy as designated by the Psychopathy
Checklist Revised (PCL-R)
Although psychopathy has been around for many years, little
is empirically known around it.
Even though it deals with a tiny portion of the population,
knowing more about psychopathy is crucial for their safety