Chapter 11 - Psychopaths
Psychopathy - A personality disorder defined by a collection of interpersonal, a
ffective and behavioural characteristics, including manipulation, lack of remors
e or empathy, impulsivity and antisocial behaviours. Psychopaths have been calle
d intraspecies predators. Use vulnerable victims for their own benefit, use char
ming or violent and manipulative methods.
Alaskan inuits called psychopaths kulangeta.
Assessment of Psychopathy
Harvey Cleckley (1976) provided one of the most comprehensive descriptions of ps
ychopaths, ranging from positive features, emotional-interpersonal features and
behavioural problems, 16 features in total.
Hare (1991, 2003) - created the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Revised (PCL-R) - The most popular method of assess
ing psychopathy in adults. 20 item rating scale, uses a semi-structured intervie
w and a review of file information to assess 1- Interpersonal, 2- Affective and
3- Behavioural features of psychopathy.
Scoring is on 3 points, 0, 1, 2. 0 indicating the sympton does not apply, 1 indi
cating the symptom applies to some extent and 2 indicating that the symptom defi
Scored on a total of 0-40 points.
High-PCL-R group -> Psychopaths, have a score of 30 or greater.
Middle-scoring group (no other name for this in the book besides middle-scoring)
PCL-R group, Mixed group with scores between 20 and 30.
Low-Scoring PCL-R group -> Nonpsychopaths, have a score below 20.
Initial factor analyses of the PCL-R indicated that it consists of two correlate
d factors (Hare et al., 1990)
Factor 1 -> combination of interpersonal and affective traits.
Factor 2 -> combination of unstable and socially deviant traits.
It has been found that Factor 1 is strongly related to predatory violence, emoti
onal-processing deficits and poor management response (Hare, Clark, Grant & Thom
pson, 2000 and many more researchers from 93/99/02)
It has also been found that factor 2 is strongly related to reoffending, substan
ce abuse, lack of education and poor family background (Hare, 2003 and more rese
archers from 98/01/97)
Rutherford, Alterman, Cacciola & McKay (1997) Have proposed a 3 factor model of
psychopathy. These three being
Factor 1 - arrogant and deceitful interpersonal style
Factor 2 - deficient affective experience
Factor 3 - impulsive and irresponsible behavioural style.
This splits the original Factor 1 into two parts and removes the antisocial item
s from factor 2.
Most recent PCL-R analysis includes these three factors plus a fourth factor cal
led antisocial that includes antisocial items (Hare, 2003)
Uses of PCL-R -> includes male and female offender,s forensic psychiatric patien
ts, sexual offenders and substasnce abusers. (Hare, 2003)
Another way of psychopath assessment is using self-report questionnaires.
Advantages of self-report questionnaires:
1- They are able to measure the attitudes and emitions that are not easily obser ved by others.
2- They are easy to administer, quick to score and relatively inexpensive.
3- It is not necessary to worry about the interrater reliability since only the
individual is completing the questionnaire.
4- Some questionnaires include measures of response styles to odetect faking goo
d or bad emotions because there are concerns about psychopaths lying on self-rep
Challenges/Drawbacks (Lilienfield & Fowler, 2006)
1- Psychopaths often lie, some psychopaths are master manipulators and will say
anything in their best interest.
2- Psychopaths may not have sufficient insight to accurately assess their traits
(do not consider themselves arrogant, dominant or opinionated where others migh
3- It will likely be difficult for psychopaths to report on specific emotions if
they have not experienced these emotions. (Remorse or regret feelings for the c
onsequence of getting caught).
Two of the most widely used self-report scales are:
1- Psychopathic Personality Inventory - A self-report measure of psychopathy tra
its (PPI-R, Lilienfeld & Widows, 2005). 154-item inventory designed to measure t
he traits in offender and community samples. Consists of 8 content scales, 2 val
idity scales (to check for carelessness and positive or negative response styles
) and measure two factors:
a- Fearless Dominance
b- Self-centred Impulsivity
2- Self-Report Psychopathy Scale - A self-report measure of psychopathy traits (
SRP, Paulhus, Hemphill & Hare, in press). 64-item self-report measure designed t
o assess psychopathic traits in community samples. Consists of four factors:
a- Erratic Lifestyle (rebellious)
b- Callous Affect (tough-minded)
c- Interpersonal Manipulation (confidence of being able to beat a lie detector)
d- Criminal Tendencies (have been arrested by the police)
Subclinical Psychopaths - University samples
1- Detecting Vulnerable Victoms (Wheeler, Book & Costello, 2009) - Students with
higher SRP scores more accurate at detecting victim vulnerability.
2- Defrauding a Lottery (Paulhus, Williams & Nathanson, 2002) - Students with hi
gher SRP scores more likely to try and defraud the experimenter to claim they we
re the true winner.
3- Cheating on Exams (Nathanson, Paulhus & Williams, 2006) - 4% of students iden
tified as cheat pairs in experiment, high SRP scores were strong predictors of c
4- Owning Vicious Dogs (Ragatz, Fremouw, Thomas & McCoy, 2009) - Students classi
fied as owning a vicious dog engaged in more criminal behaviours and scored high
er on the primary psychopathy scale (measures of selfishness, carelessness and m
anipulation) but were not more tolerant of animal abuse than other students.
Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)
Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) - A personality disorder characterized by
a history of behaviour in which the rights of others are violated. (APA, 1994) A
PD symptoms are related to the behavioural features of psychopathy and not the i
nterpersonal or affective features.
Evidence for conduct disorder before age 15 and a chronic pattern of disregardin
g the rights of others since age 15, after age 15 need to display 3+ of these sy
a- Repeatedly engaging in criminal acts b- Deceitfulness
e- Reckless behaviours
g- Lack of remorse
The relationship of APD, psychopathy and sociopathy -> they are related but dist
inct (Hare & Newumann, 2008)
Sociopathy - A lable used to describe a person whose psychopathic traits are ass
umed to be due to environmental factors, such as maladaptation to society. Simi
lar traits as psychopathy but the development of these traits is more due to poo
r parenting and other environmental factors whereas psychopathic traits are thou
ght to develop mostly due to genetics.
APD places more emphases on antisocial behaviour than does the PCL-R and is high
ly prevalent in prisons (up to 80% of adult offenders) (Hare, Forth & Strachan,
1992, Motiuk & Porporino, 1991).
10-25% of adult offenders can be classified as psychopaths using a cutoff of 30
on the PCL-R. (Hare, 2003)
Relationship between APD and Psychopathy -> Asymmetrical Relationship -> Psychop
aths display the diagnostic criteria for APD, but not the other way around. 60-8
0% of adult offenders with APD, only 10-25% of adult offenders are considered ps
Forensic Use of Psychopathy
Zinger & Forth (1998) looked at expert Testimony about psychopathy, sociopathy o
DeMatteo and Edens (2006) and Walsh & Walsh (2006) - more recent studies that lo
oked only at cases where PCL-R was used by the expert.
It was found that psychopathy is correlated with a diverse range of criminal cas
es with the majority of cases being associated with increased severity of dispos
ition or sentence.
In Canada - psychopathy and associated constructs/testimony are used in the foll
1- To help making sentencing decisions
2- To support a case's transfer from youth to adult court
3- To contribute to dangerous offender hearings
4- To help determine parole eligibility
5- To assess mental state at the time of offense hearings (Zinger & Forth, 1998)
In the US these constructs have similar uses as well as:
1- Sexual violent predator evaluations
2- Death Penalty sentencing
3- Civil cases for child custody decisions
Psychopathy & Violence
Characteristics of criminalistic psychopaths
Psychopaths are high-density, versatile offenders. They start their criminal car
eer at a younger age and persist longer, engage in more violent offences, commit
a greater variety of violent offences, engage in more violence within instituti
ons and they are more likely to be violent after release as well (Hare, 2003).
The nature of psychopathic violence differs from nonpsychopathic violence.
It is more likely to be predatory in nature, motivated by identifiable goals and
carried out in a callous calculated manner without the emotional context that c haracterizes nonpsychopathic offender violence.
Two types of violence:
1- Instrumental (premeditated violence to obtain a goal) - offenders who engage
in this type of violence score higher on measures of psychopathy
2- Reactive (impulsive, unplanned violence on response to provocation)
Psychopaths are likely to target strangers and be motivated by revenge or materi
al gain, as opposed to nonpsychopaths targeting people they know and for strong
Adolescent offenders who engaged in instrumental violence were more psychopathic
than other youth (Flight & Forth, 2007; Vitacco et al., 2006)
Porter (2002) investigated the association between psychopathy and nature of hom
icides using PCL-R scores to divide the offenders into nonpsychopaths, medium sc
ores and psychopaths with regular PCL-R scores (0-40 scale).
The percentages of homicides for each group that was instrumental (cold-blooded)
in each group were as follows: Nonpsychopaths - 28%, Medium Scores - 67%, Psych
opaths - 93%
Hakkanen-Nyholm (2009) measured psychopathic traits in homicide offenders. Highe
r PCL-R scores were found for people with multiple vs single offenders, single o
ffenders, stranger victims and male victims; for offenders who left the scene of
the murder and for offenders who denied responsibility for the murder.
Psychopaths tended to shift the blame rather than feeling remorse for their acti
ons, focused on saving their own skin. Psychopathic offenders were also less suc
cessful after release.
Psychopaths In The Community
Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV; Hart et al., 1995) is use
d in researching community samples.
It takes less time to administer and places less emphasis on criminal behaviour
than the PCL-R.
Psychopathy is rare, only 0.6% of a community sample assessed by Coid et al., (2
009) showed 13 or greater on the PCL:SV,
Other samples showed no psychopathic traits in 71% of the community.
Employees with psychopathic traits (Paul Babiak, 2000) - problematic employees,
less successful, do not pull their weight in the job, they are good at manipulat
ing people higher in the system, getting information on other employees, spreadi
ng rumours, blaming others for their failures and causing di