Chapter 9 – Psychopaths
1. Psychopathy and Assessments.
• Definition: A personality disorder defined by a collection of interpersonal,
affective and behavioral characteristics.
• Dominant, selfish, manipulative individuals who engage in impulsive and
antisocial acts. Feel no remorse or shame that often has a negative impact
• Seek vulnerable victims to use their own benefit. Often called as
• Get what they want by charming their victims or use violence and
intimidation if necessary to achieve their goals.
• Descriptions of psychopathy exist in most cultures (e.g. kulangeta in Inuit
• Harvey Cleckley (1976) provided one of the most comprehensive clinical
descriptions of the psychopath in his book “The Mask of Sanity”. It
encompasses 16 features, ranging from positive features (e.g. good
intelligence, social charm, and absence of delusion and anxiety),
emotionalinterpersonal features (e.g. lack of remorse, untruthfulness,
unresponsiveness in interpersonal relations), and behavioral problems (e.g.
inadequately motivated antisocial behavior, unreliability, failure to follow
any life plan).
• Hare Psychopathy ChecklistRevised (PCLR) – most popular tool used
to measure psychopathic traits in adults. Developed by Robert Hare at
UBC, which comprises of a semistructured interview and a review of file
information of 20item rating scale. It assess interpersonal (e.g.
grandiosity, manipulativeness), affective (e.g. lack of remorse, shallow
emotions), and behavioral (e.g. impulsivity, antisocial acts) features of
• Results are divided into three subcategories: highPCLR group
(psychopaths) for score 30 and greater, a middle scoring group (mixed
group) for scores between 2030, and lowscoring group (nonpsychopaths)
with scores below 20.
• Selfreport questionnaires:
i. Psychopathic Personality InventoryRevised (PPIR)
154item inventory designed to measure psychopathic traits in
offender and community samples.
ii. SelfReport Psychopathy Scale (SPR)
64item selfreport measure designed to assess psychopathic traits
in community samples.
Able to measure those attitudes and emotions that are not easily
measured by others (e.g. feelings of low selfesteem) 2
Easy to administer, quick to score and relatively inexpensive. Can
be done through the web for research.
Don’t have to worry about interrater reliability since only the
individual is completing the score.
Psychopaths often lie. Some psychopaths are “master
manipulators” and will say whatever will be in their best interests.
Psychopaths may not have sufficient insight to accurately assess
Difficult for psychopaths to report on specific emotions if they
have not experienced these emotions (may mistake remorse with
2. Canadian Researcher Profiler: Dr. Robert Hare – Box 1.
• Began encountered a manipulative inmate while working as a prison
psychologist between his M.A. and Ph.D. studies.
• In the late 1970s, Dr. Hare, his students, and his colleagues began
development on what to become Hare Psychopathy ChecklistRevised
• Recently begun to study psychopathy in a very different sphere – the
• Recognized worldwide for his research on psychopathy and has received
3. Subclinical Psychopaths: University Samples – Box 2.
• Psychopathic traits are dimensional – people vary on the number and
severity of psychopathic features exhibited.
• Studies show that students with higher SRP scores are more accurate at
detecting victim vulnerability, and more likely to try and defraud
• Psychopathic traits, as measured by the SRP, were the strongest predictors
• Students classified as owning a “vicious” dog (Akita, chow, Doberman, pit
bull, Rottweiler, or wolfmix) engaged in more criminal behaviors and
scored higher on the primary psychopathy scale (measures of selfishness,
carelessness, and manipulation).
4. Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder.
• Definition (APD): A personality disorder in which there is evidence for
conduct disorder before age 15 and a chronic pattern of disregarding the
rights of others since age 15.
• After age 15, a person diagnosed with APD would need to display three or
more of the following symptoms: 3
i. Repeatedly engaging in criminal acts
v. Reckless behaviors
vii. Lack of remorse
• Sociopathy – A label coined in 1930 by Patridge, used to describe a
person whose psychopathic traits are assumed to be due to environmental
factors (e.g. poor parenting).
• Rarely used in the empirical literature nowadays and no assessment
instruments have been developed to identify this construct.
• APD places more emphasis on antisocial behaviors that does the PCLR.
• Nearly allpsychopathic offenders meet the diagnostic criteria for APD, but
most offenders diagnosed with APD are not psychopaths.
5. Forensic Use of Psychopathy.
• In Canada, psychopathy and associated constructs were used in making
i. to support a case’s transfer from youth to adult court
ii. to contribute to dangerous offender hearings
iii.to help to determine people eligibility
iv. to assess mental state at time of offence hearings
• Also used in sexual violent predator evaluations and deathpenalty
sentencing and in civil cases for child custody decisions.
6. Psychopathy and Violence.
• Although psychopaths make up a relatively small proportion of the
population, their involvement in serious repetitive crime and violence is
out of proportion to their numbers.
• Psychopaths are highdensity (prolific), versatile offenders. Their crimes
run the gamut from minor theft and fraud to “coldblooded” murder.
• They start their criminal career at younger age and persist longer, engage
in more violent offences, commit a greater variety of violent offences,
engage in more violence within institutions, and more likely to be violent
• Engage in instrumental violence (premeditated violence to obtain some
goal) and more likely to target strangers and be motivated by revenge or
material gain. 4
• Psychopaths’ use of instrumental motives could be extended to homicide.
They engage in “coldblooded” homicides much more often than
• Higher PCLR scores were found for cases with multiple versus single
offenders, stranger victims, and male victims; for offenders who left the
scene of the murder; and for offenders who denied responsibility for the
murder. Often shifted the blame and focused on “saving their own sake”.
7. Clifford Olson: A Predatory Psychopath – Box 3.
• Serving life sentence for the murders of 11 children in 1980 and 1981.
• Denied early paroled on August 22, 1997 by a jury in Surrey, B.C. – took
only 15 minutes to make the decision.
• Notorious, not only for being one of Canada’s most prolific serial killers,
but also for the deal he made with the police – “cash for corpses” deal.
• $100,000 in total was paid to his trust fund, which goes to his wife.
$10,000 for each body he uncovered for the RCMP.
• Faint hope clause (falls under section 745 on the Criminal Code of
Canada) – introduced in 1976, when the death penalty was abolished and
replaced by mandatory life sentences for firstdegree and seconddegree
• To provide murderers with an incentive to behave in prison, making
prisons safer for correctional officers, and to motivate murderers to
participate in rehabilitation.
• Olson scored 38 out of 40 on PCLR and was concluded as “completely
untreatable” and was more dangerous now than he was arrested in 1981,
since he sees himself as “the ultimate serial killer”.
• Since January 1, 1997, multiple (including serial) murderers are now
ineligible for a section 745 review.
• Olson currently remains incarcerated in the maximumsecurity prison in
Quebec. Only allowed to go out of his cell one hour a day to participate in
solitary exercise, to work alone as a cleaner, or to attend meetings.
• After spending 50 of his 70 years in prison, he is receiving $1,169.47 a
month in pension. The government is now looking into denying pensions
to violent offenders serving life sentences.
8. Psychopathy in Animals? – Box 4.
• Certain breeds of dogs are more psychopathic than others.
• Bull terrier share similar features of human psychopaths, such as being
fearless and immune to punishment.
• Chimpanzee Psychopathy Measure (CPM) to measure psychopathic traits
in chimpanzees. Consists of 23item rated on a 5point scales. 5
• There were sex differences, with male chimpanzees scoring higher on the
CPM than female chimps.
9. Psychopaths in the Community.
• Hare Ps