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Psychopathy. Sharon Sternberg. 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 experience, etc.

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Sharon Sternberg

what is psychopathy
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 experience, etc.

a brief history
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.
hare s psychopathy
Hare’s Psychopathy
  • Psychopaths are:

-Personality Wise (Primary Psychopathy): callous, manipulative, glib, lack anxiety and remorse…

-Behavior Wise (Secondary Psychopathy): impulsive, antisocial, poor behavioral controls.

psychopathy differs from other personality disorders in 3 distinct ways
Psychopathy differs from other personality disorders in 3 distinct ways:
  • Arrogant interpersonal style
  • Deficient affective experience
  • Impulsive behavioral style
snakes in suits
Snakes in Suits
  • Not neurotic or psychotic; they are calm, cool, and collected.
  • Excessive users of Instrumental Aggression.
  • Cyclical behavior patterns.
  • Under-aroused nervous systems.
psychopathic characteristics
Psychopathic Characteristics
  • 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)

criminal activities
Criminal activities

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 abuse
Psychopathy, Recidivism, and Drug Abuse
  • 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 polysubstance abuse.
psychopathy and therapy
Psychopathy and Therapy
  • Psychopaths have self-inflated images and are generally happy with themselves.
  • 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 behavior.

“These programs are like a finishing school. They teach you how to put the squeeze on people”

snakes in skirts
Snakes in Skirts?
  • Female Psychopathy

- More rare than male psychopathy.

- Make up an estimated 15% of incarcerated female population.

  • Less violent than male psychopaths.
  • Lower rate of recidivism than male psychopaths.
successful psychopaths
“Successful” Psychopaths
  • Never indulge in serious criminal behavior (or never are caught).
  • Excel in business.
  • CEO’s, politicians, etc.
  • 1 in every 100 people in the U.S.
  • 2 in every 100 people in Britain
  • Mostly males
  • Make up an estimated 20% of the incarcerated male population
theories of psychopathy
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 causes…

measures of psychopathy
Measures of Psychopathy
  • The Golden Standard: The Psychopathy Check List (PCL-R) by Hare
  • Two factor structure of psychopathy: Personality and Behavior.
  • 20 item clinical interview, accompanied with review of criminal and health records.
  • Score of 30 or higher indicates psychopathy
a divide in the community
A divide in the community



Arrogant interpersonal style

Deficient affective experience

Impulsive behavioral style

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 following:

Failure to conform to social norms;


Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;

Irritability and aggressiveness;

Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;

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 and ours.