What Is Psychopathy?

Psychopathy is among the most difficult disorders to spot. The psychopath can appear normal, even charming. Underneath, he lacks conscience and empathy, making him manipulative, volatile and often (but by no means always) criminal. She is an object of popular fascination and clinical anguish: adult psychopathy is largely impervious to treatment, though programs are in place to treat callous, unemotional youth in hopes of preventing them from maturing into psychopaths.

Psychopathy is a spectrum disorder and can be diagnosed only using the 20-item Hare Psychopathy Checklist. (The bar for clinical psychopathy is a score of 30 or more). Brain anatomy, genetics, and a person’s environment may all contribute to the development of psychopathic traits.

The terms “psychopath” and “sociopath” are often used interchangeably, but in correct parlance a “sociopath” refers to a person with antisocial tendencies that are ascribed to social or environmental factors, whereas psychopathic traits are more innate, though a chaotic or violent upbringing may tip the scales for those already predisposed to behave psychopathically. Both constructs are most closely represented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Recent posts on Psychopathy

Confused About Successful Jerks? Get to Know the Dark Triad

By Noam Shpancer Ph.D. on August 18, 2017 in Insight Therapy
Most of us don’t wish success on selfish, nasty, and dishonest people, and yet many such people are successful. How come?

The Psychopathology of Shakespeare’s Most Evil Villains

And thus I clothe my naked villainy / With odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ, / And seem a saint when most I play the devil. — Richard III

Beware: On a First Date, Red Flags Can Look Red Hot

Beware dangerous liaisons. On a first date, exciting, assertive people perceived as desirable might be dangerous. Get to know prospective partners before getting involved.

Personality and Potential Nuclear Confrontation

By Ian H. Robertson Ph.D. on August 12, 2017 in The Stress Test
The possible catastrophe of nuclear war rests on the psychology of just two men
K. Ramsland

Serial Killers Linked to Jack the Ripper

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on August 10, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Jack the Ripper is in the news, identified as "Devil in the White City" serial killer, H. H. Holmes. But Red Jack has been linked to other serial killers as well.

Barriers Prevent Soldiers From Seeking Psychological Help

Soldiers might face consequences for speaking up about mental health challenges.

How to Deal With a Workplace Psychopath

Science has identified what it means to be a 'successful psychopath.' Here's how to stay mentally strong when you have to deal with a psychopath in the workplace.
K. Ramsland

Games Killers Play

A recent news report about coded letters from serial killer Ian Brady raises hope, but it might be just part of the games these offenders like to play.

CEOsiopaths, the Fanatic Formula, and Why We’re in This Mess

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on July 21, 2017 in Ambigamy
Are we playing or replacing the game? In politics, that's a hard distinction to keep straight. The Fanatic Formula and CEOsiopathy help explain why.

Why They Let O.J. Out

By Stanton Peele on July 21, 2017 in Addiction in Society
O.J. Simpson will be released from prison after a parole hearing for his armed robbery conviction. But his self-image and demeanor are identical to when he was tried for murder.
K. Ramsland

Women Who Run With Killers

Some women discover only later that they once dated a serial killer, and that they were lucky to survive.

Toxicity as a Stealth Teacher

By Kaja Perina on June 22, 2017 in Brainstorm
Nothing absolves bad actors, but shifting your focus from reactive to proactive and intentional allows you to master your own mind, which is all that you can ever control.

Interviewing a Criminal: Who Is Interviewing Whom?

Criminals case others out for their own purposes in all sorts of situations.

Psychologists Hold the Future of Democracy in Their Hands

By Guest Blogger on June 12, 2017 in The Guest Room
It's up to psychologists to explain how leaders with a disordered personality pose a threat to society.

"Little Brain" Plays Surprisingly Big Role in Mental Health

First-of-its-kind research has discovered that the cerebellum (Latin for "little brain") plays a significant—and previously unrecognized—role in a wide range of mental disorders.
Laura Pettler Associates

Hometown Killer

A new webcast on a serial killer trucker offers a unique case for lovers of true crime.
goodluz/Shutterstock

9 Signs That You’re Dealing With a Psychopath

By William Hirstein Ph.D. on June 08, 2017 in Mindmelding
The neuroscience of psychopathy has made great strides in the past fifteen years in understanding how their brains differ from those of normal people.

Why Psychopaths Don't Care If They Hurt You

Proving why you can't rely on those high in psychopathy, new research shows the emotional deficits that make them so likely to choose to harm rather than help their fellow humans.

Excessive Tattooing on Film

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on May 25, 2017 in In Excess
Excessive tattooing has been central to many storylines featured in films. This article takes a brief look at the psychological themes of the tattoo obsessives in some of the films

Performance vs. Ability in Psychology Research

Unwarranted assumptions invalidate research on personality disorders
used with permission from iclipart.com

Munchausen by Proxy or Con Artist Mom?

The tragic story of Gypsy and Dee Blanchare is set to air as an HBO documentary on May 15. Here's a look at the law and psychology behind a case of medical child abuse and murder.
K. Ramsland

H. H. Holmes: Exhumations and Expectations

As we await the results of the high-profile exhumation of H. H. Holmes, we might not want this mystery solved.

Ignored

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on May 01, 2017 in How To Do Life
A short short story
K. Ramsland

Backwoods Predators

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on April 30, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Terror in the deep, dark woods is not just a movie script; predators look for relaxed arenas where people tend to trust strangers.

Research Shows What Makes Trolls Tick on Mobile Dating Apps

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on April 25, 2017 in ExperiMentations
Internet trolls are everywhere. What draws them to dating apps and how can you deal with them?
K. Ramsland

Killer's Remorse

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on April 15, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
A recent interview with Steven Dean Gordon raises the issue of whether a serial killer can feel genuine remorse.
K. Ramsland

The G-Man and the Serial Killer

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on March 25, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Writer who set out to learn the identity of Eliot Ness's secret suspect for Cleveland's Mad Butcher fictionalizes the tale.

Explanation or Excuses for Stealing?

The criminal evaluates his evaluator.

Donald Trump and Addictive Behaviors

By Stanton Peele on March 22, 2017 in Addiction in Society
When the addiction cycle characterizes dysfunctional human behavior.

Why Donald J. Trump is Unfit to be President

By Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D. on March 10, 2017 in Me Before We
Donald J. Trump's distorted thinking and impulsive behavior, combined with his fixation on his own importance, directly imperils our safety as citizens of the United States.