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

Are Dogs Insanely Friendly Because of Their Genetics?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on November 16, 2017 in Canine Corner
A genetic abnormality which causes extreme friendliness in people also causes the friendliness we observe in dogs.

Are Psychopathy and Heroism Two Sides of the Same Coin?

By Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on November 16, 2017 in Media Spotlight
A new research study looking at first responders suggests that heroes and psychopaths have more in common than you might think.
K. Ramsland

Strange Motives for Serial Murder

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on November 09, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Despite stereotypes and overdone plotlines, we still see some unique angles in the motives of some serial killers.

The Eight Basic Qualities in All Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are complex and some believe they defy classification. A recent study shows eight interpersonal qualities that can provide new understanding.

Machiavellians: Self-Made or Born that Way?

Are master manipulators genetically programmed that way, or do they become Machiavellians over time?
R. Kruse

Cabin 28, and Other Rural Crimes

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on October 31, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
In time for October's end, a team of writers take on the disturbing crimes that happened in isolated places.

It Takes a Psychopath to Like Another Psychopath

As much as people are fascinated with the concept of psychopathy, the attraction is tinged with stigma. A recent study shows those who like psychopaths may share their traits.
J. Borowski

What Dahmer Actually Said

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on October 27, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Filmmaker John Borowski provides the entire arrest report for Jeffrey Dahmer, including his full confession.

5 Signs Your Coworker Is a Psychopath

By Kevin Bennett on October 26, 2017 in Modern Minds
How many psychopaths are reading this next to you right now? Rates are very high in prison, but if you work in an office you may see one or more of these signs in a co-worker.

Police Need Training to Deal With Mentally Ill Offenders

Police training can benefit both police and individuals with mental illness.

Our Curious Fascination With Serial Killers

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on October 23, 2017 in Wicked Deeds
Serial killers are larger-than-life popular culture celebrities due to the efforts of law enforcement authorities and the media which feed the public’s appetite for the macabre.
Al Carlisle

The Psychologist and the Serial Killer

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on October 23, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Former prison psychologist offers the raw data of his interviews with Ted Bundy and his associates before he was known to be a serial killer.

A Political Prescription for Donald Trump's Brain

By Hara Estroff Marano on October 18, 2017 in Brainstorm
Mental health experts go beyond warning of the dangers of Donald Trump's presidency to take political action.

Shadows of the Dark Triad

Perpetrators of mass violence aren't always apparent in the form of a readily identifiable monster. They often appear as the garden variety people who live among us.

On the Las Vegas Mass Killing and Motives

By Joe Navarro M.A. on October 08, 2017 in Spycatcher
After every horrific event we look for motives. Sometimes what we should be looking for are pathologies.

Senseless Killing and the Need to Know Why

By Carrie Barron M.D. on October 04, 2017 in The Creativity Cure
Thoughts and research regarding the motivation for cruel, senseless crimes.
Jack Pemment

Why Do We Like Psychopaths?

By Jack Pemment MA, MS on October 03, 2017 in Blame the Amygdala
Given the predilection for antisocial behavior, why do we find psychopaths so appealing?

The Neuroscience of Contagious Laughter

By Christopher Bergland on September 29, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
For the first time, neuroscientists have identified why laughter is contagious.

Can Vaccinations Cause Autism in Dogs?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on September 26, 2017 in Canine Corner
People who choose not to vaccinate their dogs for rabies don't recognize the risk that they are exposing their pets to.
K. Ramsland

I Wanna Be a Serial Killer #3

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on September 24, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Some people believe that if they follow the example of an infamous serial killer, their aspirations guarantee success.

Why Is There Evil?

By Paul Thagard Ph.D. on September 21, 2017 in Hot Thought
People’s brains are equipped for caring and empathy, so why do people often hurt each other? Evil is like disease, resulting from malfunctions in mechanisms.

Schizophrenia in a Vial? The Story of Ketamine

A back-of-the-shelf anesthetic induces all the symptoms of schizophrenia—but only in adults. What does this reveal about brain development and the nature of schizophrenia?

A Profile of North Korea’s “Dear Respected Comrade Leader"

The Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics has developed a personality and leadership profile of Kim Jong Un.

It's Harder to Spot a Psychopath Than You Might Think

The most widely used test to diagnose a psychopath comes under scrutiny in a new analysis of how well psychologists can agree in rating real clinical cases.

The Butthead Formula

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on September 06, 2017 in Ambigamy
To reduce conflict while curbing bad behavior, we really need a more objective definition of bad behavior. Here's an attempt at a neutral, objective definition of buttheadedness.

Can Dogs Detect Ghosts, Spirits, or Hallucinations?

Whether dogs can sense the presence of ghosts or spirits is ambiguous; however, they can be trained to alert to their owner's hallucinations.

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.