What is Psychopathy?

Psychopathy is among the most difficult disorders to spot. The psychopath can appear normal, even charming. Underneath, they lack conscience and empathy, making them manipulative, volatile and often (but by no means always) criminal. They are an object of popular fascination and clinical anguish: psychopathy is largely impervious to treatment.

It is important to note that the vast majority of people with antisocial tendencies are not psychopaths.

Recent Posts on Psychopathy

50 Shades of Black

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on March 25, 2015 in Shadow Boxing
Serial killer John Robinson's recent appeal casts a spotlight on his deviant ruses for luring his victims.

Does Creativity have its Dark Side?

We are used to thinking of creativity as an entirely positive attribute. However, new research on malevolent creativity suggests that the truly creative may put their novel thinking to dangerous uses under the right circumstances.

Cold Hearts or Broken Brains?

I remember the very first feeling I had, was my heart pounding. I mean really pounding. The second feeling I had was that my hands were sweating. And the third feeling was fear, and the kind of reality set in that there was a murderer in front of me.

Want to Feel Good, Live Better, and Probably Live Longer?

The other night I watched with great interest a PBS special on heart health. The focus of the show was on Dr. Steven Masley’s book titled "The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up," to be released in paperback next month.

Reservoir Dogs

By Jay Richards Ph.D. on March 16, 2015 in The Violent Mind
Why Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs paints the perfect portrait of the spectrum of psychopathic personalities.

Close Encounters with Criminal Minds

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on March 15, 2015 in Shadow Boxing
During the late 19th century a pathologist-turned-criminologist founded the technique of criminal autobiographies; from within the stories came deep truths.

What is a Psychological Disorder?

Psychologists define a psychological disorder broadly as psychological dysfunction in an individual that is associated with distress or impairment and a reaction that is not culturally expected.

Myths and Misconceptions in Psychology

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on March 12, 2015 in A Sideways View
In their wonderful book Lilienfeld and colleagues list 250 myths and misconceptions from the world of psychology. In a study we tested to what extent ordinary people thought them to be true. The results are surprising.

10 Ways to Spot an 'Everyday' Sadist

When we think of sadism, it’s often the “50 Shades of Grey” variety. However, sadism doesn’t just live in the bedroom. This 10-item quiz will help you find out who secretly harbors an unnatural desire to harm.

The Attraction of Terrorism

By Arthur Dobrin D.S.W. on March 01, 2015 in Am I Right?
Young people want challenges; they need challenges; they yearn to discover their own strengths; they want to be part of something larger and more meaningful than their individual selves.

Is Good Psychotherapy Worth the Investment?

By Judith Coche Ph.D., ABPP on February 26, 2015 in No Ordinary Life
Nick, age 55, gets unstuck when he and wife Barbara join together to invest in their own depth therapy to deal with how to feel passion, be more cognitively flexible, and create a happier marriage. They are glad they did.

There Is a New Paradigm for Psychiatry

The hope for a molecular-biochemical explanation for psychiatry is false. It is believed we are on the verge of proving that psychiatry is a brain disease, no different from cancer or diabetes. But there is a paradigm that fully illuminates psychiatry - the ‘Play of consciousness, which is consonant with biology, neuroscience, and evolutution.

Attachment Styles Can't Change, Can They?

John Bowlby, the founding father of attachment theory, argued that the attachment style formed in early childhood often continues to shape a person’s behavior far into adulthood, permeating all future liasons. The attachment style of adults, however, need not completely reflect the child’s early interactions with a caregiver. Sometimes it undergoes a radical shift.

How Big are Psychological Sex Differences?

By David P Schmitt Ph.D. on February 08, 2015 in Sexual Personalities
Are Men and Women Psychologically Different?

Psychopathy and Mass Movements

By Joe Navarro M.A. on February 04, 2015 in Spycatcher
The predators that join mass movements and terrorist organizations

School Shooters: There Is No Sound Bite

By Peter Langman Ph.D. on January 31, 2015 in Keeping Kids Safe
My new book summarizes research on forty-eight school shooters, going beyond sound bites to a more in-depth analysis of the lives and minds of the perpetrators.

Are Selfies a Sign of Narcissism and Psychopathy?

By Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D. on January 08, 2015 in Close Encounters
There has been a lot of talk about selfies in the media. But psychologists know surprisingly little about the effects of selfies or about the people who post them. A new study examines the relationship between selfie-posting, photo-editing and personality. Are people who post selfies narcissistic and psychopathic, or self-objectifying, or both?

Is Homoeconomicus a Psychopath?

By Peter A. Ubel on January 06, 2015 in Scientocracy
Now we have a better sense not only of how poorly the neoclassical economic view of human nature characterizes most humans, but also of how poorly behaved the people are who act according to this caricature.

A Tale of Three Psychopaths: A Decade Later

By Jean Kim M.D. on December 30, 2014 in Culture Shrink
Three films in 2005, Lord of War, Match Point, and Capote came out within months of each other and were character studies of American-style sociopathy, the blind hunger to conquer and the emptiness within. They were eerily prescient of the tone of the decade to follow, economic crashes, social media wars, and more.

Myth Busting the Not Criminally Responsible Defense

By Robert T Muller Ph.D. on December 26, 2014 in Talking About Trauma
Psychiatrist Robert Dickey helps the Trauma & Mental Health Report gain a better understanding of NCR and bust some of the myths surrounding the defense.

The Four “Dark Personality” Traits

Psychopaths, narcissists, and sadists, oh my! Personality psychologist Del Paulhus has bucked the positive psychology trend, with a series of rigorous studies delving into the "Dark Side" of human personality. He has shown that four dark traits have distinct but often unexpected consequences in the workplace and in relationships.

My "Addiction" To Fiction

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on December 15, 2014 in In Excess
Why am I – and millions of others worldwide – so fascinated, and – for want of a better word – ‘hooked’ on Hannibal' the Cannibal' Lecter’s fictional exploits? There are dozens of academic papers written from many perspectives including psychology, psychiatry, and criminology. One of the scariest things about Lecter is that he’s the composite of real serial killers.

What My 10 Most Popular Posts Say About You

By Stephen A Diamond Ph.D. on October 24, 2014 in Evil Deeds
I thought it might be interesting to take a retrospective look at my top ten all time most popular posts since starting to write for Psychology Today six years ago, and what, if anything, the survey might tell us--at least about my particular readership, if not most readers of PT blogs.

The Strengths of the Gone Girl Psychopath

By Ryan M. Niemiec Psy.D. on October 14, 2014 in What Matters Most?
Delving into the dark side of character by examining character strengths misuse among the psychopathic character of Amy Dunne in Gone Girl.

Why He Hits: The Psychology of an Abuser

By Jean Kim M.D. on October 08, 2014 in Culture Shrink
In the aftermath of the Ray Rice scandal, many focused on the motivations of abuse victims, but what can we understand about the dark motivations of a violent abuser? Can we use this knowledge to help stop domestic violence?

How to Deal With Someone Who's Always Looking for a Crisis

People who are continually in crisis mode not only lead unhealthy lives but also create havoc for those who know or work with them. Psychology has some answers to help understand what’s behind it all and how to help them live calmer, more even-keeled and ultimately happier lives.

Sex, Sexuality and the Psychopath/Sociopath: An Introduction

By Seth Meyers Psy.D. on October 07, 2014 in Insight Is 20/20
Psychopaths have sex, but the way they do it serves a higher purpose. The local bar is often a place where psychopaths find it easiest to ensnare their next prey.

Is S/he a Narcissist, Machiavellian, or Just Self-Centered?

Let’s face it. Many people are out for themselves – trying to get ahead, to take advantage, and to get as much as they can. When does looking out for Number One go too far?

What Do Heroes and Psychopaths Have in Common?

Recent research looks at whether heroes and psychopaths are "twigs from the same branch." People who have performed heroic actions to help others often have a history of antisocial behavior as well. There may be loose connections between heroism and having "psychopathic" qualities, but the reasons for this remain unclear.

Are We Born Good (or Evil)?

Why would a human being behave in an altruistic manner, especially to risk his or her life and/or endure pain for someone they don’t even know?