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

Nebraska archives

The Old West’s Ted Bundy

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on January 18, 2018 in Shadow Boxing
An Old West serial killer had charm and a smooth-talking manner 100 years before Bundy.

Are You Facebook Friends With a Psychopath? How to Tell

Worried about Facebook friending a psychopath? When it comes to spotting dark personalities on Facebook, research reveals red flags.

Sexual Misconduct: What Is the Effect of the Environment?

Needed to deter criminal conduct in the workplace: more oversight and imposing of consequences.

Can You Tell a Psychopath from a Sociopath?

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on January 09, 2018 in Wicked Deeds
In addition to their many commonalities, sociopaths and psychopaths have their own unique, distinctive behavioral characteristics and origins.

How to Spot a Psychopath: Three Traits You Should Look For

By Melissa Burkley Ph.D. on January 08, 2018 in The Social Thinker
Research on the "Dark Triad" suggests that psychopaths exhibit three distinct traits.
Yuriy Zhuravov/Shutterstock

How to Distinguish a Sociopath from a Narcissist

Sociopaths and narcissists can share similar traits, but knowing the difference is crucial to determine whether the relationship improve? Information is power.

Do Psychopaths Crave Dark Chocolate? Bittersweet New Study

Afraid your new love interest is whispering bittersweet nothings? Study reveals a preference for bitter foods might reveal a toxic personality.

Is the Perfectionism Plague Taking a Psychological Toll?

By Christopher Bergland on January 03, 2018 in The Athlete's Way
Every generation of young adults from 1989 to 2016 has felt increased pressure to be perfect, according to a new study.

Beyond Looking: When Voyeurism Leads to Criminal Behavior

Voyeuristic tendencies range from the mild to the malevolent. And although such behavior itself is unsettling, some voyeuristic individuals do more than just look.

The Top 5 Ways the Psychopathic Will Try to Manipulate You

It’s all too easy to be taken in by a person high in psychopathy. New research from an impression management perspective shows the 5 ways they’ll do this.
K. Ramsland

Notable Crimes of 2017

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on December 29, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Looking back on some of the most shocking crimes of 2017.

Narcissist or Psychopath—How Can You Tell?

By Joe Navarro M.A. on December 28, 2017 in Spycatcher
We hear the terms all the time, but what is the difference?
M. Farrell

The Subtle Art of Poisoning

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on December 22, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
The who, what, how, and why of poisoning explained for those who must investigate these killers and bring them to trial.

Talking About Death May Prevent End-Of-Life Suffering

By Robert T Muller Ph.D. on December 21, 2017 in Talking About Trauma
Movements like the Death Café can help to ensure patient needs are met.

What Makes a Hero? And What Makes a Psychopath?

Are heroes and psychopaths cut from the same cloth? It depends on how important fearlessness is for understanding psychopathy.
Wikimedia Commons

Are Heroes and Psychopaths Cut From the Same Cloth?

Do evil psychopaths and valiant heroes share a common core? The issue is complicated, but hard-core psychopaths are highly unlikely to be motivated to become heroes.
K. Ramsland

Women Aroused by Murder

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on December 12, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Some female serial killers defy notions in criminology and sexology that women develop sexual addictions.

The Greatest Lesson of Love—Taught By Donald Trump

By Ken Page L.C.S.W. on December 12, 2017 in Finding Love
This is the most urgent lesson of love: Stay away from toxic relationships. When we ignore that lesson, we marry misery. Which is precisely what is happening in our country.

Why We Kill, According to Motivational Science

By Bobby Hoffman Ph.D. on December 07, 2017 in Motivate!
Do you think your basic psychological needs are different from those of a killer?

Another Kind of Game Changer

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on December 05, 2017 in Ambigamy
Gaslighting suggests a third meaning of the term game changer.

Psychopathy and the Dark Side of Facebook Comments

It’s painful to be the target of a Facebook troll. New research shows that it’s the psychopathic who are more likely to engage in this dark side of social media.

Criminal Profiling: The Original Mind Hunters

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on December 04, 2017 in Wicked Deeds
Practitioners of profiling analyzing evidence gathered at a crime scene and statements provided by victims and witnesses in order to develop a description of an unknown offender.

Vengefulness Is Driven by One Dominant Personality Trait

By Christopher Bergland on December 02, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
A new study identifies the personality correlates of people who are prone to seeking revenge.
K. Ramsland

Day Pass for a Psychopath?

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
Trusting a known killer with a preference for children to be on his own might be a mistake.

Charles Manson: The Cult of Personality Surrounding a Killer

Researchers propose that murderers can be idolized and found attractive precisely because of their homicidal behavior.

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.