Wednesday, June 01, 2011

NPR had an interesting discussion recently with journalist Jon Ronson, the author of a new book The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry.

The book uses the work of Dr. Robert Hare who developed the PCL-R to determine if people are psychopaths. I attended training with Dr. Hare some years ago and one of the things the professionals there taught us in terms of using the PCL-R was to be very well trained and to avoid using it frivolously. It is also important to use more than one test and other methods (such as third party interviews) when determining if one is a psychopath. But that aside, the book looks interesting.



Blogger Dunkelzahn4prez said...

This is a very interesting subject, especially since there are personality disorders that have characteristics in common with psychopathy. Ultimately, what is it that separates a psychopath from people with, say, Cluster B-type personality disorders?

2:06 PM, June 01, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...


The DSM does not use the word psychopath. It uses an Axis II diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. From what I understand, Hare sees this as incomplete. From Wikipedia:

"Hare wants the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to list psychopathy as a unique disorder, saying psychopathy has no precise equivalent[2] in either the DSM-IV-TR, where it is most strongly correlated with the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, or the ICD-10, which has a partly similar condition called dissocial personality disorder. Both organizations view the terms as synonymous. But only a minority of what Hare and his followers would diagnose as psychopaths who are in institutions are violent offenders.[13][14]"

A psychopath according to Hare is different than someone who has Antisocial Personality. It is much more extreme, involves more aggressivenss and criminal activity, and lack of empathy. One interesting finding is that those with APD have a higher incidence of suicide. Those who are diagnosed as psychopaths, not so much. Others are the problem, not themselves.

2:20 PM, June 01, 2011  
Blogger Dunkelzahn4prez said...

My understanding is that lack of empathy is a characteristic of other disorders, so is it the aggression and criminality that mostly set psychopathy apart?

3:13 PM, June 01, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...


Lack of empathy can be part of antisocial personality, narcississtic personality etc. Antisocial behavior refers to a cluster of criminal and antisocial behaviors. Hare states that "Psychopathy is defined by a cluster of both personality traits and socially deviant behaviors." The checklist developed by Hare uses a more comprehensive system to evaluate these traits. So, someone might meet the criteria for APD but not be a psychopath. In fact, Hare says that most criminals in prison are not psychopaths and many individuals who manage to operate on the shady side of the law and remain out of prison are psychopaths.

3:53 PM, June 01, 2011  
Blogger Dunkelzahn4prez said...

Interesting. Sounds like I need to read the book!

4:11 PM, June 01, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

The spider's cobweb is not nearly so intricate as the myriad of compound screw ups of the human mind.

4:27 PM, June 01, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

A lot of antisocial types have more than a smattering of borderline characteristics. I think this is lacking in psychopaths. Psychopaths don't cry by and large, unless they are distracting someone while getting their weapon.


10:49 AM, June 02, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:55 PM, June 02, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny that I was in the middle of the book "Without Conscience" by Robert D. Hare Ph.D. when I saw this post.

He makes the point that a lot of the top people in sales, law enforcement, law, politics and other fields are either psychopaths or close to it. Psychopaths with intelligence tend to NOT be in prison, and they tend to be rich.

So - since I've learned from many on this Web site that the rich top dogs are the real people worthy of respect (as long as they don't get caught) - I'm wondering about some kind of lobotomy-type treatment that would remove my conscience but retain my knowledge of how not to step over the law line (or at least not to get caught).

Any suggestions? I know that there are psychologists here who are really keen on neurology and brain mappings ... are you ready to get out the hanger to go through my nose or the bottom of my eye socket? I'd really be grateful.

4:13 PM, June 02, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

I suggest you do it yourself, but even then, I am not sure it would work at all. Your prefrontal-orbital cortex is way in there, and collateral damage would be a certainty. Then there are all the pathways that have developed as a result of your already established empathy and empathic responses. You know, the way you offer people support and treat them the way you wish to be treated. Those behaviors, deeply ingrained by your constantly practicing them in your daily and online life, would hang around I suspect.

I think you are just stuck being the model of empathy, self-control, and kindness JG.

Make the best of it.


6:02 PM, June 02, 2011  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

A verbal test? Really? (and I hate to use "really" but it fits here)

Are we castaways, stuck on some primitive planet, without real scientists, who have access to brain scanner technology? It must be so, to rely on this voodoo junk. Sad.

7:39 PM, June 02, 2011  
Blogger Doom said...

Everybody is a psychopath, most simply haven't been fully formed. Well, that's my pet peeve and I'm sticking to it. :p

1:10 AM, June 03, 2011  
Blogger Dunkelzahn4prez said...

Doom said...
Everybody is a psychopath, most simply haven't been fully formed. Well, that's my pet peeve and I'm sticking to it. :p

Those pesky psychopaths really stick in your craw, don't they? ;-)

10:39 AM, June 03, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I found that the quotation below provides some insight into the abilities of psychologists to detect and diagnose. You have to think about it for a while.

Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. writes the following on pp. 112-113 of his book "Without Conscience":

"In a case that struck uncomfortably close to home, I was invited to speak about my research on psychopaths at a conference on crime in California, and was to receive an honorarium of five hundred dollars plus expenses. Six months after the conference, I had still not been paid, so I made inquiries and learned that the organizer had been arrested at a government meeting in Washington and charged with several counts of fraud, forgery, and theft. It turned out that he had a long criminal record, had been diagnosed by several psychiatrists as a "classic psychopath," and had forged the documents and letters of reference used to obtain his job. Needless to say, I was not the only speaker who had not been paid. To top things off, shortly after my talk he sent me a copy--complete with editorial comments--of an article on the diagnosis of psychopathy. Following his arrest, he was let out on bail and has since disappeared.

Ironically, I had spent quite a bit of time with this man, at a luncheon held just before my talk and later in a bar. I detected nothing unusual or suspicious about him; my antenna failed to twitch in his presence. would I have lent him money? Possibly. I do recall insisting that I pick up the bar tab. He wasn't wearing a bell around his neck!"

11:19 AM, June 03, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Looking at current events including Arnold S., Rep. Weiner, John Edwards, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, etc, the case for white collar psychopaths becomes strong.

JG - often I think we should assume everyone is a psychopath until they prove otherwise. Maybe that was Dr. Hare's mistake.

12:18 PM, June 03, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something else I've noticed is that society is seemingly blind to some areas of psychopathy.

Here's an example: Men who are "sweetheart swindlers" are often described as psychopaths. They lie, cheat and steal their way into an old biddy's heart and then separate her from her money with the skill of a master butcher. They have no remorse about it.

But then I see women who do that to men. They only stop bleeding him for money when he wakes up or when the money is effectively gone. Or if he has already married her, the legal system does it for her. These women also have no remorse about it.

But society views them differently. Also, in my own real life, I have never seen a sweetheart swindler man (I know they exist, but I have never personally seen one). The worst I saw is a guy who lost his job and had his wife pay the bills for an extended period.

But I HAVE seen women use men for money with absolutely no remorse, shame or guilt whatsoever. I've seen it more than once.

And there is a great deal of positive emotion for these women in society. There is none for men who do that sort of thing to women.

Frankly, it could well be that a good chunk of women (the kind I described) are psychopaths that are just never going to be viewed as such.

1:08 PM, June 03, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

JG - My experience and observations mirrors yours in the sweetheart swindlers area. The women are usually called gold diggers. I've met many but never a male sweetheart swindler.

11:14 PM, June 03, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, think about things like "It's a woman's right to change her mind" (maybe add: no matter who it hurts or how hard).

There are lots of phrases like that in English with regard to women. If someone said that about a man, it would start sounding like a psychopath.

5:32 PM, June 04, 2011  

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