Friday, December 9, 2011

Psychopathy, Definitions

Psychopathy (/sˈkɒpəθi/[1][2]) is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime. Though lacking empathy and emotional depth, they often manage to pass themselves off as average individuals by feigning emotions and lying about their past.


The prototypical psychopath has deficits or deviance in several areas: interpersonal relationships, emotion, and behavior.[3] Psychopaths gain satisfaction through antisocial behavior, and do not experience shame, guilt, or remorse for their actions.[22][23][24] Psychopaths lack a sense of guilt or remorse for any harm they may have caused others, instead rationalizing the behavior, blaming someone else, or denying it outright.[25][26] Psychopaths also lack empathy towards others in general, resulting in tactlessness, insensitivity, and contemptuousness. Psychopaths can have a superficial charm about them, enabled by a willingness to say anything to anyone without concern for accuracy or truth. Shallow affect also describes the psychopath's tendency for genuine emotion to be short-lived, glib and egocentric, with an overall cold demeanor. They tend to be impulsive and irresponsible, often failing to keep a job or defaulting on debts.[26] Studies in 2010 at Vanderbilt University revealed that psychopaths seek rewards regardless of consequences or risk, characterised by high impulsivity.[27]
Hare, whose Hare Psychopathy Checklist is widely used, describes psychopaths as "intraspecies predators".[28] R.I. Simon also uses the word predator to describe psychopaths.[29] Elsewhere Hare and others write that psychopaths "use charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexual intercourse and violence"[30][31][32][verification needed] to control others and to satisfy their own needs. Hare states that: "Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse".[33] He previously stated that: "What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony".[34]
According to Hare, many psychopaths are superficially charming, and can excellently mimic normal human emotion;[10] some psychopaths can blend in, undetected, in a variety of surroundings, including corporate environments.[35]

Lack of empathy

Psychopaths possess a general lack of empathy; they are simply unable to understand the emotional states of other people, except in a purely detached, intellectual sense.[36] When an empathetic person sees someone else in pain or distress, he instinctively feels distress as well, but a psychopath never does. Thus, psychopaths can commit acts of stunning cruelty and callousness because they are not deterred by any unpleasant reaction to their victims' suffering. A violent psychopath can mutilate a person with all the emotion of a chef carving up a turkey. A psychopathic con man can swindle his parents out of their life savings and not give a second thought to the ruin he has left them in. Because the experiences of others provoke no emotion in psychopaths, they regard others as little more than objects for their personal gratification.

Shallow emotions

Psychopaths do not feel emotions as deeply as an average person. Though they are not completely unemotional, their emotions are so shallow that some clinicians have described them as mere "proto-emotions: primitive responses to immediate needs."[37]

Lying and manipulation

Psychopaths are incorrigible and consummate liars. They frequently and readily lie to get what they want, to impress people, or to simply appear normal, and they do so with such skill that even experienced interrogators are sometimes fooled. This talent lies in a confident presentation that never betrays signs of anxiety, hesitation, or shame, even when they're confronted with contradictory evidence or inconvenient questions. ... Average people typically feel anxiety when they lie, hesitating with their words especially when confronted. When a psychopath lies, however, they are completely indifferent to the possibility of being caught in a lie. When they're caught in a lie, they are rarely perplexed or embarrassed. Without hesitating, they will simply rework the tale so that it appears consistent. Some psychopaths also possess great charm and a great ability to manipulate others. They have fewer social inhibitions, are extroverted,[45] dominant, and confident. They are not afraid of causing offense, being rejected, or being put down. When these things do happen, they tend to dismiss them and are not discouraged from trying again. Thus, psychopaths practice manipulation harder than most people and tend to become very good at it.

Impulsivity, irresponsibility

Psychopaths are impulsive by nature. They do not deeply recognize the risk of being caught, disbelieved or injured as a result of their behavior.[50] ... Psychopaths often fail to learn from past experiences and do not modify their behavior to avoid trouble. They often pursue the same old bad habits despite having suffered retribution and humiliation numerous times. Punishment and rehabilitation have no positive effect on them, and their condition is considered untreatable.[54] The rate of recidivism among psychopaths is roughly double that of normal criminals, with the rate for violent recidivism being roughly three times higher than normal.[55]


Psychopaths have a total lack of remorse for the abuses they commit. They generally know the difference between right and wrong, but they do not care. Even when they are aware of the consequences of their actions, they frequently rationalize their behavior so as to minimize the seriousness or shrug off responsibility. They often blame their victims for their own crimes; "he shouldn't have provoked me" and "suckers deserve to be swindled" are common sayings.

Egocentricity and grandiosity

Psychopaths have extremely inflated self-esteem. Their egocentricity is comparable to that of narcissists, and indeed it is occasionally hard to distinguish the two conditions from each other.[58] They think they are the center of the universe and see themselves as superior beings. They often appear arrogant, opinionated, domineering, and cocky. A psychopath always thinks he is the smartest person in the room and has no respect for the differing opinions of others. Psychopaths have an exaggerated sense of entitlement. They expect large rewards for mediocre efforts, apply for important jobs despite lacking qualifications, demand authority and privileges above their rank, and are ungrateful. It is not uncommon for psychopaths to describe their victims as weak, inferior beings who deserve to be taken advantage of.[59]

The two factors

Factor 1: Personality "Aggressive narcissism"
Factor 2: Case history "Socially deviant lifestyle".
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behavior problems
  • Revocation of conditional release
Traits not correlated with either factor
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Criminal versatility
  • Acquired behavioural sociopathy/sociological conditioning (Item 21: a newly identified trait i.e. a person relying on sociological strategies and tricks to deceive)