Sociology Index E-Books

PSYCHOPATH

Although there is considerable debate about whether ‘psychopath’ is an authentic psychiatric disorder, psychopath is typically classified under ‘personality disorder’. Psychopaths tend to be lacking in what is considered conscience, are unable to form emotional attachments, neither to friends nor family, are quite impulsive, and are only self-interested.

There is also considerable debate about whether psychopaths can be changed. Leading conceptions of psychopathy originated from a clinical perspective, which assumed abnormality and sought to explain it. This perspective has led to three related potential explanations of psychopathy: the sociological (i.e. the psychopath as nonconformist); the physiological (i.e. the psychopath as characterized by a deficiency in the behavioral inhibition system); and the developmental (i.e. the psychopath as a product of poor early socialization).

An alternative approach to psychopathy is suggested, which begins with the assumption that psychopathy is not a mental disorder, but rather reflects a philosophy of life centering around the trivialization of others. It is further suggested that such a philosophy of life may be far more pervasive than is generally recognized. - Rethinking Psychopathy, Michael R. Levenson, University Of California.

The Modern Degenerate - Nineteenth-century Degeneration Theory and Modern Psychopathy Research, Jarkko Jalava, Simon Fraser University 
This paper illustrates the tendency of intuitively appealing psychological theories to survive through mutation their official discreditation. This is done by way of a case study, involving the theoretical continuum between the late 19th-and early 20th-century sociological/ biological/psychological/literary theory of degeneration (illustrated by, for example, Lombroso's theory of the born-criminal type) and modern psychopathy research and theory. It will be argued that although the theory of degeneration became obsolete by the end of World War II, its basic tenets have survived into mainstream scientific work regarding what is known as the psychopath.

A Cognitive Developmental Approach to Morality: Investigating the Psychopath. - Blair, R. J. R. Examined the efficacy of a causal model suggesting that lack of a violence inhibitor when confronted with distress cues may explain psychopathic behavior. Compared to control subjects, the psychopaths made no moral/conventional distinction about transgressions, treated conventional transgressions like moral transgressions, and were much less likely to justify their responses with reference to the victim's welfare, thus supporting the model.

Personality Correlates of Machiavellianism: VI. Machiavellianism and the Psychopath. - Skinner, Nicholas F. 
Previous studies have not demonstrated hypothesized link between Machiavellianism (interpersonally manipulative behavior) and psychopathy. Results from two studies using college student samples revealed that High Machs obtained significantly higher Psychopathy scores than did Low Machs, and Mach V totals for Primary Psychopaths were significantly greater than those of Secondary Psychopaths. Both experiments suggest relationship between Machiavellianism and primary psychopathy.

Psychopathy and Responsibility, Walter Glannon 
Some philosophers have argued that the psychopath serves as the ultimate test of the limits of moral responsibility. They hold that the psychopath lacks a deep knowledge of right and wrong, and that Kant's ethics arguably offers the most plausible account of this moral knowledge. On this view, the psychopath's lack of moral understanding is due to a cognitive failure involving practical reason. I argue that the deep knowledge of right and wrong consists of emotional and volitional components in addition to a cognitive one. Hence it is mistaken to claim that the psychopath's moral deficiency is due solely to a cognitive failure, or that his lack of the deep knowledge of right and wrong can be explained entirely in terms of a defect of practical reason. I refer to empirical research to show that the Kantian model of practical reason does not provide a satisfactory account of responsibility of the psychopath in particular or of moral agents in general. On the basis of both philosophical and empirical considerations, I argue that the psychopath is at least partly responsible for his behaviour.

Benn, Piers "Freedom, Resentment, and the Psychopath"
Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology - Volume 6, Number 1, March 1999, pp. 29-39 
The Johns Hopkins University Press
Excerpt: Abstract: This paper discusses the moral responsibility of psychopaths for their anti-social actions. Starting from P. F. Strawson's discussion of our participant reactive attitudes, which stresses their indispensability for meaningful human relations, the paper contrasts a variety of "normal" wrongdoers with psychopaths. It suggests that the latter are often seriously deficient in their capacity to entertain these attitudes, and that their resulting lack of proper self-evaluation may explain both their callousness and their imprudence. It is then argued that only creatures able to entertain participant reactive attitudes can be proper objects of those attitudes, since these reactions have a communicative core whose expression has a point only in a shared moral world. For this reason, if psychopaths are incapable of moral understanding, they may not be proper targets of anger and resentment. This, however, may have an illiberal implication, in possibly excluding psychopaths from possessing certain rights.

Lynam, D.R. (1997). Pursuing the psychopath: Capturing the fledgling psychopath in a nomological net. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106, 425-438.
Abstract: The present article reports on an attempt to import the concept of psychopathy at the childhood level. Childhood psychopathy was assessed in 430 boys ages 12 and 13 years by using caretaker reports on a translation of an adult psychopathy assessment instrument. A systematic construct validation approach revealed that childhood psychopathy fits into the nomological network surrounding adult psychopathy. Children with psychopathic personalities, like their adult counterparts, were serious and stable offenders, impulsive, and more prone to externalizing than internalizing disorders. Childhood psychopathy also provided incremental validity in predicting serious stable antisocial behavior in adolescence over and above other known predictors and one other classification approach. These results suggest that psychopathy has a childhood manifestation that can be measured reliably. Implications and future directions are outlined.

Perfect Master or Perfect Psychopath, Erica Toren
Abstract: The author describes how she got involved with a cultic group, the exit counseling intervention her parents had arranged, her anger at her parents and husband for arranging the deprogramming, and her eventual opening up to the messages they had been trying to impart to her. She also comments on aspects of her recovery after breaking with her group.

THE PSYCHOPATH - The Mask of Sanity
Special Research Project of the Quantum Future Group
Imagine - if you can - not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. 
And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools. 
Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. 

Identity diffusion presenting as multiple personality disorder in a female psychopath
W Bruce-Jones and J Coid, Interim Secure Unit, Hackney Hospital, London. 
A female psychopath presented multiple forms of psychopathology, including features of 'multiple personality disorder'. It is proposed that a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, or the psychodynamic features of borderline personality organisation, should be the exclusion criteria for this condition.

The Psychopath: Emotion and the Brain - James Blair, Derek Mitchell and Karina Blair - Blackwell Publishing, UK, 216pp., 15.99 - ISBN: 0-631-23336-9 (pbk).

The Inner Landscape of the Psychopath
by Hervey Cleckley, "Mask of Sanity", 5th edition
Narcissism is considered a less severe form of psychopathy.
The surface of the psychopath, however, that is, all of him that can be reached by verbal exploration and direct examination, shows up as equal to or better than normal and gives no hint at all of a disorder within. Nothing about him suggests oddness, inadequacy, or moral frailty. His mask is that of robust mental health. Yet he has a disorder that often manifests itself in conduct far more seriously abnormal than that of the schizophrenic. Inwardly, too, there appears to be a significant difference. Deep in the masked schizophrenic we often sense a cold, weird indifference to many of life's most urgent issues and sometimes also bizarre, inexplicable, and unpredictable but intense emotional reactions to what seems almost irrelevant. Behind the exquisitely deceptive mask of the psychopath the emotional alteration we feel appears to be primarily one of degree, a consistent leveling of response to petty ranges and an incapacity to react with sufficient seriousness to achieve much more than pseudoexperience or quasi-experience.