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
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
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
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
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
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.