After reading the chapter, students should be able to:
Present a special type of offender (the criminal psychopath) who is different emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally from other offenders.
Describe the various measures of psychopathy.
Explain the neurobiological aspects of psychopathy.
Discuss the evidence for juvenile psychopathy.
Identify the ethical dilemmas that juvenile psychopathy presents.
The primary psychopath, a clinical designation attributed to psychologist Robert Hare, demonstrates a variety of behavioral and neurophysiological characteristics that differentiates him or her from other groups of individuals. Psychopaths most often function in society as charming, daring, witty, intelligent individuals, high on charisma but low on emotional reaction and affect. They appear to lack moral standards or to manifest genuine sensitivity toward others. Primary psychopaths should be distinguished from people who are psychotic, neurotic, or emotionally disturbed. They also should be distinguished from sociopaths, who are similar in many ways, as well as from individuals with an antisocial personality disorder. As noted in the chapter, though, psychopathy and APD have become almost indistinguishable in much of the literature. Hare has proposed the term criminal psychopath to describe those psychopaths who persistently and repetitively violate the law. In this sense, the criminal psychopath, the sociopath, and the individual with an antisocial personality disorder are similar in their offending patterns.
Neurophysiological research suggests that psychopaths are different from the rest of the population on a number of physiological measures. They seem to be underaroused, both autonomically and cortically, a finding that may account for their difficulty in learning the rules of society. There is some evidence to suggest that with adequate incentives, psychopaths may learn societal expectations very well, but for the most part the treatment research in this area is quite pessimistic.
Contemporary researchers have devised a large number of psychological measures to assess the presence of psychopathy in specific populations. In addition, current research has focused on juvenile psychopathy and, to a lesser extent, on gender differences in psychopathy. Studies of the psychopath’s childhood indicate commonalities that suggest it can be identified early. However, the topic of juvenile psychopathy is extremely controversial. Some researchers believe the construct does not exist, others believe it is inappropriately measured, and many if not most are concerned about the effects of attaching a pessimistic label to juveniles. Research on female psychopaths suggests that male and female psychopaths do not differ significantly on behavioral characteristics, though there is slightly more emphasis among females on sexual acting-out behavior. This probably reflects a cultural bias, however, since women have been traditionally chastised more than men for behavior deemed inappropriate according to sexual mores.
It should be noted that students are often so fascinated with the construct of psychopathy that they tend to see psychopaths everywhere around them. Likewise, estimates of psychopathy, even in incarcerated populations, should be made very guardedly. A major objective of the chapter is to present psychopathy as a neurologically-based clinical construct, characteristic of a very small percentage of the population, and one that continues to attract considerable research attention.
Chapter Outline and Key Concepts
What is a Psychopath?
The “true” psychopath
Emotional problems, inner conflicts
Earned antisocial behavior
Antisocial personality disorder (APD)
Distinct but very similar
An Example of a Psychopath
Demara, the “great impostor”
No violent crime, though many psychopaths do commit them
Research by Quay, Cleckley, Hare
Charming and verbally fluent
Psychopaths and mental disorders
Not mentally disordered by traditional standard
Psychological testing differences; score high
Psychopaths and suicide
Other principal traits
Flat emotional reactions, inability to give affection, superficial emotions,
disregard for truth
Alcohol, even in small amounts, prompts vulgarity, loud and boisterous behavior
Cardinal trait is lack of remorse or guilt, semantic aphasia
Excessive use of instrumental aggression
If criminal, typically impulsive acts
Disagreement regarding mental disorder
Neuropsychological need for stimulation
The Criminal Psychopath
Psychopaths who demonstrate wide range of persistent and serious behavior
Sex crimes of psychopaths more brutal, sadistic than other sex offenders
Serial murderers with psychopathic features: brutal and sadistic
More likely than other murderers to kill strangers
Psychological Measures of Psychopathy
Psychopathy Checklist (PCL)
Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV)
Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV)
P-Scan: Research Version
Core factors of Psychopathy
Two behavioral dimensions, possibly three
Interpersonal and emotional components
Socially deviant lifestyle
The three factor position
Cooke and Michie
The four dimensions position
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Identify the ethical dilemmas that juvenile psychopathy presents. was first posted on July 24, 2019 at 11:00 am.
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