From Friday's NY Times, an article with accusations of potential censorship against everyone's favorite psychopath scholar with a monopoly on this poorly understood disorder, Robert Hare, regarding his alleged overemphasis of criminality in the PCL-R:
Academic disputes usually flare out in the safety of obscure journals, raising no more than a few tempers, if not voices. But a paper published this week by the American Psychological Association has managed to raise questions of censorship, academic fraud, fair play and criminal sentencing — and all them well before the report ever became public.The abstract of the offending paper:
The paper is a critique of a rating scale that is widely used in criminal courts to determine whether a person is a psychopath and likely to commit acts of violence. It was accepted for publication in a psychological journal in 2007, but the inventor of the rating scale saw a draft and threatened a lawsuit if it was published, setting in motion a stultifying series of reviews, revisions and legal correspondence.
The inventor of the clinical test, Robert D. Hare, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, sees a different principle at stake.
“The main issue here is that these authors misrepresented my views by distorting things I said,” he said in a telephone interview. “I have been doing this work for 40 years and never seen anything like it.”
The paper — “Is Criminal Behavior a Central Component of Psychopathy?” — was circulated widely among forensic psychologists well before publication. Experts say the scientific issue it raises is an important one.
Dr. Hare’s clinical scale, called the Psychopathy Checklist, Revised, is one of the few, if not the only, psychological measures in forensic science with any scientific backing. Dr. Hare receives royalties when the checklist is used; he called the income it generated “modest” compared with providing paid expert testimony — which he said he does not do.
Dr. Skeem and Dr. Cooke warned in their paper that the checklist was increasingly being mistaken for a complete definition of psychopathy — a broader personality construct that includes deceitfulness, impulsivity and recklessness, though not always aggression or illegal acts. The authors contended that Dr. Hare’s checklist warps that concept by making criminal behavior a more central component than it really is.
Dr. Hare maintains that he has stressed “problematic, not antisocial or criminal, behavior” and that his comments were distorted.
Dr. Skeem said she was “just worn out” by the prolonged dispute.
“When we first wrote the paper,” she said, “we saw it simply as a call to the field to recognize we were going down a path where we were equating an abstract concept with a checklist, and it was preventing us from looking at the concept more closely.”
The report appears in the June issue of the journal Psychological Assessment — that is, along with a rebuttal by Dr. Hare, and a return response from Dr. Skeem and Dr. Cooke.
The development of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; R. D. Hare, 2003) has fueled intense clinical interest in the construct of psychopathy. Unfortunately, a side effect of this interest has been conceptual confusion and, in particular, the conflating of measures with constructs. Indeed, the field is in danger of equating the PCL-R with the theoretical construct of psychopathy. A key point in the debate is whether criminal behavior is a central component, or mere downstream correlate, of psychopathy. In this article, the authors present conceptual directions for resolving this debate. First, factor analysis of PCL-R items in a theoretical vacuum cannot reveal the essence of psychopathy. Second, a myth about the PCL-R and its relation to violence must be examined to avoid the view that psychopathy is merely a violent variant of antisocial personality disorder. Third, a formal, iterative process between theory development and empirical validation must be adopted. Fundamentally, constructs and measures must be recognized as separate entities, and neither reified. Applying such principles to the current state of the field, the authors believe the evidence favors viewing criminal behavior as a correlate, not a component, of psychopathy.