Monday, January 7, 2013

What exactly is psychopathy?

A reader sent this interesting article from one of our favorite researchers, Jennifer Skeem, whose previous attack on the PCL-R caused Robert Hare to take her to court and delay the publication before it was eventually released. The article is sort of an interesting primer on psychopathy and summary of the most recent research. She has her own ideas about the correct delineation of psychopathy that seems reasonable. First she discusses why there are so many ideas about what exactly sociopathy is:

As we will discuss, many of the controversies surrounding psychopathy stem from fundamental disagreements about its basic definition, or operationalization. The scope of phenomena encompassed by the term psychopathy has varied dramatically over time, from virtually all forms of mental disorder (psychopathy as “diseased mind”) to a distinctive disorder characterized by lack of anxiety; guiltlessness; charm; superficial social adeptness; dishonesty; and reckless, uninhibited behavior (Blackburn, 1998). Even contemporary conceptualizations of psychopathy contain puzzling contradictions. Psychopaths are often described as hostile, aggressive, and at times revenge driven (N. S. Gray, MacCulloch, Smith, Morris, & Snowden, 2003), yet they are also characterized as experiencing only superficial emotions (Karpman, 1961; McCord & McCord, 1964). They are impulsive and reckless, yet apparently capable of elaborate scheming and masterful manipulation (Hare, 1993). They can rise to high levels of achievement or status in society, attaining success in business and public life, yet present as criminals whose behavior is so poorly thought out and lacking in regard even for self-interest that they occupy bottom rungs of the social ladder

Given these contrasting depictions, it is scant wonder that some experts have concluded that the concept of psychopathy, as commonly understood, is disturbingly problematic: a “mythical entity” and “a moral judgment masquerading as a clinical diagnosis” (Blackburn, 1988, p. 511), “almost synonymous with ‘bad’” (Gunn, 1998, p. 34), “used by the media [to convey] an impression of danger, and implacable evil” (Lykken, 2006, p. 11). In the words of William and Joan McCord (McCord & McCord, 1964), two influential figures in the historic literature on psychopathy, “the proliferation of definitions, the tendency to expand the concept to include all deviant behavior, the discrepancies in judgment between different observers——these pitfalls in the history of the concept—— are enough to make a systematic diagnostician weep” (p. 56).

She then (optimistically) asserts that all is not lost, that sociopathy is a thing and we can figure out what that thing is through careful parsing of the literature and empirical evidence. First she dispels some myths:

  • Psychopathy is synonymous with violence: "However, psychopathy can and does occur in the absence of official criminal convictions, and many psychopathic individuals have no histories of violence."
  • Psychopathy is synonymous with psychosis: "In contrast with psychotic patients, psychopathic individuals are generally rational, free of delusions, and well oriented to their surroundings"
  • Psychopathy is synonymous with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD): "The difference arises largely because measures of psychopathy include personality traits inferable from behavior, whereas measures of ASPD more exclusively emphasize antisocial, criminal, and (to a lesser extent) violent behavior."
  • Psychopathic individuals are born, not made: "Contemporary understanding of the pervasive interplay of genetic and environmental influences in determining behavioral outcomes of various kinds argues against the likelihood that any psychiatric condition, including psychopathy, is entirely 'born' or 'made.'"
  • Psychopathy is inalterable: "some recent empirical work has emerged to suggest that personality traits in general, and psychopathic traits more specifically, undergo change across major developmental transitions"

The article is quite long. I will probably keep going back to it over the next month or so and perhaps sharing things that I learn here.


  1. Oh, and Good morning Sociopathworld!!!!!!

  2. Interesting extract. I shall have to read the article in depth. It looks like it may take a while...

    1. It is an interesting article.

      Me and my friends would be in the "secondary psychopath" category - the sort that are angry and fearful a lot.

      I realized we are a lot like Walter White from Breaking Bad: when we want stuff, we pursue it in spite of any fear. Because we really want stuff. We'll do things to get what we want that we'd never think of doing for other people.

      We are a lot like neurotypicals, but our mind is warped by our ridiculously strong desires, and willingness to do whatever it takes to satisfy them.

  3. Psychopathy is synonymous with psychosis: "In contrast with psychotic patients, psychopathic individuals are generally rational, free of delusions, and well oriented to their surroundings"

    This part is what interests me. My thinking got really whacky. I knew it was whacky, thank God. If not, I would have been gone. As my thinking was degenerating, I, always, tried to know that how I was thinking was not "real". However, I could not change it. I just had to hide it, as no one, in my natural surroundings, seemed to understand. When I came here, people understood, so I started exposing how I thought and felt. I have not had a place to do it, before this, even at a shrinks. The shrink did not understand and that made me feel worse, much worse.

    Anyway, my point is that I agree with what she says about the delusional free, reality based seeing of the world, in some "psychopaths" I have met on here. The ease with which they see through BS is an amazing and beautiful thing.

    I want to get that, in myself, as much as I can. Even yesterday, UKan said something profound to me. He said I was too weak to accept life as it is, so I went into a fog. He was right ~

    1. I think everyone is finished feeding you little narc troll. Perhaps it is time to stick to your own blog so it really can be all about you.

  4. Stick to the subject. Didn't your mother tell you not to say anything, if you couldn't say something nice?

    1. No, she told me attention whores are just starving for sex but are too scared to go out and get some so they insist on inflicting their assinine opinions on the world.

    2. Monica, My mother did never say that. I had to learn.

      How come people don't talk openly abt their real true reasons they are not "right". Monica is one of the few. Is it because they are afraid to say??

      ME does not do it much, either. But he has his reasons. I have never been to "narcissist world". Do they do that over there?

      I thought the sociopath mentality is who the fuck cares what people think of me. How come this place people do not say why they are fucked in the head?

      Monica, you say that you get so much from people being stabbing. Me, I do not mind either. I like to be poked, too. It makes me think.

      People who do criticize ALL the fucking time, like Ukan, or fake Ukans, are boring.

      ME, can we have some emails from "made " sociopaths??? Aren't there people who discover their upbringing is alot of the culprit? Like Kuklinski? Can't you get some true sociopathic individuals to do talk to you?

      Why is that not part of your agenda ? If I missed a post or two on it, please reveal, again, for some regulars who desire material.

      ME, you said that people's emails are boring. I am bored with nothing but cunt this, asshead that. Can't the regulars share??

      Let's get some new blood in here.

      Frankly, i am bored.

    3. Well, dear most real sociopaths don't think they're fucked in the head.

    4. Oh! I thought ME said they know they are different. I guess they are cool with that, they like it, have never truly introspected, etc. I see. Thanks.

    5. And narcissists are attention whores and bottom feeders.

    6. Anon 9:39
      For me, I know that I am only as sick as the secrets I keep, so I let it all hang out :D

      Where is TNP, I wonder? I know Medusa is underground stirring up the pot. Come out in the open, Medusa. We know it is you, so join the club of nuts. There is no shame in it~

    7. New blood? Entertain us then. What's your story you asshead cunt?

    8. Quit trying to flatter medusa, no one can yank your chain like I can :b

    9. 958 "I let it all hang out."


    10. No one lets it ALL hang out. Don't be so effing literal.

    11. How long are you lurking?

    12. Monica has her story. SO what if it is a lot of lies? Her "story" could be someone else's real story somewhere. it makes sense. SO?

      Why don't people pretend along with her, if , in fact she is a big fat hairy liar. Make it like watching a movie. She moves you. So do movies. Everyone wants to be moved, no?

      I don't care if anyone's story is real or fake. I don't believe anyone here anyway. I would like to, but what does it matter?

    13. I share quite a bit anyway. I do not want to be the only one.

    14. Anon 8:40
      What struck me about your post was not what you said about me but that you would like to believe. That shows a sweet hopefulness about life lol

    15. Somebody shush her quim

    16. quim = twat.

      Thanks for the new dirty words, sw!

    17. @ 9:39 AM: Narcissistworld is no more. Wonder what happened? I also wonder why there is so much snark in the comments here. It's not like people are posting their real names or addresses and shit. Thought this was a safe place for sociopaths to delve into the why's and how's of how they came to be. Not sure what is to be accomplished by a bunch of anons calling each other asshats. I concur...boring. If I wanted frat boy insults, I'd head over to 4chan.

  5. Hello Monica.. you ignored me yesterday. I'm pretty hurt.


  7. Psychopathy is synonymous with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD): "The difference arises largely because measures of psychopathy include personality traits inferable from behavior, whereas measures of ASPD more exclusively emphasize antisocial, criminal, and (to a lesser extent) violent behavior."


    I'm curious as to what M.E. has to say about the upcoming DSM V Antisocial Personality Disorder criteria. Have there been any blog posts on this topic?---------

  8. yeah there have been posts talking about the new dsm v's new aspd, but I think it was more incomplete than the one you put up at the time it was posted.

  9. Theme for TNP ( You better be careful Rich is inching up on you, for the most Themes )

    1. LOL! I also enjoy my Themes too!!!!!

      PS- Where has TNP been? I havent seen him or his telltale agressive comments lately LOL ;)

  10. Funny Bit's AssistantJanuary 7, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    UKan SurchJanuary 6, 2013 6:59 PM

    Yes, my mother dominated my father and me. she was a crazy women. maybe you are right. this is my whole thing. why i keep attacking women on here that resemble my mother. strong. dominant. unemotional. maybe I hate monica because i hate the part of me that never stood up to my mum.
    AnonymousJanuary 6, 2013 7:04 PM

    Is this the real UKan?
    UKanJanuary 6, 2013 7:16 PM

    of course it is. why do people keep asking me that.
    AnonymousJanuary 6, 2013 7:24 PM

    You had a bitch of a mother and a weak father?
    UKanJanuary 6, 2013 7:28 PM

    yes that's why i sought out kanny. i needed someone dominant to fill my mums shoes.
    AnonymousJanuary 6, 2013 7:30 PM

    Kanny does seem like she could do it, but was your mother a bitch on wheels, for sure?
    UKanJanuary 6, 2013 7:55 PM

    You are an idiot.

  11. don't judge a sociopath by the trouble he/she gets into
    but by the trouble he/she can get out of

  12. “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” -Wilde

  13. Sofa you are good, aren't you?

  14. No, but I am guilty. I can say that.

  15. The world is formless.I put it into a mold, like a bundt pan. Food is fascinating when it takes on shape, like mazipan, which looks like doll house food.It was art work that you could eat, but it tasted terrible. I suppose it was because it was old lady food.

    My grandmother was a doctor, long before woman went to medical school. She had every gag in the joke shop. When she came to your house, you could expect the canned nuts, with the snake flying out when you opened it, the wine glass with the colored water under plastic so you expect it to spill red wine on you, and the fake dog poop, which she would put in the living room, to be found by some unsuspecting person.

    She told me that all things die, that it was the nature of things but she screamed for her mother, when she was dying.

    She took care of me when I went to the hotel buffet and decided I would take a bite of everything. The table wound around the room twice. I told her I wanted to throw up. She ran and got the bedpan. I thought she would hurt me because I was bad and sick, but she didn't. I didn't understand why, but it felt good.

    She called me kitten and monkey. I love when people call me pet names, like the sociopath who called me chicken wing, until I found out what it meant.

  16. I've been following off and on for a few months now, apologies in advance if this point has already been touched on.

    “the proliferation of definitions, the tendency to expand the concept to include all deviant behavior, the discrepancies in judgment between different observers——these pitfalls in the history of the concept—— are enough to make a systematic diagnostician weep”

    While the direction and opinions of the author are refreshing and lend optimism, they are still share a common thread with more outdated views. A deviation in behavior or thought is not necessarily a flaw, and can be considered a state of evolution. The deviations in what are considered "standard" personalities are wide and complex from individual to individual, so how is it possible to categorize personalities at all? Why is deviation within the standard range normal, but deviation beyond the standard range considered a disorder?

    I'm a borderliner married to a psychopath, given the current diagnostic criteria. I accept the dynamic of our marriage as it is and expect no more or less, which is why it works, and it works quite well actually, especially in comparison to some of our "standard" personality peers.

  17. Would you like to elaborate more or did you just want to comment?

    1. Was this to me? I was just commenting, I thought perhaps someone might have more insight to offer.

  18. You may be better off going to the current days article, as more people look at that.

  19. One of my family members never let anyone take advantage of him. When he bought a car, he left the dealer with an "I screwed you" look on his face.

    He made it big with that attitude. He bought up land that later became highways. The state paid him well because it had become prime real estate.. He had the Midas touch for prescience in business.
    I backed him down, one day. I was too tired to put up with his bullshit. I had just had a C section and dragged two babies and myself, to see him. He picked and picked at me, until my exhaustion made me half crazy. I told him I would never come see him again, if he did not treat me, right. Stress and exhaustion will make you grab your mojo.

  20. I have just read M.E.'s article in Psychology Today, and was impressed. As a therapist, I discussed it a bit with EMDR Colleagues to see what their experience is. One person repeated the commonly held belief that "no sociopaths ever present for treatment."

    I am interested in your response to this. From what I gather in this blog, people are working to change, to learn to feel for others.

    I think what you are doing is very important. Awareness brings people half of the way to change, I believe. Support of others making the same effort is huge. And, per Bowen Family Systems Theory, even microscopic progress is huge, and can make a significant difference in one's relationships and one's life.

    Thank you for your Psychology Today article, and for all you are doing.

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