Tag Archives: fear


15 Sep

Ok, since reading the “Psychopath Test” by Jon Ronson, I have thoroughly renewed my fascination with psychopathy. (Read it, by the way. It’s hilarious – which isn’t what you’d expect from a book about psychopaths…)

So what are psychopaths? These images inevitably creep into my mind…

Trying to remember the criteria I googled “psychopath test”, and found several links* encouraging me to check whether I am a psychopath, including a relatively detailed “self-assessment” by some psychotherapist in Austria*. No, I didn’t bother.

Anyway, rather than a simple “yes” or “no” regarding gaining psychopath status, the ‘diagnosis’ is based on achieving an above-average score in a particular set of criteria, usually the Hare Psychopathy Checklist , including:

  • glib and superficial charm
  • grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulativeness
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • callousness and lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioural controls
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behaviour problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • juvenile delinquency
  • revocation of conditional release
  • criminal versatility

Each character trait is given a score of either 0, 1 or 2 and if you score 30 or over, bam, you’re probably a psychopath.

You probably know some people who seem to fit the criteria pretty well. But don’t worry, they might not be psychopaths.

To me, especially since reading the Psychopath Test, the two traits which stick out the most are a lack of empathy and behavioural controls. The lack of empathy may allow a person to succeed in the business world*, with apparently 4% of CEOs thought to be psychopath whilst only making up 1% of the general population. However, after all that success, they can stab someone to death in a moment for jumping a queue.

By this point, society is probably worrying what to do about these uncontrollable creatures. The FBI notes how psychopaths make up a hugely disproportionate percentage of offenders (10-15) in comparison to the general population (1, as mentioned above). Obviously, after brutally killing people, it’s assumed that the justice system is going to deal with the matter.

However, as many neuroscientists* have discovered, many psychopathic traits, most dangerously the lack of empathy, are genetic and thus predetermined. This had huge implications. Ultimately, this means treatment is unlikely to be successful and prevention pretty much impossible.

Would it be fair to incarcerate someone based on the fact they may or may not commit serious crimes in the future, based on their disposition to violence?  Most of you would probably say no.

I guess we just have to wait for them to………………………..………snap.







*The book anonymous lawyer comes to mind

* Including a relatively recent study by those at the University of Chicago and University of New Mexico – http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1681369