Models of Psychopathy (Clarke)

Four Models of Psychopathy

This section discusses four models of psychopathy staring with the benchmark PCL-R or Psychopathy Checklist – Revised, notable for its “Factor 1 and Factor 2” traits and behaviours, developed by Prof Robert D Hare and his team, primarily from their work with incarcerated criminals notable for their anti0social behaviour, initially in Vancouver, continuing the work of Prof Hervey Cleckley, author of the groundbreaking book The Mask of Sanity.

In addition to hundreds of academic papers, Hare also describes the PCL-R facets in his book Without Conscience.

As Hare describes himself, The Psychopathy Checklist is now used worldwide to help clinicians and researchers distinguish with reasonable certainty true psychopaths from those who merely break the rules.”

The subsequent Cooke and Michie Three Factor Model describes psychopathy without the necessity for anti-social and criminal behaviour for diagnosis as a psychopath, as do other models such as the Triarchic and Psychopathic Personality Inventory or PPI-Revised.

The Triarchic model suggests that different conceptions of psychopathy emphasise three observable characteristics to various degrees: 

Boldness: Low fear including stress-tolerance, toleration of unfamiliarity and danger, and high self-confidence and social assertiveness. 

Disinhibition: Poor impulse control including problems with planning and foresight, lacking affect and urge control, demand for immediate gratification, and poor behavioural restraints. 

Meanness: Lacking empathy and close attachments with others, disdain of close attachments, use of cruelty to gain empowerment, exploitative tendencies, defiance of authority and destructive excitement seeking. 

This table outlines and compared these four models of psychopathy.

The Danger posed by Narcissistic and Psychopathic Leaders 

“They are a class of individuals found in every race, culture, society and walk of life. Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought.” (Hare, Without Conscience, 1993).


“A substantial body of research has documented that grandiose narcissists are characterised by high self-esteem, a sense of personal superiority and entitlement, overconfidence, a willingness to exploit others for self-gain, and hostility and aggression when challenged. They also often assume leadership positions in organisations.

These dispositions affect their decision making. Grandiose narcissists’ overconfidence, impulsivity, willingness to ignore expert advice and tendency to rely on their own intuition to make decisions, results in a higher likelihood of making a bad decision. In addition, after getting the wrong answer, grandiose narcissists are more likely to externalise fault, blaming others for their errors while remaining self-confident in their judgment. These tendencies can put the organisations they lead at risk.” (O’Reilly & Hall, 2021)

 

The Dark Triad is a collection of three interrelated, malevolent personality constructs: Narcissism, Psychopathy and Machiavellianism with the common denominator of Disagreeableness(Paulhus & Williams, 2002).


“Dark Triad research has grown exponentially in recent decades, with much of the literature focusing on establishing the profiles of socially aversive personalities. Studies investigating the Dark Triad with other personality traits have suggested that all the three relate to low honesty and low agreeableness. This suggests that the core of the Dark Triad lies in dishonesty, coldness and manipulation”. (Lyons, 2019)


“People who have high levels of H are sincere and modest; people who have low levels are deceitful and pretentious. The “H” in the H factor stands for “Honesty-Humility,” one of the six basic dimensions of the human personality”. (Lee & Ashton, 2012)


“Some leaders appear more conscientious than others and inculcate admirable ethical standards amongst their colleagues, while for others ‘winning at all costs’ dominates proceedings throughout their organisation” (Clarke, 2017).


“Executives developed a ‘sense of entitlement’ which is “an aspect of a narcissistic personality who comes to believe that he and the institution are one. So this produces a sense of entitlement: that he can take what he wants when he wants it.” (Zaleznik, 2002)


Successful leaders “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will’ and ‘channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that [such] leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed they are incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves… In contrast, two thirds of comparison companies had leaders with gargantuan personal egos that contributed to the demise or continued mediocrity of the company,” (Collins, 2001)

 
“These results associate psychopathy with neural abnormalities concentrated primarily in medial prefrontal, parietal and temporal cortices. Psychopathy was associated with increased task-related activity predominantly in midline cortical regions overlapping with the default mode network (dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate and precuneus) as well as medial temporal lobe (including amygdala). Psychopathy was related to decreased task-related activity in a region of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex overlapping with the salience network.

Prior findings of consistent hyperactivation in the fronto-insular cortex and hypoactivation in bilateral dlPFC, dmPFC and right amygdala were not corroborated by our models. These findings challenge predominant theories of amygdala hypoactivity and highlight the potential role of hyperactivity in medial default mode network regions and hypoactivity in a key node of the salience network during task performance in psychopathy.” (Deming and Koenigs, 2020)

“At its most basic, much of the business ethics debate discusses why fundamentally good people do something wrong, usually under some form of pressure. This paper proposes that unethical acts may also be performed by people who may themselves be fundamentally bad, doing what comes most naturally to them, causing harm to others, but who have developed a well-practiced expertise at portraying themselves as being good people. Most of the time.

Then someone crosses their path when their true nature and covert characteristics may be exposed. Their thinly veiled lack of concern for others, camouflaged emotional poverty, hidden hatreds, cloaked or even absent conscience and other previously concealed attributes and clandestine traits are no longer obscured by their charming veneer and disguised by their mask of sanity” (Clarke, 2017).


Surely everyone can…? (Clarke)

Surely everyone is capable of showing a genuine interest in other people, experiencing warm, caring emotions and sharing these with others, with the “capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person”?

Surely everyone is capable of offering kindness and compassion, even a little, and knowing when showing this may be the most appropriate response to a distressing situation?

Surely everyone can tell right from wrong and their conscience guides much of their behaviour, much of the time, even if when it most suits them, they still do wrong?

Surely everyone is capable of positive, constructive and “prosocial behaviour” which benefits one or more other people?

Surely everyone is capable of being highly responsible and appreciating their position and role in society, “doing good” as best they can and making their contribution to making the world a better place, no matter how trivial the act of responsibility, respect or even random kindness?

Especially when no credit or praise is sought by someone capable of modesty and humility?

Surely everyone is capable of praise, encouragement and consistently building rather than damaging both relationships and harmony?

Surely everyone knows when they are about to do something wrong, cruel, unsafe, risky or dangerous and be capable of showing the restraint to avoid doing so, at least much of the time?

Surely everyone knows when their words and deeds could distress or disadvantage others and be capable of avoiding behaviour which could cause harm to others?

Surely everyone is capable of knowing how they could make society that little bit better or safer for others, and aim to do so when the opportunity arises?

Surely everyone is capable of evaluating the impact of potential situations and behaviour on others and deliberating on the variety of outcomes before behaving inappropriately?

Surely everyone is capable of putting the interest of others before their own, at least some of the time?

Surely everyone is capable of knowing when they are telling the truth or not and generally separating fact from fiction?

Surely everyone is capable of separating benign from malign behaviour, and not misinterpreting the intentions of others, resulting in they reacting in a malign manner to those who may actually have been acting benignly to them?

Surely everyone is capable of speaking well not badly of others, especially those who have been supportive of or kind to them?

Surely everyone is capable of remaining loyal to others, especially those who have gone out of their way to be loyal to them when others didn’t, rather than being exceptionally disloyal when they believe people are no longer useful to them or may have wronged them?

Surely everyone is capable of avoiding speaking falsehoods about others which could damage other’s opinion of them, their reputation if not their actual character, especially when the criticised refrains from retaliation?

Surely everyone is capable of relating past incidents as they actually happened reasonably accurately, without wittingly or unwittingly significantly distorting them?

Surely everyone is capable of accepting responsibility for words and deeds which upset people, without having to blame others for their own faults, failings and mistakes?

Surely everyone can experience anxiety and fear and be capable of restraining from behaviour with could make others fearful or anxious?

Surely everyone can evaluate risky situations to some degree, and know how to avoid rather than actively engage in behaviour which risks bad outcomes for themselves or others?

Surely everyone generally experiences happiness from actions which contribute to the happiness of others?

Surely everyone does not consistently experience satisfaction from making others unhappy and be dissatisfied seeing others happy?

Surely everyone is capable of curtailing their anger, at least much of the time?

Surely everyone is capable of behaving in an adult and not childlike manner, not throwing a tantrum like a “terrible twos” infant when they perceive a threat to their not “getting their own way”?

Surely everyone can understand “what makes people tick” people as people, with their individual interests and needs, and want to try and help them satisfy these, rather than harm them and deny them achieving their goals?

Surely everyone can appreciate kindnesses extended to them and know how to respond appropriately and appreciably? Rather than respond in a cold, mean, cruel or ruthless manner?

Surely those who do engage in a variety of forms of misconduct know when they have done something wrong, even if this doesn’t result in an apology or an attempt at making some form of appropriate reparation?

Surely everyone is capable of the courage required to extend forgiveness to those they believe may have wronged them (even if they didn’t), without holding grudges and being consumed by the necessity to seek revenge?

Surely every leader is capable of praising others for their achievements and deflecting warranted praise to those most responsible, not taking personal credit and criticising rather than praising those who have done well?

Surely everyone is capable of seeking and then responding when appropriate to the advice of others, rather than having to do the opposite of what their peers suggest as being the most apt and responsible course of action?

Surely everyone is capable of seeing matters from the perspective of others?

Surely every leader is capable of accepting responsibility for the faults and failings of the people they lead, rather than blaming others for their personal failings? And holding grudges against them when they may actually have done no wrong?

Surely everyone in leadership roles has a genuine interest in the organisation, entity and people they are responsible for, and is capable of prioritising this over satisfying their self-centred goals?

Surely every leader feels a responsibility towards their people and serving the entity’s best interests, not perceiving that the people are there to satisfy their personal needs and sense of entitlement?

Surely every leader wants to build strong long-term foundations which will permit their successors to succeed, and not want them to fail?

Surely everyone is capable of making a promise they intend to keep, and apologising when this transpires not to be possible?

Surely everyone is capable of behaving in a responsible rather than reprehensible manner, and knowing the difference between the two?

Surely everyone possess a sense of wrong, and knows how to refrain from wrongdoing, and wants to, at least most of the time?

Surely everyone is capable of adapting their behaviour as situations change, rather than seeming to behave in the same manner in similar situations all the time, making their behaviour predictable to those who know it well?

Surely everyone is capable of learning from their prior experiences, especially mistakes, rather than consistently repeating them?

Surely everyone is capable of evaluating the consequences of their words before they utter them and actions before they engage in them?

Or maybe not.

What is Normal?

The American Psychological Association define NORMALITY as “a broad concept that is roughly the equivalent of mental health. Although there are no absolutes and there is considerable cultural variation, some flexible psychological and behavioural criteria can be suggested:

1. freedom from incapacitating internal conflicts;
2. the capacity to think and act in an organised and reasonably effective manner;
3. the ability to cope with the ordinary demands and problems of life;
4. freedom from extreme emotional distress, such as anxiety, despondency and persistent upset; and
5. the absence of clear-cut symptoms of mental disorder, such as obsessions, phobias, confusion and disorientation.” 1

What is a “Personality Disorder”? (Clarke)

A “Personality Disorder” is “a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning and lasts over time.”

In addition to the way such people think (cognition) and feel (affect), the motivations (conation) of some “Disordered Leaders” appears to differ from those of many other people in society.

Self-centred” has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests” and “independent of outside force or influence”.

Narcissistic Personality” is described as “a pattern of traits and behaviours characterised by excessive self-concern and overvaluation of the self.”

Do these describe characteristics that those appointing others to managerial and especially leadership roles would advocate and actively seek?

Yet far too many leaders, managers, team-leaders and supervisors as well as those with similar titles with responsibility for the lives and emotions of people in all types of organisations worldwide DO display these characteristics, which in some sectors and nations are actually applauded.

While many people can behave in a selfish, difficult, proud and contrary manner occasionally, especially under extreme pressure, to be classified as a “Personality Disorder” the traits need to be “inflexible”, meaning can be repeatedly observed without regards to time, place or circumstance, while also interfering with a person’s ability to function well in society, including causing problems with interpersonal relationships, termed by psychiatrists and psychologists as “functional impairment”.

The four core features common to all Personality Disorders, with two required for diagnosis, are

  1. Distorted thinking patterns,

  2. Problematic emotional responses,

  3. Over- or under-regulated impulse control and

  4. Interpersonal difficulties,

none of which are attributes which society needs in those with responsibility for its institutions and their people, allied to their inability to see anything wrong with themselves and tendency to blame anything and everyone else for their failings and the many problems they create, for which they accept no responsibility.

Yet far too frequently some or all of these are evident in the behaviour of leaders, erroneously associated with strength of character and leadership, rather than weakness of personality and an inability to manage their own emotions, let alone lead other people.

One of the definitions of a “Personality Disorder” is

Pervasive patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and the self that interfere with long-term functioning of the individual and are not limited to isolated episodes.”

https://dictionary.apa.org/personality-disorder

Those with “shallow emotions” who experience other people no differently than inanimate objects – such as shopfront mannequins – can perceive or misconceive many areas of organisational and national life being like a “game”, including business, politics and government.

It is all about the conquest, winning and possession of what they desire, being better and having more than those they see to be a rival (who frequently are not), with other far more important factors not nearly as relevant as they should be in their perception and deliberations.

Three of the most basic “tell-tale signs” include the following three quite basic and identifiable primary motivational factors, which this research consequently refers to as the “Triad of the Dark Triad” (Clarke), although this behaviour when consistent rather than occasional is insufficiently appreciated as potentially being indicative of a “Personality Disorder”:

  1. Getting their own way”,

  2. Winning at all costs, irrespective of the consequences (for others or the organisation)”, and

  3. What’s in it for me?” is how matters appear to be primarily assessed,

as this triad of factors become more critical for the disordered than in the minds of most other, more balanced, responsible and indeed “normal” people.

The American Psychological Association define NORMALITY as “a broad concept that is roughly the equivalent of mental health. Although there are no absolutes and there is considerable cultural variation, some flexible psychological and behavioural criteria can be suggested:

  1. freedom from incapacitating internal conflicts;

  2. the capacity to think and act in an organised and reasonably effective manner;

  3. the ability to cope with the ordinary demands and problems of life;

  4. freedom from extreme emotional distress, such as anxiety, despondency and persistent upset; and

  5. the absence of clear-cut symptoms of mental disorder, such as obsessions, phobias, confusion and disorientation.”

At the end of the day, it isn’t all about them, although they persist in believing that it is, often appearing to be unaware of their inadequacies and immune to the real damage they do, given the opportunity.

Indeed, their grandiosity and lack of insight into their impact on others incited Gabbard (1989) 3 to suggest the label “oblivious narcissists” to describe their social presentation and distinguish them from their more vulnerable counterparts.

 

Gabbard, G. O. (1989). Two subtypes of narcissistic personality disorder. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 53(6), 527–532.

 

Who or What are Psychopaths? (Clarke)

The term “Psychopath”, being derived from psyche (mind) and pathos (disease), in effect refers to “mental illness”. Indeed at one stage it was a “catch all” term for behaviour which was difficult to properly understand and for which other categories did not seem adequate.

Despite significant inroads into understanding what may constitute the psychopathic mind, in some respects, especially as far as non-psychologists are concerned, little has changed because some of their behaviour is well beyond the comprehension of the vast majority of society who possess a conscience.

Indeed one way of beginning to understand psychopathy is to associate it with inexplicable or unconscionable behaviour.

What makes psychopathy particularly perplexing is that some of the related undesirable behaviours suggest that the culprits may lack a sense of morality, or if they could tell right from wrong, this did not seem to influence their subsequent actions. I

Their words can seem to be absolutely disconnected from their intentions and actions, past, present and future.

Their interpretation of people can seem to be at odds from who they actually are, seeing plots against them when none exist, and hating people for no apparent reason.

Their recollection of situations can differ from that of others present, accentuating their own involvement in matters that went well and denying involvement in matters which didn’t, blaming others for their personal failings which they somehow never seem to learn from.

Indeed their actions can appear to be extraordinarily impulsive, as if they were acting on the spur of the moment to satisfy themselves in a wide variety of ways, but without adequate consideration of the consequences, not only for others, individual victims of their callousness, or extraordinarily even for themselves, let alone the organisation which did not quite realise what they were actually employing or promoting.

Indeed all the “surely everyone” situations are typical of psychopaths and many people of a narcissistic disposition, whose behaviour most people in society (perhaps quite understandably) seem to fail to understand, with only those with psychiatric or psychological training and experience conscious that the reason for the unreasonable behaviour may well be a Personality Disorder.

Fortunately their very “maladaptive” nature and their inability to adapt, learn or change their behaviour, makes them entirely predictable to those who know them well and believe they understand them, allowing the more responsible people in their group or circle to devise strategies to diminish the degree of harm they will invariably do.

Although perhaps the most fundamentally irresponsible people in society, one of the challenges that everyone else faces in dealing with them is, given their unscrupulously deceitful nature, they often have great expertise in acting as if they were highly responsible.

While they can pretend to be considerate of the interests and needs of both other people and even society itself, sometimes extremely convincingly so, at the end of the day they are not, given that they are probably the most self-centred people in society and struggle to prioritise the interests and needs of anyone but themselves, especially when situations arise which threaten their self-interest, given that their primary goal is to “get their own way, irrespective of the cost to others”.

Giving a good impression is one of their fortes, especially when this masks their fundamental inner coldness and total disinterest in anyone or anything but themselves, even deriving pleasure from being cruel.

However not even those who have suffered most at their hands may associate their behaviour with a “Personality Disorder”, which makes it all the more critical that the ability to identify this become more widely understood and shared by those “in the know”.

As the “charming liar” advances further up the organisation, who will believe those who dare to suggest that there may be something “not quite right” about the charismatic mastermind who can seem to do no wrong, especially when those who know them well believe they seem to lack a “sense of wrong” and couldn’t cares less who they damage en route to achieving their insatiable goals?

Who might suspect that the person described by some as a “bit of a character” may actually have a deep character flaw, categorised by psychological professionals as a “Personality Disorder”?

No matter how unique their “sense of reality” may be, the reality is that people with identifiable Personality Disorders can be “found in every race, culture, society and walk of life.” (Hare, 1993)

The “mystery” which needs to be revealed is that “Disordered Leaders”:
1. see things differently,
2. experience people differently,
3. perceive many matters differently,
4. think differently,
5. behave differently and
6. inhabit a quite different world from most others in society…especially when they lack warm emotions and any genuine interest in others, indeed in anyone but themselves.

This makes it all the more imperative that they be recognised by decision-makers as being substantially different from the norm, being consummate actors hiding their true selves much of the time, hence need to be dealt with significantly differently, including denying them positions of power which they can only abuse, if they are no longer to be permitted to continue to damage the world that everyone else inhabits.

Appreciating that their conscience-free mind may be disordered, thinking “distorted” and emotional depth “shallow”, could be a critical first step on the road to progress, otherwise a frustratingly fruitless exercise.

Any attempts at trying to deal with them “normally” may well be doomed to failure while “success” may only be achieved by way of removing them from the positions of responsibility their deeply irresponsible nature makes them quite unsuitable for.

Notorious for their unreliability and irresponsibility, they simply cannot be trusted with any positions of responsibility, yet extraordinarily global society continues to appoint them to seniority of position, until it can often be too late to appreciate that their extraordinary mindset leads to unfortunate consequences given their ‘consistent irresponsibility’, well capable of routinely acting against the common good and doing so with ‘emotional impunity’.

Those lacking a sense of wrong or interest in anyone but themselves may have something wrong with them.

Until this is understood, they will continue to be misunderstood.

Psychopathic Traits (Clarke)

What makes psychopathy unusual and one of the more complex Personality Disorders is that it consists of the ABSENCE of some traits associated with normal, compassionate living and the PRESENCE of other “pathological” traits associated with self-centred, difficult, proud and challenging behaviour, in all walks of life, for which they show little semblance of remorse nor appreciation that they may even have done wrong.

As psychopaths can also be very charming and smart, often adept with words and conveying a good impression, many other people could spend their entire working or personal lives with someone and, while knowing there is “something wrong here”, may not realise they were dealing with either a Personality Disorder in general, or a psychopath in particular.

That is one of the reasons that I embarked on conducting this research, to alert people to the extraordinary world of Personality Disorders and the havoc some such people can cause within and outside society’s organisations and how their self-centred lack of responsibility may make them highly inappropriate to hold any position of responsibility, especially when their traits are “pathological” and associated with one, or more likely, a combination of the range of “Personality Disorders”.

What is “pathological”? (Clarke)

“Pathological” can refer to “any departure from what is considered healthy or adaptive”.

“Pathology can mean “extreme, excessive, or markedly abnormal”, and in terms of medicine and psychology the extreme could be particularly “indicative of disease” or “altered or caused by disease”, so “pathological lying” or “pathological emotional reactions” are not only extremes but those which could be due to some form of abnormality or disorder (Merriam Webster).

“You describe a person or their behaviour as pathological when they behave in an extreme and unacceptable way, and have very powerful feelings that they cannot control. (Collins Dictionary)” 

Perhaps the term may be better understood by considering some of its synonyms (obsessive, chronic, persistent, compulsive, clinical, hardened, unreasonable, irrational, habitual, illogical, inveterate) and antonyms or opposites (healthy, wholesome, happy, joyful, pleasant, pleased, sound).

“Pathological lying” for instance is defined as “a persistent, compulsive tendency to tell lies out of proportion to any apparent advantage that can be achieved.

This often occurs among people with alcohol dependence or brain damage, but it is most common among individuals with antisocial personality disorder, who in some cases do not seem to understand the nature of a falsehood.”(APA)5

“Pathological inertia” is defined as (a) “the inability to show flexibility due to a brain injury or psychological condition” and/or (b) “severely impaired initiative, drive, or motivation sometimes associated with brain damage, particularly to the frontal lobes.” (APA).6

What is perhaps interesting amongst these and many other related definitions of “pathological”, is that they attribute the odd behaviour to an abnormality or disorder, including brain damage.

This is notable because with the advances in neuroimaging, many of the personality disorders are now capable of being attributed to a dysfunction within or between various brain regions, such as the amygdala, insula, ventral striatum and various regions within the prefrontal cortex, especially the orbitofrontal, dorsolateral and ventromedial, as well as the nearby and closely connected anterior cingulate cortex.

 

Psychopathy, Sociopathy and ‘Anti-social Personality Disorder’ (Clarke)

Psychopathy itself is not only often and perhaps understandably misunderstood, but is also frequently confused with ‘sociopathy’ and ‘anti-social personality disorder’.

Antisocial refers to behaviour that sharply deviates from social norms and also violates other people’s rights, which contrasts starkly with prosocial behaviour which benefits one or more other people, such as an act of kindness.

Leading psychopathy researcher Prof Robert D Hare describes the differences as follows:

Sociopath is the term preferred by clinicians, researchers and many sociologists and criminologists who believe the syndrome is “forged entirely by social forces and early experiences”, or what laypeople refer to as “nurture”.

Psychopath is preferred by clinicians and researchers who believe that “psychological, biological and genetic factors ALSO contribute to development of the syndrome”, or what may be referred to as “nature and nurture”.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD or ASPD) is described by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by way of a long list of antisocial and criminal behaviours to assist diagnosis, more readily identifiable than personality traits such as empathy.

Compared with psychopathy, or sociopathy, Antisocial Personality Disorder predominantly refers ONLY to a cluster of criminal and antisocial behaviours (more readily identifiable, even by non-psychologists), but NOT the personality traits most associated with psychopathy.

Hence many people, especially criminals, capable of being diagnosed with ASPD would fall short of the far more stringent criteria required for psychopathy diagnosis.

This is because Psychopathy is broader than ASPD, defined by a cluster of:

1. BOTH socially deviant behaviours typified by irresponsibility, impulsivity and poor behavioural including anger controls (associated with ASPD)

2. AND personality traits, emotional and interpersonal, which may be more difficult to assess, including the absence of personality traits associated with “normality” and the presence of an extraordinary groups of “abnormal” traits, derived form a lack of humanity, notably:

3. the LACK of guilt, remorse, regret, responsibility, empathy, fear, truth-telling, ethics, morality and conscience, long-term goals, kindness and warm, welcoming feelings and emotions, including the capacity to love and be loved and the ability to take criticism or extend mercy, forgiveness and compassion to others, or respond appropriately to others people when they are kind to them,

because at the end of the day their greatest incapacity is their inability to genuinely appreciate and understand other people and act humanely towards them, given that they are only capable of seeing them as inanimate objects, not real people with their own feelings and emotions, which nevertheless they can still go to great lengths to damage, as they can seem to derive personal pleasure not from generosity and love but meanness and cruelty; those without a sense of wrong must have something wrong with them;

4. the PREVALENCE of glib or superficial charm, grandiosity or significant self-belief (associated with “narcissism”), a need for excitement and proneness to boredom, the ability to give a “good impression” yet be deeply and callously manipulative, deceitful and cunning, including pathological lying and changing lies and stories on a whim without seeming to be bothered about doing so or being caught being untruthful, together with an inability to learn from prior experience or accept responsibility for words and deeds which may cause distress to others, being always right and never wrong, believing themselves to be much better than others and possessing talents they actually deeply lack, as well as a tendency to blame others for all their failings, hold deep grudges against people they believe may have wronged them, even if they have not, and telling lies about them designed to discredit them, a “borderline distortion campaign” or “psychopathic character assassination”,

because they thrive on vindictiveness and hatred, which can be long-lasting even if their victims may never quite discover the reason for their animosity towards them, so they cannot be believed as there can be a deep disconnect between their words, actions and intentions, to the degree that it is far safer to first believe the opposite of what they say or assert, not falling for their external charisma which may transpire to be skin-deep, especially when they engage in false flattery of others for the purpose of personal advantage, evaluating situations based on “what’s in it for me?” and “how can I personally prevail over everyone else?”,

as ultimately their primary driving force and deepest motivation is their self-interest, because given their fundamental inner coldness the only person they are capable of having any real interest in is themselves, which with their extraordinary impulsiveness and thoughtlessness means even on the spur of the moment they will do anything it takes to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, irrespective of the consequences for other people or organisations and even, extraordinarily, themselves, given their exceptional sense of invincibility and their delusional self-belief convincing them they can do anything they want to, even if (others know that) they are fundamentally ill-equipped for many of the tasks they are trusted with, including responsible leadership.

The Cluster B Brain

Cluster B Personality Disorder describes the dramatic and erratic behaviour of people whose emotional development and moral compass differs from others in society and whose ambition to satisfy their own needs can involve manipulation, lying and deceit and an inability to accept responsibility for their actions.

Can they be identified as such? With great difficulty. Because they have developed great expertise at charm, deceit & hiding their true selves even from psychologists. Few have the skills to identify their true psyche.

Many non-psychologists ‘just’ see such people as being difficult, proud, selfish, cunning, challenging, controlling, power hungry, irrational, money & profit oriented, distrustful, most particularly ruthless and perhaps ‘impossible’ to deal with.

Their brains react to certain stimuli differently and because they may lack the ability to experience feelings and concern for others or even themselves, the threat of fear does not alarm them as their neurological responses may differ from people with empathy and conscience.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Neuroscientists who study people with one of the four Cluster B disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), suggest that the amygdala, ventral striatum and dlPFC appear to be regions associated with “disturbed emotion regulation” with impulsivity and higher levels of aggression seeming to be related to significantly lower activity of the ventral striatum or the Nucleus accumbens (NAc), normally associated with reward learning.

People with BPD have problems with relationships (which are often short and fractious) and dealing with negative situations, so their cognitive system seems to struggle to control their emotions. Their amygdala and hippocampus and perhaps also their OFC appear to be smaller than normal.

In response to negative stimuli (including disgust) they register lower than normal neural activity in the (left) ventral striatum yet can show higher activity in the (left) amygdala and (left) dlPFC.

Reduced ventral striatal grey matter volume has also been linked to BPD emotional dysregulation (Stegmayer et al, 2014).1

The ventral striatum is known for its role in reward learning, so its inactivity may help explain BPD’s heightened reinforcement sensitivity to both punishment and reward (Leichsenring et al, 2011)2 .

The ventral striatum is also believed to be involved with impulsivity, commonly observed in BPD (Mole et al, 2014)3.

Striatal or NAc abnormalities could also play a role in intense outbursts of aggression prevalent in BPD, found during a PET (positron emission tomography) study of BPD using an anger provocation computer game, similar to “intermittent explosive disorder” (Mercedes Perez-Rodriguez et al, 2012).4

Much higher or stronger activity in the (left) amygdala may explain why people with BPD can react so strongly and impulsively especially in situations involving anger, fear, sadness and shame and why these feelings may last much longer than normal, why they react so strongly to other people acting out these angry emotions as well as their apparent pride and extreme sensitivity and overreaction to any form of criticism.(Herpertz et al, 2001).5

Some studies suggest that the PFC or prefrontal cortex in general of people with BPD may be less active (although a few specific regions may be more active), perhaps explaining why they struggle to regulate their emotions when experiencing stress. The lower than expected activity appears to occur in the (right) Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) which may explain their diminished or lack of empathy for the feelings of others (Chapman & Gratz 2007)6.

As the ACC plays a key role in regulating emotional arousal, the relatively low level of activity of their prefrontal cortex may explain why BPD people experience difficulty in regulating their emotions and how they respond to stress.

People with BPD may (cognitively) know the right thing to do but may be (emotionally) incapable of actually doing this when the time comes to speak or act. Their more cognitive and rational mind may be less capable at controlling the emotional and impulsive than would normally be the case.

When the dlPFC is temporarily disabled using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) early emotional attention has been shown to be effected (Zwanzger et al, 2014)7.

Given the well-established role of the dlPFC in emotion regulation (Banks et al, 2007; Stein et al, 2007)8 9, a quite recent study (Dudas et al, 2017)10 proposes that their findings of both a decrease in amygdala activity AND enhanced dlPFC-amygdala coupling, could represent abnormal suppression of the amygdala possibly mediated or managed by the dlPFC.

One study (Liechsenring et al 2011)11 proposed that an increase in dlPFC activity may arise from greater cognitive efforts to try and regulate emotions, given the deficiencies in the amygdala and ventral striatum.

However another study (Schulze et al, 2011)12 believed the attempts by BPD patients to utilise cognitive strategies to modulate emotions are largely ineffective.

Nevertheless the evidence from research would suggest that one brain region may be trying to compensate for deficiencies in another.

While different studies can suggest the same brain region may be less (hypo) or more (hyper) active than normal, there does nevertheless appear to be a consistency of agreement which brain regions behave differently than normal in Cluster B people.

Various studies seem to support the most recent findings (Dudasa et al, 2017)13 which emphasise the amygdala, ventral striatum and dlPFC as key regions in disturbed emotion regulation in BPD and the role of “top-down prefrontal-amygdala connectivity” that appears to be disrupted during disgust induction (Leichsenring et al, 2011)14 which may account for BPD abnormalities.

So in addition to specific brain region dysfunction, it seems the connections between various regions may be either enhanced or impaired in people whose behaviour would be deemed by many to be abnormal or dysfunctional, including the connection between the more rational frontal lobe and the more emotional limbic system.

One BPD study (Dudasa et al, 2017)15 concludes that “these meta-analyses have suggested key abnormalities in both frontal (including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC)) and limbic (amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)) areas consistent with overall frontolimbic dysfunction.

What is limbic?

There doesn’t seem to be total agreement between neuroscientists what constitutes the limbic system nor its relative importance, but it is a connected system of brain regions, many involved with emotion processing.

 

Psychopathy

Some researchers who specialise in another of the Cluster B disorders, psychopathy, believe that the brain regions which are the most affected include the orbitofrontal cortex, insula, anterior cingulate, amygdala, hippocampus and temporal gyrus, most of which are referred to by some as the limbic system, which typically is also cited to include the hypothalamus, nucleus accumbens / ventral striatum and basal ganglia.

Let us revisit some terminology.

Psychopath, being derived from psyche (mind) and pathos (disease), in effect refers to “mental illness” or perhaps even more literally a “diseased mind”.

Psychopathy is not only often and perhaps understandably misunderstood, but is also frequently confused with ‘sociopathy’ and ‘anti-social personality disorder’.

Sociopath is the term preferred by clinicians, researchers and many sociologists and criminologists who believe the syndrome is “forged entirely by social forces and early experiences”.

Psychopath is preferred by clinicians and researchers who believe that “psychological, biological and genetic factors ALSO contribute to development of the syndrome”. (Hare, Without Conscience, 1993).16

Antisocial Personality Disorder is described by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by way of a long list of both antisocial and criminal behaviours to assist diagnosis.

Prof Emeritus Robert Hare explains when the DSM was initially released it was assumed that the average clinical psychologist was not expected to be able to reliably assess personality traits such as empathy, egocentricity and guilt, and as a consequence diagnosis was based on what clinicians could more readily assess: objective, socially deviant behaviour.

Antisocial Personality Disorder thus predominantly refers ONLY to a cluster of criminal and antisocial behaviours whereas Psychopathy is defined by a cluster of BOTH personality traits AND socially deviant behaviours.

Even before the advent of modern scanning techniques, much was learned about brain function by studying people with damage to specific brain regions.

Kiehl (2006)17 observes that damage to the OFC can lead to ‘pseudopsychopathy’ (Blumer and Benson, 1975)18 or ‘acquired sociopathic personality’ (Damasio, 1994)19 involving problems with reactive aggression, motivation, empathy, planning and organisation, impulsivity, irresponsibility, insight and behavioural inhibition (Malloy et al, 1993; Stuss et al, 1983).20 21

Antisocial behaviour can be associated with less activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in general so as this region is associated with behaviour inhibition, planning and evaluating the consequences of actions, as well as differentiating between right and wrong, inhibited PFC activity may explain such inabilities in psychopaths and other people with reduced PFC activity. (Grohol, J 2013)22

However, although people with OFC damage may be impaired when making morally and socially acceptable decisions, they do not typically exhibit the ruthlessness or callousness commonly observed in psychopathics.

So what else seems to be involved?

Psychopaths are known to have problems with fear conditioning (meaning they are relatively lacking in fear) and do not respond to punishment situations which would deter most other people. Indeed it is the people they meet in many walks of life who should be fearing them, if they knew how potentially dangerous they could be, like borderlines, in relationship situations.

The hippocampus, associated with the consolidation of new memories, is thought to play a role in aversive conditioning which means avoiding undesirable behaviour rather than engaging in it.

Some people appear to be better capable of learning from their prior experiences and mistakes than others, although it is likely that it is a combination of the learning ability in a variety of other brain regions as well as the hippocampus which may contribute to this ability or inability.

Some studies suggest (Laakso et al, 2001)23 that smaller or more unusual hippocampal volumes may be contribute to the psychopathic behaviour associated with the most violent people including those ‘unsuccessful psychopaths’ who display the tendencies and are imprisoned compared with those ‘successful psychopaths’ who seem to cause trouble in society, perhaps involving more subtle intimidation rather than violence, but remain out of jail (Raine et al, 2004)24.

Key elements of psychopathy including lack of empathy, shallow affect, impulsivity and irresponsibility are also associated with damage to the OFC and/or the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC).

The best known of the modern psychopath researchers, Robert Hare, has observed that such people score low on harm-avoidance measures (Hare, 1991).25

The larger the right ACC, the better people seem to be able to deal with harm avoidance (Pujol et al, 2002)26. In contrast, people with damage to the ACC can suffer from personality problems including emotional unconcern (Mesulam, 2000),27 hostility, irresponsibility and disagreeableness (Swick, 2003).

Problems with the processing of the nastier words related to highly emotional stimuli are also commonly related to psychopathy (Day and Wong, 1996)28. Damage to the amygdala and the adjacent temporal lobe have been associated with emotional and behavioural problems, including an inability to deal with specific stimuli such as upsetting or negative language or the ability to recognise angry or distressed faces. These related brain regions are also associated with a lack of respect for authorities and social convention (Adolphs and Tranel, 2000)29.

The Mayo Clinic suggest that damage to the amygdala may impair the ability of the prefrontal cortex to interpret feedback from the limbic system, which could result in uninhibited signals that manifest in violent and aggressive behaviour.

Removal of the anterior temporal lobe seems to reduce symptoms of psychopathy including less hostility and violence and greater empathy and inter-personal warmth (Hill, 1957, Hood et al, 1983).30 31

Removal of the amygdala from particularly aggressive people seems to reduce their level of aggression and give them better control of their emotions (Bagshaw et al, 1972; Lee et al, 1988, 1998). 32 33 34

In contrast, damage to regions of the OFC including the dlPFC do not seem to contribute to the difficult behaviour associated with psychopathy. Indeed people with dlPFC impairment can become more passive, suffer from poor working memory and attention and other problems relating to regulating cognitive functions, but they do seem to be able to recognise angry faces and deal normally with unpleasant language (Hornak et al, 2003)35.

So the difficult behaviour associated with some of the most challenging people in society appears to be contributed to by differences in specific regions of the frontal lobe, especially the OFC, Insula and ACC, as well as the amygdala and nearby regions of the temporal lobe.

These regions in particular and the interaction between them appear to contribute to an inability to appreciate anger or distress in people’s faces and process emotional words which normal people would respond to adversely, as well as contributing to impulsivity, aggression, poor behavioural control, emotional unconcern and lack of empathy.

Neuroscience is contributing greatly to the understanding of people whose behaviour suggests they may have a Personality Disorder. Extraordinarily, though, while Borderline and Psychopathy have been researched, there appears to be less neuroscientific research conducted into people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), although there may be evidence of reduced grey matter in the insula and prefrontal cortex which may contribute to an explanation for their lack of empathy and compassion for others, emotional control of their own behaviour and perhaps elements of their cognitive functioning when they consistently seek and prioritise their own benefit.

Perhaps the relative lack of neuroscientific research into NPD may be because these people’s extreme selfishness and prioritisation of their self-interest over that of others may not be as overtly harmful, unless combined with some of the traits of other disorders, particularly those which might contribute to a diagnosis of Malignant Narcissism. This does appear to be an area of human behaviour which might warrant far greater attention by neuroscientists than has been the case to date.

Over time the knowledge of the functions of the various brain regions has been improved by studying people with damage or lesions to specific regions. Similarly knowledge of how brain regions in normal people operate can also be enhanced by studying the brains of society’s most difficult people and vice versa.

Many such people have not necessarily been incarcerated for violent behaviour and are potentially walking around in society, virtually unnoticed by people until they cross paths with them when their necessity to prevail over others may surface, often in a quite powerful manner.

They appear to wear what Harvey Cleckley referred to in 1941 as a “Mask of Sanity” and use their frequent great charm to hide their true inner coldness from victims fortunate to possess greater interpersonal warmth and empathy.

 

Subclinical Psychopaths

So “psychopathy” is a group of related personality traits most associated with violations of social norms and behaviour quite the opposite of what is normally expected and typically deemed to be acceptable in the environment and society they inhabit.

Yet many studies suggest that people with psychopathic traits in “subclinical” populations, neither hospitalised nor imprisoned, do not necessarily display overtly “antisocial, self-defeating behaviours”, with their behaviour typically being far more covert, cunning, callous, devious, deceitful, manipulative and mean, no matter what area of society they are permitted to operate in.

Indeed in brief their behaviour is more likely to be mean than meaningful, as they innately prefer harm and humiliation to humility, cold calculation to compassion and themselves to other people.

The terms self-interest and self-centredness could have been invented for them, given the extraordinary degrees of invention they will go to satisfy themselves, especially if this disadvantages others, as they get a greater personal kick out of win-lose rather than win-win.

Those who appoint fundamentally irresponsible people, cleverly covert psychopaths, to positions of responsibility in due course may regret giving their trust to those who do not experience regret and are far more adept at taking than giving back. Those who expect any form of kindness to be reciprocated will be disappointed, given they thrive on harm and hidden hatreds and holding grudges which drive their necessity to extract deeply disproportionate retaliation and revenge.

Being uncooperative and doing the opposite of what others want are characteristics more associated with primary school children than leaders of business and society.

Being insensitive to the interests, needs and emotions of other people yet highly sensitive to any form of criticism or rebuke, producing a disproportionate response, feelings of hatred and the imperative of having to retaliate and exact revenge are not qualities which endear leaders to those they lead.

Those who feel supremely self-confident but cannot experience the feelings of others do not have what it takes to inspire and motivate others to produce their best.

Givers, being more interested in others than themselves, make for better leaders, especially of other people, than those takers who are fundamentally more interested in themselves than others;

The primary difference between Givers and Takers is Egocentricity or “the tendency to emphasise one’s own needs, concerns and outcomes rather than those of others” and “perceive situations from one’s own perspective”.36

Global society needs leaders who find it easy to love and impossible to hate, rather than those who find it easy to hate and impossible to love.

Those who cannot even adequately manage their own emotions cannot be trusted with responsibility for the lives and emotions of others. As far as leadership concerned, all the intelligence in the world is of little or no value, if none of it is emotional

Subcriminal is a very important expression given our discussion of the role of “selfish, difficult and proud” as well as challenging and domineering people throughout global society, but what does subcriminal actually mean?

The term “clinical” relates to the observation and treatment of actual patients, with medical and/or mental conditions, rather than theoretical or laboratory studies. In circumstances of a disease or condition, clinical refers to one or other of these causing observable and recognisable symptoms.

So “subclinical” relates to or denotes a disease which is not necessarily severe enough to present definite or readily observable symptoms.

Instead subclinical psychopaths show deliberate and “strategically adaptive behaviours in response to cues during reciprocal social interactions”, using their positive talents including charm, intelligence and eloquence to advance through society, masking many of their true traits, much of the time.

What can be particularly confusing is that psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals may also use the term “psychopathology” when referring to

  1. their consideration of what may be features of some form of mental illness in individuals or collectively, as well as

  2. the scientific study of mental disorders.

Despite the similarity in language, “psychopathology” does not refer to “psychopathy” per se, rather what may be the underlying issues or reasons behind any mental illness or disorder, including a personality disorder or mood disorder.

Professor Robert Hare has described psychopaths as “social predators”, “remorseless predators” or in some cases “lethal predators’” and has stated that “psychopathic depredations affect people in all races, cultures, and ethnic groups, and at all levels of income and social status”.

In his book “Without Conscience” Hare deals with the issue of “successful psychopaths”, so termed it seems because they achieve both “success” in society, especially in terms of position, status and often wealth too. Their greatest “success” though could be in hiding their true traits much of the time, hence avoiding detection and being treated differently as the abnormal people they are, including avoiding facing imprisonment for devious and manipulative behaviour which, although not necessarily criminal in nature, could be judged by others (not themselves0 to be deeply unethical and amoral.

Successful psychopaths” is a term Hare strongly disagrees with, preferring to refer to such challenging people as “subcriminal psychopaths”:

Many psychopaths never go to prison or any other facility. They appear to function reasonably well – as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, businesspeople, writers, artists, entertainers, and so forth – without breaking the law, or at least without being caught and convicted.

These individuals are every bit as egocentric, callous and manipulative as the average criminal psychopath; however their intelligence, family background, social skills and circumstances permit them to construct a facade of normalcy and to get what they want with relative impunity.

Some commentators refer to them as “successful psychopaths”. Others argue that individuals of this sort benefit society. Just as they are able to ignore society’s rules, the argument goes, intelligent psychopaths are able to transcend the bounds of conventional thought, provide a creative spark for the arts, the theatre, design, and so on. Whatever the merits of this argument, they are more than offset – in my view – by the broken hearts, shattered careers, and used-up people left in their wake as they cut a zig-zag route through society, driven by a remorseless need to “express themselves”.

Rather than refer to these people as successful psychopaths – after all, their success is often illusory and always at someone else’s expense – I prefer to call them subcriminal psychopaths. Their conduct, although technically not illegal, typically violates conventional ethical standards, hovering just on the shady side of the law.

Unlike people who consciously adopt a ruthless, greedy and apparently unscrupulous strategy in their business dealings, but who are reasonably honest and empathetic in other areas of their lives, subcriminal psychopaths exhibit much the same behaviours and attitudes in all areas of their lives. If they lie and cheat on the job – and get away with it or are even admired for it – they will lie and cheat in other areas of their lives.

I am certain that if the families and friends of such individuals were willing to discuss their experiences without fear of retribution, we would uncover a rat’s nest of emotional abuse, philandering, double-dealing and generally shoddy behaviour

These rat’s nests are sometimes made public in a dramatic fashion. Think of the many high-profile cases in which a pillar of the community commits a serious crime [and] in the process of investigations by the police and news media the perpetrator’s dark side is revealed. Many such cases are vividly portrayed in books and movies and the shocked public asks “where did they go wrong?” and “what made them do it?”

The answer, in most cases, is that the culprit didn’t just suddenly “go wrong”. Individuals who frequent the shady side of the law stand a good chance of slipping over the edge. In such cases the crime is simply a natural consequence of a deviant personality structure that has always been present but that, because of good luck, social skills, cover-ups, a fearful family, or friends and associates who conveniently refused to see what was going on, had not previously resulted in a criminal act that came to the attention of the justice system.

Nevertheless, high-profile cases have considerable value. Typically they are well documented, alerting us to the fact that such people exist, and that before being caught they were relatives, neighbours or co-workers of people just like us…

A frightful and perplexing theme runs through the case histories of all psychopaths: a deeply disturbing inability to care about the pain and suffering experienced by others – in short, a complete lack of empathy, the pre-requisite for love…

Learning to behave according to the rules and regulations of society, called socialisation, is a complex process. On a practical level it teaches children “how things are done”. In the process, socialisation – through parenting, schooling, social experiences, religious training, and so forth – helps to create a system of beliefs, attitudes and personal standards that determine how we interact with the world around us.

Socialisation also contributes to the formation of what most people call their conscience, the pesky inner voice that helps us to resist temptation and to feel guilty when we don’t.

Together, this inner voice and the internalised norms and rules of society actors act as an “inner policeman”, regulating our behaviour even in the absence of any external controls, such as laws, our perceptions of what others expect of us, and real-life policemen. It’s no overstatement to say that our internal controls make society work. Our collective amazement and fascination with the psychopath’s utter disregard for rules suggests, by comparison, the power our “inner policemen” actually have over us.

However, for psychopaths the social experiences that normally build a conscience never take hold. Such people don’t have an inner voice to guide them: They know the rules but follow only those they choose to follow, no matter what the repercussions for others. They have little resistance to temptation and their transgressions elicit no guilt.”

Yet, perhaps because many people do not know how to identify a “subcriminal psychopath”, they hold many roles in society, from very senior to quite junior.

This puts not only the sanity of those who have to deal with them at risk, but also the successfully smooth-running nature and, when mistrusted with seniority of position, ultimately the reputation and even viability of organisations which erroneously employ them.

They can be notoriously difficult to spot, not only because many are very talented, including being gifted at the “ICE” characteristics of Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence, but also being deeply devious and manipulative and, lacking guilt, remorse and an active conscience, will stop at nothing to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, totally oblivious to any adverse consequences for anyone or anything else.

But how could this be? What is missing in the make up of the psychopath which can allow them to be both charming and cruel?

 

What is missing?

Professor Hervey Cleckley, perhaps the pioneer of the modern understanding of psychopathy, in his groundbreaking book “The Mask of Sanity” describes the effect of the combination of the traits both absent and prevalent in a psychopath:

He is unfamiliar with the primary facts or data of what might be called personal values and is altogether incapable of understanding such matters. It is impossible for him to take even a slight interest in the tragedy or joy or the striving of humanity as presented in serious literature or art. He is also indifferent to all these matters in life itself. Beauty and ugliness, except in a very superficial sense, goodness, evil, love, horror and humour have no actual meaning, no power to move him (The Mask of Sanity p40).

He is, furthermore, lacking in the ability to see that others are moved. It is as though he were colourblind, despite his sharp intelligence, to this aspect of human existence. It cannot be explained to him because there is nothing in his orbit of awareness that can bridge the gap with comparison.

He can repeat the words and say glibly that he understands and there is no way for him to realise that he does not understand (p40).

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 (p383).

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 levelling of response to petty ranges and an incapacity to react with sufficient seriousness to achieve much more than pseudo-experience or quasi-experience.

Nowhere within do we find a real cause or a sincere commitment, reasonable or unreasonable. There is nowhere the loyalty to produce real and lasting allegiance even to a negative or fanatic cause…

His rational power enables him to mimic directly the complex play of human living. Yet what looks like sane realisation and normal experience remains, in a sense and to some degree, like the plays of our simian typist…

In relatively abstract or circumscribed situations, such as the psychiatric examination or the trial in court, these abilities do not show impairment but more or less automatically demonstrate an outer sanity unquestionable in all its aspects and at all levels accessible to the observer.

That this technical sanity is little more than a mimicry of true sanity cannot be proved at such levels. Only when the subject sets out to conduct his life can we get evidence of how little his good theoretical understanding means to him, of how inadequate and insubstantial are the apparently normal basic emotional reactions and motivations convincingly portrayed and enunciated but existing in little more than two dimensions.”

Since the words and especially actions of psychopaths can be very hurtful to other people, it is assumed they are not emotionally attached to the people they harm, indeed their lack of empathy can be very difficult for other people to understand, a matter discussed in a separate chapter.

Yet according to the PCL-R checklist, psychopaths can also be very careless even in the way they treat themselves. They often fail to change their own behaviour in a manner that would prevent them from experiencing future discomfort, as they seem to be incapable of learning from their prior experiences, especially from their mistakes, so it should not be a surprise to find them re-offending, termed recidivism.

They, and those who have no option but to deal with them, can experience or endure “Groundhog Day” every day, not just due to the inflexible nature of Personality Disorders in general, but due to the extraordinary inability of psychopaths to learn from prior experience.

Together with a lack of empathy, guilt and remorse, these are amongst the traits which psychopathy researchers, including Cleckley and Hare, associate with the disorder.

What they have observed is that imprisoned criminals display both Factor 1 and 2 psychopathy behaviours while subcriminal psychopaths, floating around all areas of society, causing harm to many who cross their paths, less likely to be imprisoned even if they should be, typically display more “Factor 1 than Factor 2” behaviours.

Questions we now need to consider include on what bases are potential psychopaths assessed and diagnosed, what are the respective “Factor 1 and Factor 2” traits and behaviours, and what is the “PCL-R” checklist?

 

How are Psychopaths diagnosed? Are all Narcissistic?

Too many in society appear unaware what day-to day behavioural traits self-centred leaders display, particularly those who may be capable of being diagnosed with any of a range of Personality Disorders, including Narcissistic and Anti-Social or Psychopathic/Sociopathic.

While Psychopaths/Sociopaths are narcissistic, displaying a “grandiose sense of self” and often a “glib” or superficial charm, most narcissists are not psychopaths or sociopaths and ultimately, while prioritising themselves over others and deeply motivated by their self-interest, they may prove to be less cruel, abusive, sadistic or harmful than those also displaying deeper psychopathic tendencies.

Some narcissistic people are cuter, more adaptable, devious, deceitful and manipulative than others.

Those with more exhibitionist and histrionic tendencies may find it harder to control the self proclamations of their brilliance, especially in contexts and organisations where this is either expected or self-promotion contributes to progression through the ranks.

In some organisational cultures pride rather than modesty is rewarded, rather than a touch of humility being appreciated, indicative of a more self-less than self-centred personal nature which ultimately can achieve far more in terms of respect and followers actually being inspired to do what the leaders want done, rather than being bullied, intimidated and even humiliated into letting the leader “get his or her own way”, which may not necessarily coincide with the best interests or stated purposes of the organisation at large.

Other narcissists are far more subtle and tactful, well capable of masking these tendencies when so required, including in groups and organisations where modesty is preferred to arrogance as the medium for progression.

So what are the measures mental health professionals use to make such decisions? Various lists of personal attributes have been compiled by experienced psychiatrists and psychologists to aid their peers diagnose a variety of “Personality Disorders”.

Yet everyone is different so perhaps very few individual personalities would match everything from one list yet contain none of the traits described by another. For instance the exaggerated sense of self-importance associated with “narcissism” is also a feature of other disorders.

Perhaps the Olympic flag or the Venn diagram better conveys the complexity associated with matching any one person’s mild or seriously disordered personality with the characteristics of particular disorders.

Indeed the specific potential diagnosis per se may initially be less important to those who share their professional or personal lives with people who they realise are quite selfish, difficult and proud than actually appreciating that aspects of their behaviour may be abnormal and differ from the norm. Just recognising that a co-worker (or friend or family member) may have a disordered mind may initially be more important than associating their resulting behaviour with any particular disorder or disorders.

Some psychologists believe that the “catch all” category of Antisocial Personality Disorder is too broad and was included in the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ because of the difficulty even experts have in diagnosing psychopathy, partially due to the propensity of psychopaths to convincingly lie during interviews with all parties including experienced psychologists and psychiatrists.

Antisocial Personality Disorder predominantly refers ONLY to a cluster of criminally versatile and antisocial behaviours which are more readily identifiable, maybe even by non-psychologists, possibly including juvenile delinquency and cruelty, proneness to boredom, a need for stimulation, sometimes immediately for no apparent reason, and a lack of realistic long-term goals.

However Psychopathy is defined by a cluster of BOTH socially deviant behaviours, typified by irresponsibility, impulsivity and poor behavioural controls, sometimes referred to as “Factor 2 Psychopathy”, AND personality traits which may be more difficult to assess, as these involve emotional depth and interpersonal abilities, both apparent and absent, sometimes referred to as “Factor 1 Psychopathy”.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is not actually Psychopathy as it predominantly refers only to a group of antisocial and criminal behaviours whereas Psychopathy is defined by both such socially deviant behaviours which are more readily identifiable AND a range of personality traits requiring greater expertise to identify including empathy, egocentricity and guilt.

 

The Psychopathy Checklist

While diagnosis with psychopathy technically requires significant evidence of both Factors 1 and 2, especially when diagnosed using the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) which became the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) devised by Professor Robert D Hare and his team, including the anti-social behaviour more apparent in imprisoned criminals, many prisoners are not psychopaths and many un-imprisoned psychopaths may not display overtly anti-social or criminal behaviours. Some are far too clever to do that, preferring covertly subtle deceit and emotional harm to more overtly aggressive behaviour and violent intimidation.

During Hare’s early years as a clinical psychologist working with imprisoned criminals he noticed that many of the tests for apparent psychopathy were of the “self-reporting” variety, with devious criminals well capable of manipulating the results to portray the outcome they most desired.. Nor was there any universal acceptance of what constituted psychopathic traits.

So starting with the research findings of Professor Hervey Cleckley, both from academic papers and his ground-breaking masterpiece “the Mask of Sanity”, he and his team starting developing a more interview-based approach providing a more reliable rating of psychopathic traits.

As Hare describes himself in his own masterpiece, the highly recommendedWithout Conscience which this outline of the PCL-R takes some extracts from:

Many criminals are able to fake the results of psychological tests without too much difficulty… I decided to grapple with the classification problem by not relying solely on self-reporting. To gather my data, I assembled a team of clinicians who were thoroughly familiar with Cleckley’s work. They would identify psychopaths for study in the prison population by means of long, detailed interviews and close study of file information. I provided these “raters” with Cleckley’s list of the characteristics of psychopathy to serve as a guideline. As it turned out, agreement between the clinicians was generally very high; the few disagreements that arose were resolved by discussion.

Still, other researchers and clinicians were never certain about just how we made our diagnoses. Therefore, my students and I spent more than ten years improving and refining our procedures for ferreting out the psychopaths out of the general prison population.

The result was a highly reliable diagnostic tool that any clinician or researcher could use and that yielded a richly detailed profile of the Personality Disorder called psychopathy.

We named this instrument the Psychopathy Checklist. For the first time, a generally accepted, scientifically sound means of measuring and diagnosing psychopathy became available. The Psychopathy Checklist is now used worldwide to help clinicians and researchers distinguish with reasonable certainty true psychopaths from those who merely break the rules.”

 

Factor 1 & 2 Traits

Psychopathy is often described as consisting of a variety of moderately correlated, overarching dimensions, often referred to as Factor 1 and Factor 2 Psychopathy, F1 and F2 or Primary and Secondary Psychopathy. While a variety of measures have been derived from research into the behaviour of such disordered people, nevertheless they are concerned with not dissimilar traits in reasonably similar groupings, even if the precise terminology differs.

Several well-validated measures of psychopathy exist, with the most widely used being the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 1991)37, which assesses F1 and F2, as well as four facets (interpersonal, affective, lifestyle and antisocial) derived from factor analyses (Hare et al., 1990). The PCL-R involves both a relatively time consuming semi-structured interview of a few hours and a file review of all available information, used by the psychologically qualified interviewer to rate the presence of 20 characteristics.

The PCL was originally developed in the 1970s by Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare for use in psychology experiments, based partly on Hare’s work with male offenders and forensic inmates in Vancouver, and partly on an influential clinical profile by American psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley first published in 1941, “The Mask of Sanity”.

The PCL-R is widely used to assess individuals in high security psychiatric units, prisons and other settings, of benefit in deciding who should be detained or released, or who should undergo what kind of treatment. It is also used for its original purpose, to carry out basic psychology studies of psychopathy.

PSYCHOPATHY CHECKLIST–REVISED (PCL-R)

FACTOR 1: INTERPERSONAL-AFFECTIVE SCALE

(PRIMARY / CORE PSYCHOPATHY)

FACET 1A INTERPERSONAL

Glibness or superficial charm

Grandiose sense of self-worth

Pathological lying

Conning or Manipulative/Devious



FACET 1B AFFECTIVE / EMOTIONAL

Lack of remorse or guilt

Shallow affect / Cold emotions

Callous or Lack of empathy

Failure to accept responsibility



FACTOR 2: SOCIAL DEVIANCE SCALE

(SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHY)

FACET 2A LIFESTYLE

Need for stimulation

Parasitic lifestyle

Lack of realistic long-term goals

Impulsivity

Irresponsibility



FACET 2B ANTISOCIAL

Poor behavioural controls

Early behavioural problems

Juvenile delinquency

Revocation of conditional release

Criminal versatility



PCL-R Factor 1 is labelled “selfish, callous and remorseless use of others”.

Factor 2 is labelled as “chronically unstable, antisocial and socially deviant lifestyle”.

There is a high risk of recidivism, or repeat offending among criminals, and generally low likelihood of rehabilitation for those labelled as having “psychopathy” on the basis of the PCL-R ratings in the manual for the test, although treatment research is ongoing.

PCL-R Factors or Facets 1a and 1b are correlated with narcissistic personality disorder, extraversion and positive affect.

Factor 1, sometimes described as Core or Primary personality traits of psychopathy, may even be beneficial for the psychopath in terms of non-deviant social functioning, hence the term “successful psychopaths”.

PCL-R Factors or Facets 2a and 2b are particularly strongly correlated to antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder and are associated with social deviance, sensation seeking, low socioeconomic status, reactive anger, criminality, impulsive violence and a higher risk of suicide.

The two factors are nonetheless correlated and there are strong indications they do result from a single underlying disorder, especially in males. PCL-R Factor 1 items are more important in measuring and generalising the construct of psychopathy in women than Factor-2 items.

 

From Two to Four factors

Hare’s original PCL-R work (1991) was based on Two Factors described as “Interpersonal / Affective”, which became known as Factor 1 Psychopathy, consisting of Glibness or superficial charm, Grandiose sense of self-worth, Pathological lying, Conning/Manipulation, Lack of remorse/guilt, Shallow affect, Callous/Lack of empathy and Failure to accept responsibility.

Factor 2 was described as “Behavioural/Lifestyle” and consisted of Need for stimulation, Parasitic lifestyle, Lack of realistic long-term plans, Irresponsibility, Impulsivity, Juvenile delinquency and Revocation of conditional release.

The 20 PCL-Revised checklist also contained three further items which although relevant did not quite match what became known as Factor 1 and Factor 2: Many short-term marital relationships, Promiscuous sexual behaviour and Criminal versatility.

Given Robert Hare’s own four decades of research, perhaps the most apt way to understand the 20 traits his lifetime of experience with perhaps life’s most challenging people, especially imprisoned criminals, led him to most associate with psychopaths, is to adapt some of his own descriptions from Chapters 3 and 4 of his own extraordinarily revealing book, the aptly titled “Without Conscience”.

Following further research, both by his own team and others, Hare’s work evolved from a “two factor” to a “four-factor model” of psychopathy (2003) (Ashton, 2018). 38

It is this categorisation of the initial two factors broken into four “facets” that is explained here, with many aspects other than the mostly overtly criminal being as capable of being displayed by the businessperson, public servant, social, community, educational, religious, sporting or political manager or leader, or indeed anyone else in global society, as the multi-convicted, repeat-offending “hardened” criminal.

If amongst the reasons such people have not yet being “caught” or “imprisoned” is that their traits are less well known and international judicial systems have not yet learned how to adapt to deal with the peculiar “sub-criminal” behaviour of psychopaths throughout the many societies in a world of predominantly law-abiding and considerate people, maybe everyone else needs to better understand what very visible behaviour and less visible absence of feelings and emotions which Hare and other specialists in this field look for to identify perhaps life’s most irresponsible people, those who have developed a well-practiced expertise at pretending to be responsible.

 

FACTOR 1: “INTERPERSONAL-AFFECTIVE” SCALE (PRIMARY OR CORE PSYCHOPATHY)

Factor 1 involves feelings and relationships and describes how exceptionally self-centred and callous psychopaths can be, using others without any semblance of guilt or remorse.

Psychopaths manipulate others for self-centred purposes, using superficial charm and deceit to exploit other people, notably for personal advantage or even just for the thrill of disadvantaging others. While many people could be described as “social animals”, enjoying the pleasure of the company of other people, psychopaths are better described as “social predators”.

 

Glibness or superficial charm (smooth-talking & insincere)

Psychopaths have a tendency to be smooth and engaging, charming and slick. They can be extremely verbally facile and their charm could never be associated with shyness or being self-conscious. They are never afraid to say anything and are rarely short of an opinion. They can be extremely tactless but when told so they can fail to see they did anything wrong.

Conversations are an opportunity for them to show others how brilliant they are, not for others to join in. Their fondness for hearing themselves speaking means when excited they can fail to spot opportunities for other people to contribute to the discussion, or can interrupt them as soon as another thought – even on a totally different topic – comes into their head.

Psychopaths are often witty and articulate. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and are able to tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likeable, entertaining and charming.

To some people, however, they seem too slick and smooth, too obviously insincere and superficial. Psychopaths may ramble and tell stories that seem unlikely in light of what is known about them. They are also well capable of feigning expertise in areas in which they have no real training or experience. One of the tell-tale signs, though, is their smooth lack of concern at being found out.”

They can fool some of the people all of the time and even all of the people some of the time, but eventually their combination of behaviour, words, deeds and extraordinary blend of character traits should permit many others to see through their charisma to reveal their true inner coldness.

Mark Twain is attributed to have said “it is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled”. Irrespective of the author, the phrase could have been written by someone with a deep understanding of the actual quite basic, self-centred and impulsive motivations of the psychopathic mind: “what’s in it for me?”

People who get to know them well will realise that charisma can be skin-deep. In due course they will learn to prefer the company (and leadership) of less overtly charismatic but well-meaning people, with an abundance of human decency and all the warm emotions which allow them to be genuinely interested in other people, rather than those who are obsessed with themselves and seek positions of power to maximise their sense of achievement rather than use it astutely for the reasons they were trusted with it.

At the end of the day charm towards others needs to be seen to be accompanied by a genuine interest in those being charmed, rather than a technique to somehow gain an advantage for the charmer at the expense of those being charmed.

 

Grandiose sense of self-worth (arrogant, egocentric with a superiority complex)

The self-centredness of psychopaths is well beyond the comprehension of most normal, kind and compassionate people, too decent to even contemplate let alone appreciate their true emotional impoverishment and the depth of their arrogance, selfish motivations and impulsive opportunism.

Psychopaths have a self-lovingly, narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their own self-worth and abilities, often well beyond their real talent level, a truly astounding degree of egocentricity and self-absorption and a bewildering sense of entitlement. Superlatives have not yet been created to adequately explain their extraordinary degree of self-importance and how superior they feel to everybody else.

Those who feel the necessity to say “do you (not) know who I am?” ultimately can prove not to posses the characteristics to set the leadership example for other people, who they may be incapable of showing a genuine interest in in the first place.

Personal pride seems to tule their lives, allowing them to practice humiliation and discouragement rather than the humility and encouragement which gains respect rather than disrespect and even disrepute.

They believe themselves to be the centre of the universe, as exceptionally superior human beings who are justified in living according to their own rules, irrespective of societal norms or the harm they can do to other people due to their fundamental lack of humanity.

Psychopaths often come across as arrogant, assertive, shameless, self-aggrandising, boastful braggarts – self-assured, opinionated, domineering and cocky. They love to have power and control over others and seem incapable of believing that other people have valid opinions which may differ from theirs. Indeed they can even hold deep grudges against such people, purely for the “crime” of proffering a different opinion to theirs. How dare they? The subsequent punishment will surpass the crime they may not even now they have committed.

Managers have been known to have been fired for reasons they have failed to understand, except they were seen to have openly disagreed with their CEO, even when what they said was absolutely right and their narcissistic leader quite wrong. When such former-employees were told at their unexpected exit-interview “it is not personal” this really meant “this is deeply personal, do you not know I am always right?”

Yet we allow such arrogant and flawed people to become leaders, mistaking their arrogance and self-belief for leadership potential, when they cannot even manage their own emotions let alone take responsibility for the lives and feelings of others.

They can appear to be charismatic or ‘electrifying’ to some people, with a “magnetic personality”, which allows them to talk themselves into situations and positions of responsibility in society for which they are otherwise incredibly ill-equipped, until this is discovered too late, given their fundamentally irresponsible and entirely self-centred nature, too often initially concealed by their ICE traits of Intelligence, Charisma and Eloquence.

 

Pathological lying

Psychopaths seem proud of their ability to lie. Many observers get the impression that psychopaths can sometimes be unaware that they are lying; it is as if the words take on a life of their own, unconcerned by the speaker’s knowledge that the observer is aware of the actual facts.

Their capacity for untruthfulness can range from being crafty, shrewd, sly, clever and cunning to deeply deceptive, deceitful, dishonest, devious, unscrupulous and manipulative, all of which are innately natural talents. They simply cannot be believed at all, on any matter, although most people who have not yet got to know them well personally are, given their own trusting nature, more likely to believe than disbelieve them. What a mistake this can prove to be.

The psychopaths’s indifference to being identified as a liar is absolutely extraordinary; it causes the listener to wonder about the speaker’s sanity. More often, though, the speaker is taken in.

When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed – they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie. The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener, unaware who or what to believe.

Those who know them well appreciate that the best approach is to first totally disbelieve them and indeed to first believe precisely the opposite of what they may assert, especially when they make adverse comments about the behaviour or character of other people.

If they say that other people said or did “black”, instead appreciate it is more likely that the truth was “white”, until proven to be otherwise. Bizarre but true, given that they simply cannot be believed at all.

 

Cunning, Manipulative and Devious

Unscrupulous to their core, meaning lacking any form of scruples for behaviour which many others could not even consider engaging in, psychopaths will avail of any form of deceit and deception to gain an advantage over others, especially for personal gain.

Indeed their greatest deceit can be the powerful impression they are well practiced at giving of being honest and caring, when they can be unbelievably dishonest and couldn’t care less for anyone but themselves.

Deceiving others by acting “normal” most of the time, with their surface-level appeal masking their below-the-surface abnormality, including manipulating others to assist them achieve their goals and “get their own way” in many trivial and significant matters, are amongst their greatest talents.

The degree of callousness they can engage in is extraordinary, given their total lack of concern for the emotions of those on the receiving end of their insensitive ruthlessness, whose resulting suffering may even contribute to their personal pleasure.

Lying, deceiving and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths. With their powers of imagination in gear and beamed on themselves, psychopaths appear amazingly unfazed by the possibility – or even by the certainty – of being found out.

Their statements often reveal their belief that it would be foolish of them not to exploit the weaknesses of others. In addition, they can be very astute at determining what those weaknesses are and at using them for their own benefit.

The capacity to con friend and foe alike makes it a simple matter for psychopaths to perpetuate fraud, embezzlement and impersonation.

Some of their operations are elaborate and well thought out, whereas others are quite simple. Whatever the scheme, it is carried off in a cool, self-assured, brazen manner.

Given their glibness and the facility with which they lie, it is not surprising that psychopaths successfully cheat, bilk, defraud, con and manipulate people and, being devoid of conscience and the capacity to experience guilt or remorse, have not the slightest compunction about doing so.

 

FACET 1B: “AFFECTIVE FACET”:

FEELINGS & EMOTIONS

Psychopaths are emotionally shallow and experience little or no remorse, guilt, empathy, love, sympathy or compassion, can thrive on hatred rather than love and seek revenge even for trivialities and rather than mercy and forgiveness.

Their lack of warm emotions allows them to be cold, calculating and ruth-less, meaning sympathy-less.

Being quite dispassionate about other people, given that they lack what it takes to contribute to humanity, they view life as concerning what they can take for themselves rather than give for the benefit of others.

They seem to wear special sun-glasses, with mirrors on the inside of their lenses, so when they look out on the world they can only see matters from their own perspective.

When they evaluate situations, no matter how interested they can appear to be in other people or even the organisation or entity which employs them, what is really and covertly happening in their mind is their persistent consideration of “what’s in it for me?”

No matter how convincingly they try to give the impression to the contrary, they deeply and fundamentally lack what makes most people human.

 

Lack of remorse or guilt

Psychopath’s utter lack of feelings for the misfortune or suffering of others, especially when they have contributed to this, contributes to their not feeling the pangs of guilt for actions which distress others.

They show a stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others. They can be completely forthright about the matter, calmly stating that they have no sense of guilt, are not sorry for the pain and destruction they have caused, and there is no reason for them to be concerned.

They can sometimes verbalise remorse but then contradict themselves in words and actions. Their lack of remorse or guilt is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalise their behaviour and to shrug off personal responsibility for actions that cause shock and disappointment to family, friends, associates and others who have played by the rules.

Just as extraordinary is their inability to learn from prior experience, which can explain why they can repeatedly behave in the same manner in similar situations and seem to repeat what others would see as their mistakes, time and time again.

This though allows astute observers to both avoid what triggers their cold-hearted cruelty and identify them in the midst of normal people, to begin to deny them the situations and responsible positions in society from which they can practice their remorseless irresponsibility.

Those who abuse power, lose power, but only after many have suffered, whether employees or citizens, including during the length periods when their sole priority became maintenance of power, irrespective of the cost to others.

Even after the organisations (or nations) they led, or mis-led, have collapsed, with many people’s lives adversely affected, they can still wonder what they did wrong.

Those without a sense of wrong must indeed have something wrong with them.

 

Shallow Affect / Cold Emotions

Most people derive happiness from saying or doing something to contribute to the happiness and wellbeing of others. Psychopaths can thrive on contributing to the unhappiness of others. There is no limit to the variety of methods they can find to make others unhappy, both in a subtle or covert manner, far more adept at discouragement and humiliation than praise and encouragement.

The term “cold-hearted” could have been invented for psychopaths, given their inability to experience feelings of sympathy for the victims of their cruelty. They can be very vindictive and seek revenge against those who may only in some trivial way offended or disagreed with them, holding them in deep contempt. Their fundamental lack of emotional warmth denies them the ability to love or be loved. While capable of showing “consideration” for other people, when the circumstances suit them, this could not be equated with “compassion” or genuine kindness, which they are incapable of.

Their ability to be charming and even gregarious hides their true inner emotional coldness, especially in interpersonal dealings, which can be starkly revealed when others say or do something which offends them or challenges their self-interest.

Psychopaths seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings. While at times they appear cold and unemotional, they are prone to dramatic, shallow and short-lived displays of feeling. Careful observers are left with the impression that they are playacting and that little is going on below the surface.

Many clinicians have commented that the emotions of psychopaths are so shallow as to be little more than “proto-emotions”: primitive responses to immediate needs.

Psychopaths lack the physiological responses normally associated with fear.

The significance of this finding is that, for most people, the fear produced by threats of pain or punishment is an unpleasant emotion and a powerful motivator of behaviour. Fear keeps us from doing some things, but it also makes us do other things. In each case, it is emotional awareness of the consequences that impels us to take a particular course of action. Not so with psychopaths; they merrily plunge on, perhaps knowing what might happen, but not really caring.

For most of us, fear and apprehension, are associated with a variety of unpleasant bodily sensations, such as sweating of the hands, a “pounding heart”, dry mouth, muscle tenseness or weakness, trembles and “butterflies” in the stomach. Indeed wee often describe fear in terms of the bodily sensations that accompany them: “I was so terrified my heart leapt into my throat”; “I tried to speak but my mouth went dry”; and so forth.

These bodily sensations do not form what psychopaths experience as fear. For them, fear – like most other emotions – is incomplete, shallow, largely cognitive in nature, and without the physiological turmoil or “colouring” that most of us find distinctly unpleasant and wish to avoid or reduce.

(p129) The psychopath lacks an important element of experience – in this case, emotional experience – but may have learned the words that others use to describe or mimic experiences that he cannot really understand.

(p134) Psychopaths have only a vague comprehension of the extent of their emotional poverty. In the final analysis, their self-image is more defined by possessions and other visible signs of success and power than by love, insight and compassion, which are abstractions and have little inherent meaning for them.

 

Callous lack of empathy

Their total lack of feelings for other people allows them to be treat other people tactlessly and coldly, no different than if they were a shopfront mannequin, being totally incapable of being genuinely considerate for the interests and needs of other people, who they can look down on with great contempt, especially when totally unwarranted.

Many of the characteristics displayed by psychopaths – especially their egocentricity, lack of remorse, shallow emotions and deceitfulness – are closely associated with a profound lack of empathy – an inability to construct a mental and emotional ‘facsimile’ of another person. They seem unable to ‘get into the skin’ or to ‘walk in the shoes’ of others, except in a purely intellectual sense.

The feelings of other people are of no concern to psychopaths. Because of their inability to appreciate the feelings of others, some psychopaths are capable of behaviour that normal people find not only horrific but baffling.

Psychopaths display a general lack of empathy. They are indifferent to the rights and suffering of family and strangers alike. If they do maintain ties with their spouses or children, it is only because they see their family members as possessions, much like their stereos or automobiles. Indeed it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that some psychopaths are more concerned with the inner workings of their cars than with the inner worlds of their “loved” ones.

Failure to accept responsibility; tendency to deflect blame & ability to engage in impression management

Psychopaths can show an abject failure to accept responsibility for their actions, reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness and antagonistic manipulation of others in lieu of accepting responsibility. Usually they have handy excuses for their behaviour, and in some cases they deny that it happened it at all.

Although sometimes a psychopath will admit to having performed the actions, he will greatly minimize or deny the consequences to others. Although they are also well capable of stating that their victims got what they deserved, in an ironic twist, psychopaths frequently see themselves as the real victims.

Equally ironic is their ability to seek sympathy from others, perhaps described as “poor me”, even if based on entirely false and highly imaginative claims, given their own inability to feel sympathy for other people, including those they may have greatly wronged.

Indeed their lack of “ruth” or sympathy or compassion can lead to them or their behaviour or both being described as “ruth-less”.

Tragically (p115) these victims often cannot get other people to understand what they are going through. Psychopaths are very good at putting on a good impression when it suits them, and they often paint their victims as the real culprits.

As one victim described the situation: “But everyone, including my doctor and lawyer and my friends blamed me for the problem. He had them so convinced that he was a great guy and that I was going mad, I began to believe it myself. Some wanted to know what I had done to make him act so strangely”.

Lacking conscience for their misbehaviour including their outrageous distortions of reality, damaging the reputation of other people is an area at which they excel, well described as “character assassination” or “distortion campaigns”. Other people just do not know who or what to believe.

This is why one of the most salient pieces of advice in dealing with psychopaths when hearing a tall tale about someone else, especially when this does seem to be particularly out of character, is first believe the opposite, unless and until the story can be independently verified, unlikely as this may be given their ability to convincingly lie then just change their story without any qualms when found out.

Their ability to seem to believe their own lies and inventions, about events or other people, is perhaps unparalleled throughout human existence. Yet their inability to accept responsibility for their many failings and callous misbehaviour is only matched by the veracity of the yarns they spin about those entirely innocent people they decide to blame instead.

Lacking what many may describe as the very essence of humanity, psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions mean hardship or risk for others. They may even derive deep pleasure from cruel words and deeds which most other people throughout society couldn’t even contemplate.

 

FACTOR 2: “SOCIAL DEVIANCE SCALE” (SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHY)

FACET 2A: “LIFESTYLE”

 

Need for stimulation and excitement

Psychopaths have an ongoing and excessive need for excitement, thrills, taking chances and doing things that are risky. They long to live in the fast lane or “on the edge,” where the action is. In many cases the action involves breaking the rules.

They often move from place to place and job to job searching for a fresh buzz. They can describe “doing crime” for excitement or thrills, enjoying “the adrenaline rush”.

The flip side of this yearning for excitement is an inability to tolerate routine or monotony, so they can fail to work at the same job for any length of time, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.

Psychopaths can have poor self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they are easily bored.

Impulsivity is defined as a predisposition towards unplanned or rapid reactions to stimuli without the consideration of possible negative consequences (De Wit, 2009) 39 and the term could have been invented for psychopaths.

Psychopaths are well capable of engaging in behaviours that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning. They can find it a great challenge to resist temptation, frustrations and urges.

They can engage in foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic and reckless acts, evidence of a lack of deliberation without due consideration of the consequences, not only for others but even themselves.

They are unlikely to spend much time weighing the pros and cons of a course of action or considering the possible consequences. ‘I did it because I felt like it’ is a common response.

When trusted with positions of responsibility requiring astute, well balanced decision-making, their impulsivity can result in quite the opposite – reckless, potentially dangerous behaviours undertaken with little consideration for the consequences.

More than displays of temper, impulsive acts often result from an aim that plays a central role in most of the psychopath’s behaviour: to achieve immediate satisfaction, pleasure or relief.

So family members, employers and coworkers typically find themselves standing around asking themselves what happened—jobs are quit, relationships broken off, plans changed, houses ransacked, people hurt, often for what appears little more than a whim.

Psychopaths tend to live day-to-day and to change their plans frequently. They give little serious thought to the future and worry about it even less.

Their impulsiveness, concern only for the moment and lack of allegiance to people or causes makes them unpredictable, careless and undependable.

Lack of realistic long-term goals

Although psychopaths often claim to have specific goals, they show little understanding of the qualifications required. They can have no idea how to achieve their goals and have little or no chance of attaining them. Some can display a nomadic existence, seeming to be aimless and lacking direction in life.

Psychopaths feel that their abilities will enable them to become anything they want to be, even if their self-confidence and grandiosity can seem extraordinary to those familiar with their actual abilities.

Although their aspirations may be more akin to dreams than realism, their clear inability to learn from prior experience does not deter them from equating past ambitions with subsequent failures to achieve these aspirations

Given their penchant for trying to impress people with their extraordinary achievements and exceptional talents, however imaginary and unlikely these may appear to those who actually do know them, their illusions could not be equated with having any realistic, longer term goals.

 

Irresponsibility

Psychopaths consider the rules and expectations of society inconvenient and unreasonable, impediments to the behavioural expression of their inclinations and wishes.

They make their own rules, both as children and as adults. Impulsive, deceitful children who lack empathy and see the world as their oyster will be much the same as adults. The lifelong continuity of the self-serving, anti-social behaviour of psychopaths is truly amazing.

Obligations and commitments mean nothing to psychopaths. They do not honour formal or implied commitments to people, organisations or principles.

Psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions may cause hardship or risk for others and are frequently successful in talking their way out of trouble.

Although perhaps the most fundamentally irresponsible people in society, one of the challenges that everyone else faces in dealing with them is, given their unscrupulously deceitful nature, they often have great expertise in acting as if they were highly responsible.

While they can pretend to be considerate of the interests and needs of both other people and even society itself, sometimes extremely convincingly so, at the end of the day they are not, given that they are probably the most self-centred people in society and struggle to prioritise the interests and needs of anyone but themselves, especially when situations arise which threaten their self-interest, given that their primary goal is to “get their own way, irrespective of the cost to others”.

Giving a good impression is one of their fortes, especially when this masks their fundamental inner coldness and total disinterest in anyone or anything but themselves, even deriving pleasure from being cruel.

Until this is understood, they will be misunderstood.

Notorious for their unreliability and irresponsibility, they simply cannot be trusted with any positions of responsibility, yet extraordinarily global society continues to appoint them to seniority of position, until it can often be too late to appreciate that their extraordinary mindset leads to unfortunate consequences given their ‘consistent irresponsibility’, well capable of routinely acting against the common good and doing so with ‘emotional impunity’.

 

Parasitic lifestyle

Devoid of the very facets of life which contribute to living with deep humanity, the lifestyle and life choices of psychopaths can reflect their necessity for exploitation rather than warm and meaningful relationships, allowing them to derive their pleasures instead from engaging in intentionally manipulative and self-centred behaviour.

While some can be very ambitious, and will go to great lengths to “get their own way”, irrespective of the costs to others or even the organisation which employs them, others can display a lack of motivation and poor self-control.

This can include financial dependence on others and an inability to accept, undertake or complete responsibilities.

FACET 2B: “ANTISOCIAL”

Psychopaths do meet current legal and psychiatric standards for sanity. They understand the rules of society and the conventional meanings of right and wrong. They are capable of controlling their behaviour and they are aware of the potential consequences of their acts.

Their problem is that this knowledge frequently fails to deter them from antisocial behaviour. They understand the intellectual rules of the game but the emotional rules are lost to them.

[Nevertheless] psychopaths certainly know enough about what they are doing to be held accountable for the irresponsibility of their actions.” (p143 )

 

Poor behavioural controls

Psychopaths can find it very difficult to withhold their irritability, annoyance and impatience and can be very aggressive, threatening and verbally abusive.

They can display inadequate control of anger and temper and are well capable of acting hastily.

Besides being impulsive – doing things on the spur of the moment – psychopaths are also highly reactive to perceived insults or slights and can display inappropriate expressions of anger.

Most of us have powerful inhibitory controls over our behaviour, even if we would like to respond aggressively, we are usually able to “keep the lid on”. In psychopaths these inhibitory controls are weak and the slightest provocation is sufficient to overcome them.

As a result psychopaths are short-tempered or hot-headed and tend to respond to frustration, failure, discipline and criticism with sudden violence, threats and verbal abuse. They take offence easily and become angry and aggressive over trivialities, and often in a context that appears inappropriate to others.

But their outbursts, extreme as they may be, are generally short-lived, and they quickly resume acting as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. It’s not unusual for psychopaths to inflict serious physical or emotional damage on others, sometimes routinely, and yet refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem controlling their tempers. In most cases, they see their aggressive displays as natural responses to provocation.

 

Early behavioural problems

Many psychopaths began to display a variety of unacceptable behaviours from an early age, with “early behavioural problems” referring to the pre-teens period or trouble caused before the age of thirteen.

While cruelty to animals and other children, including siblings, can be external “tell-tale signs” of the internal lack of empathy experienced even at a young age, not all adult psychopaths display such overt youthful cruelty.

Most though would engage in some forms of disruptive or dysfunctional behaviour such as lying and cheating, intimidation and bullying, vandalism, theft, fire-starting and other forms of destruction, alcohol use, sexual activity, truancy from school and running away from home. It should not be a surprise to find they continue in a similar vein later in life.

 

Juvenile delinquency

Teenage behaviour problems, between the ages of 13 and 18; are referred to as juvenile delinquency, especially criminal behaviour. While these can be a continuation of the “early behavioural problems”, they usually involve elements of aggression, exploitation, antagonism, manipulation and other indications of cold, callous ruthlessness and a lack of consideration for other people, even those who are most kind to them. As adults, some can display a cold indifference to their own children.

Nature and nurture can both play a role. While some are raised in disruptive environments and struggle to “socialise”, perhaps not having been shown the best example by peers or family, many come from well-adjusted families which may suggest nature and genetics could be contributory factors.

While many teens can occasionally engage in difficult and disruptive behaviour, the range of difficulties psychopaths get involved with can be more extensive and serious compared with those of siblings and friends raised in similar settings.

 

[Conduct Disorder]

Conduct Disorder describes children and adolescents who systematically violate the basic rights of others or break social rules and norms that someone of a similar age would be expected to follow.

To be diagnosed with this condition, individuals must have displayed at least 3 of the following symptoms during the previous 12 months, including at least one over the prior 6 months:

Aggression to people or animals:

1. bullies, threatens or intimidates others often

2. starts physical fights often

3. has used a weapon that could cause serious physical harm to others (eg. Brick, bat, broken bottle, knife)

4. has been physically cruel to people

5. has been physically cruel to animals

6. has stolen from someone while confronting the victim (eg. mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery)

7. has forced someone into sexual activity

Destruction of property:

10. has deliberately engaged in fire-setting with the intention of causing serious damage

11. has deliberately destroyed others’ property (other than by fire-setting)

Deceitfulness or theft:

14. has broken into someone’s house, building or car

15. often lies, cons or deceives others to obtain goods or favours or to avoid obligations

16. has stolen items of some value without confronting the victim, such as forgery or shoplifting without breaking and entering.

Serious violations of rules:

17. often stays out at night despite parent’s curfew, before teenage years

18. has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in their parents’ home, or the home of a parental surrogate (or once without returning for a lengthy period)

19. often skips school, which begins before teenage years.

By definition, these symptoms cause a significant impairment in the individual’s ability to function in their life roles at school, work, or in their relationships with peers and family.

If at least one of the symptoms start before age 10, Conduct Disorder can be classified as Childhood-Onset Type or as Adolescent-Onset Type if none of the symptoms start before age 10. If the age of onset is unknown, it is labeled as Unspecified Onset.

If only a minimum number of required symptoms are displayed and these cause only minor harm to others, Conduct Disorder is considered to be mild.

When many of the symptoms are displayed, or some symptoms cause considerable harm to others, Conduct Disorder is considered to be severe.

Cases which fall somewhere in between these two extremes are described as Moderate Conduct Disorder.

Conduct Disorder which began before the age of 15 is one of the conditions for diagnosis with Antisocial Personality Disorder from the age of 18, according to the requirements of the DSM of the US APA.

 

Revocation of conditional release

While many accept the responsibility of early release from prison sentences, psychopaths are less capable of the level of responsibility required. They can engage in actions or omissions of required actions, in serious violations of the terms of their probation or other “conditional release” from imprisonment due to technical violations such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear and other breaches of conditions of early release.

These can result in revocation or withdrawal of their early release, further examples of their inability to accept responsibility for their own behaviour or appreciate the consequences of their actions.

 

Criminal versatility

While some can engage in the same type of wrongdoing, psychopaths can show a great ability to engage in a wide diversity of criminal acts, indeed many forms of criminal offences. These are not always engaged in for a specific reason, rather for the thrill of taking part and getting away with crimes.

 

Non Factor 1 and 2 behaviours (unique to PCL-R)

Many short-term marital relationships: Given their lack of any real interest in other people, except what they can do for them, they struggle to show commitment to any long-term relationships including marital. While people are useful to them they are capable of being treated reasonably well, at least much of the time, but when they are no longer deemed to serve a purpose they can be rapidly and callously discarded, further adding to the degree of unreliability and undependability they display in many areas of their lives.

Promiscuous sexual behaviour: Again their lack of anything which could be termed warm emotions means they can see others as tools to be used for their own gratification, with no meaningful attempt to be anything but indiscriminate and opportunistic, leading to a variety of superficial and momentary relationships, many affairs, and even a variety of simultaneous relationships, adding to the thrill of avoiding being caught.

 

 

Cooke and Michie: Three Factors Better Explaining Workplaces?

In 2001, when Hare’s analysis of psychopathy was explained by way of two not the subsequent four factors, researchers Cooke and Michie, then at Glasgow Caledonian University, using statistical analysis involving “confirmatory factor analysis”, suggested that a three-factor structure may provide a more effective model, with those items from PCL-R Factor 2 strictly relating to antisocial behaviour (criminal versatility, juvenile delinquency, revocation of conditional release, early behavioural problems and poor behavioural controls) not utilised for their assessment of what constitutes psychopathy.

While those more familiar with psychopathy from experience with imprisoned criminals may disagree, those more accustomed to psychopathic behaviour outside the more overtly criminal fraternity, indeed across almost all other areas of society, which Hare prefers to describe as “sub-criminal psychopaths”, may be better able to relate with the non-social-deviance aspects.

Indeed they may find them more apparently relevant to the coldheartedly ruthless behaviour exhibited by the self-centred individuals employed in business, politics, government, public sector, education, religion, charities, sports and other activities in society which do not normally lead to trial and imprisonment, even if they could or should more frequently than they do.

Proponents of models of psychopathy without the anti-social criminality required for diagnosis as a psychopath may argue that it is the other more arrogant, interpersonal, affective, impulsive and cold-heartedly empathy, guilt and conscience-free nature of their personality, which permits or leads them to engage in anti-social behaviour, given the right (or rather wrong) social background and opportunity, or rather fails to prohibit them from behaving unethically or in a devious, manipulative or corrupt manner in business, organisational and political life.

Lacking the fear or anxiety which most experience means engaging in unethical, corrupt and antisocial acts may even appear to be thrilling or exciting, especially when there is an interpersonal element, as “getting their own way” (especially when this denies others getting theirs) appears to be one of their primary motivations.

Indeed as not only “winning” but furthermore “winning at all costs” irrespective of the consequences (for others, their organisation or even themselves) can also seem to be a primary motivator, the absence of fear, guilt, empathy or indeed any warm emotions means their victory, especially over other people and whether major or trivial, irrespective of the situation, becomes their over-arching priority, with morality, ethics or harm to others just not a concern, or maybe even an ambition.

When their cold-hearted and ruth-less (compassion-free) demeanour, which may derive pleasure from being cruel and even sadistic towards others, is allied to their extraordinary self-centredness and impulsivity, there really is no barrier or impediment to they engaging in a manner which those with an “active conscience” wouldn’t or couldn’t even contemplate.

When those working (or living) with them appreciate that their prompt reaction to any matter or situation arising involving choices or deliberations is to instantaneously evaluate “what’s in it for me?”, even if this is purely denying others something they desire, they will learn to adapt their own thought-process or behaviour to minimise the opportunity of such situations arising.

Giving them little or no opportunity to act impulsively and make poor decisions could be cutting off the fuel supply for their insatiable necessity to personally prevail, inflame issues and cause trouble.

Indeed given their deep deceit and thrill they derive from lying, even involving no semblance of either truth or reality, other more adaptable people will in due course learn to initially believe the opposite of what they say or assert (until independently verified), do the opposite of what they want to do (more likely to be in line with organisational or national rather then personal goals) and especially to propose precisely the opposite of what others want them to do, given that they struggle to be agreeable and get a thrill from being disagreeable.

Indeed it is their very maladaptive nature which allows their more intellectually intelligent colleagues to adapt their own thinking and behaviour to minimise the degree of harm they are capable of inflicting on others and the entity which employs them, one of their sources of “stimulation and excitement”.

 

Defeating the Malicious Rumour Mongers

Given the thrill they get from winning and personally prevailing, they have no impediment to lying, deceiving and spreading malicious rumours about those they see to be their rivals (even if not, given their sometime paranoia) or who may have offended them in any way, even if they didn’t and this is just their ultra-competitive perception.

Those who may hear them “badmouthing” others including their most loyal supporters or those apparently closest to them, let alone those they perceive to be rivals or enemies, will do well to appreciate that what psychologists call a “borderline distortion campaign” or “psychopathic character assassination” is very much par for their own personality and character and the best policy again may be to “believe the opposite”

Indeed it may even be beneficial to inform the person whose character is being distorted or assassinated about this, tactfully, because otherwise they may be unaware why they are being ignored or criticised professionally and/or socially.

When such self-focussed people are trusted with organisational or group responsibility, their disdain or even contempt for anyone other than their (brilliant) selves, necessity to treat others poorly rather than well, in effect being critical or discouraging rather than positive and encouraging, leads to unnecessary high-conflict situations and combative organisational cultures which those involved may simply describe as being “not a nice place to work”.

Yet such scenarios are far too prevalent throughout global workplaces and tolerated when they should not be. No matter the apparent talents or achievements of such people, they are outweighed by the negatives and downsides, especially when it results in other people underperforming or feeling stressed and forced to take their talents elsewhere to more conducive environments where they will be better appreciated and perhaps make a significant contribute.

How can this be achieved?

By decision-makers including those responsible for hiring and firing being no longer charmed by those who transpire to be charmless, impressed by those whose necessity to intimidate and humiliate others needs to be seen as weakness rather than strength of character, whose eloquence and smart talk transpires to have no direct link with actual intentions, actions or reality and whose necessity to do “whatever it takes” to personally prevail irrespective of any damaging consequences may be better associated with narcissism and impulsivity than decisiveness and cold contempt for other people, loyalty only to themselves and lack of any apparent early warning system regarding matters of conscience, ethics, morality, responsibility or social responsibility as possible indications of psychopathy, indicated by the three facets associated with interpersonal, relationship and lifestyle situations being anything other than normal, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any genuine concern for the interests and needs of the organisation or anyone but themselves.

 

Three Factors Excluding Anti-Social

Cooke and Michie devised their own terminology for such situations and scenarios, otherwise in many respects concur with Hare’s analysis of psychopathic traits as they divided the remaining non-socially deviant items into three factors:

  1. Arrogant and Deceitful Experience (ADI), or interpersonal style,

  2. Deficient Affective Experience (DAE), and

  3. Impulsive and Irresponsible Behavioural lifestyle (IIL)

which with some variation roughly correspond to the PCL-R factors 1a, 1b and 2a.

Following further research, both by his own team and others in the same field of applied psychology, Hare’s work evolved from a “two factor” to a “four-factor model” of psychopathy (2003) (Ashton, 2018). 40

Cooke and Michie (2001):

ADI = Arrogant and Deceitful Experience DAE = Deficient Affective Experience

IIL = Impulsive and Irresponsible Lifestyle

The PCL-R traits omitted from the Cooke & Michie model are: Lack of realistic long-term goals, Poor behavioural controls, Early behavioural problems, Juvenile delinquency, Revocation of conditional release and Criminal versatility.

The difference between the “interpersonal/emotional” (Factor 1) and “socially deviant” (Factor 2) aspects, has contributed to some psychopathy researchers, including Cooke and Michie, to propose that the Factor 1 items indicative of “Arrogant and Deceitful Experience” and “Deficient Affective Experience” or lack of emotional depth, as well as some of the Factor 2 items typified by an “Impulsive and Irresponsible Lifestyle”, but without the overtly anti-social and criminal tendencies, may well explain the behaviour of those apparently “successfully” employed in organisations throughout global society but who, as Hare argues, should not be so described as their apparent “success” will always be at the expense of other people.

I would add such people may even threaten the long-term viability of the organisation itself. Indeed I believe when employed in senior roles within organisations they should be regarded as a “viability threat” which could be worthy of inclusion in an organisational psychopathy checklist.

Although still deeply cunning, manipulative, deceitful, impulsive, untruthful and expert liars, with their “shallow emotions” including little or no empathy well capable of cold cruelty and remorseless rumours, including verbal disparagement of others, sometimes known as “psychopathic character assassination”, which may involve partial or total distortion of reality or “the truth”, possibly arising from a “delusional” mindset, while also displaying many of the behaviours discussed in this research, they may for instance be less physically violent.

This though may be as much due to warmer and kinder (or less harmful) family upbringing and a more favourable social background as any better degree of “behaviour controls”.

Those familiar with their tendencies may well have reason to always be slightly scared of such people, knowing their impulsivity may result in the necessity to “walk on eggshells” given their propensity for sudden anger outbursts.

Ironically their inability to control their own emotions may also be accompanied by a necessity to “control” other people and situations.

 

Antisocial Personality Disorder & Other Interpretations Of Psychopathy

 

What is Antisocial Personality Disorder? DSM 301.7: Definition and Symptoms

Antisocial Personality Disorder is a type of character style that becomes apparent by age 15 at the latest, and represents a pervasive and stable pattern of disregarding and violating the rights of others, necessitating four elements of A, B, C and D for diagnosis.41

This diagnosis (B) can only be made after age 18, and the individual (C) must also have had Conduct Disorder that began before age 15. Furthermore (D), these symptoms do not occur during the course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode.

It is the behavioural matters referred to as (A) which may be most relevant, with Antisocial Personality Disorder being defined by three or more of the following seven symptoms:

  1. A failure to conform to social norms regarding lawful behaviour, indicated by repeatedly performing acts that would be grounds for arrest;

  2. Acting in deceitful ways, such as lying repeatedly, using aliases and giving false names, and conning others for personal gain or pleasure;

  3. Acting impulsively (engages in risky and dangerous acts without seeming to care about the consequences) and fails to plan ahead;

  4. Is often irritable and aggressive, can be violent and often physically fights or assaults others;

  5. Acting recklessly and tends to disregard the safety of self and others;

  6. Consistent irresponsibility”: is constantly irresponsible, and repeatedly fails to meet work obligations or honour financial obligations;

  7. Lacks remorse, and seems indifferent to or does not find it unacceptable to engage in behaviour which involves hurting, mistreating or stealing from others.

 

Antisocial Personality Disorder is NOT Psychopathy

Many psychiatrists and psychologists would appear to believe that the “catch all” category of Antisocial Personality Disorder is too broad and are disappointed with its inclusion in the DSM or “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” in lieu of a proper categorisation of psychopathy or what was formerly referred to as “sociopathic personality disorder”, not to be confused with the term “psychopathology” meaning underlying reasons for a mental illness,.

One reason cited is the difficulty even experts have in diagnosing psychopathy, partially due to the propensity of psychopaths to convincingly lie during interviews with all parties and hide their true inner coldness related traits, including from experienced psychologists and psychiatrists, wearing what I refer to as their “mask of normality”, at least much of the time.

While the Cooke and Michie model describes psychopathy without the necessity for anti-social and criminal behaviour for diagnosis as a psychopath, so too do other models such as the Triarchic and PPI-Revised.

Anyone who has been on the receiving end of, indeed perhaps been a victim of, psychopathic behaviour may recognise the cold-hearted, callous and ruthless traits described by these models as well as the first three of Hare’s four facets, many arising from a lack of empathy and indeed basic humanity.

Extraordinarily the APA in updating their DSM since its earliest variants have almost been seen to have done quite the opposite – they have INCLUDED the anti-social behaviour in their pseudo or partial description of what approximates psychopathy, entitled Anti-Social Personality Disorder, and EXCLUDED the emotional, affective and narcissistic matters which better describe the callous ruthlessness most associated with the psychopath.

Hare explained that when the DSM-III was initially released it was assumed that the average clinical psychologist was not expected to be able to reliably assess personality traits such as empathy, egocentricity and guilt and as a consequence ASPD diagnosis guidance was based on what clinicians could more readily assess: objective, socially deviant behaviour.

In effect the DSM has no satisfactory primary categorization of psychopathy, despite the devastating effect such people can have on the lives of others, with the complexity of the problem recognised by a better attempt to do so included as an Appendix to DSM-5 introduced in 2013, indicative of a future direction which may better resolve this problem.

The statistics vary but as a rule of thumb approximately 30% of those with ASPD may also be capable of also being classified as psychopaths. For instance, Kiehl (2006) 42 observed that:

ASPD has been criticized for overly relying on antisocial behaviours, while excluding many of the affective and interpersonal characteristics considered to be central to the construct of psychopathy. ASPD also has been questioned on grounds of specificity in forensic populations. Nearly 80–90% of inmates in a maximum security prison fulfil the criteria for ASPD, while only 15–25% score above the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy”, indicative of why the DSM definition of ASPD in lieu of Psychopathy has been so heavily criticised.

 

Emotions and Affect

So what appears to be most missing from the definitions of ASPD and Psychopathy, which being derived from psyche (mind) and pathos (disease), in effect refers to “mental illness” or perhaps even more literally a “diseased mind” or “disordered mind”.

Psychopathy is broader than ASPD, defined by a cluster of

BOTH socially deviant behaviours typified by irresponsibility, impulsivity and poor behavioural controls (associated with ASPD)

AND personality traits, emotional and interpersonal, which may be more difficult to assess, including the

ABSENCE of some traits associated with normal, compassionate living and the

PRESENCE of other “pathological” traits associated with selfish, difficult, proud and challenging behaviour.

Recall that a Personality Disorder is “a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning and lasts over time.” In addition to the way such people think (cognition) and feel (affect), the motivations of some “Disordered Leaders” appears to differ from those of many other people. 43

Traditionally three components of the mind have been identified:

  1. The term “affect” in psychology refers to “any experience of feeling or emotion, ranging from suffering to elation, from the simplest to the most complex sensations of feeling, and from the most normal to the most “pathological” emotional reactions. Often described in terms of positive affect or negative affect, both mood and emotion are considered affective states.44

  2. The term “cognition” although often considered to mean the “thinking” role of the brain, actually refers to “all forms of knowing and awareness, such as perceiving, conceiving, remembering, reasoning, judging, imagining and problem solving.”45

  3. The term “conation” along with affect and conation one of the three traditionally identified components of the mind refers to “the proactive (as opposed to habitual) part of motivation that connects knowledge, affect, drives, desires, and instincts to behaviour. The behavioural basis of attitudes is sometimes referred to as the conative component”46, with “conative” described as “characterised by volition or self-activation toward a goal.”47

So when affect or affective is mentioned, it typically refers to feelings, moods and emotions, including anger, fear, surprise, happiness, disgust and contempt, as well as how these are displayed (termed “affect display”) such as facial expressions, gestures, postures or other bodily movements that demonstrate an emotional state.48

Yet (extraordinarily) it is such important matters of feelings, moods and emotions which have been excluded from the DSM definition of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) which over the years has moved further and further away from the far wider variety of traits and behaviours most associated with psychopathy.

So while the terms “psychopathy” and “sociopathy”, although different to some and identical to others, are in many respects interchangeable, especially by those who believe “sociopathy” is somehow more socially acceptable and less dangerous a term than “psychopathy”, neither are interchangeable with “anti-social personality disorder”.

The “interpersonal” and “affective” or external display of interior emotional matters which have been excluded from the primary definition of ASPD but which are thought to be integral aspects of psychopathy include:

  1. their “shallow effect” LACK of guilt, remorse, regret, responsibility, empathy, fear, truth-telling, ethics, morality, conscience, long-term goals, kindness, warm, welcoming feelings and emotions, the capacity to love and be loved, the ability to take criticism or extend mercy, forgiveness and compassion to others, or respond appropriately to others people when they are kind to them, as well as

  2. the way they think, perceive themselves as superior and behave also differs from most others in society, given their glib or superficial charm, grandiosity or significant self-belief, or “narcissism”, a need for excitement and proneness to boredom, the ability to give a “good impression” yet be deeply and callously manipulative, deceitful and cunning, including pathological lying and changing lies and stories on a whim without seeming to be bothered about doing so or being caught being untruthful; an inability to learn from prior experience or accept responsibility for words and deeds which distress to others; being always right and never wrong, believing themselves to be much better than others and possessing talents they actually deeply lack; a tendency to blame others for all their failings, hold deep grudges and telling lies about others; thriving on vindictiveness and hatred, who cannot be believed as there can be a deep disconnect between their words, actions and intentions, to the degree that it is far safer to first believe the opposite of what they say or assert,

  3. Their “conation” differs from many others in society as they evaluate situations based on “what’s in it for me?”, as ultimately their primary driving force and deepest motivation is their self-interest, because given their fundamental inner coldness the only person they are capable of having any real interest in is themselves, which with their extraordinary impulsiveness and thoughtlessness means even on the spur of the moment they will do anything it takes to “get their own way” and “win at all costs”, irrespective of the consequences for other people or organisations and even, extraordinarily, themselves, given their exceptional sense of invincibility and their delusional self-belief convincing them they can do anything they want to, even if (others know that) they are fundamentally ill-equipped for many of the tasks they are trusted with, including responsible management and leadership.

Other people need to be warned not to allow themselves to fall for their external charisma which may transpire to be skin-deep, especially when they engage in false flattery of others for the purpose of personal advantage.

Indeed it could be argued that Psychopathy is not adequately recognised amongst the Cluster B Personality Disorders at all, or very partially at best, rather is better represented in the significant self belief and egotistical element within DSM’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the interpersonal difficulties associated with DSM’s Borderline Personality Disorder and the cold-hearted cruelty associated with Sadistic Personality Disorder, despite the harm and havoc which those with psychopathic traits wreak both on lives of others and ultimately on society itself.

With cigarette packets containing significant health warnings, what should other people be warned about and what could the DSM better assist clinicians with as their diagnoses can also result in health warnings about any form of relationship including doing business with such people?

What may also explain their poor treatment of and disrespect for other people, also permitting their anti-social behaviour, is what is also most missing from the DSM description of ASPD – their fundamental lack of humanity.

At the end of the day their greatest incapacity is their inability to genuinely appreciate and understand other people and act humanely towards them, given that they are only capable of seeing them as inanimate objects, not real people with their own feelings and emotions, which they can still go to great lengths to damage, as they seem to derive personal pleasure not from generosity and love but meanness and cruelty; those without a sense of wrong must have something wrong with them.

So should matters such as meanness, fearlessness, hatred, cold-hearted ruthlessness and a fondness for playing mind-games not be included with the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy?

 

The Triarchic model

The Triarchic model suggests that different conceptions of psychopathy emphasise three observable characteristics to various degrees. Analyses have been made with respect to the applicability of measurement tools such as the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL, PCL-R) and Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) to this model.

Boldness: Low fear including stress-tolerance, toleration of unfamiliarity and danger, and high self-confidence and social assertiveness. The PCL-R measures this relatively poorly and mainly through Facet 1 of Factor 1. Similar to PPI Fearless dominance. May correspond to differences in the amygdala and other neurological systems associated with fear.

Disinhibition: Poor impulse control including problems with planning and foresight, lacking affect and urge control, demand for immediate gratification, and poor behavioural restraints. Similar to PCL-R Factor 2 and PPI Impulsive antisociality. May correspond to impairments in frontal lobe systems that are involved in such control.

Meanness: Lacking empathy and close attachments with others, disdain of close attachments, use of cruelty to gain empowerment, exploitative tendencies, defiance of authority and destructive excitement seeking. The PCL-R in general is related to this, but in particular some elements in Factor 1. Similar to PPI, but also includes elements of subscales in Impulsive antisociality.

 

Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI-Revised)

The Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI-Revised) is another personality test for traits associated with psychopathy in adults, designed to measure personality dispositions independent of antisocial behaviours, whereas the PCL-R explicitly incorporates such behaviours.

The PPI was developed by Scott Lilienfeld and Brian Andrews to assess these traits in non-criminal (e.g. university students) populations, though it is still used in clinical (e.g. incarcerated) populations as well.

In contrast to other psychopathy measures, such as the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL), the PPI is a “self-report” scale, rather than interview-based, assessment. It is intended to comprehensively index psychopathic personality traits without assuming particular links to anti-social or criminal behaviours. It also includes measures to detect impression management or careless responding.

The Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI; Lilienfeld & Andrews, 1996) 49 was developed as a self-report measure of psychopathy, and as a more easily administered and less time-consuming alternative to the PCL-R. Nevertheless, the PPI is marked by the standard limitations of self-reports, such as reliance on respondents’ insight and honesty, both of which may be particular problems among psychopathic individuals.

Most commonly, factor analytic studies report that PPI consists of a three-factor structure:

F1 (Fearless Dominance),

F2 (Impulsive Antisociality) and

F3 Coldheartedness

the last of which does not load appreciably on either factor and is thus treated as a stand-alone factor (Benning, et al., 2003; Patrick et al., 2006). 50 51

Some of the traits measured by the PPI differ from those measured by the PCL-R, with the most noticeable difference being the conceptualisation and operationalisation of Factor 1.

Whereas PCL-R Factor 1 assesses interpersonal and affective traits such as grandiosity, lack of empathy and callousness (Hare, 1991)52, PPI-I captures relatively adaptive features of stress immunity, social potency and fearlessness, which are related to such traits as risk taking without fear of consequences, low anxiety and social dominance (Benning et al., 2003).53

Since its publication, the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (developed with groups of undergraduates) and its revision (Lilienfeld & Andrews, 1996; Lilienfeld & Widows, 2005)54 became one of the most frequently used self-report inventories for the assessment of psychopathy.

A meta-analysis by Miller and Lynham examined the relations between the two PPI factors (Factor 1: Fearless Dominance; Factor 2: Self-Centred Impulsivity), as well as their relations with other validated measures of psychopathy, internalising and externalising forms of psychopathology, general personality traits and antisocial personality disorder symptoms. Across 61 samples reported in 49 publications, they found support for the convergent and criterion validity of both PPI Factor 2 and the PPI total score, although much weaker validation was found for PPI factor 1 (Miller & Lynam, 2012). 55

The PPI and PCL-R were intended to assess psychopathy somewhat differently, as the PPI was designed to measure personality dispositions independent of antisocial behaviours, whereas the PCL-R explicitly incorporates such behaviours (Lilienfeld & Andrews, 1996). 56

The items used in the original version of the PPI were based on a number of conceptual constructs theorised (by previous researchers such as Hervey Cleckley and Robert D. Hare) to be related to psychopathy. It consists of a series of statements to which subjects respond on how accurately the statement describes them using a 4-point Likert scale (“False, “Mostly False”, “Mostly True”, “True”).

Factor Analysis of the initial 160 items revealed 8 factors: Machiavellian Egocentricity (ME), Social Potency (SOP), Carefree Nonplanfulness (CN), Fearlessness (F), Blame Externalisation (BE), Impulsive Nonconformity (IN), Stress Immunity (STI) and Coldheartedness (C). 57

Additionally, the PPI also included two special validity scales designed to detect participants who were giving random, inconsistent, or insincere answers. This was to avoid attempts at malingering, and to eliminate subjects who seemed to have difficulty understanding multiple items.

In 2005, the PPI was revised. The new version, called the PPI-R, included a reorganisation of the 8 subscales into two (sometimes three) new higher-order factors:

PPI-1: Fearless Dominance (FD), consisting of the Social Potency, Stress Immunity and Fearlessness subscales, associated with less anxiety, depression and empathy as well as higher well-being, assertiveness, narcissism and thrill-seeking:

  1. Social Potency (SOP): The ability to charm and influence others.

  2. Stress Immunity (STI): A lack of typical marked reactions to traumatic or otherwise stress-inducing events.

  3. Fearlessness (F): An eagerness for risk-seeking behaviours, as well as a lack of the fear that normally goes with them.

PPI-2: Self-centred Impulsivity (SCI), consisting of the Carefree Nonplanfulness, Impulsive Nonconformity, Machiavellian Egocentricity and Blame Externalisation subscales, associated with impulsivity, aggressiveness, substance use, antisocial behaviour, negative affect and suicidal ideation:

  1. Carefree Nonplanfulness (CN): Difficulty in planning ahead and considering the consequences of one’s actions.

  2. Impulsive Nonconformity (IN): A disregard for social norms and culturally acceptable behaviours.

  3. Machiavellian Egocentricity (ME): A lack of empathy and sense of detachment from others for the sake of achieving one’s own goals.

  4. Blame Externalisation (BE): Inability to take responsibility for one’s actions, instead blaming others or rationalising one’s behaviour.

PPI-3: Coldheartedness (C):

  1. Coldheartedness (C): A distinct lack of emotion, guilt, or regard for others’ feelings.

A person may score at different levels on the different factors, but the total score indicates the overall extent of psychopathic personality. Higher scores on PPI Factor I are associated with emotional stability and social efficacy, as well as reduced empathy.

Higher scores on PPI Factor II are associated with maladaptive tendencies, including aggressiveness, substance use problems, negative feelings and suicidal ideation. Scores on the two major factors tend to be only moderately correlated or related to each other.

The coldheartedness factor is an intriguing aspect of the PPI model. Although independent analyses of the PPI’s factor structure have shown support for the validity of the 2-factor model, there is some data that suggests that a 3-factor model, separating coldheartedness, may have advantages.

Many analyses of the PPI tend to exclude Coldheartedness and focus only on Fearless Dominance (FD) and Self-centred Impulsivity (SCI), but some studies have shown the two factors to be less statistically reliable when Coldheartedness is not also considered separately. Thus, some researchers are starting to use it as a distinct third factor in their analyses, as such meanness was a central part of Cleckley’s conceptualisation of a psychopath (from The Mask of Sanity).

Coldheartedness has also been shown to be distinct from the other two factors when comparing across other personality models, such as the Five Factor Model (FFM). In particular, Coldheartedness has significantly negative correlations with the Openness and Agreeableness dimensions of the FFM.

The Fearless Dominance (FD) and Self-centred Impulsivity (SCI) factors are similar to the concepts of Primary and Secondary psychopathy.

Like Primary Psychopathy, which is associated with callousness, shallow affect, manipulation and superficial charm, Fearless Dominance (FD) traits are related to a lack of emotional responsivity but accurate perception of those emotions in others.

Conversely, Secondary Psychopathy, which is associated with impulsivity and lack of long-term goals, and is related to hostile behaviour, and Self-centred Impulsivity (SCI), are related to difficulties in both emotional perception and control of negative emotional responses, such as anxiety, irritation, and aggressiveness.

This table outlines and compared these four models of psychopathy.

(C) Julian M Clarke (2022)

 

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