The History of the Concept of the Psychopath

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Psychopath; Also called a sociopath is a person afflicted with a personality disorder characterized by a tendency to commit antisocial and sometimes violent acts and a failure to feel guilt for such acts.

American Psychological Association (APA):
Psychopath. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from

The famous psychopath character Norman Bates from the 1960 horror film "Psycho."


Development and Definition of the Psychopath

To understand any psychological phenomenon one must first define that phenomenon. With the murky boundaries that surround psychopathy, the initial definition has become one of the most complex paradigms of psychology. Throughout history there have been varied integrations of definitions of psychopathy. Theories swirling around psychopathy, it’s cause and it’s definition have included: what psychologists believe psychopaths are and what they believe psychopaths are not, most notably what they are incapable of.

Doren, Dennis. M. (1996) Understanding and Treating the Psychopath. New York: Jason Aronson Inc.

This article is important because it introduces how the diagnostic classification of the psychopath as a singular disorder in itself, began with the French psychiatrist Pinel during the early 19th century. It includes the origin of the label psychopath being manie sans delire, which was an integral part of the psychopath personality being distinguished from all other insanity disorders. This article depicts adaptations developed through the 20th century, for the psychopathic categories specific to each researcher's viewpoint and individual theory, examples including aggressive psychopath or hysteric psychopath. Most recently at the end of the 20th century, the term psychopath and even sociopathy were formed into a final and current disorder as Anti-Social Personality disorder.

Doren notes that a common error has grown in society that stems from the simple nomenclature surrounding this disorder. He explains that too frequently has psychopathy become equated with criminality, and that there exists an overlap between the two which should not occur since the two terms are not synonymous. Although a characteristic of psychopaths is the ability to commit crime without guilt, there should be a distinction in the type and individuality of every psychopath.

Stout, Marth. (2005) The Sociopath Next Door. New York: Broadway Books.

Stout discusses Cleckley’s description of the mask of sanity that psychopaths were able to hide behind, and the difficulty that can be found in identifying a psychopath among the rest. In Stout’s book she relayed the argument that sociopathy, antisocial personality disorder, or psychopathy are just terms of nomenclature that reflect a mix of ideas, some that may even contradict one another, and that the absence of conscience as a description of a checklist of these disorders may not make sense to begin with.

Meloy, Reid. J. (1988) The Psychopathic Mind: Origins, Dynamics and treatment. New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.

Meloy noted the sorting of psychopathy out from its grouping with all narcissistic and impulse disorders, and that it can be classified as its own aggressive subcategory of narcissism. Meloy details the contribution of Otto Kernberg, and the construct of the grandiose self that is inflated by narcissism. The grandiose self allows the psychopath or sociopath to view themselves as compositions of ideal self and the real self. This grandiose self is the basis for the altered personality typical of a psychopath and theorizes why they are able to manipulate for self gain without guilt. Meloy quotes Frosch (1983) in their attempt to explain psychopathy as a continuous process of operations that are implicitly moving toward a fundamental dis-identification with humanity. This book details the German psychiatric community in which the term psychopathic inferiority was developed in order to define a physical basis for a disorder with such a wide genre of symptoms. Noted is Birnbaum in 1914, who attempted to introduce sociopathic to define this set of symptoms, in order to emphasize the psychogenic nature of the disorder and most importantly how they believed the disorder was a product of social learning and deficient early environment influences.

Smith, Robert. J. (1978) The Psychopath in Society. New York: Academic Press.

Smith notes Cleckley as defining the psychopath as an insane creature who in spite of being endowed with many pleasant objects or realities in life, becomes self destructive because of failed moral development. This article describes how the history of labeling behaviours like psychopathy represents a microcosm of social attitudes towards people of abnormal states in general. Smith explains that psychopathy contains or yields to no specific organic or genetic elements, and with the consistent difficulty of diagnosis, it brings about the changing labels of an almost unexplainable psychological phenomenon

History of Conscience

Stout, Marth.(2005) The Sociopath Next Door. New York: Broadway Books.

Stout explains conscience or lack there of as having no struggles with shame, no matter how harmful or immoral one’s actions may be, with no concept of responsibility present. This article presents the brain of the psychopath being different from the general public, and this difference is why the efforts of the public to alter their behaviours are not capable of registering any effect on their conscience. The American psychiatric association has developed a checklist on a clinical diagnosis of APD and list these characteristics as behavioral manifestations as a result of an unfathomable psychological condition that stout refers to as the missing seventh sense – conscience. Stout infers that throughout history violent psychopaths are publicized but most conscienceless people are nearly always undetectable. This book explains that guiltlessness is difficulty diagnosed and is unique as a medical concept, because the lack of a conscience cannot be diagnosed as a result of missing parts of the brain or unbalanced hormones. Stout believes the history of the conscience stems from the evolution of our species although it is still far from universal.

Conscience as a psychological construct began with a Christian scholars description as it being a god-given ability to sense the difference between good and evil. Stout’s history of conscience includes the origin as a god-given ability to its transformation into mistake-prone human reason. Stout explains that throughout most of history, reason or conscience has been dictated by morals, and our innate ability to know God’s rules. What stems from this steadfast belief is that when someone consistently behaves in indecent manner, we find they have weak reason. For most of history before the 20th century, discussions of conscience centered around the relationship between reason and divinely given moral knowledge.

Stout credits Freud for his transformation of conscience into an internal authority that is introduced in the normal course of development of children, also credits Freud for developing an important understanding in society that conscience is deeply anchored in our ability to care for one another. The book introduces this internal authority as a Freud’s Superego.

Early Diagnosis

Meloy, Reid. J. (1988) The Psychopathic Mind: Origins, Dynamics and treatment. New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.

Meloy depiction of the history of diagnosis of psychopathy, as psychiatrists stumbled through their understanding of what still remains as one of psychology’s most confusing and unexplainable disorders. The book begins with Pinel’s observation of impulsive and self-destructive patients in 1792, who he referred to as having no defects in reasoning but acted in a morally reprehensible fashion. Meloy includes many early psychiatrists who attempted to solve psychopathy or at least explain the phenomenon based upon psychoanalytic constructs from every segment of the spectrum. This included Wittel’s theory of fears of bisexuality, to Aichorn’s oedipal complexes, to a very common element of early identification failure. Included is Herney’s 1945 theory of the psychopath who uses interpersonal exploitation to lessen the feeling of constant defeat within their own mind.

Smith, Robert. J. (1978)The Psychopath in Society. New York: Academic Press.

Smith’s origins of diagnosis focused on western history, and that historical explanations on the nature of abnormalities have been based on church theorists. In early western history, any bizarre behaviours viewed which would often be characterized as psychotic in the present would be diagnosed as possessions of evil that would be treated with an exorcism. Smith compares the infamous witch hunts of the middle ages that grew out of this philosophy of ridding society of these behaviours through a cleanse of these souls to the treatment of people with APD. Though Smith does admit that Psychopathy would not be a disorder that would be the target of the church or the large mobs hunting down all those who displayed bizarre attitudes.

Smith details Pinel’s philosophy of treatment, which centered on influential environmentalism, and Pinel’s opinion that abnormalities such as psychopathy were the result of lacking morality and an unsympathetic environment. Detailed is the history of Pinel’s treatment philosophy becoming entrenched in American psychology and leading to the creation of many specialized state clinics that dealed with “morally insane” individuals. Smith discusses the early 20th century opinion that Mental disorder was curable with the use of a helpful environment as a decisive factor. Pinel’s description of a nurturant environment became the treatment of choice, with the label of “moral therapy” coming about in the turn of the nineteenth century.

History of Law and the Psychopath

Stout, Marth. (2005)The Sociopath Next Door. New York: Broadway Books.

Homicidal or violent psychopaths become the most notorious types members of society with APD because they are the most publicised of all people with APD. When conscience falls into a profound trance and sleeps through terrible acts, it can blur the lines between a missing seventh sense and just continued acts of immorality. Stout brings the comparison of a political leader thrust into success through manipulation of the weaker members of society. This leader could have no conscience and have the ability to hypnotize the consciences of an entire population to commit to whatever actions no matter how immoral. Stout details the example of a leader motivated by self interest or psychological issues from their past with the ability to influence members with the strongest of consciences.

Smith, Robert. J. (1978) The Psychopath in Society. New York: Academic Press.

Smith’s focus on the early legal definitions of insanity and social reform led to the conclusion that the fields of law and abnormal psychology have had a mutual influence upon one another with the handling and theory of deviance. This book’s interpretation on criminal law is that is committed to the theory of free choice and thus moral responsibility, and his stance on the behavioural sciences is that human acts are deterministic. In the 18th century, laws were simplified and crime was viewed as moral failing, a very black and white orientation, and because of this psychopaths were judged and prosecuted like everyone else. Smith depicts the transition of 18th century western law that found the establishment of proof of insanity as an exemption from intent. Smith’s book explains that this insanity refers to the psychotic sense of the word, and a person with a disorder such as APD who could still present some semblance of rationality would still be found guilty, not warranting the exemption of a truly insane person from their intent. This book details the precedent established in the 19th century when responsibility was removed from an accused person when it could be proved that reason was impaired by the lack of awareness of the nature of their act. Although important to general criminal law, the psychopath would still be found responsible for their behaviour since they would still be found aware of their actions and their consequences, despite not displaying remorse.

Smith also details more recent law including the 1960’s, where psychopaths were seen as ill and needing to be retained for treatment. This represents a return to the 19th century position that moral sense could become diseased. Smith details the turning away from individual responsibility in psychological cases toward a dissecting view of mental illness. which explains the interdependence of law and psychology in these cases. This book also evaluates the 20th century cases involving the required distinction of mental insane versus morally responsible, and the modifications that have been offered. The added criteria with the added clause of `substantial incapacity to conform to the law`, which is necessary for the persecution of psychopaths as it does not limit the law to those who are characterized as insane or mentally incapacitated.

20th Century - Present: Antisocial Personality Disorder

Smith, Robert. J. (1978) The Psychopath in Society. New York: Academic Press.

This article explains that since the World Health Organization has begun work on systematizing diagnostic classifications world-wide, the term antisocial personality has been introduced and has made ground as the term for designating psychopaths. Unfortunately this term brings with it a false connotation of a culturally relative diagnosis which is isn’t. In societies where there is a premium placed on competition and material success, the psychopath is quite the opposite of antisocial and are actually quite successful with their manipulative behaviours. Psychopaths are logical who have the ability to go beyond the limits of most people, and can become extra-society rather than anti-society.

Stout, Marth. (2005)The Sociopath Next Door. New York: Broadway Books.

Stout refers to Cleckley making great strides in psychological research in the field of APD including the initial and revised form of his checklist for the clinical diagnosis of APD. This PCL-R contains seven characteristics for APD, and the presence of any three of these symptoms should lead a psychologist to suspect the presence of Anti-social personality disorder in their patient. This book details the reference to violent psychopaths when thinking of psychopath but there is little attention paid to the nonviolent sociopaths that make up the much larger portion of people dealing with APD in the history of our society

Cleckley's original PCL Clinical Diagnosis for APD

  1. Failure to conform to social norms
  2. Deceitfulness, manipulative tendencies
  3. Impulsivity
  4. Irritability, aggressiveness
  5. Reckless disregard for the safety of others
  6. Consistent irresponsibility
  7. Lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating someone

Stout explains APD as an updated form of sociopathy that stems as a cold detachment that causes a person to torment others without guilt, to manipulate friends and colleagues, and in most cases being intellectually gifted and able to use these “gifts” to conceal their conscienceless through charm or on the opposite side of the spectrum the lack of emotion completely.

Meloy, Reid. J. (1988)The Psychopathic Mind: Origins, Dynamics and treatment. New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.

Meloy highlights the focus of current clinical and academic research has focused on personality trait disorders, detailing Antisocial personality as one of the most troubling paradoxical and elusive personality conceptualizations.

Millon, Theodore., Simonsen, Erik., Birket-Smith, Morten., Davis, Roger, D. (1998) Psychopathy: Antisocial, Criminal, and Violent Behaviour. New York: The Guilford Press.

Million’s depiction of late 20th century conceptions is that antisocial personalities in the views of some have produced a combination of fundamental features of narcissism, anti-social behaviour, and egotistic aggression. These features have an emphasis of self-centredness, an attitude of superiority, and an over-dependency on admiration. This book describes the work of Hare and his associates in the 80s who drew upon Cleckley’s formulation of the psychopathic personality, using Cleckley’s psychopathy checklist. Millon discusses the focus of Hare’s work and support on the two major features of the APD lifestyle that include the deficiency of care for others and the recognition that narcissist and anti-social behaviour share many common features most notably the prominent lack of conscience or morality.

This book discussed the notable contributions of the collected research databases introduced by Denmark for studying psychopathy and criminality and the updated definitions shared by the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders). Particularly this source has a focus on the growing body of research through psychodynamic and neurobiological views for support of APD.

Blair, R. J. R. (1997). Moral reasoning and the child with psychopathic tendencies. Personality and Individual Differences, 22(5), 731-739. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(96)00249-8

Current studies such as these have specific aims for the development of children and to combat any psychopathic tendencies a child might display in the very early stages of life. Often we will aim to correct and maintain the child’s moral and conventional distinctions, so they are able to form patterns that support a personality that is beneficial to both them and their contributions to society. Of the most evident of these tendencies is that the psychopathic child will display the least moral emotion and contribute the least emotion to the environment This study also emphasizes the requirement to identify these tendencies or factors of these early childhood personalities so that we can enable the individual to seek other’s welfare and identify the importance of the well being of others.

Biology (Nature vs. Nurture):

Borja, K., & Ostrosky, F. (2013). Early traumatic events in psychopaths. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 58(4), 927-931. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12104

This article showcases the relation between early traumatic events and psychopathy. The author uses a study done on 194 male inmates in a prison in Mexico who had committed crimes such as robberies, homicides, kidnapping and all of them had some form of a psychiatric disorder, mental retardation or neurologic disorder. Furthermore, the lives of each of the inmates is studied before the age of 18 and specific psychopathic traits are examined such as school attendance, work irresponsibility, initiation of criminal activity and socialization. The purpose of collecting and looking at the past lives of the inmates is to see if there was any connection between experiencing some form of an early traumatic event and their psychopathic behaviour and personalities. The method of a scale to measure the frequency of the traumatic early events ranging from 0 (being never occurred) to 4 (being occurred on a daily basis) analyzes the four particular types of traumatic events which include stressful events, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. So, by doing this analysis, it accurately portrays the frequency of early traumatic events being experienced in the lives of the inmates and how those experiences have influenced and caused their condition of psychopathy. The importance of the information also supports the argument of the nurture side of the ongoing debate of the biology of psychopathy, and in determining whether it is innate or influenced by the environment. Furthermore, the results of this study support the nurture argument as it is found that experiencing traumatic events is associated in depicting the degree or level of psychopathy in the inmates. For example, emotional abuse is correlated with a high score of the level of psychopathy which suggests that the lack of emotional bonds with parents or other family members lead to the inability to establish close bonds or relationships in adulthood, and recognizing and experiencing emotions of guilt and empathy resulting in the most violent and higher level kinds of psychopaths. The information is uniquely displayed in organized charts and bar graphs as they are easy to use and differentiate between scores in relation to level of psychopathy, occurrences of events and also types of early traumatic events. Lastly, the value and significance of the study and the work being portrayed allows one to gain more insight and understanding of how one’s experiences and environment shape and influence who they are, their personality and character in regards to being psychopathic.

Hicks, B. M., Carlson, M. D., Blonigen, D. M., Patrick, C. J., Iacono, W. G., & MGue, M. (2012). Psychopathic personality traits and environmental contexts: Differential correlates, gender differences, and genetic mediation. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3(3), 209-227. doi:

This article is very diverse from the other sources I have talked about, because this particular source actually showcases empirical studies and research done on a large sample group of teenage twin pairs to determine both the heritability of psychopathy and the influence of the environment. In other words, the author believes that psychopathy can be both nature, being inherited trait that can passed on through generations and can also be a trait that is influenced by the environment and how one is nurtured. This interesting theory considers primary psychopathy, also known as Factor 1 affective interpersonal feature being hereditary, while secondary psychopathy which is also called Factor 2 social deviance is determined through one’s environment. Moreover, the author claims that primary psychopathy is innate that can been related to deficits and absences of normal human emotions, limited feelings, fear, anxiety and anti-social behaviours. Whereas, so secondary psychopathy is determined by nurture or environment is theorized as being a disturbance in emotions and behaviour that results from disruptive life experiences such as abuse, neglect, and rejection of parents for example. Psychopaths with Factor 2 social deviance can be described as being impulsive, violent, and anxious and showcase negative emotions and behaviours. On the other hand, the experiments conducted on the adolescent twins is to look at both factors of psychopathy. For example, Factor 1 looks at whether the parents of the children are antisocial, which means both parents have this gene and could have passed it on to their twin children. However, for Factor 1, the study looks at looks at the relation of psychopathy and antisocial behaviours through social institutions and aspects and their influence of the twins such as school, peers, and family. The author uses many charts to display the results of personality traits and variables and also uses values and means for measuring the correlation for both types of genders being girls and boys in twin pairs. The charts are made separate between both factors to showcase the significance and importance of which personality trait or variable is the most strongest in relation to the type of psychopathy. The authors of this source are very credible and highly reputable as each of them work all over the US in the Psychology Departments of various Universities. I think their study and theory they have researched on is very valuable and significant as is provides proof for both nature and nurture playing a part in psychopathic behaviour and personality, as well as their theory being supported by other theorists before them on this idea of two kinds of factors of psychopaths. On the other hand, the study on the twins specifically may have some limitations as there was not a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds of twins being experimented on and does not really showcase the extremities of psychopathic behaviour as we see in criminals or prisoners. However, other than these few limitations of the study, the source itself is very perceptive and diverse as it gives a new perspective on the possibility of psychopathic behaviour being both heritable and caused by the environment or the influence of one’s surroundings.

Shoemaker, W. J. (2012), The Social Brain Network and Human Moral Behaviour. Zygon, 47: 806–820. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01295.x

This source has a very strong and informative background on the Biology of a psychopath as it looks at the nature of psychopaths and introduces the idea of brain regions being related to social behaviour. The author focuses mainly on how the brain function and operates as well as the parts of the brain corresponding to social and moral behaviours. Also, the author supports the idea of deficits in the brain being the cause of psychopathic behaviours. Furthermore, the author claims that deficits in the limbic system, specifically the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. The deficit in the prefrontal cortex is what causes the antisocial personality and behaviour among psychopaths, whereas the loss of connection between this cortex and the amygdala make it difficult for psychopaths to make appropriate choices in terms of decision making. Also, William Shoemaker believes that these various “deficits” can be due to tumours, brain damage, stroke or brain trauma which can all damage brain tissues and functions. On the other hand, the author, William Shoemaker is a well-known Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine. In this article, he allows researchers and readers to fully understand his work on the nature of psychopaths by providing detailed images, labelled diagrams of the brain and the specific regions that are involved in disruptive moral and social behaviours that exist within psychopaths. He also describes and interesting study that is done to compare the brain system and connections of three kinds of groups which are used three groups; prisoned criminal psychopaths, prison inmates who are not psychopaths, and control participants who weren’t criminals at all. He talks about the findings of this experiment as it helps support his argument and research on the deficits in specific parts of the brain being the cause of psychopathic behaviour. He may have a bit of a bias on his perspective, being for the nature side of psychopathic behaviours, however his theory along with other similar theories on moral behaviour have been very dominant throughout the years as they all portray the idea of reasoning in moral judgments among humans. But, if this aspect is lacking, it is due to the insufficiency of the brain making it difficult to practice moral and appropriate social behaviours, likewise as it is for psychopaths.

Stone, M. H. (2000). Psychopathology: Biological and psychological correlates. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 28(2), 203. Retrieved from

This source is relevant to the Biology of psychopathy as it focuses on the subject of personality disorders, one being psychopathy, otherwise known as anti-social personality disorder and the various biological and psychological aspects of it. So, this article is very similar to the previous other articles that support the nature side of psychopathy and is related to them in terms of the inherited and biological argument of psychopathic behaviour and character. The author of the article presents numerous personality disorders such as Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Alcoholism, Schizophrenia, Suicidality, Panic Disorder, Personality Disorders, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the most relevant in this case, Psychopathy. What’s interesting about presenting formation about diverse personality disorders is that an individual can be characterised as having more than one in some cases. For example an individual can have anti-social personality disorder and be a psychopath, and even show characteristics of Alcoholism all at the same time, or be influenced by one or the other. Moreover, the author claims that psychopathy is actually a type of personality disorder that is caused by a mental illness. In other words, it is a inheritable and biological personality disorder from the Factor 1 trait of showcasing manipulative, boastful, glib, and sadistic qualities. The author argues that a psychopath can easily be identified from the following characteristics: having superficial charm, pathological lying, lack of remorse, callousness, impulsive and has poor behavioural controls. Furthermore, the author himself is very educated in the area of Psychiatry and the subject of psychopaths and he is the Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia College. Additionally, the author uses farfetched and completely different observations from a couple of neurophysiological researchers on psychopaths. The observations compared psychopaths to normal brain functioning people and correlated the lack of compassion, remorse and guilt and their inability to show any response to words with high emotions. The results showcases that the psychopaths had no emotional response or the same emotional response to other words like, “blood,” “rape,” “murder” and “table,” “pencil,” or “paper.” In other words, their emotional responses remained constant throughout hearing all these words, whereas normal brain functioning people showcased a difference between the violent words to a different emotional response compared to the common and low emotional response words. From this observation, one can conclude that emotional responses or emotions in general are like a second language to psychopaths, and contain a deficit or abnormality in their brain mechanism and circuitry which effects the link between cognitive, linguistic and emotional aspects of the brain. Another intuitive observation showcases the response to a certain stimuli which can be measured by the blinking of the eye. The results show that psychopaths tend to rarely blink or blink less than “normal” individuals when being exposed to a certain stimuli such as the sound of breaking glass nearby. The findings of this experiment can conclude that when psychopaths are causing harm to a victim for example and see them crying, screaming, or maybe begging them to stop their harmful behaviours, they showcase no emotion and don’t seem to care when inflicting cruelty on their victims. Overall, I believe that this is an amazing source to research the nature of psychopathy on as the author creatively used his background and expertise in talking about psychopathic personality and supports his argument with various observations and research from other researchers.

Viding, E. (2004), Annotation: Understanding the development of psychopathy. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45: 1329–1337. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.00323.x

The author of this article has a very strong background in the knowledge of psychopaths and psychopathic personality and behaviours as they are part of the Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, which is an Institute of Psychiatry located in London, UK. Moreover, the study particular focuses its argument on psychopaths having this personality disorder resulting in being unemotional and antisocial among children and adults. Also, the article mainly focuses on the nature point of view in relation to psychopathy. In other words, the article strongly suggests that psychopathy is truly innate and can even develop and become worse later on in life. The author uses a personality-based approach in identifying neurobiological markers in antisocial individuals that may have difficulties in handling distress. In regards to the theoretical basis of the author’s argument, he suggests that there is an Anti-social Screening Device that can identify unemotional traits and showcasing antisocial behaviours in relation to neurocognitive impairment in the brain system that alters the ability of processing information. For example, an interpersonal aspect in distinguishing psychopathy can identify behavioural characteristics and poor behavioral control which is the basis of psychopathy (also known as antisocial personality disorder). Furthermore, the author uniquely uses a study done on twins to explain and support the argument on the genetics of psychopathy. First, the study is done on 175 adults’ twins who take a Dimensional Assessment of Personality Pathology which consisted of scales that analyzed narcissism and callous traits which both are relevant to psychopathic personalities. The results of the study showcased that these two traits are highly inheritable. Also, a follow up study was done to collect more reliability on that fact this these two traits are truly inheritable. The study was then conducted on 3000 younger twins at the age of 7 and found out that callous, narcissistic, and other unemotional traits have a high heritability at such a young age. Overall, I believe this study is very detailed and allows for a deep understanding and exploration of the innateness of antisocial personality disorder as it analyzes and examines the specific traits that are found in individuals with psychopathic personalities. Thus, the findings of the study and research may be very useful to support and argue for the nature of psychopaths.

It is evident that there is no right answer when it comes to the continuing debate of nature and nurture of psychopathy. However, it is possible that there may be both a biological and environmental influence when it comes to psychopathy as there is research, experiments and various studies as I have portrayed in the articles and sources that talk about both aspects, or separately either being one or the other. Therefore, these sources outline the two theories (nature vs. nurture) of psychopathic behaviour and personality and showcases the conflicting perspectives of many theorists and researchers that can be examined and hopefully useful for your own research on psychopaths.

Childhood Factors:

Blair, R. J. R. (1995). A cognitive developmental approach to morality: Investigating the psychopath. Cognition, 57(1), 1-29.

This article compares the quality most animals have of inhibiting violence on their own or another species that is not a threat to them, this being a mechanism that is believed to be within humans as well; a violence inhibition mechanism (or VIM). This idea was proposed in 1994 in London which is quite a recent study. Blair “considered VIM to be a cognitive mechanism which, when activated by non-verbal communications of distress (i.e., sad facial expression, the sight and sound of tears), initiates a withdrawal response” (1995, p. 3). Blair explores this idea within psychopaths and suggest that they “may lack this violence inhibitor” (1995, p. 1). This is relevant to the childhood factors and development of a psychopath because it suggests that the personality and behaviour expressed in a mature/adult psychopath should have been present throughout their childhood—that being an aggressive behaviour that lacks any sort of guilt. Suggested consequences of a lack of VIM results in not being able to express moral emotions (empathy, remorse, etc.). In addition, Blair conducts an experiment involving 10 psychopaths and 10 non-psychopaths based on their scores of Hare’s Psychopathic Checklist. Through this experiment they were measuring their ability of moral/conventional distinction by giving them story scenarios and having them decide if it was right or wrong. I think this article is significant in studying childhood factors because it looks at the idea of the VIM not being present from a young age, and possible consequences of it. However, this article does not completely prove that psychopaths may lack the VIM, or why they lack it from their experiment but only that they significantly fail to know the difference between moral and conventional transgressions. This article only focuses on one affecting factor of the younger/older psychopath rather than other possibilities. Overall I feel that this is a very useful resource in exploring the childhood factors of a psychopath because of the suggestion made of one lacking the VIM that not only majority of human population express but also animals. Blair expresses his idea, however through his research and experiment he is unable to prove his idea being correct or incorrect.

Dolan, M. (2004). Psychopathic personality in young people. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10(6), 466-473.

This article explores an overview of developments in psychopathic personalities and behaviours expressed within children and adolescence. This research was recently done in 2004 making it quite relevant in today’s studies. Dolan looks at the factors that may have caused psychopathic qualities to evolve; for example, “several family background variables (e.g. parental rejection, inconsistent discipline, abuse) are associated with the development of conduct disorder and psychopathy” (2004, p. 466), but also neurobiological factors may play a role as well. Dolan states the outcome that may come from possible effects on the brain. Outcomes of these effects may cause the inability to determine experience as good or bad, failure to learn from experience, as well as insensitivity to given punishment. Dolan also compares the patterns of psychopathic and non-psychopathic delinquents and states that psychopathic delinquents are more likely to reoffend as well as commit more crimes; this is something that is also expressed within adult psychopaths. I think this source is relevant when exploring the factors of childhood psychopathy because it focuses on the childhood affects of the brain. Also, it looks at the environmental affects and stresses the child is put under (household, family, school issues) and their ability to cope or act out on these circumstances. Due to a lack of information and proper tools of study, researchers must refer to juveniles as having, “‘psychopathic characteristics’ rather than using the term ‘psychopathy’” (2004, p. 471-472). With this however, the unreliability and validity of assessment tools, results are not completely accurate. Also, because children and adolescents are not quite at a mature age and level yet results may vary due to development, whereas it is far more distinct within an adult due to extended experiences and age.

Farrington, D. P. (2005). The importance of child and adolescent psychopathy. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 33(4), 489-497.

This article looks at the concept of childhood psychopathy, the measurement of it, the relationship between other personality disorders, risk factors as well as the prevention of future/severe psychopathy. This article was presented recently in 2005. In contrast to the other given articles, Farrington argues that, “it is important that the definition of psychopathy should not include measures of offending or antisocial behavior” (2005, p. 490). Rather than focusing on risks assessment, Farrington’s goal is to focus more on the overall explanation and reasoning of childhood psychopathy. The assessment tests and their effectiveness is explained, On the other hand, the problems that come about with these tests are also expressed; such as each test is not being compared to a base criterion of the same construct being tested. He states the amount of difficulty in exploring childhood psychopathy is mainly because this disorder is an extreme rarity. With regards to the risk factors, Farrington focuses on the familial factors. For example, it is stated that “if a child suffered a prolonged period of maternal deprivation during the first 5 years of life, this would have irreversible negative effects, including becoming a cold ‘affectionless character’” (2005, p. 493). With this, the prevention and treatment of childhood psychopathy is not substantially explored, therefore the effectiveness is not quite significant yet. As a whole, I think this article is a great addition in researching the topic of factors and development of childhood psychopathy; although it is an important topic there is still not enough research and information on childhood psychopathy. The process of exploring childhood psychopathy includes researching the subject and concept of psychopathy, researching the instruments, longitudinal studies and interventions must be explored—this of course being a long process, it is hard to complete this research prior to the assessment of a child or adolescent before reaching adulthood.

Marshall, L. A., & Cooke, D. J. (1999). The childhood experiences of psychopaths: A retrospective study of familial and societal factors. Journal of Personality Disorders, 13(3), 211-225.

This article is relevant in regards to researching the factors and development of childhood psychopathy because it looks at the two suggested affecting factors, those being familial and societal factors. With familial and societal factors, researchers found that parental discipline, supervision, less attention, absence of parent(s) and abuse were all affecting variables. With this, the authors of this article conducted an experiment that analyzed 50 psychopathic and 55 non-psychopathic criminals. 105 of these men were all interviewed and were questioned on the familial conditions and environment of their childhood. Researchers found that the more negative experiences one has in their childhood, there is an increase in a psychopathic outcome in one’s behaviour and personality later in life. This sort of experiment proved to be highly affective mainly because the subjects were being asked to reflect on their childhood and were able to give a personal response. This brought forward that the “valid and reliable measures of psychopathy and childhood experiences has demonstrated that experiences in childhood are related to scores on the PCL-R (Psychopath Checklist: Revised)” (1999, p. 222). This article is significant with findings of factors of childhood psychopathy because it will allow doctors and researchers to act and assist young children that are involved in the given familial risk factors therefore reducing the risk of a psychopathic outcome later in one’s life. With this however, the authors state that although their results were highly effective it still does not prove that these psychopathic tendencies can develop and be triggered at such a young and immature age.

Ribeiro da Silva, D., Rijo, D., & Salekin, R. T. (2013). Child and adolescent psychopathy: Assessment issues and treatment needs. Aggression and violent behavior, 18(1), 71-78.

This article is significant when researching the factors of childhood psychopathy because it looks at the identification of evaluating psychopathic traits in children. This research was done just last year in 2013 in the United States. Not only is the qualities of psychopathic behaviour being explored, but also preventative factors such as therapeutic programs are being assessed and their affectability. Authors are trying to emphasize the importance of identifying and treating these youths as early as possible in order to avoid possible traumas later in adulthood. The inability to cope with these behaviours at a younger age will only cause more of a misunderstanding of them at a much older age.
The goal of this article is to allow an understanding in “the assessment of psychopathy in an historical perspective, the most frequently used instruments in the assessment of child and adolescent psychopathy, and available treatment approaches to youths with psychopathic traits” (2013, p. 2). The authors of this article explain the child and adolescent assessment tools that are used as well as their effectiveness. Overall I think this article is significant in exploring the childhood factors and development of psychopathy because it allows an understanding of the tools used. There is substantial development in the understanding and testing of psychopathic disorders however, the authors state that there is still simply not enough research and information as well as accuracy within testing to be able to clearly identify these characteristics within children prior to adulthood.

Overall, there is no significant amount of information that is able to confirm whether childhood factors, development and environment have a lasting effect that will prolong into adulthood. With this, the assessment methods that are available are also proven to not be that accurate especially since there is no base line for "normality". However, as a whole these articles make suggestions and bring forth ideas that may be possibilities of the causes of psychopathic tendencies within adulthood and methods of prevention to reduce the chance of psychopathy later in life.

Abnormal Cases:

Babiak, Paul, P.H.D. Neumann, Craig. P.H.D. Hare, Robert. P.H.D.(2006). Corporate Psychology: Talking the Walk. [Wiley Interscience PDF]Retrieved from

This article explores the economic facet of modern day society and equates the pathway to success in a capitalist society with the pathway to psychopathy. Strong evidence is provided by the author including a breakdown of the latent structure of psychopathic traits that were then applied to a corporate sample. The author also retells of his encounter with Al Dunlap, someone the author as well as Frobes Magazine consider to be a psychopath. He recounts that when he showed Al Dunlap the trait checklist used to diagnose psychopaths Al Dunlap effortlessly turned it into a manual of how to succeed in capitalism. The author strongly states that capitalism is the physical manifestation of the brain anomaly termed psychopathy. This argument was backed up by the large scale study that the senior author implemented. The author consulted with several companies to evaluate and assess corporate personnel and investigate the associations between psychopathy and key performance variables. The work is relatively new (2011) and offers a tangible bridge between the theoretical world of psychology and the always buzzing world of business. It contains much qualitative information from the survey and assessing that the author carried out.

Salekin, Rondall T., Lochman, John Z. "Child and Adolescent Psychopathy : The Search for Protective Factors." . The University of Albama. Web.

This article explores child and adolescent psychology, intertwining theories of psychopathy. It borrowed much work from Bejamin Karpman(1950) and the McCords (1964), specifically the work looking for causes of psychopathic behavior and what it entails for youth. There is a strong focal point on distinguishing between conduct problems and psychopath in youth, noting that only a very small percentage of youth with conduct problems were actual diagnosed as psychopath. The author then goes onto exploring whether youth psychopath looks anything like adult psychopathy. The results are that the two are very similar to each other, with psychopathy discovered in youth having some notable development differences. The conclusion is then used to develop and openly discuss protective measures that can be used by society to discourage or alter the mind map of youth psychopathy. The work is modern and contains some qualitative information. However, large parts of the study reference older studies like those carried out by the McCords in 1964 and Bejamin Karpman in 1950, which easily raises some skepticism as to why such old studies are referred to when the field of neurology of psychopaths has seen such great advancements in recent times. However, the focus of protection negates the adverse effect that these references may have on the reader.

Fallon, James. The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain. New York: Peguin Group, 2013. Print.

This novel had a very interesting case of a neurosurgeon who had tirelessly studied the brain scans of serial killers who were diagnosed as psychopaths. He states that he had discovered particular patterns that the brains of the serial killers shared. Particularly was a low level of activity in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. At the same time that he was studying these serial killers, he was also studying the brain scans of his own family. To his shock, his own brain scan shared the same pattern that so many of the psychopaths labelled serial killers had. He goes on to state certain traits of himself that in retrospect he associates with psychopathy, his annoying habit of manipulating his family in family game nights, his unwillingness to allow even his children to beat him, and the annoyance that comes when they do. However, he also states that he is a passionate family man, a father and a loving husband. The status quo of his life, he attributes to the fact that his nurture experience was fantastic. Basic story of a fully functioning psychopath.
This study has received mixed reviews. Praise for the concrete facts and qualitative information (inform of actual brain scans), and criticism for the fact that it is a long tale of a self-diagnosis.

Murphy, J. (1976) Psychiatric Labeling in Cross-Cultural Perspective. (p. 1019 – 1028) American Association for Advancement of Science.

This article powerfully intertwines arguments for the current concept of psychopaths with the main proponent in labelling theory. Firstly Labelling theory is the theory of how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. The article argues that psychopath was a label molded by western thought. It states that psychopath or the more colloquial “crazy” is a product of the societal context in which it is used. It is applied to those people that delineate from traditionally upheld norms. The argument continued to develop bringing to light the importance of socio-cultural context. The author argues that socio-cultural context is largely responsible for what is deemed as crazy or psychopathic. There was focus on studies done with two indigenous groups, the Inuit Eskimos and the rural tribe of Nigeria the Yoburas. The author describes the holy Shaman of then Inuit peoples, and the holy ceremonies that these holy people would do. When a western perspective is applied to the ceremonies, many of the behaviors of the Shaman can be considered “crazy” and even to certain extents psychopathic. However, in this society that ceremonies and accompanied behaviors of the Shaman are revered. Although the study dates back to 1979, it offers an interesting deviation from normalized western thought. Only short coming is that psychopathy itself is not the central focus of the argument. Strong bias against the idea that the concept of a psychopath is an innate trait and label that all cultures identify universally.


Background on Treatment

Cason, H. (1948). The concept of the psychopath. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 18(2), 297-308. doi:

In order to understand the treatment of the psychopath you need to first understand what it is that needs to be treated. This is an older article that discusses the concept of the psychopath by providing a clear description of what a psychopathic personality entails. In accordance to the article a psychopath should not be someone who is defined only by social factors that hold influence over them such as friends, family or relationships. However excluding social factors all together is impossible to do since every person is influenced by social agents around them, having a purely physiological definition would not suffice. The article focuses on primitive drives and modes of behaviour that promote the defiance of social laws and obligations for psychopaths along with antisocial modes of behaviour. The article goes on to discuss the controlling of anti-social behaviour as an attempt to avoid primitive drives that could act as motivators for unacceptable social actions as a method to prevent individuals to perform anti-social acts. There is an emphasis on multidimensional diagnosis rather than a single dimension diagnosis in regards to the treatment of psychopathy. There is also a focus on individual differences, rather than a generalized treatment method for psychopaths.

Hervé, H. (2007). Psychopathy across the ages: A history of the hare psychopath. (pp. 31-55) Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, Mahwah, NJ.

A psychopath is an individual that feels no remorse or guilt for negative social behaviour. Psychopaths according to this article are described as selfish, manipulating, intimidating and violent towards other people. The inability to internalize moral obligations through emotions makes them dangerous. This article takes the reader through the history of the psychopath and the incorporation of new treatment methods taking into regard the clinical foundation of the construction of the psychopath. Even though the concept of the psychopath has been an interesting topic throughout the years, it was actually the Hare Psychopathy Scales which transformed psychopathy into a clinically validated disorder. This test ended some of the diagnostic confusion that had previously fogged over the idea of a psychopath. This chapter talks about the evolution of the Hare Scale and psychopathy treatment due to political influence or other factors. It gives a good contrast and compare approach to the evolution and growth of psychopathic treatment.

Methods of Diagnosis and Treatment

Cooke, D, Michie, C & Skeem J (2007). Understanding the structure of the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised An exploration of methodological confusion. The British Journal of Psychiatry doi:10.1192/bjp.190.5.s39

This journal article talks about the structure of the Psychopathy checklist- revised (PCL-R). The article compares the original two factor model of the CL-R model which has been a prevailing model of diagnosis for psychopathy to the three-factor and four-factor model of the PCL-R. This article also argues the relationship between psychopathy and criminal behaviour, stating that criminal behaviour and psychopathy do not have a necessary relationship. Simple crime does not demand a diagnosis for a psychopathic test. The article has a great emphasis on the structure of the methods used. The emphasis is justified with four reasons, it can help identify the fundamental psychological structures or processes, it can inform individuals about theories of causation, improve investigations of construct validity and it can improve scales by providing direction on where variables should be added in order for improvement (Cooke, Michie & Skeem, 2007). This is a relevant article in the treatment of psychopathy because it discusses the importance of critically thinking about foundational factors for the diagnosis of psychopathy in an effort to improve treatment and diagnosis.

Harris, G & Rice, (2006). Treatment of Psychopathy, Review of Empirical Findings.

Although there has been a negative correlation to the treatment of the psychopath and to the extension of how helpful treatment the hope for treatment is not dead. There have been different methods used by psychiatrists. The article discussed two major strategies in treating psychopaths, especially those linked to criminal or anti-social behaviour.

1) Therapeutic Communities
A type of milieu therapy which includes patients living in communities, working together and helping each other in order to be successful.
The program reviewed in the article talked about intensive group therapy for about 80 hours per week. Usually this is a well-known method for
substance abuse patients.

2) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This method in the study was used with good correctional treatment, taking the learning styles of the patients involved into consideration. This
method was used in institutions such as hospitals and jails.

This article did research and compared the treatment of criminal offenders and psychopaths, finding out that what might be helpful for offenders without psychopathic tendencies will differentiate from those that are clinically psychopathic. Although there is no concrete evidence that therapy does not reduce violence or crime, that does not mean it is meaningless.

Jessica H Lee. The Treatment of Psychopathic and Antisocial Personality Disorders: A Review.

This article discusses the different treatment methods, including settings and approaches involved with psychopathy. The following are some clinical treatment methods discussed:

Pharmacological Treatments
The use of medication to resolve certain personality disorders, these include neuroleptics which can have a tranquillising effect on behaviour such as anger and tension. Used on disturbed and aggressive patients. Antidepressants are used on patients that are displaying depression, having panic attacks or mood swings. Imipramine is the most consistently studies and effective with psychotic depression. Lithium is used in the treatment of psychopathic patients in an effort to reduce explosive and emotionally unstable behaviours, it is a mood stabilizing agent. Benzodiazepines are highly effective in their control for anxiety attacks and insomnia the available literature does not provide enough evidence for the effect of benzodiazepine but it is being used in some cases. Psychostimulants are known to help patients with disturbed behaviour.

Physical Treatments
This type of treatment can include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and psychosurgery. ECT is done by placing electrodes on the temples of patients and giving them short shocks.
Behavioural therapy uses behaviour modification techniques to apply theories of experimental psychology to the problems of adaptive behaviour. This includes the patient to have learned the anti-social behaviour. There are two main types of behavioural therapy, classical and operant conditioning.
Cognitive approaches such as individual and group therapy are also included, emphasizing personality structure and development.

This article lists the different methods involved and the outcomes that have been studied so far, making it a very relevant article in terms of acknowledging the treatment of psychopathic patients.

The treatment of psychopaths has evolved and continues to do so, with different constructs and different varieties in medicine and new discoveries in the study of physiology the treatment methods of psychopathy along with other disorders will continue to grow.

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