What is Psychopathy?

Written by Dustin B. Wygant, Ph.D.

Psychopaths are callous societal predators who use charm, intimidation, and deceit to influence and control others to serve their own selfish needs. They only make up approximately 1% of the population, but account for 15-20% of prison inmates (Hare, 2003), and can have a devastating effect on society. The psychopathic personality is characterized by a number of interpersonal (e.g., manipulativeness, social dominance), emotional (e.g., fearlessness, high stress immunity), and behavioral (e.g., poor behavioral control, aggression) characteristics. Psychopathy is also one of the most misunderstood of the psychiatric conditions. The public often confuses psychopathy with other psychiatric conditions, such as psychosis (break from reality consistent with Schizophrenia), as well as sensationalized criminals, such as serial killers. To learn more about psychopathy, check out this great article that debunks many myths about the conditions and discusses psychopathy in the criminal justice system. The article is called Psychopathic Personality: Bridging the Gap Between Scientific Evidence and Public Policy, written by Drs. Jennifer Skeem, Devon Polaschek, Christopher Patrick, and Scott Lilienfeld.

Published on April 16, 2013