Can you spot a psychopath?

Can you spot a psychopath?.

At heart, Hare’s test is simple: a list of 20 criteria, each given a score of 0 (if it doesn’t apply to the person), 1 (if it partially applies) or 2 (if it fully applies). …A pure, prototypical psychopath would score 40. A score of 30 or more qualifies for a diagnosis of psychopathy. …

But is psychopathy a disorder – or a different way of being? Anyone reading the list above will spot a few criteria familiar from people they know. On average, someone with no criminal convictions scores 5. “It’s dimensional,” says Hare. “There are people who are part-way up the scale, high enough to warrant an assessment for psychopathy, but not high enough up to cause problems. Often they’re our friends, they’re fun to be around. They might take advantage of us now and then, but usually it’s subtle and they’re able to talk their way around it.” Like autism, a condition which we think of as a spectrum, “psycho­pathy”, the diagnosis, bleeds into normalcy.

Same thing that we often discuss – are psychopathy, autism, narcissism etc specific disorders or spectra? But we confuse the score on a scale with the thing it’s trying to measure … if you are a psychopath, you will score very high on the scale. But if you score higher on the scale than someone else without reaching the criterion for being a psychopath, does it mean you are more of a psychopath than someone scoring lower? And is there an overlap between scores of low-scoring psychopaths and high-scoring normals if psychopathy is truly a category rather than a spectrum?

And for interest, the things on the scale are:

  1. glibness and superficial charm
  2. grandiose sense of self-worth
  3. pathological lying,
  4. cunning/manipulative,
  5. lack of remorse,
  6. emotional shallowness,
  7. callousness and lack of empathy,
  8. unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions,
  9. a tendency to boredom,
  10. a parasitic lifestyle,
  11. a lack of realistic long-term goals,
  12. impulsivity,
  13. irresponsibility,
  14. lack of behavioural control,
  15. behavioural problems in early life,
  16. juvenile delinquency,
  17. criminal versatility,
  18. a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole),
  19. multiple marriages,
  20. promiscuous sexual behaviour.
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