“Mankind has a natural predator, the psychopath, and this predator is invisible because there are no easily discernible markings that set him apart.” The Trick of the Psychopath’s Trade: Make Us Believe that Evil Comes from Others.
When we hear the word “psychopath” we envision a creepy, murdering monster, but psychopaths blend into society in all walks of life and professions. They are not ALL serial killers of course, but they do leave a path of destruction and broken dreams in their wake. Unfortunately, I’ve met more than my fair share of these individuals and it has driven me to study them. I like to feature these type of characters in my books.
What happens when we “unmask” the psychopath? What we find are antisocial personality and relates syndromes. The Hervey Cleckley checklist has made a profound impact on the way we think about psychopathy. His empirical research has influenced the way we view the disorder.
Cleckley and many other researchers contributed interesting assessments and research into psychopathy with the temporal gradient to fear arousal, various ratings of psychopathy, patterns of autonomic activity, sensory input, and perceptual-cognitive factors. All of these aspects contribute to the psychopathy checklist.
It has been estimated that approximately 1% of our society fits the true definition of a psychopath. About 20% of incarcerated inmates are psychopaths. It may be as high as 35-40% if you include inmates with anti-personality disorder, which have many of the same characteristics as psychopaths.
The 20-item psychopathy checklist was revised in the 1980s and is still used today. Here’s Cleckley Checklist in order of characteristics.
- Glibness / superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Need for stimulation / proneness to boredom
- Pathological lying
- Conning / manipulative
- Lack of remorse or guilt.
- Shallow affect
- Callous / lack of empathy
- Parasitic lifestyle
- Poor behavioral controls
- Promiscuous sexual behavior
- Early behavioral problems
- Lack of realistic, long term plans
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- Many short-term marital relationships
- Juvenile delinquency
- Revocation of conditional release
- Criminal versatility
Why do we find these types of individuals so interesting?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I find it fascinating how they can blend in to society like an evil chameleon. Their behaviors, thought processes, and impulsiveness make for serious study. My particular interest is in the predatory behavior of committing serial crime. There is no doubt there will be a lack of information or psychopaths for this study, and hopefully it will continue to unlock the tightly wrapped brain process of the human psychopath.
Award Winning Author & Criminologist