What Is a Psychopath?


“…“A high-scoring psychopath views the world in a very different way. It’s like colour-blind people trying to understand the colour red, but in this case ‘red’ is other people’s emotions.”…Robert Hare

The average psychopath is neither a killer nor a criminal.  He or she could be your broker, banker, surgeon, your child’s teacher, parish priest, local cop, or your attorney.  They are attracted to action and excitement.  You will find a few in the military.  They can be politicians, but not as often as you think.  They are also serial killers like Ted Bundy or they can be President of the United States, or his wife, who also wants to be President of the United States.

Who and what is a psychopath?  Our Forty-second President of the United States is classic.  He is glib, charming, likable, gregarious, and completely without remorse. So is his wife. He is a far more high functioning individual than is she.  Shockingly, legal profession is only ranked second in terms of psychopaths involved.  The first – CEOs.

“…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). The list in full is: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of behavioural control, behavioural problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behaviour. A pure, prototypical psychopath would score 40…”

The list fits #42 like OJ Simpson’s glove, and yes, he is also one. Contrary to an individual with whom I had a conversation on Twitter, yesterday, they are not ‘psycho’.  That is a sociopath.  There is a difference in the two.  A psychopath is born.  A sociopath is made. Hannibal Lector is a sociopath.  So is Norman Bates. Psychopathy is quite often genetic.  It is also learned via a home environment.  Sociopaths are created via abuse, head injury, or situation.  Growing up, everyone knew a psychopath – picture the classic Eddie Haskell, and you can understand the classic psychopath.

“…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.”…”

With a true psychopath, one who scores high in the test of traits, they can only function in the real world for so long.  When something begins to go wrong, or not as they had planed, they start falling apart. They will begin to engage in riskier and riskier behavior, until they can no longer cope with their version of reality.