Handbook of Psychopathy Chapter 1 Notes: Psychopathic Personality – The Scope of the Problem

Chapter 1: Psychopathic Personality – The Scope of the Problem

In psychology, a trait (or phenotype) is called emergenic if it is the
result of a specific combination of several interacting genes (rather
than of a simple sum of several independent genes). Emergenic traits
will not run in families, but identical twins will share them. Traits
such as “leadership”, “genius” or certain mental illnesses may be

MPQ & Harm Avoidance: one of Cloninger’s 4-temperament dimensions
Harm avoidance is one of the four temperament dimensions in
Cloninger’s psychobiological model of personality (Cloninger et al.,
1993). In this model, personality is conceptualized as having four
temperament dimensions (novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward
dependence, persistence) and three character dimensions
(self-directedness, cooperativeness, self-transcendence). Individuals
w/high HA (high harm avoidance (HA) tend to be described as “worrying
and pessimistic; fearful and doubtful; shy; and fatigable.” Those with
low HA scores are “relaxed and optimistic; bold and confident;
outgoing; and vigorous.” HA was initially proposed as a personality
trait that is independent of the state of depression. However, other
reports have found HA to be positively correlated with the severity of
depression (Hansenne et al., 1999; Hirano et al., 2002). Repeated
within-subject measures have been used to explore the stability of HA
in major depression. However, conflicting results are reported in the
literature and research in HA is largely with adults (Chien and
Dunner, 1996; Marijnissen et al., 2002).

Noncriminal Psychopathy IV – primary psychopath: Oskar Schindler
Versus dangerous characters, and illustrative of why psychologists
find such fascination in the psychopath, is the case of Oskar
Schindler, the savior of hundreds of Krakow Jews whose names were on
Schindler’s list. Opportunist, born vivant, lady’s man, manipulator,
unsuccessful in legitimate business by his own admission but wildly
successful in the moral chaos of wartime. Schindler’s rescue of those
Jews can be best understood as a 35-yr-old con man’s response to a
kind of ultimate challenge. Schindler against the Third Reich. Any
swine can kill people under the conditions of that time and place; the
real challenge – in the words that his biographer may have put in his
mouth, the real “real power” – lay in rescuing people, especially in
rescuing Jews. Spielberg’s Schindler’s List portrayed him otherwise.
p. 11-12.

Noncriminal Psychopathy III -psychopath vignettes -> Hare’s (1993)
Without Conscience
The best collection of criminal psychopaths and vignettes of
psychopathic behavior is Hare’s (1993) Without Conscience, where he
asserts that psychopaths are found “in business, the home, the
professions, the military, the arts, the entrainment industry, the
news media, academe, and the blue-collar world” (p. 57).
p. 11.

Noncriminal Psychopathy II – psychopathic features
Media perception: the psychopath is characterized by a lack of the
restraining influence of conscience and of emphatic concern for other
people. Unlike the ordinary sociopath, the primary psychopath has
failed to develop conscience and emphatic feelings, not because of
socializing experiences but, rather, because of some inherent
psychological peculiarity which makes him especially difficult to
socialize. Another consequence of this innate peculiarity is that the
psychopath behaves in a way that suggests that he is relatively
indifferent to the probability of punishment for actions. This
essential peculiarity of the psychopath is not in itself evils or
vicious, but, combined with perverse appetites, or w/an unusually
hostile-aggressive temperament, the lack of these normal constraints
can result in an explosive and dangerous package.
p. 11.

Noncriminal Psychopathy I – historical psychopaths & others
Historical figures that had a “talent for psychopathy” but did not
develop the full syndrome: Winston Churchill (Carter, 1995;
Manchester, 1986, 1988); Sir Richard Burton, the African explorer
(Farwell, 1963; Rice, 1990); Chuck Yeager, (Wolfe, 1979; Yeager,
1985). Lyndon Johnson (Robert Caro, 1982, 1988, 2002) exemplified the
psychopathic syndrome: fearless, shameless, abusive, willing to do or
say anything required to attain his ends. Hitler & Stalin were
fearless, clever men, unrestrained by guilt or pity, whose ruthless
rise to power would have not been possible had they had normal degrees
of of caution or conscience. Psychopathic features are also observed
in businessman, investment counselors, media personnel, actors,
entertainers, even at least one former chief just of the state of New
York (Lykken, 1995, pp. 36-37).
p. 11.

In psychology, a trait (or phenotype) is called emergenic if it is the
result of a specific combination of several interacting genes (rather
than of a simple sum of several independent genes). Emergenic traits
will not run in families, but identical twins will share them. Traits
such as “leadership”, “genius” or certain mental illnesses may be

Some Genetic Risk Factors are Emergenic IV – emergenic traits
If low Harm Avoidance or fearlessness is one source of primary
psychopathy, and if this trait is emergenic or interacting gene
combinations (at least in younger males), then one can understand why
primary psychopathy seems to occur almost as frequently in the
offspring of well-socialized parents as it does among the underclass.
SEE: Emergenesis article.
p. 11.

Some Genetic Risk Factors are Emergenic III: tend not to run in
When the MZ twin correlation is substantial while the DZ correlation
is near zero, it suggest that the genetic factors contributing to the
variable in question (Harm Avoidance, Constraint, Negative
Emotionality) combine interactively or configurally, rather than
additively. Such traits, although half or more of their variance is
genetically determined, tend not to run in families because even
slight changes in gene configuration may yield great differences in
the traits, and even a traited parent is unlikely to pass on to an
offspring all required components of the configuration in the random
half of that parent’s own genome.
p. 10-11.

Some Genetic Risk Factors are Emergenic II – Inmate MPQ similar to MZ
(Lykken, 2000) Among male prison inmates whose average age was similar
to that of these twins (SEE: Some Genetic Risk Factors are Emergenic
I… article), those with the lowest scores on Harm Avoidance showed
below-normal scores on Constraint generally and also strongly elevated
scores on the Negative Emotionality factor, especially on Alimentation
and Aggression. Evan among non-criminal male twins, the 118 (25%)
least-socialized twins (those who admitted the most illegal or
antisocial acts) differed significantly (p social pathology
The fatherless-single-mother correlation does not prove a direct
causal connection. Fatherless kids may be at higher risk because
single or divorced mothers tend to have to live in low SES, in bad
neighborhoods. The biological parents of fatherless kids may pass on
their genetic disadvantages, lower IQs or difficult temperaments.
Females that end up as single mothers may on average be less competent
as parents, either because of their personal limitations or because
parenting is simply too difficult and relentlessly demanding for most
individuals to successfully accomplish.
p. 8.

Psychopathic Personality: Importance of Fathers II – fatherless =
social pathology
A survey by the county attorney in Minneapolis of 135 children who had
been referred for crimes ranging from theft, vandalism, and burglary
to arson, assault and criminal sex conduct – ages 9-or-younger – found
that 70% were living in single-parent (almost always single-mother)
homes (Wiig, 1995). If the base rate for fatherless rearing of
today’s teenagers is 30% (the best current estimate; the rate grows
alarmingly), then the risk for social pathologies ranging from
delinquency to death is about 7-times higher for youngsters raised
w/out fathers v those raised by both parents. Calculation separately,
on reasonable assumptions, for white and black youngsters, yields the
same results for both (Lykken, 1995, 215).
p. 8.

Psychopathic Personality: Importance of Fathers I – fatherless rearing
= social pathology
There is a striking correlation in the US between fatherless rearing
and subsequent social pathology. Of the juveniles incarcerated in the
US for serious crimes in the 1980s, about 70% had been reared w/out
fathers (Beck, Kline & Greenfield, 1988; Sullivan, 1992). Of the
antisocial boys studied at the Oregon Social Learning Center, fewer
than 30% came from intact families (Forgatch, Patterson & Ray, 1994).
Of the more than 130K teenagers who ran away from home in the US
during 1994, 72% were leaving single-parent homes (Snyder & Sickmund,
1995). A 1994 study of “baby truants” in St. Paul, Minnesota –
elementary school pupils who had more than 22 unexcused absences in
the year – found that 70% were being reared by single mothers (Foster,
1994). Nationally, about 70% of teenage girls who have out-of-wedlock
babies were raised without fathers (Kristol, 1994).
p. 7-8.

Psychopathic Personality: When Socialization Fails II – bad parents =
socio- or psychopath
In Western society … if the parents are over-burdened or
unsocialized themselves then even a child of even temperament may grow
up with the antisocial tendencies of a psychopath. The term
“sociopath” refers to persons whose unsocialized character is due
primarily to parental failures rather than to inherent peculiarities
of temperament. The psychopath is almost certain to be a bad parent
and the child who receives from a parent both an unsocialized
environment and a hard-to-socialize temperament is doubly handicapped.
p. 7.

Psychopathic Personality: When Socialization Fails I – kunlangeta &
Murphy (1976) found that the Yupic-speaking Eskimos in NW Alaska have
a name, kunlangeta, for the man who repeatedly lies and cheats and
steals things and does not go hunting, and when the other man are out
of the village, takes sexual advantage of many women, ignores
reprimands and is always is before the elders for punishment.
Traditionally, such a person would be pushed off the ice into the
water when no body was looking. In tribal societies where the
extended family participates in child rearing, the kunlangeta
possesses inherent peculiarities of temperament that make him
unusually intractable to socialization. This is a psychopath: an
individual in whom the normal processes of socialization have failed
to produce the mechanisms of conscience and habits of law-abidingness
that normally constrain antisocial impulses.
p. 7.

Psychopathic Personality: Socialization of Children II –
pro-socialization taught in childhood
Prosocial inclinations are not well-formed instincts, but like our
inborn capacity for language, they must be elicited, shaped, and
reinforced by interactions w/other, older humans during development.
Poor success in rehabilitation young adults inadequately socialized
suggests that like learning language skills, there is a critical
period for socialization. Unless it is evoked, sculpted, and made
habitual in childhood, our human talent for socialization may wither
and never develop.
p. 7.

Psychopathic Personality: Socialization of Children I – elders
monitor-teach behavior
Children learn through the monitoring and example of their elders. In
SA in the ’90s, the population of white rhinos was being killed by
young male elephants orphaned by culling operation in the Kruger
National Park (Lemonick, 1997). W/out parental supervision they grew
up to be dangerous outlaws. The salvation of the white rhinos was to
bring in a number of mature bull elephants that dominated and
socialized these delinquent young males (Fager, 2000).
p. 6.

Psychopathic Personality: Is there an Antisocial Personality? VI -max
inmates varied personality profiles
MPQ scores were obtained from 67 inmates at Oak Park Heights,
Minnesota’s max-security prison for inmates transferred from other
prisons; these inmates are classified as extreme risks to public
safety. While 1-third of these inmates show variants of antisocial
profile of MPQ scores, another third serving time in a max-security
prison, show variants of normal,even harmless-looking profiles. In
fact 8-of-10 MPQ scales or the 67 hard-core inmates show a
within-group variance ranging from 40-340% higher than norm group’s
variance on the same scales. This data set demonstrates that even the
persons who commit the most serious crimes are not at all cut from the
same cloth; in fact show wide within-group variations in their
personality profile.
p. 6.

Psychopathic Personality: Is there an Antisocial Personality? V –
temperamental fearlessness
In Lykken, (1957. 1995) it was argued that a boy that is innately
relatively fearless will not react well to punishment or intimidation,
the techniques most commonly relied on for socialization of the young,
and that boy may be inclined to seek those peers who admire his
fearlessness, this way he may become a psychopath. MPQ scores were
obtained from 67 inmates at Oak Park Heights, Minnesota’s max-security
prison for inmates transferred from other prisons; these inmates are
classified as extreme risks to public safety. The relatively fearless
of the inmate sample display the antisocial profile of high Negative
Emotionality combined w/low Positive Emotionality and low Constraint.
Krueger, Caspo, Moffitt, Silva & McGee (1996), in a longitudinal study
of a normal birth cohort,found that this same pattern of temperament
(fearlessness) to be associated with antisocial deviance in
p. 6.

Psychopathic Personality: Is there an Antisocial Personality? IV –
high Harm Avoidance = above average fearfulness
MPQ T-scores means for 67 max-security inmates MPQ T-scores means for
22 inmates scoring highest and 22 inmates scoring lowest on Harm
Avoidance. The highest scores appear quite benign, deviating from
average only in that elevated Harm Avoidance score indicating
above-average only in that elevated Harm Avoidance score indicating
above average fearfulness
p. 6.

Psychopathic Personality: Is there an Antisocial Personality? III –
MPQ T-scores means: 67 Max Inmates
MPQ T-scores means for 67 max-security inmates. The profile has
below-average scores on the scales that determine the Positive
Emotionality superfactor of the MPQ; high scores on those comprising
the Negative Emotionality superfactor; and reasonably average scores
on the scales that comprise the 3rd superfactor, Constraint. The
inmates showed a great deal of variation on nearly all 10 traits; some
had low scores on Well Being and Achievement, along with very high
scores on Alienation and Aggression. Some produced high scores on
Positive Emotionality, low scores on Negative Emotionality, and high
scores on Control, Harm Avoidance and Traditionalism. The behavior
leading to APD thus can result from a variety of genetic and/or
experiental sources.
p. 5-6.

Psychopathic Personality: Is there an Antisocial Personality? II – MPQ
standard deviations
genetic pecularity
Psychopaths fail to become socialized because of a genetic pecularity.
A child who is relatively fearless, or unusually impulsive, or given
to intense fits of rage…may be too difficult for average parents to
control and steer clear of trouble.
p. 4.

T scores
T-scores are standardized scores on each dimension for each type. A
score of 50 represents the mean. A difference of 10 from the mean
indicates a difference of one standard deviation. Thus, a score of 60
is one standard deviation above the mean, while a score of 30 is two
standard deviations below the mean.

A t-score is the number of sample standard errors a sample is away
from a population value (typically a mean).

Psychopathic Personality: Scope of the Problem III – DSM-IV APD ->
psychopaths & sociopaths
DSM-IV APD criteria does demarcate a category of individuals that is
socially important as many are reasons why we lock our doors, stay off
the street at night, move out of cities, and send kids to private
schools. A majority of inmates meet the criteria for APD… These
antisocial personalities are diverse not only in symptoms but in
etiology. Lykken (1995) proposed a diagnostic disorder in which APD
is treated as a family of disorders w/2-main genre: 1) psychopaths &
2) sociopaths; each of which differs from each other in their
underlying causes..
p. 4.

Psychopathic Personality: Scope of the Problem II – DSM-IV APD
criteria too general
From DSM-IV APD criteria a large proportion of “common criminals”
could be classified with APD as well as many feckless citizens that
are not APD like drifters, addicts or drunks. APD is a heterogeneous
category in respect to etiology and to psychological characteristics
that give rise to varied patterns of socially deviant behavior that
meet the criteria. Saying someone suffers from APD is nonspecific and
scientifically unhelpful as saying a sick patient has a fever or
infectious or neurological disorder.
p. 4.

Psychopathic Personality: Scope of the Problem I – classifies people
by actions – NOT useful for psychiatry/science
In reference to APD criteria in DSM-IV, 1994: No special psychiatric
knowledge or insight was required to make a diagnosis on the basis of
these guidelines… accounts for interrater agreement… The
cookbook-like, relatively objective character of this list of criteria
is obvious; what is not so apparent is the fact that there is no
theoretical or empirical basis for supposing that this scheme carves
Nature at her joints. … a variety of psychological causes for a
given action, classifying people by their actions rather than their
psychological dispositions or traits, although natural for the
purposes of criminal law, is less useful for the purposes of
psychiatry or science.
p. 4.

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