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Are they just evil people?

An evil person is one who exploits or harms most everyone he/she encounters; the question of the utmost importance is do evil people share certain personality characteristics? Perhaps personality type has nothing to do with evil. We all know that every person has made bad moral choices at one time or another so perhaps people who repeatedly make bad moral choices are no different than anyone else.

There are many reasons to consider whether evil people have a special or different personality type. For Lovefraud readers, the best reason is to define and learn to recognize a group of people to avoid.

The assertion that evil people share a common personality type has profound philosophical and practical implications. This assertion implies that while occasionally doing evil is part of all of us, repeatedly doing evil is not. But what does repeatedly mean? Shouldn’t everyone who has made a bad moral choice get a second chance? What about those who have made two bad choices? Perhaps if we can identify an evil person by his/her characteristics, then we can say that he/she should not be given another chance.

The PCLR is born

I believe it was this line of thinking that lead Dr. Robert Hare to develop his Psychopathy Checklist, now Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCLR). He was working in the prison system and he wanted to describe the characteristics of people most likely to re-offend. He wanted to identify the evil doers.

Dr. Hare was very successful. The PCLR does identify a group of people who are likely to re-offend and who are very evil. But, somehow this attempt to define with a rating scale, a group of criminals who are most likely to re-offend has become much more. The results of this one instrument are increasingly seen as defining a personality type called psychopathy. It turns out that fancy statistics on the answers to the PCLR reveal that some of the answers group together in “factors.” These factors have become the basis for defining psychopathy itself.

The psychopathic personality is more complex than the PCLR

As Drs. Lynam and Widiger point out in their recent paper Using a general model of personality to identify the basic elements of psychopathy, “In the original derivations, the authors (Hare and colleagues) were fairly careful about referencing the factor structure of the instrument (PCLR) rather than the composition of psychopathy”¦ Since that time, however, the measure has almost become the construct (psychopathy), and more recent authors are more likely to write about the structure of psychopathy than the structure of the instrument.”

Lynam and Widiger suggest, and I agree “that factor analyses of the PCL-R are unlikely to reveal the core components of psychopathy.” Therefore, the use of the PCLR to define the psychopathic personality is problematic. It is more useful to find out if there is indeed a “personality type” that is prone to evil. The best way to do this is to use a personality test that has been developed to understand personality in general (the NEO PI-R*, method 1), in conjunction with an inventory like the PCLR (method 2) and expert ratings (method 3). With these methods combined we can describe the personality type of those prone to evil and then extend the findings to non-criminals.

The evil personality

Using these methods, Lynam and Widiger have demonstrated that there is a personality type prone to evil. So now I will tell you who to avoid, and also more importantly who to seek out!

“We believe that these 12 traits** for which there is agreement across all three methods, constitute the core elements of psychopathy. According to these traits, psychopathy consists of extremely low agreeableness”¦The psychopath is cunning and manipulative, greedy and exploitive, oppositional and combative, boastful and arrogant, and callous and ruthless. Relatedly, the psychopath lacks interpersonal warmth. The psychopath is pan-impulsive, marked by the impulsive end of each of the personality pathways to impulsive behavior”¦ The psychopath also appears immune to embarrassment and shame, potentially important emotions for the social control of behavior. Not surprisingly, the psychopath is also undependable and unethical.”

The Inner Triangle again

I believe that the three clusters of personality traits Lynam and Widiger have identified correspond to what I have called The Inner Triangle. The lack of agreeableness and warmth relate to ability to love. Identify a psychopath by his/her inability to really love and take care of others.

Identify a psychopath/sociopath by his/her poor impulse control. Lastly, psychopaths have a lack of moral emotions- embarrassment, guilt and particularly shame. This lack of moral emotions impairs moral reasoning in the psychopath/sociopath.

The combination of poor ability to love, poor impulse control and poor moral reasoning predict evil in people with narcissistic and borderline personality disorder just as these qualities cluster and predict evil in psychopaths/sociopaths.

Who to seek out

Surround yourself with people who have a well developed Inner Triangle! Love people who are warm and have a track record of self-sacrifice for others. Trust only those who can control their own impulses. Admire only those who experience embarrassment, guilt and shame. Depend only on those who are dependable. Since sociopaths/psychopaths are con artists, get proof of these qualities by first hand observation before you ascribe them to anyone.

* The NEO PI-R has been used to develop the five factor model of personality. This model can be remembered with the acronym OCEAN: O-openness to experience, C-conscientiousness, E-extraversion, A-agreeableness, N-neuroticism. Openness to experience (O: fantasy, aesthetic, feelings, actions, ideas, values), Conscientiousness (C: competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, deliberation), Extraversion (E: warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement seeking, positive emotions), Agreeableness (A: trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, tender mindedness), and Neuroticism (N: anxiousness, angry hostility, trait depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness, vulnerability)
**Twelve traits were consistently identified by Lynam and Widiger as either low or high in psychopaths. The psychopath is low in 5 facets of A (Straightforwardness 1, Altruism 2, Compliance 3, Modesty 4, Tender mindedness 5, three facets of C (dutifulness 6, self-discipline 7, and deliberation 8), and one facet each of N (self-consciousness 9) and E (warmth 10); the psychopath is high in impulsiveness 11 from N and excitement seeking 12 from E.


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109 Comments on "Are they just evil people?"

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one/joy_step_at_a_time

i was in a book store tonight and picked up a book in the philospohy section, titled, ‘on evil’. looked interesting. guy is a good writer, ‘breezy tone’ (inappropriate to my thinking, but okay…) I read the little blurb on the back and i start to laugh. I talk to the clerk about it (this is an indie sotre i used to work in- they always have the BEST staff). So the guy had obviously studied philosophy and contextualizes the blurb for me (post decontrustionist…blah blah…’evil’ becomes an ‘idea’).

the pithy blurb read: ‘In this witty, accessible study, the prominent Marxist thinker Terry Eagleton launches a surprising defense of the reality of evil, drawing on literary, theological, and psychoanalytic sources to suggest that evil, no mere medieval artifact, is a real phenomenon with palpable force in our contemporary world. ‘(emphasis mine)

are you fucking kidding me? really, it’s REAL! wow.

http://narcissists-suck.blogspot.com/2008/10/calling-narcissists-evil-stumbling.html

Onejoy and coping:
you might enjoy this particular article from Anna. Reading it has really helped me to consider what my parents are.

I know that we aren’t “qualified” to diagnose from the DSM IV but we can still use the word evil.

It’s strange, but YEARS before I knew what spaths were I said, “R and A (my spath sis and her trojan horse) are evil.”
I said it over and over, not really knowing what I meant by it.
All I knew is that there was something about them that made me need to bathe after I visited their house.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

REALLY great link/ post on ‘n’s suck’, sky – only piece i don’t agree with and didn’t get something from was: ‘In my opinion, based on personal experience, individuals who are ‘put off’ by calling narcissists evil have their own ulterior motives. There is very likely some behavior in their own lives they are trying to justify, to get away with.A behavior(s) which is destructive to others and aggrandizing to themselves.’

i am going to read the whole thing again. and more of her blog. because she is using n (then 3/4 through the post ‘malignant n’ – aka spath i kept thinking about my dad….i SO need to contextualize him in a deeper more meaningful way than ‘n’ has been for me. the man is a fucker. i need a good word that empowers me.

OneJoy,
Ayn Rand is a perfect example. she admired a serial killer.

It’s complicated. As you read more of her blog, you’ll understand. I think my N-dad is not so evil as he is “f**ked up” but I remember when Saddam Hussein was being hunted and my dad said, “He’s not as bad as they make him out to be”. BTW, my dad has a slight resemblence…to Hussein…

Sky and One,

I think “evil” is a concept like “light and dark” are concepts. “Good” is also a concept. I think EVIL is like “dark” and is the absence of “light” (Good).

The journey to healing from victimhood, from being the target of evil intentions/action, is as much a philosophical one and a spiritual one as it is mental, physical and emotional.

It only takes a small amount of light to overcome the darkness, and it only takes a little good to overcome the evil.

Interesting enough, when the 9/11 terrorists came here and wanted to learn to fly airplanes they didn’t understand how small really and tightly knitt general aviation pilots are and didn’t know how to “fit in” so red flags were raised months before 9/11—one man told the flight instructor he only wanted to work on TAKE OFFS and didn’t want to work on how to smoothly land the plane. Well DUH!!!!! No need to land it when you are going to be crashing it.

Psychopaths are also not “with it” in how to interact in an unfamiliar community

I think it was Lincoln that said “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people ALL of the time. Even a “goo” psychopath can’t keep up the mask for every one all the time. Sooner or later someone figures out what their game is. It might be as simple as pretending to be a victim (the old pity play ploy) but I’m learning to see the light shining through the holes in the mask. Funny thing is, I played these games when I was iin 4th and 5th grades, and I’ve outgrown them now so my interest in communicating with a psychopah is nill at this point in life, they are just not intereesting any more.

I am once again without a job. Thank God for my cat. I feel like he is the only one in my life who loves me unconditionally and with no strings attached, and the only one who won’t be cursing me out tomorrow when the news gets out.

ElizabethB.
You know ‘who’ you are…..so continue to press forward and hold your head high……
Who gives a damn what anyone but (your cat) thinks!!! 🙂

Really…..hold your head up…..today is only temporary!

one/joy_step_at_a_time

LOL! One Joy, that was hilarious!

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