By | February 27, 2017 4 Comments

Psychopaths are naturally skilled at spotting potential victims

Image courtesy of nenetus at

Image courtesy of nenetus at

When I was married to James Montgomery, who was later diagnosed as a psychopath, we once attended a local trade show together. We ran into a woman whom I didn’t know at all and James barely knew. After about one minute of conversation, James started offering to help her with some project that she was working on.

“What did you do that for?” I asked James after we continued on our way.


“Offer to help that woman. You hardly know her.”

“Do you know who she’s married to?” James asked. It was a man that he believed could possibly be useful to his plans.

Psychopaths are always on the lookout for people they might be able to manipulate. A study published by Canadian researchers seems to indicate they have an enhanced ability to spot and remember potential targets.

The study was called A pawn by any other name? Social information processing as a function of psychopathic traits. It was conducted by Kevin Wilson and Sabrina Demetrioff, of Dalhousie University, and Stephen Porter of the University of British Columbia-Okanagan.

The study

The researchers created a series of fictional characters using photographs of men and women with expressions conveying that they were happy or sad. They assigned biographical traits to the characters indicating that some were successful and some were not, along with other details such as “likes skydiving.”

Forty-four male undergraduate students participated in the study. They were first given a personality test to determine their level of psychopathic traits. Then they were shown the photos and biographical information about the fictional characters. Afterwards, they were asked to recall the characters.

The researchers anticipated that the study participants with high psychopathic traits would best remember useful or vulnerable individuals—the happy, successful male was probably most useful, and the unhappy, unsuccessful female was probably most vulnerable.

The results

Study results indicated that they were partially correct. “Participants with high levels of psychopathic traits demonstrated enhanced recognition for the unhappy, unsuccessful female character; arguably the most vulnerable individual presented in our study,” they wrote. “In fact, the high-psychopathy participants demonstrated near-perfect recognition for this character.”

The researchers called this “predatory memory.”

“Psychopathic traits, even in the absence of overt criminality, are associated with a cognitive style that is predatory in nature,” the researchers concluded. “In extreme cases, this may allow individuals with clinically diagnosable levels of psychopathy to spot vulnerable individuals for future exploitation.”

Remember—the study subjects were not criminals in jail, they were college students. The conclusion we can draw is that people with psychopathic traits are out in the world, spotting potential victims and filing the information away for future use. It’s frightening.

Lovefraud originally published this story on April 27, 2009.

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Wow. That is really something.


My ex was always looking to get something out of every workplace and social occasion. After we split my sister commented that he had never given anything of value to her in any way shape or form (advice, assistance, gifts etc). As our relationship deteriorated he began to say how much he disliked her, when he was targeting me he was nice to her!,


yes; mine was this way too; he tried to ‘butter up’ my friends at tech school, but ALL of them wanted nothing to do with him. “why are YOU with him”? I would get asked. After we got married, I watched, as over and over again, he would ‘butter up’ people (men or women) that he wanted something from..we would take them out for meals, feed them coffee and snacks, even play card/board games; it didn’t matter if it was farm land he wanted to buy or rent, or get better deals on machinery purchases, or just to ‘cozy’ up to someone HE thought would be helpful or important to HIS life as a farmer. He always overdid the ‘friendliness’; sooner or later this person or that deal would fall through (once in awhile he actually did get what or who he was after)..when it fell through ..he would badmouth these people or that deal (but not to their faces)..and of course what went wrong was MY fault and I got blamed for it. I wouldn’t dare mention that name or that deal, it was history to him, time to move on to the next target. He went through friendships, relationships, farm neighbors one after another. Very very few people stuck with him for very long. I learned to stay out of his manipulations, knowing most of them would bomb, knowing I’d get blamed in the end.


While I don’t fit into the Lovefraud profile because I’m a female that has been targeted by BOTH males and females my entire life, I just want to comment that I’ve been learning a lot about being the perfect target for narcissists, sociopaths/psychopaths. It “ain’t” easy, let me tell you. This has been happening to me my entire life…and I’m 69 years old. My mother was a very toxic narcissist. There is a long string of these types of exploitive relationships in my life, both males and females. This personality type still latches onto me and I recognize their energy patterns more easily now. It may be that I will never be able to completely detach from whatever it is that attracts these folks, but at least I’m more aware of it. I’m not comfortable having to be so super-aware of people’s underlying motives, but if I don’t keep this on my radar, there will be a huge price to pay for being “unconscious”. Appreciate the information this website and email provides. Thanks, Donna, for spreading the word about these types of exploitive relationships. You are doing a huge service to humanity.

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