Researchers minimize the psychopathy problem

Here’s the headline for the cover story in the September/October issue of Scientific American Mind magazine:

Inside the mind of a psychopath

Neuroscientists are discovering that some of the most cold-blooded killers aren’t bad. They suffer from a brain abnormality that sets them adrift in an emotionless world.

The authors of the article are Kent A. Kiehl and Joshua W. Buckholtz. Dr. Kiehl is the researcher who examines the brains of psychopaths in prison using fMRI technology. Lovefraud wrote about him before in Psychopaths, crime and choice.

This latest article, Inside the mind of a psychopath, is an excellent overview of the personality disorder. It summarizes the characteristics of psychopaths, with chilling anecdotes to describe their behavior. It briefly explains the biology of the disorder—describing areas of the brain that are abnormal. It explains research that has shed light on different aspects of how psychopaths differ from the rest of us.

The article is well-written, thorough and understandable. In it, Kiehl and Buckholtz write specifically about the individuals who meet the definition of a psychopath used by researchers in the field: someone scoring at least 30 out of 40 on the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R).

I can understand this limitation from a research perspective, but for society as a whole, it’s a problem.

Psychopathy Checklist Revised

The PCL-R was developed by Dr. Robert Hare, and the article includes a summary of how it works. The evaluation covers 20 behaviors and traits. A clinician assigns a score of 0, 1 or 2 for each item, based on how well the description matches the subject.

The scores are based on both an interview with the subject, and a review of the information in his or her file. This is critical, of course, because psychopaths can be extremely charming in an interview, and conveniently forget to talk about their malignant histories.

The PCL-R evaluates the following behaviors and traits:

Antisocial behavior

  • Need for stimulation and proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Early behavior problems
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Parole of probation violations

Emotional/interpersonal traits

  • Glibness and superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Conning and manipulativeness
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callousness and lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Other factors

  • Committing a wide variety of crimes
  • Having many short-term marital relationships

The maximum score on the PCL-R is 40, which means that the person was rated as 2”—a reasonably good match—”on every item. To be considered a true psychopath, an individual must have a score of 30.

Prevalence of psychopaths

The criteria used by researchers to diagnose psychopaths is stringent, so the total number of people who have this disorder comes out as far lower what we usually talk about here on Lovefraud.

Here’s what the article says about the prevalence of psychopaths in society:

• People with the disorder make up 0.5 to 1 percent of the general population.

• When you discount children, women (for reasons that remain a puzzle, few women are afflicted), and those who are already locked up, that translates to approximately 250,000 psychopaths living freely in the U.S.

• Some researchers have estimated that as many as 500,000 psychopaths inhabit the U.S. prison system.

• Between 15 and 35 percent of U.S. prisoners are psychopaths.

• Psychopaths offend earlier, more frequently and more violently than others, and they are four to eight times more likely to commit new crimes on release.

• Kiehl recently estimated that the expense of prosecuting and incarcerating psychopaths, combined with the costs of the havoc they wreak in others’ lives, totals $250 billion to $400 billion a year.

Psychopathy continuum

What does the article say about people who may not qualify as card-carrying psychopaths, scoring less than 30 out of 40 on the PCL-R? Not much. A box accompanying the article, called Do you know a psychopath?, contains the only reference:

The thing is, everyone falls somewhere on the psychopathy continuum. The average person scores about a 4, but there are plenty who rank in the teens and 20s—not high enough to receive an official diagnosis, yet possessing significant (and often noticeable) psychopathic tendencies—the bullying boss, the drifter, the irresponsible guy who is always milking the generosity of friends and lovers.

Now, I don’t know who wrote the paragraph above—the authors of the main article, Kiehl and Buckholtz, or some editor at Scientific American Mind magazine. But the overall effect is that scope and danger of the psychopathy problem is significantly underplayed. The question is, why?

Low-ball estimates

What is to be gained by low-balling the prevalence of this personality disorder in society?

I don’t know how many of us were involved with someone who would score 30 or more on the PCL-R. But I am willing to say that most of us have experienced something significantly more damaging than, “the bullying boss, the drifter, the irresponsible guy who is always milking the generosity of friends and lovers.”

Maybe we were with people who would have scored between 10 and 29. Dr. Liane Leedom recently reported that another psychopathy researcher, Dr. Reid Meloy, says people who score between 10 and 19 have a “mild psychopathic disturbance” and people who score between 20 and 29 have a “moderate psychopathic disturbance.” Why does Kiehl ignore them?

And how about all the women who exhibit these traits? Why did Kiehl and Buckholtz give them a blanket exemption? And children? Dr. Robert Hare acknowledges that psychopathic traits can be seen in children. He’s even developed a version of the PCL-R that can be used to evaluate children as young as age 12.

The bottom line is that many psychopathy researchers work with prisoners. It’s easy to understand why—prisoners are literally a captive audience. Plus, I imagine that funding is available.

But this focus on the worst of the worst, those locked up for truly heinous crimes, vastly underestimates the danger of people with psychopathic traits, even if they don’t cross the 30-point threshold. And this is really bad for society.

Read Inside the mind of a psychopath on TheMindInstitute.org.

Link supplied by a Lovefraud reader.

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143 Comments on "Researchers minimize the psychopathy problem"

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Hi all….I’m back on dancing trolls and kissing cousins!

Yes, the formal ballroom dance comunity is a ripe hunting ground for NSP’s because it’s full of lonely women looking to connect in an environment that’s NOT THE BAR, NOT THE INTERNET and seemingly a safe place.

I was one of those lonely women who loved to dance and thought what better way to meet a “descent” guy??????? …surley there would be someone of quality and character in this community since it does require a more “cultured” person, one with a passion for different musical styles, a commitment to to learn and keep up with lessons and appreciate partner dancing. So 6 years ago, I started learning and 2 years into it, in one of the classes I met “the troll of my life”….he charmed me with his smooth moves…..told me he wanted to take lessons with me so we could be “life dance partners”…I fell for the trap hook line and sinker!……..little did I know I was only one of many he used the same line on AT THE SAME TIME!

Fast forward to present…..I finally kicked the troll to the curb, after 4 painful years of being used, as a “pretty prop” for his family, his ED nurse after prostate surgery, his private architect for his projects and his his on again off again dance partner when he wanted to improve his styling to hunt for new women….and on and on….. I was used, emotionally abused, betrayed, and made to feel like I was the crazy one…..until I finally got it.

He used to travel to Germany every year to visit his cousins…..I was never envited to go….even though I had envited him to travel abroad with me on several different occasions…..he allways told me these trips to Germany were special bonding times with his cousins….all female! Well…..I was suspecious, thought he had a lover there and that’s why I was never envited to go……I couldn’t compute in my mind that he could possibly be doing it……untill……his own (adult) daughter whom he took on one of those trips confirmed what I suspected …HE WAS SLEEPING WITH HIS FIRST COUSIN!!!!!! What was astonishing to me is that he did it IN FRONT OF HIS DAUGHTER and grand daughter…..HE DIDN’T CARE!!!!! I confronted him….he finally admitted by omission…..said it was “A MISTAKE”…that in some cultures it’s ACCEPTABLE! I was disgusted beyond belief!!!!!

He continues to use dancing community as his hunting grownd….I get emails and messages through the grape vine and from one of the women that know me and his reputation, that his a predator out ther with the same old line….”Would you like to take more dance lessons with me? ….be my dance partner? practice in private?”…………

As I write this, he is on a “dancing” cruise ship….a cruise were over 400 memebers of the national organization of ballroom dancers are attending…. and he is a “dance host”!!!! there are far more single women than men in the cruise so he was envited to go for free as long as he dances with 4 different women every 1/2 hour who roate to 4 new ones for a total of 3 hours a night x 7 nights duration of the cruise….that’s 24 women a night!!!!!!! prime hunting grounds for the spath….a wolf in sheeps clothing ……I pitty those poor women who don’t know what fire they are playing with!


I agree with Skylar – I’m also a bit at a loss about what your husband is like and why you are unable to remove him from your house. My experience also tells me that he is plotting some drama before he leaves. They all do. You need to have some cards up your sleeve that you can play when he tries to pull something.
(Sky, I just reposted yours and added in my own bits…)

If you are staying in the house, change the locks while he is out, put his gear all out on the front porch (or deliver it to where he can collect it) and get an order from a judge that he stay away from the property and communicate through your attorney only. I assume he has been abusive or else you wouldn’t be doing this. From what I gather, your laws in the US are not as thorough on domestic abuse as ours are. One day soon I will send Donna a copy of what ours include – we CAN get orders here against emotional, mental, financial, social and spiritual abuse. Harder to get than for physical abuse, but still possible – my own restraining order covers all of it. Maybe you don’t have the same options as I do? If you do, use them…

“No advance notice” – so important!

Dear Aeylah,

I am sorry you had such an experience, but oh, how I LAUGHED! WHAT GALL! A “mistake” all right! NOT!!! Like it is accidental and he just was hurled into bed with his COUSIN!

Well, sometimes cousins do marry in some cultures, and it was fairly frequently done in English culture and early American culture to consolidate the estates and keep the money in the family.

Thomas Jefferson’s family in Virginia married first cousins for several generations and some of his nephews were frankly psychopathic nut jobs–one even hacked a slave named George to death in 1812 in Kentucky and was later charged for that murder….Jefferson’s mother was probably crazy as a bessie bug and he had an “oddly silent” relationship with her and other members of his family.

But your X saying it was an “accident” that he slept with her—over and over again I presume! LOL ROTFLNMAO

Yep, I imagine he has a “happy hunting ground” in the ball room dance crowd…but one of the things we learn is that psychopaths are NOT ONLY FROM THE THUGS AND LOW LIFES of this world, but in some of the highest political offices of the land, some of the most prominent financial community leaders etc. judges, lawyers, doctors, teachers, military leaders, etc.

Yep, “cultured” psychopaths are everywhere. You might want to read Bob Hare’s “Snakes in Suits, when Psychopaths go to work” it is a great example of up-scale psychopaths in the work world. But on the other hand, maybe you could write such a book yourself. “Dancing with the Psychopaths” might make a great reality show! LOL

Aussie girl,

He has been emotionally abusive our whole relationship, except it was ambient and hard to detect. I started to figure out that things weren’t adding up and he proceeded to call my mom for an intervention for me (being the bunny boiler that I am). He looked up mental institutions on his computer and how to get treatment for a family member who is resistant to treatment. (I saved it and Gave a copy to my attorney). And he kept telling me that everything was in my imagination.

Look into my eyes, it’s all your imagination. Puke!!!! He was looking up porn on my laptop (my fault of course), maybe it was more exciting to him than using his own laptop or the main CPU.

Objectifies women and says again, it’s your imagination. Daughter said she doesn’t like the way dad hugs her when I’m out of the room. He said I coached her to say that. WTF? He gave her a hard time for coming forward, “Do you want me to be taken away from you? Stop telling lies about me.” etc. Tried to get her brother to turn on her. She said she felt like killing herself.

She is in therapy and wants dad out of her life. She thinks he is a sociopath because he has no emotion. She is so together and I’m proud of her. She wants NOTHING to do with spath.

So that’s the story, mostly. I also had him tested at the university for sexual addiction, he lied the whole time and told the Dr. that I was pathalogical. We took the MMPI and he is a narcissist and I’m not a bunny boiler.

Thanks for all the advice. My daughter was saying the same thing that you did, he married you because he wanted a pretty wife to cook and clean for him. The white picket fence is very important to him. No wonder he has been putting up a stink, he wants to be normal but can’t. He is empty.

I appreciate your concern and care. I have been covering my bases but don’t know what grounds I would have to get him forceably removed. I take nothing for granted and document everything!


I laugh hard myself these days at how ridiculous his “it was a mistake” responce was! yes, he even got on his knees to beg forgiveness over and over. LOL

Your right about “cultured” Spaths…..I learned more about them with the Bernie Madoff story then reading about Picasso and a few others. I would say that the Casanova and the Marqui De Sade were very much the likes of ex-S!…LOL

I’ve read alot of the books recommended here but I haven’t read yet Bob Hare’s “Snakes in Suits, when Psychopaths go to work”…this tittle alone describes the slime ball….it’s on reading list for sure.

Next book will be mine….“Dancing with the Psychopaths” -“The Toxic Tango”….LOL….just like you suggestted!

Good night (((hugs))))

great video regarding psychopathy, Robert Hare is featured.
they say that it is genetic, but I also know, from personal experience, psychopaths are aware of the new knowledge about psychopaths and they want to be clumped with the asperger’s people. They are intelligent. They are hypocrites. This video shows this. They know that their days are numbered and they want peoples’ sympathy. (oh, we are born this way, it’s not our fault)
The psychologists talk about how difficult it is to change. Well, yes, I haven’t given up coffee and lazyness, but my spath was able to give up smoking after 24 years, just because I told him that his cigarett butts made him really easy to track. It’s all about the story we believe. He believes he is untrackable, smarter than anyone, it inspired him to quit cigarattes. It’s supposed to be harder to quit than heroin. Why doesn’t it inspire him to stop raping and pillaging?
The psychologists keep making mistakes. The brain can change when we DECIDE TO CHANGE IT. Psychopaths DECIDE that they want to be evil. the brain changes to accomadate that. PERIOD.
I was a very narcisstic teenager. Suffering and humility made me decide to change. It was a rational decision. They can choose that, but their EGOS take control. They decide not to.


Thanks for posting that great video. I agree…they do know they are different and they do know they are disturbed. The ex-S in my life allways said “I will never be normal”….I questioned him again and again what he meant by that but he couldn’t answer. I believe he tried at times, he faked every emotion of empathy to the point of leaving me a message after a break up saying “if you ever land in the hospital, you can count on me being there for me”…..this after confronting him with the fact that he was never there for me when I needed him…..this is fake empathy. and this is as far as they can go. fake!

Dear Hope4joy,

You can have him removed because you have FILED FOR DIVORCE. Do you think the judge is going to allow him to stay at the same house with you forever? LOL You don’t need “grounds” to get the court to make him leave—ONE OF YOU HAS TO LEAVE—SO EITHER HIM OR YOU, take your pick! If he won’t leave, then you either leave yourself or get a court order to make him leave until the property is settled and the divorce is final. You may end up having to sell the house, but that is in the property settlement. TALK to your ATTORNEY and tell him you want hubby OUT OF THE HOUSE, how do you get that? He ought to know what to tell you if he is a divorce attorney.

I’m glad your daughter is in therapy…and listening to her gut.

Aeylah, I’m waiting for the book! LOL

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