Summary: The media often talk about psychopathic people. But what exactly is a psychopath and how does psychopathy manifest itself? A new study looks at psychopathy and provides information on how the disease can develop.

Source: The conversation

Recently, millions flocked to the movies to see Joker, the origin story of Batman’s infamous nemesis. Many have commented that the film is a portrait of a textbook psychopath. But maybe the bigger question is how many of the viewers have similar characteristics? Is it really possible that you are a psychopath yourself?

To answer this question, we need to examine the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy presented in the PCL-R developed by Robert Hare in the 1970s.

Thanks to Hare, experts can use the PCL-R to assess whether a person has one of the criteria for psychopathy. Estimates estimate that about 1% of the population qualifies – although the percentage is believed to be far higher among the prison population (25%) and company executives (21%).

The absolute or prototypical psychopath would give Hare’s 20-point checklist a maximum score of 40, while a zero score would indicate someone with no psychopathic tendencies. People with a score of 30 or more should qualify for further research and evidence of psychopathy, while many criminals score between 22 and 30. As a result, psychopathy may be best viewed as a spectrum in which we all have some characteristics at some point in life.

Ultimately, we cannot assume that a hard upbringing will make us psychopathic. The debate between nature and care has long been debated with regard to psychopathy and there is still no clear answer. Recently, however, it has been suggested that a genetic predisposition is essential for a person with psychopathic characteristics. However, some environmental factors, such as trauma, abuse, and family rejection, could determine the course of the disorder.

We should also not assume that a person who meets certain PCL-R criteria is a psychopath. We also have to remember that not all psychopaths are criminals. Many are successful professionals, so a high PCL-R does not necessarily make us dangerous or murderous. Patrick Bateman, the bloodstained antihero of Brett Easton Ellis’ infamous 1991 American Pycho novel, is certainly a psychopath – but not all psychopaths are Patrick Bateman.

Nevertheless, psychopaths are clearly relatively common – so how can we recognize one? Because if a person is a psychopath, they will rarely accept it or advertise the fact.

The first characteristic of a psychopath after the PCL-R is smooth and superficial charm. Of course, this can be an apparently positive feature. However, this is not a trait that is motivated by genuine interest or empathy for others, but enables psychopaths to enchant and manipulate their surroundings, from work colleagues to romantic partners. Gaslighting – in which others are made to question their own actions and beliefs – can be a preferred strategy.

Another key characteristic is a great self-esteem. Of course, this deep feeling of trust or self-confidence can explain why so many psychopaths seem to thrive in the choppy business world. Unfortunately, for their peers and “friends,” psychopaths also tend to improve by demeaning people around them and possibly lying pathologically. Keep an eye out for daffodils.

Other criteria on the PCL-R checklist are lack of remorse or guilt, calluses, a parasitic lifestyle and promiscuous sexual behavior. In short, psychopaths tend to take risks and are less likely to show or feel fear.

As a result, psychopathy may be best seen as a spectrum where we all have some characteristics at some point in our lives. The picture is in the public domain.

But they’re not always cool operators. A feature that is both obvious and common is poor behavior control, possibly related to the fact that psychopaths were more likely to have had juvenile delinquency in the past. Psychopaths tend to have a good eye for seeing and mimicking how others behave, but they can also have outbreaks of antisocial behavior.

Based on the above, I think the Joker – or at least Arthur Fleck, the man behind the makeup – is just a borderline psychopath with other mental health problems that would require further investigation first. There are certainly more real psychopaths who would do better in the Hare test.

The key question, based on what was said above, is whether you are one of them and how you want to use those traits and skills.


The Conversation
Media contacts:
Calli Tzani-Pepelasi – The Conversation
Image source:
The picture is in the public domain.