Stories of the ‘psychopath’ are often intriguing to individuals in the general population as they receive exhaustive media coverage and are the basis for many interesting story lines in books, television and movies. The idea of the ‘psychopath’ is usually misunderstood and merged with other dispositions such as Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD), but these concepts are two distinct entities. Defining a ‘psychopath’ is a difficult task. Frist, psychopathy is a trait and not a disorder (Strickland et al, 2013). Characterizing psychopathy using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-V) has demonstrated effective trait-based coverage in terms of psychopathy and its facets that are identifiable through the Personality Inventory for DSM-V (PID-V) (Strickland et al, 2013).
The identification of psychopathy as a trait indicates that individuals with this specific trait possess patterns of thoughts, feelings or actions that are distinguishable. For example, the Five Factor Model (Costa and Wildiger, 2002) describes five broad dimensions of personality that are used to describe human personality. Individuals all possess some degree of these identifiable traits, however they are expressed in different comportments upon a continuum. Possessing the average trait has not historically bred problems (Costa and Wildiger, 2002) but, when individuals approach an extreme end of a trait (extremely low or extremely high) then there may be indication of some kind of personality disorder.
Hence, the term psychopathy and ASPD are often used interchangeably as individuals that demonstrate extreme forms of psychopathy are often diagnosed with ASPD (Strickland et al, 2013). The DSM-V aims to correct this binder. The dimensional personality disorder framework that is addressed in DSM-V shifts the ASPD stand-alone criteria in a categorical diagnostic framework to dimensional traits within a comprehensive model of personality pathology (Strickland et al, 2013).
Psychopathy is a personality trait, therefore all individuals may possess some forms and representations of psychopathy, (Costa and Wildiger, 2002) but differ in terms of expression. Individuals who possess extreme forms of psychopathy are often presented in a dim light and are portrayed as individuals who commit bizarre, violent and senseless deeds, and then show no remorse for the pain they have caused (Levenson, 1992).
A Canadian Psychologist Robert D. Hare and his colleagues developed the Revised Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R) in the 1970’s with criminal offenses as its baselines (Cutler, 2008). The PCL-R reiterates the notion that every individual may possess some trait to some extent, but will need to express enough traits to be considered psychopathic (Ogloff, 2006). Thus, although there may be some form of psychopathy in all individuals, it is rare that an individual will score high enough on the PCL-R to identify as psychopathic (Blair & Viding, 2009; Costa and...