A Significant Connection Between Psychopathy and Homicides

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A Significant Connection Between Psychopathy and Homicides

Study shows that psychopaths are more violent that those non-psychopath / Photo by Ddisq via Shutterstock


A certain psychopath usually appears normal in front of many people. They may even have the most charming face and the most adorable laugh. However, behind their pleasant attitudes in front of you are their dark personality traits such as a lack of conscience and empathy. They can also be manipulative and volatile which makes psychopathy among the most difficult orders to spot. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), psychopathy is often a controversial and extremely complex issue. 

According to the statistics presented by Dr. Jez Phillips, a psychologist and Deputy Head of Psychology at the University of Chester in the United Kingdom, the estimated prevalence of psychopathy that appeared in various studies is between 0.2% and 2%. For instance, a 2009 study in the UK found out that 0.6% of the house population in the country has the presence of psychopathic traits. Additionally, this mental condition is more prevalent in males with 31% than females with 11%. 

Moreover, the warning signs of psychopathy in an individual can be categorized under two clusters: the emotional/interpersonal and social deviance. Emotional/interpersonal characteristics consist of glib and superficial, egocentric and grandiose, lack of remorse or guilt, lack of empathy, deceitful and manipulative, and shallow emotions. On the other hand, social deviance consists of impulsiveness, poor behavior controls, need for excitement, lack of responsibility, early behavior problems, and adult anti-social behavior. 

Psychopathy and Criminal Behavior

In movies and television shows, psychopaths are portrayed as callous characters, murderers and serial killers. They are usually violent people and are most associated with criminal behaviors. In fact, a study found out that psychopaths (97%) are generally more violent than non-psychopaths (74%). Another study by Dr. Paul Babiak and his colleagues entitled "Psychopathy: An Important Forensic Concept for the 21st Century" also showed that this mental health condition is highly correlated with criminal behavior and violence. 

According to the Psychology Today, this study is not surprising since egocentrism and the need of power and control, which are both perfect traits of psychopaths, can build a lifetime of antisocial, deviant or criminal activity. What's interesting about is that before committing an act of murder, they make sure that it is all planned and organized. Most of the time, their motive involves either power and control or sadistic gratification. Their killings are mostly stone-cold, calculated, and completely premeditated. 

Additionally, research which analyzed the relationship between psychopathy and criminal behavior conducted by Dr. Daniel Boduszek from the University of Huddersfield showed that psychopathy is a robust predictor of criminal behavior and recidivism. The findings also revealed that the violence done by psychopathic offenders is more instrumental than the violence committed by other offenders. Other studies suggest that the use of instrumental violence among psychopathic offenders might be caused by Interpersonal-Affective traits of psychopathy. 

As mentioned, psychopaths are difficult to determine even by professionals. Often, the symptoms are misread, misdiagnosed, minimized or explained away due to their considerable deception skills. Misconceptions and improper identification to these people can lead to serious consequences, from the intervention and treatment of lies and fabrications as the truth to mishandling strategies for interrogation. 

Moreover, a unique characteristic of psychopaths is that they can manipulate law enforcement authorities that can cause legitimate challenges for the criminal justice system. A report from the FBI last 2012 also showed that psychopaths have the ability to influence the system to the judgment of their cases. 

Psychopathy and Homicides

In a recent study published in Aggression and Violent Behavior, the researchers took a closer look if it's possible to predict someone will kill. To do this, they analyzed data from 19 studies which contained information from more than 2,600 homicide offenders. The researchers reviewed the offenders' psychopathy checklist (PCL) score, a diagnostic tool used to rate a person's psychopathic tendencies, to identify any potential relationship between PCL-data and homicides. 

According to the Medical Xpress, the PCL can determine the more psychopathic a person is deemed to be on a scale from zero to 40. In an interview, Bryanna Fox, Ph.D., the USF assistant professor who co-authored the study said, "There's a very high correlation between psychopathy and homicide. In our study, we found a correlation value of .68. In social science, anything above a .4 or .5 is considered strong – so these findings are very interesting."

However, the researchers stated that this study can't be used as evidence or proof against an individual to arrest or convict based on the likelihood they may commit a crime. Instead, this research can be used in determining whether a convicted criminal would do the same crime again. "It's very difficult at this point to say if PCL scores could be used predictively. But what it does tell us, is that people who are scoring over 20 are in 'very high-risk' territory," Fox added. 


Psychopaths are showed to have the ability to influence the judgment to their cases / Photo by Marko Aliaksandr via Shutterstock




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