Psychopathy: assessment and forensic implications

Robert D. Hare and Craig S. Neumann

in Responsibility and psychopathy

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199551637
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754630 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Psychopathy: assessment and forensic implications

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‘Psychopathy was the first personality disorder to be recognized in psychiatry. The concept has a long historical and clinical tradition, and in the last decade a growing body of research has supported its validity’ (Millon, Simonsen and Birket-Smith, 1998). In the decade following this 1998 statement, the theoretical and empirical literature on psychopathy has expanded virtually at an exponential rate, with the addition of well over 500 scientific publications and many books and edited volumes. Much of this literature examines and evaluates the application of psychopathy to the mental health and criminal justice systems (Felthous and Sass, 2007; Gacono, 2000; Hervé and Yuille, 2007), where it has been described as ‘the most important and useful psychological construct yet discovered for criminal justice policies’ (Harris, Skilling, and Rice, 2001), ‘what may be the most important forensic concept of the early 21st century’ (Monahan, 2006), and even as ‘the unified theory of crime’ (DeLisi, 2009). The past few years also have seen a dramatic increase in basic research based on the theories and methodologies from basic science including, but certainly not limited to, behavioural genetics, developmental psychopathology, cognitive/affective neuroscience, biochemistry, general personality theory (Patrick, 2006), and organizational psychology (Babiak and Hare, 2006). In 2004, the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy (SSSP) was established as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas and research findings amongst international investigators. Because psychopathy is associated with so much social and personal damage and distress, the basic and applied research endeavours now are being supplemented by the provision of forums for victims to discuss their problems. Its implications for legal responsibility are discussed in detail elsewhere in the current volume (Malatesti and McMillan, 2010).

In some respects, attempts to understand and deal with psychopathy, and to communicate research findings to professionals and the public, are impeded by confusion and disagreements about what is meant by the term. For this reason, we begin with a brief discussion of the traditional construct of psychopathy and its measurement, followed by a few comments about the conceptually related antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), described in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Version IV (DSM-IV; American Psychological Association, 1994). We then summarize recent aspects of the empirical literature on the association of psychopathy with crime and violence, and its implications for the assessment of risk, management, treatability, and current debates about neuroimaging and legal responsibility.

Chapter.  13424 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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