It has been argued that the modern definition of psychopath, which comes from Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist – Revised, is flawed in that it includes criminality factors as well as more personality-driven factors. The item of “criminal versatility” exemplifies this. This item attempts to measure the extent and diversity of criminal activity. The idea is that one who commits more criminal actions and of varying types is more psychopathic than one who does not commit such criminal actions. The chronic drunk driver who batters people at bars frequently would rate higher than the person who occasionally steals – even if the underlying mindset was the same between them (a disregard for others and immoral actions). Someone who obeys the letter of the law, but not the spirit, would not register at all on this item.
I have the same problems with this scoring item that I did with the item of “multiple short-term marriages”. It gets so wrapped up in the specifics that someone that exhibits the “spirit” of the trait would remain undetected. Diagnosis is important and not so important. It is important because sometimes the gravity of the diagnosis can cause great introspection, but at the same time, it should be argued that a person does not magically change because of a psychological diagnosis. However, if the instrument is going back and forth on when “spirit” counts and does not, the odds of accurate treatment would go down, I would imagine.
The PCL-R is so focused on illegal activity, that it excludes the immoral for this item. A person that is constantly engaging in immoral, yet not illegal, activity will not register. That belittles the psychopath and clouds up the instrument. I’m not going to say, in this post, what I have and have not done in my life. Some of it was illegal, much of it was not. Frankly, illegal actions do not bother me, morally, but I abstain because there is simply too much risk of being caught. I may be self-grandiose, but I’m not oblivious to the world around me. What disturbs me most of the inclusion of this trait is that the instrument, and resulting definition, as a result, suggest to others that psychopaths must be criminals. The wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing all around us would disagree.