The Beatings Will Continue

The PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist Revised) is the primary tool used to assess psychopathy.  It covers many facets that it’s junior, the PCL-SV (Psychopathy Checklist Screening Version) does not.  The PCL-R has more elements of “delinquency” including criminality and reflects the more antisocial nature of the true underlying condition.  However, I am not a fan of the PCL-SV.  People who are given the PCL-SV are mathematically more likely to register as psychopathic than people given the PCL-R.  Less components, less criminality, it’s a given that this is true.  So then why do so many jump at the bit to give out the PCL-SV?  Simple.  Correlation does not equal causation, but there’s all the incentive in the world to create more psychopaths when one wants them isolated.

Think about that.  There is a perverse incentive to create psychopaths.  European nations tend to use 25 as the PCL-R cutoff for psychopathy.  Recall that the individual is scored out of 40 points on the PCL-R.  The United States tends to use 30.  30 is a hard bar to clear and tends only to reflect 1% of the adult population (including those in jail).  Since psychopaths are given disproportionate sentences for crimes, it is in the criminologist’s best interest to trump up the criminal with the condition of psychopathy, whether or not it is actually true for that individual.  The PCL-SV is scored out of 24 points with a cutoff of 18 being typically used for a confirmation of “psychopathy.”  If the PCL-SV is used, it should be clear to the reader that this would result in many of our less criminal being treated as equivalent to the hardened individuals that clear that PCL-R.  Claims that the PCL-SV and PCL-R are equivalent are bullshit.

The beatings will continue.  There simply are motives to churn out as many psychopaths as possible in today’s world.  I don’t think it is a stretch of the imagination to believe that we are quickly approaching a state in which the antisocials are monitored, identified, and shipped off to prison the second that they offend.  Either count criminality and delinquency as part of the condition or don’t.  You can’t have it both ways unless your own motives are insincere.

Is Psychopathy a Mental Illness?
Sheep's Clothing (Part 2)

Comments

  1. FNP says

    To put it in perspective, I was first screened with the SV one, then assessed with the real one. I had a 24 on the SV one, and a 35 on the real one. While I’m antisocial enough to qualify for ASPD, I’m much more on the malignant narcissist side than anything else. Presumably, that’s where the general lack of criminal background comes from (and being raised in an upper-middle class home).

  2. Anonymous says

    the SV is more useful to assess people with psychopathic personalities and less or no criminal activity. That’s one of the reasons why it’s used.

    • Jessica Kelly says

      However, it is often touted by professionals as being “completely equivalent.” Either criminality and delinquency matters or it does not. One of these instruments should not exist.

    • Anonymous says

      I think we may agree on this, but I don’t think. Also they’re not equivalent. But I don’t think this part is necessarily true, unless the person making that judgement is not minimally informed: «If the PCL-SV is used, it should be clear to the reader that this would result in many of our less criminal being treated as equivalent to the hardened individuals that clear that PCL-R.»

      [same anon]

      • Anonymous says

        Oh, I posted this without seeing your answer.
        I think both are useful, because one can have a psychopathic personality/mindset and that may manifest in various ways. But no, people who say they’re completely equivalent is saying shit.

      • Jessica Kelly says

        Hare himself writes in “Snakes in Suits” (page 28). “The PCL:SV has fewer items than the PCL-R, but scores on these two instruments have the same theoretical and *practical* meaning.” (emphasis mine). If they are practically equivalent, then either we are trying to make psychopaths out of people that wouldn’t register on the PCL-R or we are trying to avoid psychopathic diagnoses via the PCL-R. I fear that the incentive lies with the former and for nefarious reasons.

        • Anonymous says

          The adequacy or inadequacy of maintaining the 2 depends on the way one defines psychopathy – in terms of a personality disorder or in terms of what’s in the pcl-r (more like with an emphasis on criminal/ As behaviour). That should be discussed and researched a little more perhaps. I don’t think the idea is to “make” more psychopaths .

          • FNP says

            It’s quite a lot easier to hit the 18/24 mark on the PCL-SV than it is to hit the 30/40 mark on the PCL-R. Therefore, it’s much easier to get screened as psychopathic than to actually get assessed psychopathic.

            I doubt Hare really gives that much of a shit about what the PCL-SV is used for, since he gets paid every time it’s used (same with PCL-R).

            However, it seems that the intent of the PCL-SV is to get more people assessed with the PCL-R and therefore get Hare more cash.

        • Anonymous says

          I should elaborate: If by practical he means that they’re still psychopaths and more likely then the average person to react in a certain way (for instance, in what interpersonal relationships is concerned or what type of crimes they may commit in the future), but they have a less criminal background because os social status, etc. (see FNP’s comment above), and are still less likely to commit crimes because of that, then I don’t think that is substanciated.

          • FNP says

            Less of a criminal background isn’t really related to social status. Higher social status just means that you’ve learned how to blend in with a higher social class and therefore aren’t the suspect of most criminal activities. Nobody suspects the guy that grew up in a middle-class household, it’s always the guy from a low-class home that works a menial job that people look at for a crime.

          • Anonymous says

            perhaps it’s not just that. Do you really think that a person that was raised practically on the streets (and has to survive in those conditions) has the same probability of becoming a thief as the person who was raised in a wealthy (or at least mid-class) home in the suburbs and is now a doctor or a lawyer?

          • FNP says

            Being raised on the streets vs raised in a middle-class home has little to do with psychopathy, which has been shown to be actual differences in brain structure thanks to genetics. Moreover, there’s nothing that says that a low-class person is more likely to be a psychopath – they’re just more likely to be in prison, since they don’t hide their extracurricular activities very well.

            However, you won’t see many psychopaths lining up to be doctors unless it’s a surgery field. Doctors spend quite a lot of time interacting with patients, which the vast majority of psychopaths simply can’t be bothered to do. Too much effort is expended in trying to appear empathetic to do it as a job.

            Also, a street kid might well be good at stealing things, but that doesn’t provide for criminal versatility if you’re only good at the one thing. Psychopaths tend to have the ability and knowledge to commit many different types of crimes, not just one thing.

            The street kid will steal $20 from the local convenience store. The high-powered middle-class professional might steal $20,000 from some accounts. The street kid would never be able to embezzle, and it’s unlikely the professional would hit up a convenience store, but neither proves psychopathy.

          • Anonymous says

            1. I didn’t mean that they are more likely to be psychopaths, but to commit crimes.
            2. As for the street kid example, it’s not necessarily just one thing.
            3. Didn’t say it proves psychopathy.
            The point I was making was that the interaction between social status/ origin and psychopathy (brain differences, etc.) may determine how the disorder manifests and how it would affect the score and even if it’s just a matter of hiding better, do you actually think that they would count in those crimes that were never brought to light?

          • FNP says

            The PCL-R does not just account for crimes publicly known, but crimes that were committed without the person being arrested, for whatever reason. If the psychotherapist/psychologist/etc. doesn’t count the crimes never brought to public attention, they’re not administering the PCL-R correctly.

          • Anonymous says

            I mean, if he’s so used to lying and is in the therapist’s office because he was pressed by someone or circumstances and doesn’t really care about treatment because he doesn’t see it as if there’s something wrong (think about it, he probably has a good life, still), then why would he tell about something that no one knows about?

          • FNP says

            I can think of many reasons why a psychopath would talk about their exploits.

            1. Psychopaths are narcissistic.
            2. Lesser beings can’t aspire to the same heights.
            3. Because it’s fun.
            4. Because why not?
            5. Because they’re bored as fuck.
            6. Telling the therapist something they can’t tell anybody else gives them a sense of power.
            7. Because even if you lie, you get them to think about something they’d view as awful.
            8. Because telling somebody who is legally unable to tell except in certain cases gives you power over them.

            Those are all reasons I’ve used in the past when telling about my mostly non-criminal activities. Generally, a good psychotherapist can tell when you’re lying to them or not, based on your case history and the rapport they have with you. Also why the PCL-R requires a thorough look through your case history.

            I’d definitely say that if a personality disorder doesn’t affect your life in any way, you wouldn’t be in therapy in the first place. Most of us end up in therapy because we’ve completely and utterly fucked up somehow in our personal lives and have to do it or lose our supply, not because we see anything wrong.

          • Anonymous says

            Not saying that they would “never” tell and that it doesn’t affect their lives, just that not always they are motivated to tell the truth and are pressed to go to therapy sometimes. And in some cases, criminal behaviour may not be a manifestation of psychopathy, but the person may still have a psychopathic personality. In this cases, using the sv would be acceptable.

          • Anonymous says

            And if the psychopath really wants to get treatment, he may hide some of these things to the therapist (maybe more that than the other way around)

          • FNP says

            You can score an 18/24 on the PCL-SV and not be psychopathic, which is why the test is flawed when used for anything other than screening possible psychopaths.

            Regarding your other points, Anon, psychopaths like to brag about their accomplishments (real or imaginary). Even if it will screw us over, we’ll still brag.

            As for psychopaths that really want to get treatment for the sake of getting better… I doubt such a person exists, to be honest. If AA is anything to go by, admitting your problems is one of the first steps; so if a psychopath went insane and wanted to get better… they’d start by admitting their problems.

            Since psychopathy is a personality disorder, though, it precludes the possibility of thinking that being a psychopath is bad. You may have a personality disorder, but to you, it’s the correct line of thought/action and no therapy will ever change that without a heavy drug regimen that fogs your mind so much you can’t think anyway.

          • Anonymous says

            I also think that a psychopath that seeks treatment all on his own is rare, but they may want to stick around after they’re pressed by someone or circumstances. Or not. (see, Jssica, for instance is in therapy, and if I remember she hid some of the most anti-social thoughts and actions for sometimes – correct e if I’m wrong).

          • FNP says

            The thing about therapy is that nobody will ever talk about anything until rapport has been established. It’s not restricted to psychopaths or antisocial people.

          • Jessica Kelly says

            No rapport, no talky. This is in part why it took so long for my dx. Only when I could fully trust her, could we go down that rabbit hole.

  3. Anonymous says

    Well it looks like my previous reply was deleted. Oh well.
    As an aside, I have taken quite an interest in this site. There aren’t many places where one can see the inner workings of another psychopath’s mind. I found a lot of your posts to be very insightful and as a whole I’ve found that I tend to agree with most of what you have to say. That being said I there will probably be plenty of views I disagree with, and I admit that I tend to be more jaded and cynical than most. That being said if I reply with an opposing view, I’d like you to engage me in open discourse. If you think I’m wrong then explain why, as opposed to deleting it. It’s not often I get to voice my true opinions. As a result, they are rarely challenged or debated, which means I don’t get much exposure to different ways of thinking. I would enjoy having my views picked apart, because it would mean I would have to review the flaws in my arguments, which would force me to adapt and revise them. Also I (rather begrudgingly) admit that my reply was perhaps a bit snarky. It’s a force of habit stemming from my rather strong narcissistic streak. I’ll do my best to dial it down in the future, assuming that you don’t decide to kick me off the site.

    -A

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