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.
Psychopathy is a superset of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). It is comprised of many facets and is a complex disorder. It is not related to psychosis and the differences between those psychopaths that are in prison and those that are free are many. Likewise, the term ‘psychopath’ cannot be applied to what I would term ‘ordinary assholes.’ What follows is a quick and dirty primer on psychopathy that should illustrate how complicated the condition is.
Readers will often ask me about the diagnostic process as it relates to psychopathy. I must reiterate that my journey is abnormal; I was given the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised outside of the walls of a prison. In order to receive my diagnosis of ASPD and a confirmation of psychopathy, the stars had to align just right. I needed a therapist that was willing to challenge the way that I viewed the world and myself and my own dumb luck to achieve such a step in finding out what lies behind my mask.
Just as the PCL-R trait of ‘multiple short-term marriages’ doesn’t make sense to me, neither does the trait of ‘sexual promiscuity’. This is not 1950. Humans are sexual beings and society is slowly coming to grips with the fact that monogamy is not a prerequisite for morality. To my knowledge, the instrument makes no difference between non-monogamy with consent and the better understood non-monogamy without consent, cheating. A person can be completely ethical with their sex life and register on the PCL-R.
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.