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How to spot a psychopath

#21 User is offline   Silencer 

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 07:01 AM

View PostSparrohawk, on 09 June 2011 - 02:34 AM, said:

One of the more effective ways to determine a psychopath is to show them highly disturbing pictures, while monitoring heart rate, breathing, sweat levels and so forth, as well as facial muscles. Most normal people will react, whether they want to or not. Apparently, psychopaths do not.

It's not the field I study, but the academic who told me about it studies it for his career. Kiiiinda freaky :)


Damn. Not good for me. :S

Potentially a concern for the 'desensitizing' crowd, if you ask me: in the modern age, there is plenty of 'easy' access to 'horrific' content. I mean, it comes down to how you categorize something as 'highly disturbing' - as Stormy points out, different things affect people differently. And some people simply have a higher threshold than most. Heck, if the pics in the test were serious enough, they could emotionally scar the more vulnerable, (Not that I expect random folk off the street are taking that sort of test, mind) while leaving some people unphased, psychopathic or not.

It's a good place to start, though - better than most gimmicky methods, for sure.
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#22 User is offline   Sparrohawk 

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Posted 14 June 2011 - 12:37 AM

View PostSilencer, on 10 June 2011 - 07:01 AM, said:

Damn. Not good for me. :S

Potentially a concern for the 'desensitizing' crowd, if you ask me: in the modern age, there is plenty of 'easy' access to 'horrific' content. I mean, it comes down to how you categorize something as 'highly disturbing' - as Stormy points out, different things affect people differently. And some people simply have a higher threshold than most. Heck, if the pics in the test were serious enough, they could emotionally scar the more vulnerable, (Not that I expect random folk off the street are taking that sort of test, mind) while leaving some people unphased, psychopathic or not.

It's a good place to start, though - better than most gimmicky methods, for sure.


Not exactly. Desensitized is different from 'completely insensitive' or whatever word you choose to use. For instance, if I hooked you up to sensors detecting heartbeat, facial muscles, sweat etc., I'd detect a response to aversive images. Even if you're actively trying not to react, you will, even if you can't feel it. Your muscles can react on pre-conscious level.

And psychopaths/sociopaths/people with Antisocial Personality Disorder (there's no actual diagnosis of psychopathy) tend to be born, not made, unfortunately.

EDIT: Don't take my word as gospel on this stuff. I study Psychology, but not clinical psychology and certainly not psychopathy; this is just what I've learned from others in the field and my own minimal experience.

This post has been edited by Sparrohawk: 14 June 2011 - 12:38 AM

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#23 User is offline   Leanoric 

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Posted 17 August 2011 - 01:53 PM

A very interesting read... It also made me wonder how this would relate to things like Autism or Aspegers. My son, for instance, is 5 and was recently diagnosed with Aspergers. Several of the criteria in the list (eg. 11, 17, 18, 19, 20) just can't be measured with him yet. But even so, I scored him in the very high 20s (ok, clearly I have no real basis for knowing the degree to which you have to exhibit a criteria for it to score a certain amount, but still...). Just another couple of points (maybe from the criteria he is too young for yet) and suddenly Aspergers and being a psycopath look very similar. Which is worrying for several reasons.

NOTE: I am *not* equating Aspergers with being a psycopath. I am merely wondering about the overlap in diagnosis of such things...
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#24 User is offline   Sparrohawk 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 01:16 AM

View PostLeanoric, on 17 August 2011 - 01:53 PM, said:

A very interesting read... It also made me wonder how this would relate to things like Autism or Aspegers. My son, for instance, is 5 and was recently diagnosed with Aspergers. Several of the criteria in the list (eg. 11, 17, 18, 19, 20) just can't be measured with him yet. But even so, I scored him in the very high 20s (ok, clearly I have no real basis for knowing the degree to which you have to exhibit a criteria for it to score a certain amount, but still...). Just another couple of points (maybe from the criteria he is too young for yet) and suddenly Aspergers and being a psycopath look very similar. Which is worrying for several reasons.

NOTE: I am *not* equating Aspergers with being a psycopath. I am merely wondering about the overlap in diagnosis of such things...


Good clarification you put in there at the end, I may have been much more offended otherwise :p

mmm, yeah, first of all, parents probably shouldn't use those checklists on their kids :p My mother tried one on me, got a very low score. My counsellor then managed to get something in the medium-to-high range for Asperger's. Parents tend to have a curiously biased view of their kids (which is only natural, really).

But mostly, no, Asperger's and psychopathy *might* be similar superficially, but generally speaking the differences become fairly hefty. Aspies (the name we have for ourselves) might have trouble expressing emotion, but the emotions are still there. We can also be manipulative, but that's simply a case of 'little shit syndrome' common to small children, Asperger's or otherwise :p And technically, you can't diagnose a child with psychopathy; they usually get diagnosed with 'Conduct Disorder' which is the child version of it, and it's a different set of behaviours. Psychopaths tend not to have the obsessions and the nuts-level attention to detail that we sometimes have, as well. A child psychologist would be able to reassure you better than I can; Developmental Psychology isn't my field.

I can see how Autism (which has a different set of diagnostic criteria - similar, but different) might relate to psychopathy; Autism can often carry with it mental retardation (low IQ), along with some other curious behavioural weirdnesses. Even then I'd be surprised if the two diagnoses were paired together, people with Autism are usually pretty noticeable by the fact that their social abilities are. . . pretty strange, and the concept of 'charm', superficial or otherwise, can't really be attached to them.

Short version: Probably wouldn't be too worried :p

Also, these are some links to the current diagnostic criteria for Asperger's, Conduct Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder.

NOTE: These aren't the be-all-and-end-all. If you read the 'cautionary statement' link you'll get a better idea of what I mean, but these are general diagnostic criteria, and clinicians generally use more refined criteria for their diagnoses, and they're trained to use them. Don't go out diagnosing people based on this stuff, that would be both stupid and potentially dangerous :p And for the love of God don't try to diagnose yourself as that's even more foolish :p

Asperger's: http://www.behavenet...rs/asperger.htm

Conduct: http://www.behavenet...ders/cndctd.htm

Antisocial: http://www.behavenet...ntisocialpd.htm
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#25 User is offline   Leanoric 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 02:12 PM

View PostSparrohawk, on 18 August 2011 - 01:16 AM, said:

View PostLeanoric, on 17 August 2011 - 01:53 PM, said:

A very interesting read... It also made me wonder how this would relate to things like Autism or Aspegers. My son, for instance, is 5 and was recently diagnosed with Aspergers. Several of the criteria in the list (eg. 11, 17, 18, 19, 20) just can't be measured with him yet. But even so, I scored him in the very high 20s (ok, clearly I have no real basis for knowing the degree to which you have to exhibit a criteria for it to score a certain amount, but still...). Just another couple of points (maybe from the criteria he is too young for yet) and suddenly Aspergers and being a psycopath look very similar. Which is worrying for several reasons.

NOTE: I am *not* equating Aspergers with being a psycopath. I am merely wondering about the overlap in diagnosis of such things...


Good clarification you put in there at the end, I may have been much more offended otherwise :p

mmm, yeah, first of all, parents probably shouldn't use those checklists on their kids :p My mother tried one on me, got a very low score. My counsellor then managed to get something in the medium-to-high range for Asperger's. Parents tend to have a curiously biased view of their kids (which is only natural, really).

But mostly, no, Asperger's and psychopathy *might* be similar superficially, but generally speaking the differences become fairly hefty. Aspies (the name we have for ourselves) might have trouble expressing emotion, but the emotions are still there. We can also be manipulative, but that's simply a case of 'little shit syndrome' common to small children, Asperger's or otherwise :p And technically, you can't diagnose a child with psychopathy; they usually get diagnosed with 'Conduct Disorder' which is the child version of it, and it's a different set of behaviours. Psychopaths tend not to have the obsessions and the nuts-level attention to detail that we sometimes have, as well. A child psychologist would be able to reassure you better than I can; Developmental Psychology isn't my field.

I can see how Autism (which has a different set of diagnostic criteria - similar, but different) might relate to psychopathy; Autism can often carry with it mental retardation (low IQ), along with some other curious behavioural weirdnesses. Even then I'd be surprised if the two diagnoses were paired together, people with Autism are usually pretty noticeable by the fact that their social abilities are. . . pretty strange, and the concept of 'charm', superficial or otherwise, can't really be attached to them.

Short version: Probably wouldn't be too worried :p

Also, these are some links to the current diagnostic criteria for Asperger's, Conduct Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder.

NOTE: These aren't the be-all-and-end-all. If you read the 'cautionary statement' link you'll get a better idea of what I mean, but these are general diagnostic criteria, and clinicians generally use more refined criteria for their diagnoses, and they're trained to use them. Don't go out diagnosing people based on this stuff, that would be both stupid and potentially dangerous :p And for the love of God don't try to diagnose yourself as that's even more foolish :p

Asperger's: http://www.behavenet...rs/asperger.htm

Conduct: http://www.behavenet...ders/cndctd.htm

Antisocial: http://www.behavenet...ntisocialpd.htm


I wasn't actually suggesting that my son (or anyone else with Aspergers) is a psycopath, obviously. And it wasn't us who diagnosed him with aspergers (although we had our suspicions and got the matter looked into) but a range of eductional psychologists, pediatricians etc over the course of over a year. I'm also aware that applying criteria such as the psycopath scale to a small child would definitely give skewed results (all/most children are to some degree manipulative, charming, lie a lot, live a parasitic life, are self-centered etc - the problems come when they don't grow out of these behaviours I guess). But we know a couple of adults with Aspergers, and I couldn't help but notice (as the issue is currently very close to home) the overlap in some of the diagnostics. You quite rightly point out, though, that while there are similarities there are definite differences.

Interesting stuff, though. :p
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