23 January 2012

Are You a Psychopath?

Filed under: Psychology — ktismatics @ 10:22 am
  1. Are you glib or superficially charming?
  2. Do you have a grandiose sense of self-worth?
  3. Do you need stimulation, being prone to boredom?
  4. Are you a pathological liar?
  5. Do you con and manipulate people?
  6. Do you lack remorse or guilt?
  7. Do you have shallow affect?
  8. Are you callous, lacking in empathy?
  9. Do you have a parasitic lifestyle?
  10. Do you have poor behavioral controls?
  11. Are you sexually promiscuous?
  12. Did you have early behavioral problems?
  13. Do you lack realistic long-term goals?
  14. Are you impulsive?
  15. Are you irresponsible?
  16. Do you fail to accept responsibility for your own actions?
  17. Have you had many short-term marital relationships?
  18. Were you a juvenile delinquent?
  19. Have you ever had your conditional release from custody revoked?
  20. Are you criminally versatile?

These twenty questions are adapted from Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, Revised, or PCL-R, as cited in The Psychopath Test (2011) by Jon Ronson. Diagnosis is usually established not by questionnaire but by interview, with responses evaluated according to the twenty indicators. I thought it might be fun to turn the checklist into an online survey using WordPress’s Polldaddy app, but it’s characteristic of the psychopath to deny, lie, fail to accept responsibility, etc., so results would be useless. If you’re concerned that you might be a psychopath, that means you probably aren’t one.



  1. Sounds a lot like Newt.


    Comment by Steven Shaviro — 23 January 2012 @ 9:12 pm

  2. I’d have sworn that the “reigning theory clown” entertains long-term goals that aren’t realistic, but now I’m not so sure. I wonder if he tortured cats as a lad.


    Comment by ktismatics — 23 January 2012 @ 9:28 pm

  3. I remember that when I first read that had first started really getting serious about this race (if even he can really call it that, given that he has in some ways less ‘presidential’ presence than even Bachmann or Perry), it seemed to have come out of nowhere, out of the blue. Had it been in the works for some time? I couldn’t believe it, and every move he makes I can’t believe it. Even the Tea Party people make sense given the political climate of the last 2 years, you can imagine them doing their horrible things because you can really believe that they are doing them. But I can’t believe Gingrich is even out there. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see anything about Gingrich in this campaign, it’s totally ‘It’s not even vaguely possible that that marshmallow person could BE called President Gingrich’. He was always dreadful and nauseating, back to the Heidi Toeffler & Sons (or whatever it was) days, but Gingrich is like a different kind of ‘disconnect’ than even horrors like Cantor (not that he’s necessarily that bad, but then I don’t know–he’s so without any core.)

    I think that’s a stupid questionnaire, because half-literate. After asking all sorts of somewhat specific things, whether promiscuity, parasitic, or pathological liar, it seems so stupid to put ‘Are you irresponsible?’ and ‘Do you need stimulation, being prone to boredom?’ insults everybody, even nuns.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 24 January 2012 @ 10:49 am

  4. LOL. The questionnaire was strapped together in the most simple-minded manner possible. Hare constructed a 20-item checklist, and I just changed every checklist item into a question. E.g., “Item 1: Glibness/superficial charm” became “Are you glib or superficially charming?” I find that my questionnaire is itself glib and superficially charming, apropos of the post.

    Ronson, author of the book, interviewed Al Dunlap, former CEO of Sunbeam, known as “Chainsaw Al” for his ruthless downsizing of workforces. Ronson wondered if Dunlap qualified as a psychopath, so he posed Dunlap some questions based on Hare’s checklist. Superficial charm? “I’m totally charming.” Grandiose sense of self? “No question. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. You’ve got to believe in you.” Manipulative? “I think you could describe that as leadership. Inspire! I think it’s called leadership.” Impulsivity? “Just another way of saying Quick Analysis.” Are you okay with this list? “Yeah, sure, why not?” And so on; really hilarious. Almost surely Gingrich would likewise squeeze these twenty psychopathic lemons into leadership lemonade.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 January 2012 @ 11:36 am

  5. I never really liked personality test enough to study them properly in school, but I remember that the way you would detect a ‘psychopath’ would be to check for consistency in the answers – they would tend to be for example OVERLY consistent, or the person would choose only extreme answers (like, ‘I totally agree” with this or that proposition about myself).


    Comment by Center of Parody — 24 January 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  6. Robert Hare’s methodology has been the gold standard in Canada, the US, and the UK for maybe 40 years. He’s built a mini-industry out of it, teaching his semi-structured interview and scoring techniques to clinicians and psychometricians and forensic evaluators for something like $1,000 a pop. Hare’s relatively objective checklist methodology for identifying pathology became the exemplar motivating the current method of diagnosing all manner of neuroses, psychoses, and personality disorders, replacing the squishier criteria used by psychoanalysts. It’s kind of ironic that psychopathy, Hare’s pet diagnosis, isn’t included as a proper diagnostic category in the DSM-IV. It seems that courts and jails use a high score on Hare’s checklist to keep prisoners in custody beyond the duration of their jail sentences.

    From Ronson’s interactions I get the sense that Hare regards psychopaths as subhuman. In the sixties Hare used electric shocks to identify distinctive physiological responses in Canadian prisoners. He’d give people a strong current, then count down from ten before delivering another shock. Most people get increased heartrates and perspiration in anticipation of the next shock, but prisoners that Hare identified as psychopaths showed no physiological reaction whatever. Hare contends that psychopaths have defective amygdala, such that they don’t respond appropriately to unpleasant stimuli. Another finding: when suddenly shown an image of, say, a blown-apart human face, psychopaths aren’t horrified; they’re fascinated and absorbed.

    I didn’t study personality either, but I get the sense from most people that they would like to be consistent and extreme in their personality test results. If I’m only a little bit extroverted, or score a weak 4 on the Enneagram, it’s as if I don’t have a strong or distinctive personality. So using your criteria most people would aspire to looking like psychopaths.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 January 2012 @ 4:28 pm

  7. when suddenly shown an image of, say, a blown-apart human face, psychopaths aren’t horrified; they’re fascinated and absorbed.

    that seems idiotic, one is often fascinated and absorbed by blown-apart faces in horror films without necessarily being a psychopath


    Comment by Center of Parody — 24 January 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  8. 1. No
    2. No
    3. No
    4. No
    5. Occasionally, and only out of necessity.
    6. Definitely not.
    7. 50/50
    8. 50/50
    9. See 5.
    10. 50/50
    11. If opportunities presented themselves.
    12. No.
    13. Sometimes yes. Mostly no.
    14. See 13.
    15. Se 13 and 14.
    16. No.
    17. No.
    18. See 11.
    19. Not applicable.
    20. No.


    Comment by Medicated Delusions of New Jack City — 24 January 2012 @ 4:34 pm

  9. So using your criteria most people would aspire to looking like psychopaths.

    There are lie detection scales inside the tests to determine whether you’re trying to present yourself in a better or more extreme light.

    And then nobody in their right minds makes any serious conclusions just on the basis of tests, they are followed by interviews as you know.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 24 January 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  10. I just downloaded the e-books of this author, but tell me, what is his main message? he seems to be writing about psychopathy on the workfloor, how does he explain it – is it another ‘american psycho’ tale where the psychopath is the right personality type for the corporation?

    In the uk i bought four new books, of which i read the first – ”why it’s kicking off everywhere” by paul mason. he wants to explain the revolutions everywhere, and somewhere midway down the book, which is otherwise full of good observations, he starts to theorize that marx was wrong when he said socialism would pave the way to the liberation of the individual, that it was capitalism’s accomplishment. to illustrate, he speaks of the way mobile communications allow you to be a private individual, and be connected, at the same time. suddenly this statement seemed so banal: as if the smartphone would somehow magically cause a new type of commonality just because i can now tweet or cam my visit to london while it’s happening (????) so in fact he did not explain anything, but the book is nevertheless a bestseller, testifying to the relevance of the subject.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 24 January 2012 @ 4:56 pm

  11. My interpretation of New Jack’s test results is that we’re clearly dealing with a nymphomaniac.

    While he categorically negates most other questions, he conspicuously answers ”if opportunities presented themselves” to question 11, while giving a ”50/50” to questions 7 and 8. His answers to 14, 15 and 18 also fit the bill. Shallowness, callousness and a lack of long-term goals are all ideal qualities for cruising, while I didn’t believe FOR A SPLIT SECOND that he is only promiscuous ”when opportunities present themselves” – simply because there are opportunities all the time!!!


    Comment by Center of Parody — 24 January 2012 @ 5:15 pm

  12. My self-observation profile on the 20 questions is similar, Medicated D: no on many, 50-50 or occasionally on others. Ronson conducts an interview with a prisoner who faked his way into the psychopath category by imitating psychopaths from Blue Velvet, Hellraiser, Clockwork Orange, and Crash, augmenting his routine with readings from Ted Bundy’s biography that he picked up in the prison library. He did this because the prison for the psychopaths was cushier than the one for ordinary criminals. The problem is that he wound up being held longer than his sentence. So he spent years trying to persuade the authorities that he’d faked it. Hmm… lying, manipulation — yup, psychopath. What’s interesting is that the crime he’d committed was very similar to one of Alex’s in Clockwork Orange. And he was evidently a glib charmer, wearing a pinstripe suit to the visitation room for his interview. Ronson’s tentative conclusion is I think a valid one: the 20 items represent a continuum rather than black-white, with circumstances playing a significant factor.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 January 2012 @ 5:23 pm

  13. I thought you’d be interested in the blown-apart face, C of P, given your enthusiasm for certain aestheticized forms of cinematic violence, where audience response is more one of fascination than of terror. Hare characterizes the psychopath’s fascination as almost technical: how was that done, how do those facial parts usually fit together, etc. He doesn’t talk about the psychopath being aroused by the violence, which might be more characteristic of the sadist. I presume dual diagnosis is not uncommon. But Hare came up with his violent image response indicator of psychopathy back in the early seventies, before the slasher films and the internet made such images ubiquitous to the point of inuring the viewer.

    Ronson is a journalist, and the book is replete with interviews, some of them “fascinating,” most of them entertaining. He presents himself as opposite of psychopath — neurotic, squeamish, sensitive, touchy, etc. — in order to set up a stark contrast. Eventually the psychopath-as-inhuman opening position becomes a straw man for more nuanced views etc. He’s not trying to make an argument; he’s just sort of intrigued. I found it fairly informative, reasonably well written, a bit scattershot but easily dispatched in a few casual reading sessions.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 January 2012 @ 5:34 pm

  14. “Americans are instinctively grandiose” — Newt Gingrich.


    Comment by ktismatics — 28 January 2012 @ 6:27 am

  15. Is your child a psychopath? Running a seven-week residential camp for child psychopaths seems inherently like a bad idea — sort of like putting adult psychopaths in the same prison together. One of the uses of psychopath tests is to keep perpetrators in custody beyond their sentence release date “for treatment.” Maybe these kid psychopath camps will expand into boarding schools so they can stop worrying about whether young Damien is finally going to kill off his little brother.


    Comment by ktismatics — 13 May 2012 @ 8:01 am

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