The Prince of Darkness and the Heart of Darkness

  • Robert W. Rieber
Part of the Path in Psychology book series (PATH)


Of all the recognized psychiatric syndromes, that of the antisocial personality, or psychopath, presents perhaps the greatest number of unsolved questions. Although it has long been recognized that each of us possesses an innate capacity for momentary dissociation vis-à-vis the accepted value systems of society, and thus in that degree is potentially psychopathic, true psychopaths—with their consistently antisocial behavior—present the average observer with a phenomenon so spectacularly alien that it seems almost incredible that such people can exist. And granted that psychopaths do indeed exist, it is perplexing how they can manage to appear superficially sane, how they are able to wear, as one observer put it, the “mask of sanity.” The true psychopath compels the psychiatric observer to ask the perplexing, and largely unanswered, question: “Why doesn’t that person have the common decency to go crazy?”2


Sexual Abuse Antisocial Behavior Psychopathic Personality Psychopathic Trait Semantic Dementia 
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  1. 1.
    I discovered this quote, which was written in Morton Prince’s own hand in a book I purchased (Morton Prince, The Dissociation of a Personality, 2nd edition: Longmans, 1908) some years ago. The original copy remains in my personal collection.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Since psychopaths have developed an extraordinary capacity to act as if they were perfectly normal, i. e., sane, they must be skilled in a cunning manner to dissociate any real guilt that they should feel about their antisocial behavior. If they fail to dissociate they would then be forced to face the guilt as most ordinary people would. In this sense they lack the common decency to go crazy, for that’s what they would do if they felt the guilt.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    It may be of some value to clarify the historical background of the use of the term psychopath. The tendency to view moral failure as illness, instead of as sin or as an expression of some evil principle inherent in the universe, is scarcely new in the Western world. The ancient Greeks considered that certain kinds of behavior, either antisocial or else not in the individual’s self-interest, were plainly caused by forces outside the individual. Homer, in the eighth-century b. c., portrayed humans as subject to the whims of the gods; the gods acted upon humans by affecting their feeling center, or thymus, which was thought to reside under the sternum more or less in the area of the thymus gland. The Homeric formula for describing rash, ill-considered, or antisocial behavior typically had it that this or that god put madness in one’s breast; alternatively, it was said that Zeus, or whoever, had taken away one’s understanding.Google Scholar
  4. Some twenty-seven hundred years later, in 1809, Pinel introduced the term “insanity sans delire,” subsequently taken up by Morel (B. Morel, Traite des degenerescences physiques, intellectuelles et morales de l’espece humaine et des causes qui produisent ces varietes maladives [Paris, London, New York: Hachette [1857]) to indicate an illness affecting the moral part of one’s being. As a classificatory term, “insanity without delirium” opened the way first for “psychopathy” then “sociopathy” and more recently “antisocial personality” as means of indicating an illness of the moral part of one’s being that was largely manifested by behavior injurious to fellow humans, though, as a matter of fact, Pinel applied his term to cases that today would be diagnosed as forms of bipolar affective disorder, or manic-depressive insanity. It fell to the Englishman James Pritchard (J. Pritchard, Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind [Philadelphia: Caley and Hall, 1837]), who was a disciple of Pinel’s, to be the first to describe a more circumscribed kind of disorder that he termed “moral insanity”: “madness, consisting in a morbid perversion of the natural feelings, affections, inclinations, temper habit, moral disposition, and natural impulses, without any remarkable [i. e., observable] disorder or defect of the intellect or knowing and reasoning faculties, and particularly without any insane illusions or hallucinations” (p. 16).Google Scholar
  5. Walker and McCuble (N. Walker, and S. McCuble, “From Moral Insanity to Psychopathy, in Crime and Insanity in England [London: University of Edinburgh Press, 1972]) have been able to trace the history of the notion of moral insanity from Pritchard’s term all the way to the early twentieth-century term “psychopathy.” As it happened, Pritchard’s (J. Pritchard, Different Forms of Insanity in Relation to Jurisprudence [London: Hippolyte Baidliere, 1842]) case histories almost without exception ascribed the onset of the disorder to a specific illness or traumatic event. But among Pritchard’s contemporaries and his immediate successors within English psychiatry, the term “moral” was delimited by the exclusion of any kind of physical injury, organic disease, or other physical factors as contributory causes. Thus “moral” came to refer specifically to the emotional aspects of insanity and “moral insanity” to serious mental disorders not characterized by hallucinations, delusions, or manifest disorders of thinking.Google Scholar
  6. On the continent, however, Griesinger (W. Griesinger, Mental Pathology and Therapeutics [London: New Sydenham Society, 1867]) borrowed Pritchard’s term and used it to designate and describe a group of retarded patients, whom Griesinger termed “weak minded” and who were prone to mischievous, cruel, thieving, and drunken criminal behavior. Griesinger supposed these traits to be hereditary in nature. Under the influence of Henry Maudsley, this notion subsequently came to play a role in the legislation of the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble Minded, which in 1913 described “moral imbeciles” as “persons who from an early age display some permanent mental defect coupled with strong vicious or criminal propensities and on which punishment has had little or no effect” (Walker and McCuble, “From Moral Insanity to Psychopathy”). In 1927, further legislation was passed in which “moral imbecility” was redefined as obtaining “In whose case there exists mental defectiveness coupled with strongly vicious or criminal propensities and who require care, supervision and control for the protection of others” (Walker and McCuble).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. The significance of this redefinition is twofold: The ineffectiveness of punishment has been dropped as a criterion, and there is no reference to any kind of treatment as potentially effective. Nonetheless, the term was not to be applied in cases that failed to show any limitation of intelligence, even though there might otherwise be an utter lack of any kind of inhibition, restraint, or other evidence of conscience with regard to criminal behavior. The accepted nosological system had thus developed a striking lacuna with regard to nonimbecilic moral insanity.Google Scholar
  8. It was in this general context that the German psychiatrist J. Koch, in Die Psychopraktischen Minder-wertizbeiern, Ravensburg: Maier (1891) introduced the term “constitutional psychopathic inferiority.” Koch’s term covered not only instances of criminality not covered under “moral imbecility” but also neurasthenia, compulsions, impulse disorders, and sexual perversions. For a considerable period of time thereafter, the term “psychopathic” continued to refer to a wide range of nonpsychotic disorders. Indeed, minus the implication of heredity causation, and minus, too, the group now known as psychopaths, the term had roughly the same wide range as did the term that succeeded it and that has itself only lately been abandoned—“neurotic.”Google Scholar
  9. It is not altogether clear just when “psychopathic” was first used to refer exclusively to antisocial behavior, though it is clear that this usage came gradually into medical currency during the end of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth. There is some evidence to suggest that in at least one American city, Boston, the gradual delimitation of the term was part and parcel of changing modes of state-sponsored mental health intervention. Specifically, as social workers came to be widely employed as agents of social control in the first decade of the new century, the term “psychopathic” became a diagnostic warrant for forcibly hospitalizing two groups of “patients” considered to be socially deviant: single working women who were promiscuous and inadequate men who shunned work. Thus did Koch’s term come to be applied, at least in Boston, predominantly to social deviants.Google Scholar
  10. In the United States generally, psychiatric interest in criminals received its greatest impetus from the comprehensive investigations of Bernard Glueck and his associates. Nonetheless, it is David Henderson, a Scottish disciple of Adolf Meyer, who is generally credited with establishing the modern concept of the psychopath in both European and American psychiatry. Henderson’s (D. Henderson, Psychopaths [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1939]) diagnostic scheme divided psychopaths into three subgroups: (1) a predominantly aggressive type (redolent in many respects of Pinel’s concept of moral insanity as well as of Koch’s and Kraepelin’s concepts of psychopathic inferiority); (2) a predominantly inadequate type, which include liars, swindlers, assorted petty criminals, and the like; and (3) a predominantly creative type. (This last group derived from the theories of Lombroso and Moebius, theories widely popularized by the writer Max Nordau that saw genius and great artistic ability as symptoms of hereditary degeneration and thus as prima facie evidence of disordered cerebral functioning. The hallmark of genius in this scheme was the reliance on certain runaway thoughts or inclinations that were unimpeded by the ordinary inhibitions imposed by common sense, decency, and moral judgment.)Google Scholar
  11. Unlike some of his predecessors, Henderson elected to make his notion of psychopathy purely behavioral; the diagnosis neither excluded nor entailed the existence of contributory organic factors. In this spirit, he described a number of electroencephalographic studies showing a high frequency of brain abnormalities in his aggressive subtype. This led to a very heated legal debate, since the possibility arose that a diagnosis of psychopathy, with or without a correlative finding of brain abnormality, might be used to establish a defense of diminished responsibility. Generally speaking, in the English courts, a diagnosis of psychopathy did gradually win status as potentially part of an acceptable defense, though the chance of winning an acquittal on this basis remained extremely low.Google Scholar
  12. In the United States in this century, the term “psychopath” gradually fell into diagnostic disfavor on the basis of the opinion, held by Harry Stack Sullivan among others, that the psychology was expressed predominantly in the individual’s social relations. As Sullivan (H. S. Sullivan, Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry [New York: Norton, 1953]) saw it, such persons exhibited a massive incapacity to profit from social experience. Accordingly, beginning in the late 1920s, the term was gradually replaced by the seemingly more precise “sociopath” in the official nomenclature, though among the general public the more vivid “psychopath” still prevails as the term in general currency. “Psychopath” has entered the common language as an epithet with which to deride the moral fiber of one’s enemies or people one dislikes. It is used now in legal, professional, and academic circles, as well as by the general public, to refer pejoratively to those who care only about advancing their own material interests and who are willing to do whatever they can get away with. In the most recent revamping of the standard diagnostic system, meanwhile, “sociopath” has yielded to the term “antisocial personality.” In part, “sociopath” fell because of its intrinsic relation to the term that it was meant to supersede; insofar as “sociopath” was following “psychopath” into common currency to cover a wide spectrum of behavior, it was no longer suitable for the psychiatric nomenclature.Google Scholar
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    The emphasis of the DSM-IV antisocial personality disorder (APD) diagnosis on behavioral factors that reflect low socioeconomic status may underinclude certain individuals (e. g., white-collar criminals) who possess the psychological characteristics of the psychopath but not the behavioral characteristics of the APD. Cleckley (H. Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity [St. Louis: Mosby, 1976]) devised 16 characteristics of the psychopath that putatively are reflected in the characteristics described in the DSM-II. However, the individual classifiable as psychopathic according to Cleckley’s criteria may or may not be diagnosed as an APD under the DSM-IV criteria. His criteria are as follows. 1. Superficial charm and good intelligence 2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking 3. Absence of nervousness or psychoneurotic manifestations 4. Unreliability 5. Untruthfulness and insincerity 6. Lack of remorse or shame 7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior 8. Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience 9. Pathological egocentricity and incapacity for love 10. General poverty in major affective reactions 11. Specific loss of insight 12. Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations 13. Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink and sometimes without 14. Suicide rarely carried out 15. Sex life is impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated 16. Failure to follow any life planGoogle Scholar
  14. 5.
    At the turn of the century, Sidis was clearly aware of the institutionalized greed of the American culture when he advocated the following with regard to the education of children: The most central, the most crucial part of the education of man’s genius is the knowledge, the recognition of evil in all its protean forms and innumerable disguises, intellectual, aesthetic and moral; such as fallacies, sophisms, ugliness, deformity, prejudice, superstition, vice, and depravity.Google Scholar
  15. See B. Sidis, Philistine and Genius (New York: Moffat Yard and Company, 1911).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 6.
    Ekman, in a very important book on the psychosocial aspects of lying, discusses the difficulties in recognizing the deceptive liar. See P. Ekman, Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics and Marriage (New York, Norton, 1985) p. 57.Google Scholar
  17. 7.
    Bundy is a good example of a psychopath who succeeded for a long period of time without being caught. After he was caught he successfully used the media for his own purposes. We will discuss this further in Chapter 5.Google Scholar
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    R. D. Hare, “Psychopathy and Sensitivity to Adrenalin,” journal of Abnormal Psychology, 79:138–147 (1972)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  21. R. D. Hare, “Electrodermal and Cardiovascular Correlates of Psychopathy,” in R. D. Hare and D. Schalling (Eds.)., Psychopathic Behavior: Approaches to Research (Chichester, England: Wiley, 1978), pp. 107–143Google Scholar
  22. R. D. Hare and D. Craigen, “Psychopathy and Physiological Activity in a Mixed-Motive Game Situation,” Psychophysiology, 11:197–206 (1974).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 10.
    Hare (R. D. Hare, “20 Years of Experience with the Cleckley Psychopath,” in W. H. Reid, D. Dorr, J. I. Walker, and J. W. Bonner (Eds.), Unmasking the Psychopath [New York: Norton, 1986], pp. 3–27) has created a checklist for assessing psychopathy in criminals using institutional records and personal interviews. Hare has reported high reliability both for a scale consisting of Cleckley’s 16 criteria (alpha =.80) and for a scale derived from the Cleckley criteria (alpha =.89) consisting of 20 items. Hare’s (1986) 20 criteria for psychopathy are as follows: 1. Glibness/superficial charm 2. Grandiose sense of self-worth 3. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom 4. Pathological lying 5. Conning/manipulative 6. Lack of remorse or guilt 7. Shallow affect 8. Callous/lack of empathy 9. Parasitic lifestyles 10. Poor behavioral controls 11. Promiscuous sexual behavior 12. Early behavior problems 13. Lack of realistic, long-term goals 14. Impulsivity 15. Irresponsibility 16. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions 17. Many short-term marital relationships 18. Juvenile delinquency 19. Revocation of conditional release 20. Criminal versatility Hare reports that clinical-behavioral measures, such as the DSM-III criteria and his checklist, are more reliable than self-report inventories in the assessment of psychopathy. He reports the following coefficient alphas for self-report scales that are widely used to assess psychopathy. 1. An experimental Self Report Scale based on his checklist (alpha =.80) 2. The Socialization (So) Scale from the California Psychological Inventory (alpha =.73) 3. The Psychopathic Deviant (Pd) Scale of the MMPI (alpha =.65) 4. The Hypomania (Ma) Scale of the MMPI (alpha =.67) Overall, the clinical behavioral measures and the self-report measures are not highly correlated and form two factors in principal components factor analysis. The two forms of measurement lead to differential diagnoses that create practical and theoretical problems. Many subjects who may be characterized as psychopathic on a psychological basis (e. g., according to the Cleckley criteria) may escape DSM-III diagnoses. Similarly, many of those who are diagnosed as psychopathic (i. e., APDs) by the exclusively behavioral DSM-III criteria may not be psychopathic in a psychological sense. Hare believes that the advantage of his checklist over the DSM-III criteria is that the checklist includes both psychological and behavioral characteristics.Google Scholar
  24. 11.
    Quay (H. C. Quay, “Psychopathic Personality as a Pathological Stimulation Seeker,” American Journal of Psychiatry, 122:180–183 [1965]) has postulated that psychopathy is based on a pathological stimulation seeking that is physiologically based and that disturbs socialization. The organically based hyperactivity of the psychopathic child causes his or her parents to reject him or her and to impose inconsistent discipline, leading to inferior socialization. Also, the organically based inability of the child to anticipate punishment leads to excessive punishment to which the child becomes habituated, causing him or her to be rejected by others and thereby impairing his or her socialization. Behavioral and psychometric evidence supports Quay’s view of the psychopath as an individual in a state of aversive stimulus deprivation that compels him or her to perform antisocial behavior that raises his or her arousal to an acceptable level. However, physiological evidence that psychopaths have either low basal autonomic and cortical reactivity or a high rate of habituation has not been conclusive. The rejection of the psychopath as a child has been strongly supported by McCord (W. McCord, The Psychopath and Milieu Therapy [New York: Free Press, 1982]) and the role of emotional underreactivity has received qualified support (D. M. Doren, Understanding and Treating the Psychopath [New York: Wiley, 1987]).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Quay’s theory has not received much criticism. However, Doren states that Quay’s theory is not comprehensive because it does not address the psychopath’s absence of guilt, impoverished sense of morality, specific loss of insight, and inability to form meaningful interpersonal relations. Smith observes that the concept of stimulation has been inconsistently defined in research assessing Quay’s model. Further, Doren notes that the basis of the psychopath’s stimulation seeking has been ambiguously defined in terms of cognitive and affective physiological substrata.Google Scholar
  26. 12.
    H. Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity (St. Louis: Mosby, 1976).Google Scholar
  27. 13.
    Although we have used Cleckley’s term “semantic dementia” to describe such language, we only adhere to Cleckley’s definition in spirit, rather than literally as to what he meant by the concept. We take this term to imply a much richer and broader level of interpersonal communication, implying by “semantic dementia” something more along the lines of a manipulation of meaning in the communication of the psychopath, which amounts to a communication of deceit and deception. Unlike other examples of abnormal language that we have examined throughout this text, it is not the language itself that is deviant. Rather, the aberration lies in the deceptive quality of the language, a language that deceives not only the listener but also the speaker. This language is a tangible and analyzable trait showing the personality or the psychology keeping the psychopath from having the common decency to go crazy. By warping reality to deceive others, the psychopath also deceives himself and in so doing is actually dissociating any feeling of guilt about his antisocial behavior.Google Scholar
  28. Another example of semantic dementia: Charles Manson, in a recent documentary program on public television, commented while discussing his past criminal behavior, “I don’t break the law; I make the law.” See Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity.Google Scholar
  29. 14.
    Doren (D. M. Doren, Understanding and Treating the Psychopath [New York: Wiley, 1987]) has integrated into a theoretical model the theories of Gough (H. G. Gough, “A Sociological Theory of Psychopathy,” American Journal of Sociology, 53:359-366 [1948]), Eysenck (H. J. Eysenck, Crime and Personality [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977]), Quay (H. C. Quay, “Psychopathic Personality as a Pathological Stimulation Seeker,” American journal of Psychiatry, 122:180-183 [1965]), and Hare (R. D. Hare, Psychopathy: Theory and Research [New York: Wiley, [1970]). Doren bases his model on his observation that psychopaths are challenged by exerting control over others and avoiding others’ control over them. According to Doren’s model, the conditioning that produces partial learned helplessness in psychopaths’ socialization interacts with their innately low level of cortical arousal to produce a pathological attempt to obtain control over their environment. Partial learned helplessness is produced by a conditioning process characterized by erratic discipline in which the individual is alternately rewarded and punished for the same behavior on an unpredictable basis. This process described by Doren is similar to Bateson’s “double bind.” Psychopathy may be produced as a result of this type of conditioning in interaction with certain innate dispositions, such as the attention deficit disorder of the “hyperactive” child.Google Scholar
  30. The low cortical arousal of the psychopath leads to excessive stimulation seeking and to an inability to inhibit behavior that evokes punishment. The behavior emanating from the psychopath leads to erratic discipline that produces partial learned helplessness. The psychopath therefore has fewer socializing experiences and is persistently challenged to exert control over the rewards dispensed by his or her environment. Reward and punishment that are inconsistent and unpredictable force the psychopath to focus on the expectancy of reward rather than the expectancy of punishment in order to avoid complete helplessness. Psychopaths’ learned helplessness enhances both their insensitivity to their punishment and their tendency to persevere until their goal is attained. This perseverance results in a limited repertoire of instrumental behaviors.Google Scholar
  31. Psychopaths focus their attention on short-term goals and diminish attention to other details of their environment as a result of both their excessive stimulation seeking and their insensitivity to punishment. Specifically, psychopaths manifest a diminished concern for the negative consequences of their behavior and a narrow focus of attention on stimulating goals. Thus, other people are perceived by psychopaths as obstacles to be manipulated so that they can establish the control over their environment with which they are compulsively preoccupied.Google Scholar
  32. Doren states that psychopaths’ absence of guilt, inability to form intimate relations, lack of responsibility, specific loss of insight, and low anxiety and depression are due to their view of both others and themselves as objects of manipulation. However, Doren does not explain exactly how the psychopath’s instrumental orientation creates these deficiencies in the psychopath. For example, Doren tautologically states that the psychopath does not feel guilty about hurting others in the act of manipulating them because he or she derives so much satisfaction from the manipulation of others.Google Scholar
  33. 15.
    Gough’s (H. G. Gough, “A Sociological Theory of Psychopathy,” American Journal of Sociology, 53:359–366 [1948]) socialization theory of psychopathy is based on the symbolic interactionism of G. H. Mead. Gough has postulated that psychopathic individuals are incapable of taking the role of the generalized other and therefore lack empathic understanding of the behavior of others. As a result, psychopathic individuals fail to internalize social norms and values, and act without consideration of the effects of their behavior on others. Gough’s Socialization Scale is a reliable and valid predictor of delinquency and criminality and has been demonstrated to predict accurate interpersonal perception in experimental contexts. However, only one study has demonstrated that the scale predicts psychopathy, as defined by Cleckley, rather than criminality. Hare has criticized the inability of Gough’s theory to explain the etiology of psychopathy, and Smith has criticized the theory as being ambiguous and connotative in its terms and constructs.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    The disinhibition of antisocial behavior and the creation of a depersonalized state by a deindividualizing situation may be greater in the psychopath who is innately disposed to dissociation than in those normals and psychopaths not disposed to dissociation. The psychopath may be especially disposed either to absorption in the positive affective experience created by deindividuation or to dissociation from the aversive aspects of deindividuation. A deindividuated state permits the psychopath to extend control over others without fear or guilt. However, a deindividuated state may also threaten his or her ability to extend control over others. The depersonalized psychopath given to deindividuation may experience a loss of control that he or she experiences as aversive and that leads him or her to extend pathological control over others. The normal assertion of individuality in response to the negative aspects of deindividuation may be limited in the psychopath to this pathological extension of control over others to obtain rewards and increase his or her deficient level of arousal.Google Scholar
  35. Anomie is defined as a retreatist detachment and despair associated with a sense of contradiction and ambiguity in norms and values that impairs the integration of society (L. Srole, T. S. Langner, S. T. Michael, M. D. Opler, and T. C. Rennie, Mental Health in the Metropolis: The Midtown Manhattan Study, Vol. 1 [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962]); Merton (R. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure [New York: Free Press, 1968]); (R. Merton, “Three Fragments from a Sociologist’s Notebooks,” The Annual Review of Sociology, 13:8-10 [1987]) has theorized that deviant behavior is the result of a type of anomie that involves an acceptance of cultural goals and a rejection of the methods approved by society for obtaining these goals. Merton’s model of anomie proposes a number of types of anomie based on the acceptance and rejection of cultural goals and methods. The other types of anomie may also be related to psychopathic attitudes and behavior that are diffused throughout the society but which do not necessarily constitute in individuals an APD. 1. Retreatism, which involves a rejection of cultural methods but not cultural goals. 2. Innovation, or deviance, which involves a rejection both of cultural goals and methods. 3. Ritualism, which involves a rejection of goals but a passive resignation to cultural methods. 4. Rebellion, which involves a rejection both of cultural goals and methods as well as an acceptance of alternative cultural goals and methods. 5. Conformity, which involves an acceptance of cultural goals and methods.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. As certain cultural goals (e. g., financial success) increase in psychological importance but become more elusive in reality, antisocial means for obtaining these goals may become more accepted, covertly and implicitly if not overtly and explicitly. Corruption, violence, and other antisocial behavior may be increasingly accepted means for obtaining socially approved goals. The perception of antisocial behavior as pervasive and unavoidably necessary to achieve one’s ends may disinhibit further antisocial behavior and rationalize its existence. Thus, normative standards are further weakened and antisocial behavior is perpetuated in a vicious cycle.Google Scholar
  37. In a test of Merton’s hypothesis that crime is the result of anomic deviancy, Stack (S. Stack, “Homicide and Property Crime: The Relationship to Anomie,” Aggressive Behavior, 9(4):339–344 [1983]) found that income inequality significantly predicted homicide, but not property crimes, in 50 of the United States and in 20 other nations. Income inequality represents a state in which individuals may perceive a gap between a cultural goal (i. e., financial success) and cultural methods for obtaining financial success. The results suggest that such a gap may produce frustration leading to aggression.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Anomie, which is significantly and positively related to people’s perception of adverse changes in their personal financial status (M. Boor, “Anomie and United States Suicide Rates, 1976,” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 35(4):703–706 [1979]; M. Boor, “Relationship of Anomie to Perceived Changes in Financial Status, 1973-1980,” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38(4):891-892 [1982]), may predispose certain people to antisocial behavior. Edwards (D. W. Edwards, “Sex Role Attitudes, Anomy, and Female Criminal Behavior,” Corrective and Social Psychiatry and Journal of Behavior Technology, Methods, Therapy, 28(1):14 [1982]) found that anomie is associated with criminal behavior in women.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mothers who abuse their children have significantly greater anomie than those who do not (C. Shorkey and J. Armendariz, “Personal Worth, Self-Esteem, Anomia, Hostility, and Irrational Thinking of Abusing Mothers: A Multivariate Approach,” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 41(3):414–421 [1985]). Abuse may facilitate psychopathy in children with certain personal dispositions (e. g., attention deficits). Anomie is significantly associated with alcoholism (D. Albas, C. Albas, and K. W. McCluskey, “Anomie, Social Class, and Drinking Behavior of High School Students,” Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 39(5):910-913 [1978]), which is a characteristic of many psychopaths. However, anomie is positively associated with suicide, whereas psychopaths seldom commit suicide.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Seeman (M. Seeman, “Alienation Studies,” Annual Review of Sociology, 1:91–124 [1975]) has proposed a multidimensional social psychological model of alienation. These dimensions may be stated in terms of social learning theory. 1. Powerlessness. The individual expects that he or she will have no control over the consequences of his or her behavior. For example, the individual may expect that his or her political participation is useless. 2. Normlessness. The individual believes that it is necessary for him or her and for others to violate explicit norms in order to obtain rewards or avoid punishment. For example, an individual may feel that exaggeration of a resume is necessary to obtain a job. 3. Meaninglessness. The individual is not able to predict the consequences of his or her behavior because he or she does not fully comprehend social reality. 4. Social isolation. The individual fails to interact with others because he or she does not share their values or norms. Thus, other people do not reinforce or model the behavior that the individual has previously learned. 5. Cultural estrangement. The individual does not share the norms and values of others because of his or her socialization in a culture or subculture different from these others. 6. Self-estrangement. The individual’s behavior is dependent on the anticipation of future rewards in association with an absence of present rewards. The individual may be alienated by performing labor that he or she finds unfulfilling.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Such circumstances produce discrepancy between an individual’s real and ideal self-concept. These dimensions of alienation may constitute an increasingly prevalent and adaptive generalized psychopathic tendency. Mande-rscheid, Silbergeld, and Dager (1975) have created a systems model that causally relates social structure, physiological stress, alienation, and perceptual style. In their model, social structural Stressors (e. g., minority status, low socioeconomic status) produce both psychological and “physiobiochemical” stress. Psychological stress produces cognitive alienation, as represented by Seeman’s alienation dimensions, which serves to reduce psychological stress. Physiobiochemical stress produces affective alienation, represented by Gottschalk’s hostility categories, which serves to reduce physiobiochemical stress. Cognitive and affective alienation produce dimensions of perceptual style related to specific types of alienation. For example, powerlessness will produce high perceived submission and low perceived autonomy. Manderscheid et al. propose that the reduction of alienation must involve changes on both an individual and social level.Google Scholar
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    The behavior produced by partial learned helplessness and low cortical arousal may reflect dissociative reactions, such as depersonalization, in which the person develops a sense of himself and others as objects. Depersonalization is often a dissociative reaction that acts as a defense against trauma and anxiety in accident victims and psychiatric patients (R. Noyes and R. Kletti, “Depersonalization in the Face of Life-Threatening Danger: A Description,” Psychiatry, 39(1):19–27 (1976]). The socialization of the psychopath commonly involves traumatic experiences (W. McCord, The Psychopath and Milieu Therapy [New York: Free Press, 1982]) that may condition the psychopath to respond to stress with dissociation. Thus, dissociation may defend the psychopath against the aversive experience of his or her antisocial behavior (e. g., fear and guilt).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Depersonalization is a dissociative reaction to which the psychopath may be especially susceptible. According to Levy and Wachtel (J. S. Levy and P. L. Wachtel, “Depersonalization: An Effort at Clarification,” American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 38(4):291–300 [1978]), the two basic features of depersonalization are a sense of “splitting off” from one’s actions and one’s self (i. e., depersonalization) and a sense of unreality about one’s self or about objects (i. e., derealization). Depersonalization and derealization were found to be independent factors, each reflecting a transient state that, when measured by self report was positively correlated with anxiety and depression, but that when assessed by diagnostic interview was not correlated with anxiety and depression. See J. L. Fleiss, B. J. Gurland, and B. Goldberg, “Independence of Depersonalization-derealization” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43(1):110-111 (1975).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. The psychopath may be more susceptible to depersonalization than to derealization. Dorr and Woodhall (D. Dorr, and P. Woodhall, “Ego Dysfunction in Psychopathic Inpatients,” in W. H. Reid, D. Dorr, J. I. Walker, and J. W. Bonner, [Eds.], Unmasking the Psychopath, [New York: Norton, 1986], pp. 98–131) found that psychopaths were above average in their sense of the reality of the world, but deficient in their sense of the reality of themselves (e. g., body image, self-esteem, individuality). Further, they found that psychopaths were deficient in reality testing (e. g., the accuracy of perceptions of the self and of external events) and in judgment (e. g., the correct anticipation of consequences). Dorr and Woodhall observe that the psychopath’s contact with external reality is distorted, selective, and amnesic when it concerns his or her drives and needs, despite his or her hypervigilance to certain stimuli.Google Scholar
  50. Controversy (M. Orne, D. Dinges, E. C. Orne, “On the Differential Diagnosis of Multiple Personality in the Forensic Context,” International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 32(2):118–169 [1984]PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. J. Watkins, “The Bianchi (L.A. Hillside Strangler) Case: Sociopath or Multiple Personality,” International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 32(2):67–101 [1984]) has surrounded whether or not K. Bianchi, the “Hillside Strangler,” had a multiple personality disorder or an APD plus sexual sadism. While the interpretations of the facts in the Bianchi case are not conclusive, the case raises the possibility that the psychopath may exercise dissociative ability in the performance of antisocial behavior. Bianchi’s fraudulent malingering would itself represent an exercise of an ability to dissociate himself from his crimes, if not a true multiple personality.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Empirical studies have recently begun to indirectly approach the issue of the dissociative capacity of the psychopath. Psychopaths do relatively poorly on tasks requiring divided attention; that is, they do not “overfocus” on one task to the exclusion of a second simultaneous task. See D. S. Kosson and J. P. Newman, “Psychopathy and the Allocation of Attentional Capacity in a Divided-Attention Situation,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95(3):257–263 (1986). Kosson and Newman state that their evidence contradicts their hypothesis that psychopaths will overfocus on immediate goals to the exclusion of long-term consequences. However, the fact that psychopaths are poor in divided attention tasks may be interpreted as a due to a disposition to absorption that impairs their ability to divide their attention. Also, the reaction time tasks used by Kosson and Newman may have been inappropriate for psychopathic subjects because such individuals have innately low levels of cortical arousal, which may confound the effects of the attentional manipulation. In fact, Kosson and Newman found that psychopaths had particularly slow reaction times, also possibly due to their low levels of autonomic arousal.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Smith (R. J. Smith, The Psychopath in Society [New York: Academic Press, 1978]) has noted that the use of stimulus materials that lower the already deficient arousal of the psychopath produces confounded and artifactual results, and are a common fallacy in experimental studies of psychopaths. According to the model formulated by Spiegel (Google Scholar
  54. H. Spiegel, “The Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP): A Review of its Development,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 296:129–142 [1977]PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. H. Spiegel and D. Spiegel, Trance and Treatment: The Clinical Uses of Hypnosis, [New York: Basic Books, 1978]), absorption is a biologically based disposition that promotes hypnotizability. Absorption produces intense concentration and is mediated by socialization and conditioning to produce a personality style characterized by an orientation centered in immediate temporal and spatial perception. The biological potential for absorption can be measured by such indices as Eye Roll using the Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP). The absorption of consciousness into a specific experience produces dissociation in which consciousness is divided into separate complexes. Absorption and dissociation are the preconditions for the heightened suggestibility that produces compliance because inhibitions upon impulses are dissociated from consciousness while suggestions are given focused attention. According to Spiegel, the pathological person has a greater capacity for absorption than he or she can utilize, as indicated by broken concentration on the HIP.Google Scholar
  56. In our opinion, psychopaths’ biological capacity for absorption may be heavily utilized by them because they are conditioned by their socialization to become absorbed in the stimulation produced by reward and its expectation while becoming dissociated from the aversive experience produced by punishment and its expectation. Thus, psychopaths may become so absorbed in the rewarding stimulation produced by antisocial behavior that they dissociate from the aversive consequences of their antisocial behavior. Psychopaths’ absorption and dissociation prevent them from fully attending to the aversive consequences of antisocial behavior, both for themselves and for others. Full attention to such aversive consequences would otherwise inhibit the performance of antisocial behavior by provoking guilt and fear. Further, dissociation may disinhibit psychopaths’ performance of the antisocial behavior that is motivated by their innate disposition to seek stimulation to compensate their deficient cortical arousal.Google Scholar
  57. Furthermore, we think that Spiegel’s model may provide a more detailed explanation of psychopaths’ lack of guilt and empathy in terms of dissociation, specifically their selective amnesia and defensive rationalization. Psychopaths dissociate from the negative affective experiences (e. g., guilt) entailed in their actions through selective amnesia. This affective amnesia facilitates psychopaths’ cognitive rationalization of their behavior in response to external pressure (e. g., interrogation). Such rationalizations may further defend the psychopath from experiencing the guilt that might otherwise be evoked to disinhibit further antisocial behavior. The apparent absence of affect and anxiety in the primary psychopath may be the result of dissociation, which functions to defend him or her from anxiety.Google Scholar
  58. According to Doren (D. M. Doren, Understanding and Treating the Psychopath, [New York: Wiley, 1987]), the psychopath is disposed to risk-taking by his or her partial learned helplessness and innately low cortical arousal. Situations that provide unpredictable reinforcement and punishment may be particularly effective in disinhibiting the behavior of the psychopath.Google Scholar
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    The fact that incarcerated psychopaths can have psychotic breakdowns has been repeatedly observed over many years especially where and when gross solitary confinement procedures were prevalent in prisons. This unusual induced psychotic breakdown should be distinguished from the Ganser state first described in the nineteenth century as a mental disease in which the inmate of a prison desires to be perceived innocent so he may be pardoned and fakes his behavior for that purpose. During the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, these conditions were referred to as purpose psychoses. Today, we would refer to them as the malingering of psychotic states of mental illness. Bleuer in his famous textbook, Psychiatry, refers to these conditions as situational psychosis. It is not uncommon to see incarcerated psychopaths engage in malingering illnesses and/or beneficial effects from treatment for the purposes of secondary gain.Google Scholar
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    H. S. Sullivan, Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry (New York: Norton, 1953) p. 360.Google Scholar
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    We have no intention to suggest in this remark that psychopathy is caused by abuse during childhood. Although from a clinical point of view experience has illustrated ample evidence that there is a correlation between psychopathy and various degrees of abuse during childhood, no direct cause can be assumed from a correlation.Google Scholar
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    Eysenck views psychopathy as a genetically determined disposition both to low cortical arousal (i. e., extraversion) and to high sympathetic nervous system arousal (i. e., neuroticism) that prevents the learning of appropriate responses (e. g., fear in response to punishment). Eysenck’s theory, like Gough’ s theory, has been criticized because research based on it has been limited to criminal populations. Thus, the theory may refer more to criminality than to psychopathy. Also, the reliability and validity of the scales composing the Eysenck Personality Inventory used to measure extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism have been seriously questioned.Google Scholar
  65. Studies indicating that the brain waves of psychopaths, as measured by electroencephalogram (EEG), are slower than those of normal individuals strongly support the contention that the disposition to low cortical arousal (i. e., extraversion) is characteristic of the psychopath. However, evidence that psychopaths are more emotion_ally reactive (i. e., neurotic) is contradictory, and overwhelmingly suggests that psychopaths, to the contrary, are less emotionally reactive than normal individuals. Experimental evidence indicates that psychopaths are deficient in the classical conditioning of emotional reactions compared to normal subjects. Psychopaths are also deficient in instrumentally conditioned avoidance of punishment. Under conditions of uncertain punishment, psychopaths will persist at simple tasks more than normals, especially if the possibility of positive reinforcement exists. Some evidence suggests that psychopaths are more adept at observational learning and imitation that involve perceived gain and social reinforcement. Overall, Eysenck’s contention avoidance compared to normals is well supported. Contrary to Eysenck’s theory, psychopaths have been found to learn as well or better than normals in certain conditions.Google Scholar
  66. Hare (R. D. Hare, Psychopathy: Theory and Research, [New York: Wiley, 1970]) has postulated that the psychopath suffers from lesions in the limbic system that cause a loss of inhibition and a preservation of their dominant responses, which are characteristically antisocial. Animal studies have indicated that lesions in the limbic system of animals can produce the preservation of dominant (i. e., well-learned) responses, even in inappropriate situations. However, these animals eventually learn new responses.Google Scholar
  67. Most criminal psychopaths have been estimated to have abnormally slow brain wave patterns, but these patterns are not indicative of organic disorder. Also, some researchers have questioned the existence and meaning of abnormal brain wave activity. Psychopaths have a greater than normal incidence of organic brain syndromes, but not necessarily in limbic system disorders. Hare’s theory is intended to account only for the response preservation of psychopaths.Google Scholar
  68. The abnormally high slow-wave activity of the psychopath, which indicates low cortical arousal, suggests that psychopaths suffer from a “matura-tional lag” that produces egocentricity, impulsivity, and an inability to delay gratification. Psychopaths eventually “burn out” as they reach middle age; that is, they decrease or terminate their antisocial behavior. Kegan (Kegan, “The Child behind the Mask: Sociopathy as Developmental Delay,” in W. Reid et al. [Eds.], Unmasking the Psychopath [New York: Norton, 1986], p. 45–77) has proposed that the psychopath does not generally develop beyond preconven-tional moral reasoning, which is oriented exclusively toward external rewards and punishments. However, not all individuals (approximately 15 percent of the population) who manifest a similar brain wave pattern are socially deviant. Also, the psychopath possesses many characteristics that are not typical of the average child, although the similarity in moral reasoning of children and psychopaths make maturational retardation a compelling analogy au]Google Scholar
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    F. Redl and D. Wineman, Children Who Hate (New York: Free Press, 1951).Google Scholar
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    In a recent book by Sommers, the story of the life of J. Edgar Hoover provides a chilling example of a psychopath who was in such a high position of power that he managed to escape exposure during his lifetime. For over 40 years he managed to corrupt one of the most important institutions within the government, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cheat the taxpayers, and protect criminals in high places including many mafia leaders.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert W. Rieber
    • 1
  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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