Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (SRP)

  • Andrea A. MassaEmail author
  • Christopher I. Eckhardt
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_83-1

Definition/Abstract

The Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (SRP; Paulhus et al. 2009) is a widely used self-report measure of psychopathy. As measured by the SRP, psychopathy is defined as a pathological personality style marked by interpersonal (e.g., deceitfulness and grandiosity), affective (e.g., lack of empathy and remorse), lifestyle (e.g., impulsivity and sensation-seeking), and antisocial (e.g., delinquency and criminality) features. Psychopathy has been shown to predict criminal behavior, delinquency, recidivism, and violence.

Introduction

Robert Hare’s model of forensic psychopathy has been considered the most influential model since the early work of Cleckley (1941/1976) in the mid-1900s (Paulhus et al. in press). Hare originally put forth a unitary model of psychopathy composed of two correlated factors (i.e., personality factor and behavioral factor). He later revised this model by breaking the two factors down into four facets: interpersonal and affective facets making up the personality factor and parasitic lifestyle and antisocial behavior composing the behavioral factor.

In order to assess psychopathy in a structured manner, Hare developed the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL). The PCL has since been revised (PCL-R; Hare 1991) and is considered to be the gold standard for assessing psychopathy. The measure consists of 20 items completed by a clinician that are based on results from a semi-structured interview as well as a review of collateral information (e.g., case files). The PCL-R has been shown to map onto the five-factor model (FFM) of personality, with high sores correlating with disagreeableness and low conscientiousness (Paulhus et al. in press). The PCL-R was designed for use in forensic settings but has also been implemented in non-forensic populations. Though the PCL-R is a comprehensive, objective, and reliable measure of psychopathy, it is time-consuming to administer, requires extensive clinical training and access to collateral records, and is inefficient for use outside of a criminal or clinical setting (Mahmut et al. 2011). These limitations pushed Hare to develop a more accessible and convenient alternative, the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (SRP; Hare 1985), to allow for self-administered assessment of psychopathic traits for use in research and other non-forensic settings.

Early Iterations of the SRP (SRP and SRP-II)

The SRP has undergone a number of revisions since its initial development. The original 29-item SRP was developed as a self-report analogue to the PCL and mirrored its unidimensional structure, with total scores on the original PCL and SRP being moderately correlated with one another. The PCL was subsequently revised (PCL-R) to fit Hare’s new two-factor conceptualization of psychopathy. The SRP was also revised (SRP-II), and while it had several strengths (e.g., good criterion-related validity and construct validity), it was found that its factor structure did not capture the proposed two factor-model of psychopathy (i.e., interpersonal/affective and lifestyle/antisocial) of the PCL-R. Researchers argued that the early versions of the SRP contained too many anxiety-related items, an insufficient number of items reflecting antisocial behavior, and poor internal consistency. Another point of contention relates to controversies regarding the underlying factor structure of psychopathy. While some researchers argue that psychopathy is composed of two or three factors, others argue for a four-factor structure. The SRP was revised once again to reflect the four-factor model, and much research has supported its factor structure (Mahmut et al. 2011; Neal and Sellbom 2012; Neumann and Pardini 2014; Williams et al. 2007).

SRP-III and SRP-4

To address concerns regarding earlier versions of the SRP, Paulhus et al. (2009) developed the SRP-III. The SRP-III consists of 64 items that compose four 16-item factors: interpersonal manipulation, callous affect, erratic lifestyle, and criminal tendencies. These four factors align with the two factors and four facets of the PCL-R, with factor 1 consisting of facets 1 (i.e., Interpersonal Manipulation) and 2 (i.e., Callous Affect), and factor 2 consisting of facets 3 (i.e., Erratic Lifestyle) and 4 (i.e., Criminal Tendencies). Evidence supporting the four-factor structure of the SRP-III has emerged from several studies using a variety of samples, including undergraduate students and criminal offenders (Mahmut et al. 2011; Neal and Sellbom 2012; Seibert et al. 2011). Response options for the SRP-III range from 1 (disagree strongly) to 5 (agree strongly), for a total score ranging from 64 to 320. Sample items from each subscale include: “I think I could beat a lie detector” (Interpersonal Manipulation); “I never feel guilty over hurting others” (Callous Affect); “I’ve often done dangerous things just for the thrill of it” (Erratic Lifestyle); and “I have tried to hit someone with a vehicle” (Criminal Tendencies). Correlations between the four facets of the SRP-III and those of the PCL-R in a forensic sample reveal strong associations between the lifestyle (r = .77) and antisocial (r = .70) subscales and moderate correlations between the interpersonal (r = .36) and affective (r = .44) subscales on each measure (Paulhus et al. in press). The most recent version, the SRP-4, retains the factor structure of the SRP-III and contains 64 items reflecting the same 2 factors and 4 facets of the SRP-III. In this iteration, each facet consists of an equal number of items. This measure is scored on the same 5-point scale as the SRP-III, with factor and total scores calculated from the means of the facet-level items. This iteration was recently developed, and thus psychometric data are currently lacking.

Psychometric Properties of the SRP

Validity

The SRP has been normed in three major populations: criminal offenders, undergraduates, and community members. Several studies have revealed fairly strong psychometric properties of the SRP-III. The SRP-III has been found to have good convergent and discriminant validity, and the full scale and each subscale have been found to have strong internal consistency in samples of undergraduates, community members, and criminal offenders (Mahmut et al. 2011; Neal and Sellbom 2012; Tew et al. 2015). In one investigation of the utility of using the SRP-III in a sample of undergraduates, the scale was found to correlate at the p < .001 level with other measures of psychopathy, indicating that it has good criterion validity (Neal and Sellbom 2012). The SRP-III was also found to have good convergent validity, as evidenced by its positive correlations with several aspects of the psychopathic personality style, such as drug use (r = .43), thrill seeking (r = .68), aggression (r = .64), and irresponsibility (r = .55) and negative correlations with traits such as dependability (r = −.36), empathy (r = −.55), and honesty (r = −.47). The SRP-III was uncorrelated with emotional distress, negative emotionality, social avoidance, and shyness, thus providing evidence of discriminant validity. Two weaknesses of the SRP-III were identified by this study. The first was that the Interpersonal Manipulation subscale was more strongly associated with impatient urgency than the other three subscales. Since impatient urgency is theoretically considered to be a component of the erratic lifestyle factor, this indicates that the Interpersonal Manipulation subscale may overlap with the Erratic Lifestyle subscale. In addition, the SRP-III was not correlated with fear and only weakly correlated with interpersonal assertiveness and dominance, factors that have been conceptually and empirically linked to psychopathy. In a study of criminal offenders in the United Kingdom (Tew et al. 2015), the Erratic Lifestyle and Criminal Tendencies subscales of the SRP-III were found to be valid measures of the lifestyle and criminality aspects of psychopathy but that the Callous Affect and Interpersonal Manipulation scales should be improved to better capture their respective components of psychopathy.

Evidence in support of the validity of the SRP-4 exists and has recently been presented. Self-reported SRP-4 scores have been found to correlate with peer ratings in non-forensic samples, demonstrating convergent validity (Paulhus et al. in press). Behavioral evidence has emerged that supports the measure’s construct validity. For example, scores on the SRP have been shown to predict cheating on academic exams and engaging in fraudulent behavior (Paulhus et al. in press).

Reliability

A study of criminal offenders in the United Kingdom revealed evidence of internal consistency and homogeneity of the SRP-III but with a few exceptions (Tew et al. 2015). More specifically, they found that the scales assessing interpersonal and affective aspects of psychopathy were more internally consistent than scales measuring behavioral aspects of psychopathy (i.e., antisocial behavior). They also found that the Criminal Tendencies subscale only bordered on homogeneity. The SRP has also exhibited good internal consistency in samples of undergraduate students and community adults (Mahmut et al. 2011; Neal and Sellbom 2012; Seibert et al. 2011).

SRP Short Form

The SRP Short-Form (SRP-SF; Paulhus et al. 2009) consists of 28 items and has been found to be strongly correlated with the full version of the SRP-III and the PCL-R in adult male offenders (Neumann and Pardini 2014). Though the development of the short form has not been described in depth, it has evidenced good construct validity and unidimensionality of each factor. However, the interpersonal features of psychopathy had the highest factor loadings while the affect-related questions had the lowest factor loadings. This may reflect the difficulty of assessing affect via self-report measures. In addition, the lifestyle features were most strongly predictive of externalizing, criminal offending, and internalizing psychopathology, suggesting that these features may be of particular importance in clinical and treatment settings.

Conclusion

The SRP is a widely used measure of psychopathic personality traits that is based on Hare’s two-factor, four-facet structure of psychopathy. The SRP has demonstrated strong psychometric properties that have improved with each iteration. The SRP has allowed for a more accessible assessment of psychopathy than the more time- and resource-intensive PCL-R, and it has facilitated the assessment of psychopathy in both forensic and non-forensic populations.

Cross-References

References

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Brendan Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.Wichita State UniversityWichitaUSA