Posted in CHILDREN AND PSYCHOPATHY, Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder, PCL-R model of psychopathy, Psychopathy Checklist, the prevalence of psychopathy and narcissism in abuse

Cocaine, Moral Intuition, Psychopathy

Investigations into the neurobiology of moral cognition are often done by examining clinical populations characterized by diminished moral emotions and a proclivity toward immoral behavior. Psychopathy is the most common disorder studied for this purpose. Although cocaine abuse is highly co-morbid with psychopathy and cocaine-dependent individuals exhibit many of the same abnormalities in socio-affective processing as psychopaths, this population has received relatively little attention in moral psychology. To address this issue, the authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record hemodynamic activity in 306 incarcerated male adults, stratified into regular cocaine users (n = 87) and a matched sample of non-cocaine users (n = 87), while viewing pictures that did or did not depict immoral actions and determining whether each depicted scenario occurred indoors or outdoors. Consistent with expectations, cocaine users showed abnormal neural activity in several frontostriatial regions during implicit moral picture processing compared to their non-cocaine using peers. This included reduced moral/non-moral picture discrimination in the vACC, vmPFC, lOFC, and left vSTR. Additionally, psychopathy was negatively correlated with activity in an overlapping region of the ACC and right lateralized vSTR. These results suggest that regular cocaine abuse may be associated with affective deficits which can impact relatively high-level processes like moral cognition.

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Posted in CHILDREN AND PSYCHOPATHY, Parental Alienation PA, PCL-R model of psychopathy, Psychopathy Checklist, the prevalence of psychopathy and narcissism in abuse

Psychopathic charm

Contemporary interest in superficial charm goes back to Hervey M. Cleckley‘s classic study (1941) of the sociopath: since his work it has become widely accepted that the sociopath/psychopath was characterised by superficial charm and a disregard for other people’s feelings.[6] According to Hare, “Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything.”[7]

Subsequent studies have refined, but not perhaps fundamentally altered, Cleckley’s initial assessment. In the latest diagnostic review, Cleckley’s mix of intelligence and superficial charm has been redefined to reflect a more deviant demeanour, talkative, slick, and insincere.[8] A distinction can also be drawn between a subtle, self-effacing kind of sociopathic charm,[9] and a more expansive, exhilarating spontaneity which serves to give the sociopath a sort of animal magnetism.[10]


Main article: Narcissism

The term also occurs in Hotchkiss’ discussion of narcissists: “Their superficial charm can be enchanting.”[13] For such figures, however, there is no substance behind the romantic gestures, which only serve to feed the narcissist’s own ego.[14]

Narcissists are known as manipulative in a charming way, entrapping their victims through a façade of understanding into suspending their self-protective behaviour and lowering their personal boundaries.[15] Closely related is the way impostors are able to make people fall in love with them to satisfy their narcissistic needs, without reciprocating in any real sense or returning their feelings.[16]

Social chameleons

Social chameleons have been described as adept in social intelligence, able to make a charming good impression, yet at the price of their own true motivations.[17] Their ability to manage impressions well often leads to success in areas like the theatre, salesmanship, or politics and diplomacy.[18] But when lacking a sense of their own inner needs, such superficial extraverts may end up (despite their charm) as rootless chameleons, endlessly taking their social cues from other people.[19]

Similarly, for the histrionic personality, the attention seeking through superficial charm may only reinforce the splitting of the real self from the public presentation in a vicious circle.[20]

Charm offensive

A “charm offensive” is a related concept meaning a publicity campaign, usually by politicians, that attempts to attract supporters by emphasizing their charisma or trustworthiness. The first recorded use of the expression is in the California newspaper The Fresno Bee Republican in October 1956.[22]


Critics object that there are few objective criteria whereby to distinguish superficial from genuine charm; and that as part of the conventional niceties of politeness, we all regularly employ superficial charm in everyday life:[24] conveying superficial solidarity and fictitious benevolence to all social interactions.[25]

Superficial charm

Posted in CHILDREN AND PSYCHOPATHY, Parental Alienation PA, PCL-R model of psychopathy, Psychopathy Checklist, the prevalence of psychopathy and narcissism in abuse

Psychopathy – Hervey Milton Cleckley

Hervey Milton Cleckley (1903 – January 28, 1984) was an American psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of psychopathy. His book, The Mask of Sanity, originally published in 1941 and revised in new editions until the 1980s, provided the most influential clinical description of psychopathy in the twentieth century. The term “mask of sanity” derived from Cleckley’s belief that a psychopath can appear normal and even engaging, but that the “mask” conceals a mental disorder.[1] By the time of his death, Cleckley was better remembered for a vivid case study of a female patient, published as a book in 1956 and turned into a movie, The Three Faces of Eve, in 1957. His report of the case (re)popularized in America the controversial diagnosis of multiple personality disorder.[2] The concept of psychopathy continues to be influential through forming parts of the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, thePsychopathy Checklist, and public perception.



In 1941, Cleckley authored his magnum opus The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-Called Psychopathic Personality. This became a landmark in psychiatric case studies and was repeatedly reprinted in subsequent editions. Cleckley revised and expanded the work with each edition published; the second American edition published in 1950 he described as effectively a new book.[citation needed]

The Mask of Sanity is distinguished by its central thesis, that the psychopath exhibits normal function according to standard psychiatric criteria, yet privately engages in destructive behavior. The book was intended to assist with detection and diagnosis of the elusive psychopath for purposes of palliation and offered no cure for the condition itself. The idea of a master deceiver secretly possessed of no moral or ethical restraints, yet behaving in public with excellent function, electrified American society and led to heightened interest in both psychological introspection and the detection of hidden psychopaths in society at large, leading to a refinement of the word itself into what was perceived to be a less stigmatizing term, “sociopath“.[citation needed]

Hervey M. Cleckley

Posted in Parental Alienation PA, PCL-R model of psychopathy

PCL-R model of psychopathy

The PCL-R is used for indicating a dimensional score, or a categorical diagnosis, of psychopathy for clinical, legal or research purposes.[6] It is rated by a mental health professional (such as a psychologist or other professional trained in the field of mental health, psychology, or psychiatry), using 20 items. Each of the items in the PCL-R is scored on a three-point scale according to specific criteria through file information and asemi-structured interview.

The scores are used to predict risk for criminal re-offense and probability of rehabilitation.

The current edition of the PCL-R officially lists three factors (1.a, 1.b, and 2.a), which summarize the 20 assessed areas via factor analysis. The previous edition of the PCL-R[7] listed two factors. Factor 1 is labelled “selfish, callous and remorseless use of others”. Factor 2 is labelled as “chronically unstable, antisocial and socially deviant lifestyle”. There is a high risk of recidivism and mostly small likelihood of rehabilitation for those who are labelled as having “psychopathy” on the basis of the PCL-R ratings in the manual for the test, although treatment research is ongoing.

PCL-R Factors 1a and 1b are correlated with narcissistic personality disorder.[8] They are associated with extraversion and positive affect. Factor 1, the so-called core personality traits of psychopathy, may even be beneficial for the psychopath (in terms of nondeviant social functioning).[9]

PCL-R Factors 2a and 2b are particularly strongly correlated to antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder and are associated with reactive anger, criminality, and impulsive violence. The target group for the PCL-R in prisons in some countries is criminals convicted of delict and/or felony. The quality of ratings may depend on how much background information is available and whether the person rated is honest and forthright.[8][9]


Each of the 20 items in the PCL-R is scored on a three-point scale, with a rating of 0 if it does not apply at all, 1 if there is a partial match or mixed information, and 2 if there is a reasonably good match to the offender. This is said[2] to be ideally done through a face-to-face interview together with supporting information on lifetime behavior (e.g. from case files), but is also done based only on file information. It can take up to three hours to collect and review the information.[10]

Out of a maximum score of 40, the cut-off for the label of psychopathy is 30 in the United States and 25 in the United Kingdom.[10][11] A cut-off score of 25 is also sometimes used for research purposes.[10]

High PCL-R scores are positively associated with measures of impulsivity and aggression, Machiavellianism, persistent criminal behavior, and negatively associated with measures of empathy and affiliation.[10]

Psychopathy Checklist-Revised: Factors, Facets, and Items[12]
Factor 1 Factor 2 Other items
Facet 1: Interpersonal

Facet 2: Affective

  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Emotionally shallow
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Facet 3: Lifestyle

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility

Facet 4: Antisocial

  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior

Early factor analysis of the PCL-R indicated it consisted of two factors.[13] Factor 1 captures traits dealing with the interpersonal and affective deficits of psychopathy (e.g., shallow affect, superficial charm, manipulativeness, lack of empathy) whereas factor 2 dealt with symptoms relating to antisocial behavior: (e.g., criminal versatility, impulsiveness, irresponsibility, poor behavior controls, juvenile delinquency).[13]

The two factors have been found by those following this theory to display different correlates. Factor 1 has been correlated with narcissistic personality disorder,[13] low anxiety,[13] low empathy,[14] low stress reaction[15] and low suicide risk[15] but high scores on scales of achievement[15] and social potency.[15] In addition, the use of item response theory analysis of female offender PCL-R scores indicates factor 1 items are more important in measuring and generalizing the construct of psychopathy in women than factor-2 items.[16]

In contrast, factor 2 was found to be related to antisocial personality disorder,[13] social deviance,[13] sensation seeking,[13] low socioeconomic status[13] and high risk of suicide.[15] The two factors are nonetheless highly correlated[13] and there are strong indications they do result from a single underlying disorder.[17] Research, however, has failed to replicate the two-factor model in female samples.[18]

Researchers Cooke and Michie suggested, using statistical analysis involving confirmatory factor analysis,[19] that a three-factor structure may provide a better model, with those items from factor 2 strictly relating to antisocial behavior (criminal versatility, juvenile delinquency, revocation of conditional release, early behavioral problems and poor behavioral controls) removed. The remaining items would be divided into three factors: arrogant and deceitful interpersonal style, deficient affective experience and impulsive and irresponsible behavioral style.[19] Hare and colleagues have published detailed critiques of the three-factor model and argue that there are statistical and conceptual problems.[20]

In the most recent edition of the PCL-R, Hare adds a fourth antisocial behavior factor, consisting of those factor-2 items excluded in the previous model.[2] Again, these models are presumed to be hierarchical with a single, unified psychopathy disorder underlying the distinct but correlated factors.[21]

The Cooke & Michie hierarchical three-factor model has severe statistical problems—i.e., it actually contains ten factors and results in impossible parameters (negative variances)—as well as conceptual problems. Hare and colleagues have published detailed critiques of the Cooke & Michie model.[22] New evidence, across a range of samples and diverse measures, now supports a four-factor model of the psychopathy construct,[23] which represents the interpersonal, affective, lifestyle, and overt antisocial features of the personality disorder.