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The “Dark Triad” refers to a group of three of negative personality traits—Psychopathy, Narcissism, and Machiavellianism. People with these traits are often cold-bloodied and insensitive, devious and manipulative. Their actions are often “knee jerk” and impulsive, and those activities are sometimes criminal in nature.

  • Narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus, in Greek mythology, was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was known for his beauty. A blind “seer” told Narcissus’s mother that her son would enjoy a long life, provided he never saw his reflection. However, as one version of the tale goes, Narcissus did indeed see his reflection in the waters of a spring and he loved his image so much that he killed himself. Another version is that Narcissus fell in love with his reflection when gazing into the spring water while thinking of the death of his sister.

Narcissistic people can be selfish, arrogant, lacking in empathy, and they’re not at all fond of criticism. They love to brag.

  • Machiavellianism: the word comes from Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th century Italian politician and diplomat. Machiavelli’s book, “The Prince,” was thought of as an endorsement and approval of the dark arts of cunning and deceit. Traits associated with Machiavellianism include hypocriciy and deceit, manipulation and control, self-interest, and a lack of emotion and principle.
  • Psychopathy: According to Psychiatric Times, psychopathy is “a personality disorder characterized by lack of empathy, grandiosity, shallow affect, deceitfulness, impulsivity, irresponsibility, and disregard for the well-being or rights of others.”

In the U.S., psychopaths are approximately 1% of the population. Of that 1% males exhibit psychopathic traits more often than females—90% of all psychopaths are male. Not all psychopaths are criminals.

Psychopaths make up 15-18% of prison population. Of the overall prison population, psychopaths are three times more likely to reoffend and four times more likely to use violence when committing those new offenses.

The majority of psychopaths are not serial killers. Some are, but most are not. Instead, psychopaths are our neighbors who also happen to be crooks, con artists, rapists, spouse and child abusers, white collar criminals, gang members, and crooked lawyers, doctors, cops, and business people, to name a few.

Psychopaths are Master Manipulators

Psychopaths  use people to get what they want and they often do so by developing relationship based on lies. They often portray themselves in a grandiose manner. They tell embellished stories and tall tales about anything and everything and, those fictional accountings that are so creative and entertaining, people believe what they hear and instinctively trust the storytelling liar.

If the teller of wild tales, the psychopath, is caught in a lie they simply tell another fib to explains the “facts” and cover their tracks. They’re typically quick on their feet.

How to Tell if Someone is a Psychopath

In the 1970s, internationally renowned researcher Robert Hare (co-author of “Criminal Psychopathy: An Introduction for Police”) developed a checklist for use by mental health experts when assessing and diagnosing psychopathy. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist is based on a three-point rating scale of certain characteristics:

  • 0 = does not apply
  • 1 = applies to a certain extent
  • 2 – the characteristic fully applies

The line between clinical psychopathy is a total score of 30 or more. Ted Bundy, for example, scored 39.

 Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist

So, for fun, it’s time to use your calculator to tally up your own scores. Good luck! (Please do not post your scores!).

Remember:

  • 0 = does not apply
  • 1 = applies to a certain extent
  • 2 – the characteristic fully applies

The Test

Use the scores from above to rate your response to each point below. For example, if you are longwinded, verbose, gabby, and absolutely full of hot air, well, you should give yourself a score of 2 for “Glibness/superficial charm.”

You May Now Begin

  • Glibness/superficial charm

  • Grandiose sense of self-worth

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom

  • Pathological lying

  • Conning/manipulative

  • Lack of remorse or guilt

  • Shallow affect (i.e., reduced emotional responses)

  • Callous/lack of empathy

  • Parasitic lifestyle

  • Poor behavioral controls

  • Promiscuous sexual behavior

  • Early behavioral problems

  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals

  • Impulsivity

  • Irresponsibility

  • Failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions

  • Many short-term marital relationships

  • Juvenile delinquency

  • Revocation of conditional release (from prison)

  • Criminal versatility (i.e., commits diverse types of crimes)

The Hare Test must be administered by professionals. In fact, for accuracy, two different professionals should administer identical tests, independently. The average of the two test scores is the final result.

*Some experts such as Gendreau, Goggin, and Smith (Paula Smith, M.A. Claire Goggin, M.A. Paul Gendreau, Ph.D. Department of Psychology and Centre for Criminal Justice Studies University of New Brunswick, Saint John) offer that a different test, “Level of Service Inventory-Revised”(LSI-R) is overall superior to Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised for the prediction of recidivism and violence.

Hare contends, though, that both instruments are beneficial, “but for different reasons. The Level of Service Inventory-Revised is a specialized tool, whereas the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised and its derivatives measure one of the most explanatory and generalizable risk factors identified to date.”

LSI–R scores

LCI-R scores are primarily used to help predict the success of parole, correctional halfway houses, prison and jail misconduct, and the revolving door of recidivism.

The LSI–R assessment is used by an assortment of professionals—counselors, doctors, psychologists, probation officers, and youth and social workers. Professionals who utilize the assessment should have advanced training in psychological assessment. They are responsible for properly interpreting and relaying the results.

The LSI–R test contains the following scales, with the number of items in each listed in parentheses.

  • Criminal History (10)
  • Education/Employment (10)
  • Financial (2)
  • Family/Marital (4)
  • Accommodation (3)
  • Leisure/Recreation (2)
  • Companions (5)
  • Alcohol/Drug Problems (9)
  • Emotional/Personal (5)
  • Attitudes/Orientation (4)

Like the Hare Test, the item responses are tallied which results in an overall score for the person tested.


Now that you’ve had a go at the test, it’s a perfect time to make note of the characteristics you found to be most interesting. To make certain fictional characters are realistic, assign to them a few of these traits to add flavor, style, and personality.


Resources – Sage Journal, Psychiatric Times, Public Safety Canada, Assessments.com – LSI-RLevel of Service Inventory-Revised, Multi-Health Systems Inc. (MHS) – Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R) Profile and Associated Costs, Robert D. Hare and Matthew H. Logan, Criminal Psychopathy: An Introduction for Police.


“Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us”

by

Robert D. Hare, PhD.