Subclinical Psychopathy and Empathy

University essay from Högskolan i Skövde/Institutionen för kommunikation och information

Abstract: Psychopathy is a severe personality disorder that results in antisocial, manipulative, and callous behavior. The main diagnostic instrument for assessing psychopathy is the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. This thesis will introduce the psychopathy construct, including what is known as subclinical psychopathy. Subclinical psychopathy refers to individuals who exhibit many of the characteristics of psychopathy, except for some of the more severe antisocial behaviors. This constellation of traits allows the subclinical psychopath to avoid incarceration. The fundamental difference between clinical and subclinical psychopaths is a major question in the field of psychopathy and is the main theme of this thesis. Impaired empathy is one of the key aspects of psychopathy and it may be a significant factor in both clinical and subclinical psychopaths. Subclinical psychopathy may be related to a moderated or altered expression of empathy. Hence, the empathy construct is a secondary concern in this thesis. This thesis has two aims: (a) to argue that the conceptualization of subclinical psychopathy is flawed and needs revision in accordance with less ambiguous criteria; and (b) to present data in support of the hypothesis that subclinical psychopaths have intact, or even enhanced, cognitive capacities in contrast to clinical psychopaths.

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