Criminal Psycopathy in the Media

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Criminal Psychopathy in the Media

Crime is seen in the media on a daily basis. It is seen on television, movies, news broadcasts and even children’s cartoons. Crime is sensationalized in our society and society seems to have an increasing interest in crime therefore the crimes seen are often murders or serial murders due to the fact that the most severe and disturbing crimes seem to intrigue the public the most. When serial murders are seen we tend to associate certain qualities to that type of sadistic criminal; this is often psychopathy. What is often overlooked is the accuracy of the information we are receiving from these television shows. The purpose of this paper is to look at the research and facts of psychopathy and compare it to its comparison in the popular media. Psychopathy is a personality disorder that displays a collection of interpersonal, affective and behavioural characteristics. Psychopaths are manipulative individuals who engage in impulsive and antisocial acts. They display a lack of feelings, remorse or shame when doing things that have a negative impact on others. Other characteristics seen in psychopaths include superficial charm, good intelligence, unreliability, untruthfulness, inadequately motivated antisocial behaviour, failure to learn from experience, pathological lying, egocentricity, failure in affective relations and failure to follow any life plan. (Pozzulo, Bennell & Forth, 2006). They seek vulnerable victims for their own benefit Psychopathy is determined using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) created by psychologist Robert D. Hare. There are 20 items on the checklist that are scored on a 3 point scale. It assesses interpersonal (eg. Superficial charm , pathological lying) affective (eg. lack of remorse, shallow emotions) and behavioural (eg. anti-social acts, proneness to boredom) characteristics. (Pozzulo, Bennell & Forth, 2006). Each of the 20 items in the PCL-R is scored on a 3-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 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. When the process is complete, it is divided into high scoring (psychopaths), middle scoring(mixed group) and low scoring(non-psychopath) (Pozzulo, Bennell & Forth, 2006) Psychopathy typically does not occur randomly during adulthood but develops during adolescence and is often due to environmental factors in their upbringing. Three behaviors; bedwetting, cruelty to animals and fire-starting, known as the Macdonald triad, were first described by J.M. MacDonald as possible indicators, if occurring together over time during childhood, of future episodic aggressive behavior. (J. M. MacDonald, 1963) It has been suggested that this is a subgroup of early onset conduct disorder distinct from the larger group by having less deficits in inhibition, less fear and anxiety, less emotional reactivity and emotional negativity, more boldness and/or meanness, less intellectual impairment, and less exposure to poor parental practices although parental practices do affect outcomes for this group (Skeem, J. L, Polaschek, D. L., Patrick, C. J., Lilienfeld, S. O, 2011). Psychopathy is associated with criminals due to the fact the personality traits displayed are compatible with a criminal lifestyle. Their personality conflicts with the norms implemented in society making them likely to commit crimes. The primary difference between psychopaths and other criminals is that the psychopath is incapable of experiencing guilt, empathy, or remorse. As a result, psychopaths commit far more acts of violence than other criminals. Due to the fact they feel no guilt about their crimes and have difficulty controlling their impulses, psychopaths have higher...
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