However, violence is only one possible manifestation of psychopathology (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Schmalleger, 2009). Individuals such as Bundy and Dahmer also represent the classic antisocial personality disorder which is not necessarily true of the vast majority of psychopaths, most of whom do not act out in criminally violent ways (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009. Schmalleger, 2009).
In principle, what is most relevant about individuals like Bundy and Dahmer is not the depravity of their crimes; rather, it is the overwhelming evidence of their ability to perpetuate a completely normal, even charming, false external personality. Dahmer, while a loner, was socially skilled enough to appeal to a large number of victims and maintained a perfectly ordinary lifestyle from every other perspective (Innes, 2007; Schmalleger, 2009). Bundy, in particular, demonstrates the manner in which psychopaths can manifest very high level of social functioning and professional achievement even while violating the most basic and fundamental societal rules and morals, and utterly without the remorse or fear that are typically associated with acts violence when they are committed by non-psychopathic individuals (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Innes, 2007; Schmalleger, 2009).
Examples of Psychopathic Personality in Contemporary Media and Society
Contemporary examples of psychopathic behavior in the media without the violent or criminal component would include individuals such as Jesse James, John Edwards, and Bernie Madoff. Jesse James, for instance, conducted illicit sexual affairs behind the back of his high profile celebrity actress wife in a manner that is difficult to understand from the perspective of anybody who genuinely hoped not to get caught. The casually duplicitous manner in which he appeared with is wife at public events and also conducted extramarital sexual affairs, reportedly, even while she was present in another room of his mechanic shop demonstrate the recklessness typically associated with psychopathic personalities.
Similarly, former Democratic presidential primary candidate John Edwards conducted an illicit affair simultaneous with his campaigning for the Democratic nomination and while his wife was publicly battling her cancer. Ultimately, it was widely reported that Edwards fathered a child with his mistress during this time and that he may have bought the silence of various individuals in the aftermath. The extremely casual nature of is disregard of the moral issues, as well as of the obvious certainty of exposure by virtue of his notoriety are both consistent with a psychopathic personality.
Finally, Bernie Madoff lived a high-profile life as a financial advisor, including serving on various financial industry advisory boards and even dispensing advice about recognizing investment fraud, all while perpetrating the largest fraudulent financial investment operation for decades. He maintained the outward appearance of a leading investment industry mogul while bilking thousands of people and organizations out of approximately 50 billion dollars, causing hundreds of personal bankruptcies and organizational failures, including charitable organizations and long-time personal friends. His lack or remorse throughout those crimes and since would suggest psychopathic personality traits.
Psychopathic personality describes a condition in which the individual does not experience the same types of controls over behavior as unaffected individuals. While the concept is typically confused with antisocial personality disorder by the lay public and media, it is a much broader category of psychological dysfunction that includes, but is not limited to, violent criminality and other manifestations of antisocial disorder. The hallmarks of psychopathic personality are the capacity to engage in highly inappropriate types of conduct and to violate fundamental social and moral obligations without remorse and the apparent inability of the psychopathic individual to empathize with others on any level that would ordinarily inhibit many of the types of conduct associated with psychopathic personality.
Whereas antisocial personality disorder frequently manifests itself in violent criminality, psychopathic individuals are typically very adept at maintaining the outward appearance of complete social conformity, normalcy, and even high achievement. Members of the psychological community are not in agreement in terms of the capacity of psychopathic patients to benefit from therapy. Generally, behaviorists and Freudian practitioners may believe that psychopaths can change whereas bio-psychological practitioners regard that as very unlikely, except, perhaps, with the use of pharmacological treatment.
Gerrig, R. And Zimbardo, P. (2009). Psychology and Life. New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Innes, B. (2007). Serial Killers: The Story of History's Most Evil Murderers. London:
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