Discussion on "Without a Conscience" by Robert D. Hare
The Psychopathic Characteristics
Scientific Reasons of Psychopathy
Psychopathic Behavior and Forensic Psychology
Violence and Psychopaths
Most people would be terrified as well as perhaps intrigued by the word psychopath and visualize images of cold blooded and remorseless murderers or offenders that are depicted in TV serials or films. However Dr. Robert D. Hare, arguably the most well-known researcher of psychopath, describes such people as those who essentially suffer from personality disorder but are very aware of the results of their actions and have the sense between the wrong and the right (Hare, 2011). Such people are often hardly distinguishable in common life and seem to just like anyone else in society until their cruel side shows up.
Hare discusses these aspects of dual consciousness and cruelty and violence of psychopaths knowing very well the consequences of their actions in his book 'Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Amongst Us'. The book describes, with real life examples of patients and offenders that Hare had met and interviewed during his professional years, the traits and characteristics of psychopaths. Many consider this book to be a self-help book which can be used to identify and treat psychopaths (Kiehl, n.d.).
The book is of value to people and would help verify suspicions about people being psychopathic based on characteristics of psychopaths as described by Hare like people who 'have no real feelings or conscience' and are 'relentless users,' (Hare, 2011) who always keep devising tricks to manipulate others. The book also dwells into the scientific cause of psychopathic behavior and the ways to measure psychopathic behavior through forensic science (Davies, 2008).
The Psychopathic Characteristics
Hare describes a majority of psychopaths as people who might not have committed any real crime in the eyes of the law during their entire lives and yet they cannot be trusted. There is always a lurking fear about what such people can do when they are identified as being psychopaths (LaHaye and LaHaye, 1994). Hare calls such persons and social predators that mingles in the society with outward normal behavior but only to hide their real facade.
Hare suggests use of his Psychology Checklist to identify and discover true psychopaths in the society and among the people around. Hare claims that this checklist can serve as a tool for predicting the probability of criminals who are most likely to reoffend. Hare contradicts the common notion that the concept of antisocial personality disorder or conduct disorder for children cannot be used to describe psychopaths (Endres, 2004). He rather suggests identification of psychopaths according to the stricter criteria that he advocates in his checklist.
Hare describes the characteristics of typical psychopaths as being absolute self-centered persons who often tend to be impulsive. Such persons have a tendency to lie about a lot many things, even everyday mundane issues, with the sole aim of manipulating other people for personal gains. Often they resort to violence to get what they want or, in extreme cases, to derive pleasure from violence (Hare, 1999). Hare claims that psychopaths often indulge in silly things that amount to law breaking and land them behind bars. Despite all these traits and characteristics, psychopaths are often described to be charming and manipulative. This charm is used by psychopaths to dupe people and also to impress the administration to get early paroles.
Hare raises a question at this juncture about psychopaths inquiring about whether such people are merely calculative or they are impulsive and act on instincts. Another critical aspect is to explain the absence of conscience among psychopaths Hare's inquiry has made him sure that psychopaths do not feel any great sympathy for the persons that they cause hurt or injury (Ablow, 2003.). Hare raises the question about this aspect asking whether such people are driven by the lack of having any 'bad' feeling or is being non-sympathetic a personality disorder.
Hare observes that most of the psychopaths that he had interviewed were not in the habit of breaking the law and had probably never done that during their entire lives. However such persons never...
This they do to manipulate people around so that their 'grand' plan can be achieved. The primary instinct among psychopaths is that they really want to dominate others and have their way.
Hare further claims that such people are to be found all around in the society hiding their true facade under the veil of charm and simplicity (Davies, 2008). He argues that a miniscule percentage of psychopaths really get behind bars as most live normal lives outwardly. He claims that such people would be more harmful to the society than criminals as they are allowed to roam free in the society and cause harm to others. The book describes people with psychopathic criminal records and violence but also such people who are inadvertently normal and yet they have traits of psychopathic behavior concealed in them. He suggests that such people could manifest their psychopathic trait at any moment and yet not be acutely identifiable as psychopaths.
Scientific Reasons of Psychopathy
There are several schools of thought about the reasons for psychopathic behavior. Hare claims that some are genetic where as others a non-genetic.
Hare suggests the Arousal theory where he ascribes the psychopathic behavior among people to the low level of autonomic and cortical arousal and a high rate of activity in comparison to non-psychopathic people. The theory attributes the psychopathic behavior to a constant state of arousal among such people and their tendency of seeking stimulation which, according to Hare, explains why psychopaths do not react in conditions or stimuli that would be considered to be stressful, exciting, or frightening for non-psychopaths. This necessitates a greater intensity and variety of stimuli that would tend to increase the arousal level among them.
The theory is based on the assumption that a certain level is considered to be functionally optimum for non-psychopath individuals in reaction to a sensory stimulus. Hence when the arousal falls below the normal functionally optimum level, behaviors to seek stimulation happens to raise the arousal level. Since the functionally optimum arousal level in psychopaths is higher than in normal people, they need a greater sensory stimulus to reach the optimum level (Brytting, Minogue and Morino, 2011).
The neurobiological theory of psychopath suggests that such individuals are essentially different biologically from normal people. Hare seems to partially to this theory that claims that the complex brain structure in psychopaths is different and they do not show appropriate neural differentiation between abstract and concrete stimuli. Studies, according to Hare, suggested a moderate relation between genes and genetic influence on psychopathic behavior. While being uncorrelated with each other, fearless dominance and impulsive antisociality were also found to be linked genetically to a moderate degree. He also mentions the studied fact that while development of psychopathic behavior is influenced by genetic factors, surrounding environment factors influence some of the specific traits that psychopaths develop over time that dominate their behavior (Cohen et al., 2014.).
Other studies have linked psychopathic behavior to high levels of testosterone together with low levels of cortisol and serotonin. Studies seem to suggest that the combination of these three hormones heighten psychopathic behavior. The hormones have been attributed to the reduction of fear, sensitivity to rewards and behavior related to approaching situation. Some studies, suggested by Hare, have shown the relation between testosterone and antisocial or aggressive behavior while other studies suggest that testosterone alone does not cause aggressive behavior. Hence there seems to be lack of conclusive proof that could be definitely linked to psychopathic behavior. However there is experimental proof enough to suggest a link between bio-chemicals and psychopathic behavior. Other studies have also been carried out to link psychopathic behavior to the ration between HVA, a dopamine metabolite, and 5-HIAA, a serotoninmetabolite (Glannon, 2008).
Psychopathic Behavior and Forensic Psychology
Forensic psychology is used to have a measure of psychopathic behavior. Researchers have developed several methods and models to measure and link psychopathic behavior for forensic purposes. The measures are often used to ascertain the chances of a criminal committing an offence once again. Hare says (Hare, 2011) that such measures are used by law enforcement agencies to rate chances of paroles and to keep a watch on individuals who have the most chances of reoffending.
One of the first scales to measure psychopathy was PPI that has a list of 163 items which are subdivided into eight subscales. This scale is used to measure the personality traits that are associated with psychopathic behavior in an individual. But this scale is unable to measure the antisocial behavior in psychopaths. Another drawback of this scale is the propensity of psychopaths to lie as lying is one of major characteristics of psychopathic behavior and hence the scores in this scale need to be viewed with presumptions and decreases reliability.
The APQ scale measures psychopathic behavior and…
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