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Psychopaths are people who have suffer from a constellation of traits, particularly Cluster B personality disorders which are antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. Psychopaths typically display characteristics of all these three personalities, plus they may also, in addition, display paranoid and sadistic traits.

PCL-R model of psychopathy

The PCL-R is used for indicating a dimensional score, or a categorical diagnosis, of psychopathy for clinical, legal or research purposes. The different factors correlate with borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. It is rated by a mental health professional (such as a psychologist or other professional trained in the field of mental health, psychology, or psychiatry), using 20 items. Each of the items in the PCL-R is scored on a three-point scale according to specific criteria through file information and a semi-structured interview. A value of 0 is assigned if the item does not apply, 1 if it applies somewhat, and 2 if it fully applies. In addition to lifestyle and criminal behavior the checklist assesses:

  • glib and superficial charm,
  • grandiosity
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulating,
  • lack of remorse
  • callousness
  • poor behavioral controls
  • impulsiveness
  • irresponsibility
  • denial
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behavior problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • juvenile delinquency
  • revocation of conditional release
  • criminal versatility

The scores are used to predict risk for criminal re-offense and probability of rehabilitation.

The current edition of the PCL-R officially lists three factors (1.a, 1.b, and 2.a), which summarize the 20 assessed areas via factor analysis. The PCL-R is used for indicating a dimensional score, or a categorical diagnosis, of psychopathy for clinical, legal or research purposes. It is rated by a mental health professional (such as a psychologist or other professional trained in the field of mental health, psychology, or psychiatry), using 20 items. Each of the items in the PCL-R is scored on a three-point scale according to specific criteria through file information and a semi-structured interview. A value of 0 is assigned if the item does not apply, 1 if it applies somewhat, and 2 if it fully applies. In addition to lifestyle and criminal behavior the checklist assesses:

  • glib and superficial charm,
  • grandiosity
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulating,
  • lack of remorse
  • callousness
  • poor behavioral controls
  • impulsiveness
  • irresponsibility
  • denial
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behavior problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • juvenile delinquency
  • revocation of conditional release
  • criminal versatility

The scores are used to predict risk for criminal re-offense and probability of rehabilitation.

The current edition of the PCL-R officially lists three factors (1.a, 1.b, and 2.a), which summarize the 20 assessed areas via factor analysis. The previous edition of the PCL-R listed two factors. Factor 1 is labelled "selfish, callous and remorseless use of others". Factor 2 is labelled as "chronically unstable, antisocial and socially deviant lifestyle". There is a high risk of recidivism and mostly small likelihood of rehabilitation for those who are labelled as having "psychopathy" on the basis of the PCL-R ratings in the manual for the test, although treatment research is ongoing.

PCL-R Factors 1a and 1b are correlated with narcissistic personality disorder. They are associated with extraversion and positive affect. Factor 1, the so-called core personality traits of psychopathy, may even be beneficial for the psychopath (in terms of nondeviant social functioning).

PCL-R Factors 2a and 2b are particularly strongly correlated to antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder and are associated with reactive anger, criminality, and impulsive violence. The target group for the PCL-R in prisons in some countries is criminals convicted of delict and/or felony. The quality of ratings may depend on how much background information is available and whether the person rated is honest and forthright.

Psychopathy Checklist-Revised: Factors, Facets, and Items

Factor 1

Facet 1: Interpersonal

Facet 2: Affective

  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Emotionally shallow
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Factor 2

Facet 3: Lifestyle

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility

Facet 4: Antisocial

Other Items

  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior

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