Into the Mind of a Shrink

Psychopathic Times featured an article called Into the Mind of a Psychopath, blogged on Psychopath Free, copied from a 5/2/16 interview by Discover Magazine. But the article was more about Robert Hare than psychopaths.

hareinwoods.jpgRobert Hare, known as the “father of psychopathy,” is certainly a phenomenon worthy in himself of being studied. One of the consequences of his frequent study of psychopaths is a wariness which causes him to greet his interviewer with the words, “Let me see your eyes.” Despite the caution gained from having been burned in some of his interactions, Dr. Hare has retained an intellectual openness, the very thing that makes him most confusing. He has never reached a conclusive plateau in his understand of psychopathy. As such, he some made statements that seem (at least) to contradict each other. From the get-go, Hare approached psychopathy as a personality disorder. When the DSM dropped psychopathy from it’s list of personality disorders, substituting ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), Hare wrote, “Among the reasons my-eyesgiven for this dramatic shift away from the use of clinical inferences were that personality traits are difficult to measure reliably, and that it is easier to agree on the behaviors that typify a disorder than on the reasons why they occur. The result was a diagnostic category with good reliability but dubious validity, a category that lacked congruence with other, well-established conceptions of psychopathy. This ‘construct drift’ was not intentional but rather the unforeseen result of reliance on a fixed set of behavioral indicators that simply did not provide adequate coverage of the construct they were designed to measure.”

dsmsHe, on the other hand created his checklist (PCL-R) which is accepted as the “gold standard” for measuring and assessing psychopathy but it used only by in the penal system for risk assessment in deciding whom to parole. The disconnect between Hare’s definition of psychopathy and the DSM’s use of ASPD has continued to this day. Hare wrote, “the failure to explicitly bring personality back into the diagnosis of ASPD means that the disorder is ambiguous and continues to lack congruence with traditional conceptions of psychopathy.”

At times, Dr. Hare seems to have changed his mind about psychopathy even being a disorder. At a lecture he told his students, “Psychopaths are not disordered. They don’t suffer from a deficit. They’re simply different.” Discover explains that, despite the brain differentanomalies found in psychopaths, nurture is still considered an important factor. However,

“That’s part of the picture,” acknowledges Hare. “It’s just as reasonable, and more so in my mind, to interpret psychopathy as a developmental evolutionary thing,” he says, citing work by psychopathy specialists at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, a clinical and forensic hospital in Penetanguishene, Ontario. “They argue that psychopathy is not a disorder; it’s what they call ‘an adaptive lifestyle strategy,’ ” says Hare. “You can pass on your genes by having one or two children and investing a lot into their well-being. But we know psychopaths’ relationships are impersonal, that they favor the strategy of having a lot of children, and then abandoning them.” This biological adaptation theory qualifies psychopathy as an advantageous, albeit deplorable, method of genetic reproduction, not as a neurological disorder.

Disordered or Your Future?

So, instead of being people with a personality disorder, we might be the next step on the evolutionary ladder. Considering how dangerous Hare finds us, he must consider this a funpsychopathhighly daunting possibility. But the same Dr. Hare who once remarked we are “probably not very nice people,” said in an article printed in The Telegraph, UK, on May 16. 2016,  “It’s dimensional,” there are people who are part-way up the scale, high enough to warrant an assessment for psychopathy, but not high enough up to cause problems. Often they’re our friends, they’re fun to be around. They might take advantage of us now and then, but usually it’s subtle and they’re able to talk their way around it.”

One has to wonder what Hare would decide if he were given the power to put “psychopathy” back into the DSM. “But you have to be very careful with labels and treatment. Psychopathy might not be so disordered and unnatural; it’s something that we can probably work with, help them take advantage of and shape in a way that’s pro-social and productive, good for the individual and society.”

goodevilAre psychopaths evil? “I’ve never used these terms. Psychopaths can be dangerous and cause very serious problems in society. But I don’t know what the soul is. I think a better word is conscience, but what is that? Is it the concept of self-awareness? Can a computer think in this kind of abstract sense? I don’t think so, but maybe we’re also just a bunch of algorithms. It’s a mystery of human nature that makes my head hurt.” I like a man who thinks so hard that it makes his head hurt.

He has retired now but I doubt he will ever stop thinking and evolving.

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