Does a Psychopath Test Exist? Diagnosing the Psychopath

The PCL-R psychopath test has been in use for decades. Learn about how psychopath personality tests are given and the questions on the psychopath test.

Psychopaths are some of the most dangerous people in society, but is there a psychopath test that can identify them? As it turns out, yes, a psychopathic personality test does exist and has shown to be very accurate in diagnosing psychopathy as well as predicting future violent acts. The psychopath test is based on the psychopathic traits and characteristics of a psychopath.

History of the Psychopath Test

Until the 1970s, there was no test for psychopathy as psychopaths were not understood well enough, but, at that time, Canadian psychologist, Robert D. Hare, developed a checklist (the Psychopathy Checklist; the PCL) to be used in assessing psychopathy in individuals. This checklist, or psychopath test as some referred to it, was designed, in part due to work done with male offenders and forensic inmates in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Since that time, a revised version of the checklist (PCL-R) has been produced and used in many studies to identify psychopaths. This test is considered to have high reliability and validity and is widely used in the criminal justice system to identify offenders at high risk for reoffending and, in some cases, the score achieved on the checklist may affect parole request outcomes.

What Is the Psychopathy Test (Checklist)?

Hare developed a 20 item checklist in the PCL-R. Currently, each of the questions is divided into one of four factors or categories. The four factors of the PCL-R are:

  • Interpersonal
  • Affective (emotional)
  • Lifestyle
  • Antisocial (behaviors)

This psychopathy test or checklist is designed to be filled out by a healthcare professional and not the individual him or herself.

How the Psychopath Test is Taken

The items on the checklist are not really questions but more of a trait that the professional assesses as to whether it fits the individual or not. For example, how well does the term "conning-manipulative" fit the individual? Each psychopath checklist item is scored between zero and two to indicate its relevance.

The Psychopath Test Questions

As stated, each item on the psychopath test checklist is really a trait or psychopathic symptom and not a question. The following are the traits listed on the PCL-R:

  1. Glibness-superficial charm
  2. Grandiose sense of self-worth (narcissistic psychopath)
  3. Need for stimulation
  4. Pathological lying
  5. Conning-manipulative
  6. Lack of remorse or guilt
  7. Shallow affect
  8. Callous-lack of empathy
  9. Parasitic lifestyle
  10. Poor behavior controls
  11. Promiscuous sexual behavior
  12. Early behavioral problems (Do child psychopaths exist?)
  13. Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  14. Impulsivity
  15. Irresponsibility
  16. Failure to accept responsibility
  17. Many marital relationships
  18. Juvenile delinquency (behavior of psychopathic children)
  19. Revocation of conditional release
  20. Criminal versatility

It's important to note that professionals that use the PCL-R are specially trained in how to assess each item on the checklist as well as how to score it and so an individual cannot, reliably, assess his or herself.

Scoring the Psychopath Checklist

As mentioned, each item is scored from zero to two meaning that the highest score possible is a 40. The higher one scores, the more likely the person is a psychopath. Typical scoring groups include:

  • Low – 1-20
  • Medium – 21-29
  • High – 30+

Thirty points or above on the PCL-R is considered a psychopath. People with no criminal background tend to score around a five and criminals who are not psychopaths tend to score around a 22. If you want, you can take the psychopath test here. It's instantly scored.

Am I a Psychopath Test?

Unfortunately, there is no way for an individual to reliably use this or any other test to assess whether he or she is a psychopath. If psychopathy is suspected, the best thing an individual can do is see a psychiatrist who specializes in psychopathy for an assessment. That said, very few, if any, psychopaths would likely take this step as psychopaths are not typically distressed about being psychopaths and thus have no motivation to change or even receive a diagnosis.

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 17). Does a Psychopath Test Exist? Diagnosing the Psychopath, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Last Updated: January 28, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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