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Psychopathic Traits and Characteristics of a Psychopath

Many psychopaths share traits and characteristics in common. Check out these 20 psychopathic characteristics and traits. Can you spot them in someone you know?

There are many traits and characteristics of psychopaths. While psychopaths are individuals, they share many aspects of their personalities. The Hare Psychopath Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) outlines 20 characteristics of a psychopath categorized into four validated factors.

Interpersonal Traits of a Psychopath

Perhaps the most well-known interpersonal trait of a psychopath is their pathological lying. Psychopaths lie constantly to cover up their psychopathic traits and antisocial (often illegal) behaviors.

Other interpersonal characteristics of a psychopath include:

  • Glibness and superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Being conning and manipulative

Affective or Emotional Characteristics of a Psychopath

Of course, the emotions of a psychopath also have specific traits. One such emotional characteristic is the lack of remorse or guilt. This psychopath emotional characteristic explains why psychopathic killers can commit heinous acts such as murder and not feel bad about them.

Other affective psychopathic characteristics include:

  • Shallow emotions (emotions may be felt but in shallow and fleeting ways)
  • Callousness and lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own acts

Lifestyle Psychopathic Traits

Not only can psychopathic traits be seen in the emotions and interpersonal aspects but they can also be seen in the lifestyles of psychopaths as well. One such lifestyle trait is a parasitic lifestyle where the psychopath uses and feeds off of others. He or she likely does this by utilizing the interpersonal traits noted above.

Other lifestyle psychopathic traits include:

 A need for stimulation

  • A lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility

Antisocial Traits of Psychopaths

Antisocial traits of psychopaths are traits that go against society's conventions. For example, juvenile delinquency and early behavioral problems are antisocial traits that many psychopaths have. These severe problems leave parents wondering, "Is my child a psychopath?"

Other antisocial traits of a psychopath include:

  • Poor behavior controls
  • Revocation of conditional release (i.e. a revoking of parole)
  • Criminal versatility (i.e. where a psychopath is active in multiple types of crime)

Other Psychopathic Characteristics

Not all 20 checklist items on the PCL-R fit neatly into these factors. Additional psychopathic characteristics include:

  • Promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Many marital relationships

When Looking at Psychopathic Traits and Characteristics

When looking at a person and assessing psychopathic traits and characteristics, the PCL-R scores each item as a 0, 1 or 2 for how well each checklist item fits the person. That means that if these psychopathic traits only fit an individual somewhat, they likely aren't a psychopath even though they may share traits with one. The highest possible score on the checklist is a 40 and psychopaths score 30 or above. An average non-psychopathic criminal scores a 22 while a non-psychopathic, non-criminal scores about a 2. Essentially this indicates that many people do have several psychopathic characteristics but that doesn't make them a psychopath – only a preponderance of severe psychopathic traits does.


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next: Can Psychopaths Love, Cry and Experience Joy?
~ all articles on Personality Disorders
~ all Psycopath Articles

Last Updated: 21 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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