Research has shown that just a little less than 1% of males, ages 18 and above in the United States are psychopaths.

What this means is that in the United States alone, 1,150,000 adult males would satisfy the criteria for psychopathy.

What’s more, of the 6,720,000 people in jail, prison, probation or parole, 16% or 1,075,000 of them are psychopaths as well.

This means that in America about 93% of adult male psychopaths are in jail, probation, parole or prison.

These are some fascinating facts and probably have you wondering how do I identify a psychopath or am I one?

The word psychopath has the power to evoke the thoughts of a fictionalized villain or serial murderer, but most times there are underlying signals that are exhibited by psychopaths on a daily basis that are usually overlooked.


What images flood your mind when you think of a psychopath?

Most likely it’s probably a scene from a thriller movie like Saw or perhaps the terrifying Hannibal Lecter?

Your thoughts may not be far from reality but most times it isn’t that obvious.

So what is it?

Psychopathy is a psychological diagnosis used in describing a particular set of symptoms. The condition is actually termed dissocial or antisocial personality disorder.

When affiliated with this disorder, a person will showcase various traits like superficial charm, lack of empathy, enhanced superiority complex, lack of remorse, impulsiveness and no behavioral control whatsoever.

Here’s the important fact about psychopaths.

A lot of people expect them to appear twisted and maniacal, but a lot of the time they just appear like regular people.

This is what kind of makes them more unsettling to the public.


Before you jump to the conclusion that the guy who lives across the street is a psychopath, contemporary research by Robert D Hare provides a proven and tested scientific psycho-diagnostic tool.

This diagnostic method is the most commonly used one to identify psychopathy.

But according to Hare, this test should only be considered true if it is administered by a suitably experienced and qualified clinician under licensed and controlled conditions.

However, before we dive into the Robert D Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL -R) let’s have a look at some of the basic signs of a psychopath.

1. Psychopaths Have Unstable Empathy

In a recent study 71.4% of psychopaths were seen to have undergone some sort of abuse as children.

What’s fascinating about this study is that the majority of them were abused emotionally more than most other forms of abuse.

This is one of the reasons why a psychopath isn’t concerned with the effects of his behavior towards others, whether it’s personal, financial, or social.

Basically, this is because psychopaths have very little emotions towards themselves or others.

Research carried out in 2013 studying the brain activity of different violent psychopaths, it was discovered that the area of the brain which is associated with the ability to mutually share suffering can be deactivated and activated at will by psychopaths.

While most of the time they lack empathy, a psychopath can voluntarily switch it on for the purpose of manipulating, charming or seducing someone else with a twisted goal in mind.

2. Psychopaths Easily Get Bored

A psychopath doesn’t experience boredom just because they are under-stimulated due to a slow day at work or a weekend night with no plans to go out but they usually face chronic boredom in every single area of their lives regardless of the activities.

A common school of thought is that the psychopaths mind frame is wired to be under-aroused than most people.

In other words, they need to be doing exciting things consistently to feel normal and get to regular levels of arousal.

What this means is that they will most likely be among the group of people who want to go out for drinks after a long day of work or engage in fun related activities.

3. Psychopaths are Quite Charming

This is perhaps one of the most frightening aspects of dealing with psychopaths and also very disarming. They possess the ability to hide their true nature and appear as charming as possible.

The psychopath would for example in an interaction easily pick a topic which you would find very important and would showcase a sympathetic point of view on the subject matter, most times with strong emotions in order to reinforce their words.

This isn’t just in relation to individual interactions but even in group interactions.

A psychopath would most times use a storyline to garner attention or draw people to them.

Also regardless of their location, whether in jail or at work, they usually have a crowd around them due to such storylines, but most times such stories are false.

4. Psychopaths Lie Frequently

A recent study done on a group of students showed that psychopaths do not have a stronger lying capacity than others but have a stronger trainability for lying.

Meaning they can easily become great at lying.

Psychopaths unlike pathological liars, who lie without compulsion or a goal in mind, tell lies that are very goal oriented.

They have a specific purpose for their lies and generally use manipulation and conning for their own selfish interest.

It’s basically about getting something out of someone else, like tricking a person into an emotional connection or out of something they possess.

This could be utilized in controlling a lover, getting promoted at work or even building a relationship.

5. Psychopaths have Short-term and Fictitious Goals

While it’s true that psychopaths have various twisted goals, most do not fancy realistic long term goals, they hold onto the belief of living in the moment rather than for the future.

This makes most of the goals they have to be for the present and disconnected from the future. Asides from this the goals they do possess are fictitious in nature and have no bearing to reality.

If for instance, you spoke to a psychopath in jail, he or she would tell you they want to be a medical doctor or police officer.

Their goals seem completely out of touch would reality.

6. Psychopaths have a Superiority Mindset

Psychopaths believe they are far better than anyone around them, which does assist their ability to switch off empathy and careless about the negative effects of their actions.

In an office, they would most likely be the ones that do not care about what their actions have on their team and they are also very hesitant to follow instructions that benefit the team as a whole unless it somewhat elevates them above others.

This would look like a very dominant or overly confident attitude but it could be hidden around a boss or someone who is a determinant to their success.

They basically perfect the art of hiding their true personas and play on the gullibility of people beneficial to their success.


The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised is a clinical diagnostic tool utilized in rating a person’s antisocial or psychopathic tendencies.

A psychopathic individual would prey ruthlessly on other people using violence, charm, and deceit or any method which will enable them to have their way with the person.

For instance, a survey done on various on serial killers in the United States revealed that over 31.8% of the killers, killed simply for fun or “enjoyment.”

Source: Vox

This is a classic case of lack of empathy, where psychopaths have to do whatever they want too just to fulfill their own desires even if it means killing another person.

If a patient has exhibited the various symptoms of psychopathy as listed above such as; the ability to turn empathy off and on, chronic lying, superiority complex etc.

Then the test is most likely for them, however, even without such symptoms, it can still reveal a psychopath.

The test was originally created for the assessment of individuals convicted or accused of crimes.

PCL-R test is made up of a 20-item symptom rating scale which lets qualified examiners to be able to make comparisons of the patient’s level of psychopathy with the level of a prototypical psychopath.

It is seen in numerous fields as the most reliable, authoritative and authentic method for knowing if psychopathy exists in a person and also the extent or degree of it.

The Hare Checklist despite its current broad applicability is still utilized in diagnosing people of the original group it was created for, which are adult males in criminal psychiatric hospitals, prisons and those who await psychiatric trials or evaluations in various detention and correctional facilities.

Asides from these the PCL-R also has massive usability in diagnosing sex offenders, inclusive of adolescent and female offenders.


This Test is used to diagnose people with psychopathy and it can be for medical purposes, legal purpose and even for research purposes.

The test has been very instrumental in determining the psychopathic tendencies of a person.

Due to the increase in the crime rate, the Hare Psychopathy test is beginning to gain increased importance in the legal sector.

It is now being used by law enforcement agencies as forensic evidence to determine the tendencies of convicted criminals and to determine the length of sentence they should be given.

The test has also been used by psychologists to counsel children, teenagers and adults to determine if they are psychopaths especially at a young age and to determine the kind of help that can be rendered to the psychopath.

In as much as this test is very instrumental in identifying the key features of a psychopath in a person, there are a few guidelines and precautions that must be followed.

Below are the guidelines and precautions.

1. This Test is not the Final Diagnosis

No matter how accurate and how apt this test is, it is not the final diagnosis.

This test is designed just to give you an idea of what tendencies you have.

It is just designed to give an idea, it is not a final diagnosis and it is not give a definite answer to whether or not a person is a psychopath.

The results of the test will help to give you an idea and then further diagnosis can be made based on the results of the test.

2. The Test Can’t be Conducted by Just Anybody

Even though this test appears very simple, it shouldn’t be conducted by just anybody.

Determining whether someone is a psychopath or not is a very delicate issue and it can have an emotional effect on the family, friends and even the patient himself.

There are other steps that need to be taken when a person passes the test, such steps include counseling.

To ensure that the person is not left emotionally distraught, the test should be carried out by a trained professional who is familiar with psychopathy and how to handle a psychopath.

3. The Test is Exclusively for Professionals

This guideline looks similar to the second one but it is different.

The fact that a person is a medical doctor doesn’t make him a professional in all medical fields.

The same applies to every other area in life including taking a psychopathy test.

Not just any doctor should administer this test.

The only recommended group of people that should moderate and examine this psychopathy test are professionals that have an advanced degree in a behavioral, social science or medical field.

Also the professional must be registered with a well-known organization that specializes in psychological and psychiatric testing and procedure.

These professionals are well trained in handling issues that pertain to psychopaths and taking the psychopathy test.

Having mere head knowledge about the human behavioral pattern is not enough a reason to consider yourself worthy enough to carry out a psychopathy test on someone, knowledge, and experience is what gives the expert an edge over you when it comes to handling cases like this and it is wise to leave the work for the expert.

It is important to note that it is recommended that professionals who administer this test be people who have had years of experience working with criminals, this will make it easier for them to determine the outcome of the test.

4. The Test Must be Carefully Carried Out

The results of psychopathy tests are often used in legal cases and can be used as evidence in courtrooms so it is important to be careful while conducting the test on a person and to ensure that there is no mix-up in the answers.

In addition, since the results are used as evidence in legal cases, it is important for the person who is administering the test to be eligible or legally qualified to stand as a witness in the courtroom when necessary.

This is another reason why the test can’t be carried out by just any person because the credibility of the results of the test will be questioned if it was not carried out by a professional who is eligible to stand as a witness when necessary.

5. Two Different Professionals Must Administer the Test

For accuracy purpose, it is advisable that two different professionals administer the test independently to a person.

By doing so the results will be more accurate and what one expert accidentally omits, the other will be able to identify.

After the subject is tested independently with the same test questions, the results from the two experts will be compared and the average score will be gotten.

The average score of the two separate results will determine the final rating of the test.


The Hare PCL consists of two segments. The first is a structured interview while the second segment entails the checking and reviewing of the history and file records of the person being tested (the subject).

During the interview, the professional will ask questions revolving around the general behavior of a psychopath.

Questions will be asked to determine the nature of the interpersonal relationship of the subjects as well as his/her response to people and situations around him/her.

The lifestyle and emotional involvement of the subject will also be tested.

The aim of all these questions is to know whether or not the person or subject has an antisocial and unstable lifestyle or if he victimizes other people without feeling any remorse.

As part of the interview, the family status, educational history, work history, marital or family status, as well as his criminal background, will be evaluated too.

You may be wondering why all of this is necessary, well it is important because chances are that the person is a psychopath and most psychopaths are pathological liars, they lie without flinching and the only way you can know that the answers they provide are the correct answer is by cross-checking the history of the subject.

Via the answers to the test questions, it is possible for the character and behavior to be properly assessed for any trace of psychopathy.

But the fact that someone around behaves in an irrational manner is not enough reason to tell if he or she is a psychopath.

To be sure about the authenticity of the suspicion, a test will be carried out on the subjects.

Below are the questions asked by professionals when administering the psychopaths test to a subject:

  1. Do you have “excess glibness” or superficial charm?
  2. Do you have a grandiose sense of self-worth?
  3. Do you have an excessive need for stimulation or proneness to boredom?
  4. Are you a pathological liar?
  5. Are you conning or manipulative?
  6. Do you display a lack of remorse or guilt?
  7. Do you have a “shallow effect”?
  8. Are you callous, or do you lack empathy?
  9. Do you have a “parasitic lifestyle?”
  10. Do you have poor behavioral controls?
  11. Do you have a history of promiscuous sexual behavior?
  12. Do you have a history of early behavioral problems?
  13. Do you lack realistic long-term goals?
  14. Are you overly impulsive?
  15. Do you have a high level of irresponsibility?
  16. Do you fail to accept responsibility for your own actions?
  17. Have you had many short-term “marital” relationships?
  18. Do you have a history of juvenile delinquency?
  19. Have you ever experienced a “revocation of conditional release”?
  20. Do you display “criminal versatility”?

Each question on the list can be awarded 0, 1 or 2 (score) based on the performance of the subject. If the subject is a psychopath, he will most likely score thirty points or more, the maximum score for a psychopath is 40.

Once a person scores thirty or more than thirty, he should proceed further to have a diagnosis of psychopathy carried on him.

On the other hand, people who have no trace of psychopathy will score between 0 to a maximum of 5. Criminals who do not have any trace of psychopathy will most likely score a maximum of 22.

This test is one of the few tests in the world that having a low score in it can actually be good news and scoring high may be a sign that something is off.

If you scored 30 or more in this test, it is advisable that you go for further diagnosis and seek professional medical help and also see a psychiatrist or a counselor.


Psychopaths are quite deceptive individuals and without a proper way to identify one, they can fool just about anyone into believing what they portray themselves to be based on their specific goals per time.

This is why for The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised Test, which enables qualified persons to be able to adequately diagnose cases and degrees of psychopathy effectively.

However, a lot of symptoms of a psychopath can easily be overlooked so endeavor you take a shot at the test and see what you score! Remember though this test only holds water when carried out by a professional.

If You Score Above 30 on this Test, You Might be a Psychopath

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