Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Court psychopath test revealed

A 2011 book, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, by Jon Ronson exposes Robert D. Hare's Psychopathy Checklist, Revised (PCL-R). The test is kept secret, and is the leading psychopath test used in court. You can temporarily get the text of the book here.

Hare is a bit of a psychopath himself, and has gotten rich and famous from this test, and has even sued to block criticism for 3 years in an academic paper:
The paper is a critique of a rating scale that is widely used in criminal courts to determine whether a person is a psychopath and likely to commit acts of violence. It was accepted for publication in a psychological journal in 2007, but the inventor of the rating scale saw a draft and threatened a lawsuit if it was published, setting in motion a stultifying series of reviews, revisions and legal correspondence. ...

Dr. Skeem and Dr. Cooke warned in their paper that the checklist was increasingly being mistaken for a complete definition of psychopathy — a broader personality construct that includes deceitfulness, impulsivity and recklessness, though not always aggression or illegal acts. The authors contended that Dr. Hare’s checklist warps that concept by making criminal behavior a more central component than it really is.
Hare was furious that the above book told too much about his PCL-R:
Ronson received permission from the organizers to attend the workshop to facilitate research for his book, with a clear indication that the workshop would not qualify him to use the PCL-R. As a participant in the workshop, he was privy to a considerable amount of empirical information, mostly available in the literature on psychopathy, and a copyrighted Item Handout –- that we require participants to return at the end of the workshop –- containing formal detailed descriptions and scoring criteria for each of the 20 PCL-R items. Ronson included in his book item-titles (OK) and brief excerpts (not OK) from the Item Handout. ...

I particularly was disturbed by some of Ronson’s contrived descriptions of his interactions and conversations with me. For example, not only does he conflate my early studies of threatened pain (mild shock to the fingers) with much later ones on brain function, his descriptions of these early studies and my reactions to them are convoluted, and false. Referring to these studies (pp. 95-96) Ronson said, “It was inevitable that civil rights groups would eventually force a reining in of the experiments. And sure enough, disastrously for Bob Hare, electric shocks were outlawed in the early 1970s …. He seemed annoyed by the legislation, even now, years later.”
I think that scientific and court data should be public, but I don't want Hare suing me. He says that the item titles are okay to publish, so here they are:
The Hare PCL-R Checklist - Trait

Item 1: Glibness/superficial charm
Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth
Item 3: Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Item 4: Pathological lying
Item 5: Conning/Manipulative
Item 6: Lack of remorse or guilt
Item 7: Shallow affect
Item 8: Callous/lack of empathy
Item 9: Parasitic lifestyle
Item 10: Poor behavioral controls
Item 11: Promiscuous sexual behavior
Item 12: Early behavior problems
Item 13: Lack of realistic long-term goals
Item 14: Impulsivity
Item 15: Irresponsibility
Item 16: Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Item 17: Many short-tem marital relationships
Item 18: Juvenile delinquency
Item 19: Revocation of conditional release
Item 20: Criminal versatility
As you can see, this is just a list of character flaws, and not a singular psychological disorder. Hare has even admitted that his psychopathic test-takers break down into two factors, (1) aggressive narcissism and (2) socially deviant lifestyle. Furthermore these break down into (1a) narcissistic personality disorder and (1b) histrionic personality disorder, and to (2a) antisocial personality disorder and (2b) criminality. And even these factors do not includes traits like promiscuous sexual behavior. Others say psychopathy is just a combination of boldness, disinhibition, and meanness.

Fortunately there is now a free psychopath test that is better than the PCL-R. You can take it online, if you wish. There are people sitting in prison because of Hare's prejudices, and the psychopath diagnosis needs to be better understood.

Some kids are alleged to be psychopaths:
Children with severe behavioral problems have a suppressed response to others' pain, according to new brain-scan research.

Researchers examined brain scans of kids with conduct disorder, which is marked by aggression, cruelty to others and anti-social behavior. Some kids with conduct disorder also display what psychologists call "callous-unemotional traits," which means they lack guilt and empathy.

The patterns seen in these children's brains may reveal a vulnerability to psychopathy in adulthood, researchers report today (May 2) in the journal Current Biology. Psychopaths are manipulative and lack empathy and remorse.
This is just psychobabble for bad behavior.

Meanwhile the NY Times reports on the DSM-5 that is about to be released:
“As long as the research community takes the D.S.M. to be a bible, we’ll never make progress,” Dr. Insel said, adding, “People think that everything has to match D.S.M. criteria, but you know what? Biology never read that book.”

The revision, known as the D.S.M.-5 and the first since 1994, has stirred unprecedented questioning from the public, patient groups and, most fundamentally, senior figures in psychiatry who have challenged not only decisions about specific diagnoses but the scientific basis of the entire enterprise. Basic research into the biology of mental disorders and treatment has stalled, they say, confounded by the labyrinth of the brain. ...

Dr. Insel is one of a growing number of scientists who think that the field needs an entirely new paradigm for understanding mental disorders, though neither he nor anyone else knows exactly what it will look like.
The DSM-IV has been the bible of clinical psychology because it was thought to be the most scientific thing. But as I have posted here repeatedly, there are more and more experts admitting that the DSM-5 is unscientific.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like my ex-wife, except for 11, 12, 17, 18, 19.

kurt9 said...

Any data or analysis used in a court case, particularly a criminal case, should be made completely public information. Any prosecution done on the basis of secret or proprietary information should be considered a violation the 4th amendment of due process. It is people like Hare and the courts that use his test that should be sued on constitutional grounds.