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« PEBS Neuroethics Roundup (JHU) | Main | Are Psychopaths Mad or Bad? (Andrew Vierra) »

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Andrew,

Thanks for your interesting series of posts so far on Professor Kolber's blog. This is a question that has undoubtedly occurred to many over the course of President-Elect Trump's campaign. Given the confusion in the popular media and the public about the concept of psychopathy, I wanted to comment on this post.

Your introduction notes that depending on the test, one may reach different conclusions about whether President-Elect Trump (or any other individual) qualifies as a "Psychopath." The DSM indeed notes that ASPD has variously been referred to as psychopathy or sociopathy. However, I think this lumping overlooks fundamental distinctions between the different methods of diagnosing various similar disorders that are not necessarily "psychopathy" (as Hare construes it) - though Cleckley did influence the DSM. (I will note, I too am not a psychiatrist.)

Many critics of this lumping approach note that it fails to distinguish between people that may qualify for one disorder, but not the other. For instance, the linked article (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16756576) notes that far more inmates qualify as having ASPD than Psychopathy. In essence, the lumping is a lay phenomenon, the existence of which the DSM has chosen to acknowledge. Given the detail of Hare's PCL-R (its 40 items vs. 7 in the DSM), I think the oversimplification and lumping is indeed a problem. Thus, I think its fair to say that the DSM diagnoses ASPD, but not really psychopathy. I think this is all the more important in a legal context where the diagnosis of psychopathy has such dire consequences (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/337/6096/846).

I look forward to reading the rest of your discussion on psychopathy in the coming weeks.

Best,

Adam

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