“How to spot a psychopath”

Lay theories of psychopathy
  • Adrian Furnham
  • Yasmine Daoud
  • Viren Swami


The present study examined lay recognition of psychopathy and beliefs about the behavioural manifestations, aetiology, and treatments of psychopathy. A community sample of 232 participants completed a questionnaire consisting of a vignette-identification task, a ratings task of 45 attitudinal items about psychopathy, and demographics. Analysis of the vignette-identification data showed that participants were significantly less likely to correctly identify a case of psychopathy than they were of either depression or schizophrenia. Factors derived from principal components analysis of the attitudinal items revealed that participants generally believed psychopaths to be intelligent and to have criminal tendencies, and that psychopathy was likely caused by early trauma and stress. Overall, participants may have had monological beliefs about the manifestations, aetiology, and treatments of psychopathy. These results suggest that educational programmes are required to improve mental health literacy in relation to psychopathy among the general public.


psychopathy mental health literacy mental disorders antisocial personality disorder 


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of PsychologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Dept. of PsychologyUniversity of WestminsterLondonUK

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