What Is the Hare Psychopathy Checklist?

S. Berger

Psychopathy is a mental condition that may include symptoms such as an inability to feel guilt or empathy for others, and it can sometimes contribute to criminal activities. Using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist is one way that psychopathic tendencies can be detected, particularly among individuals in incarcerated populations. When administered by a professional, this checklist's results may have serious consequences, such as assisting a judge in determining the nature and length of an offender's rehabilitation during sentencing. It was created with the intention to only be administered by a medical or psychiatric professional with a working knowledge of psychopathy.

The Hare Psychopathy Checklist may be administered to incarcerated individuals to detect psychopathic tendencies.
The Hare Psychopathy Checklist may be administered to incarcerated individuals to detect psychopathic tendencies.

Usually, the Hare Psychopathy Checklist is used in clinical or judicial settings, to evaluate the personality of criminal offenders or individuals in mental health treatment settings. Evidence shows that juveniles may be investigated with the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, as well. In terms of providing an actual clinical diagnosis, the scores on this checklist most closely correspond to antisocial personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition. Many times, the checklist may be administered to serve as a predictor of violent behavior.

Symptoms of psychopathy may include an inability to feel empathy for others.
Symptoms of psychopathy may include an inability to feel empathy for others.

The Hare Psychopathy Checklist, in its most recent form, called the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, consists of twenty questions, each related to various aspects of psychopathy. Additionally, the items are divided into two general categories, or factors, pertaining to the individual's personality and lifestyle. Some of the items, however, do not relate to either factor, and pertain to sexual, marital, and criminal history. An interview format is used to provide the checklist, and the interviewer may score each item on a scale of zero to two. Zeroes indicate that the individual does not display traits related to the item, a one is used when the item applies somewhat to an individual, and a two is used when the item nearly always applies.

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The Hare Psychopathy Checklist may be used to evaluate the personality of people in mental heath treatment facilities.
The Hare Psychopathy Checklist may be used to evaluate the personality of people in mental heath treatment facilities.

Among psychopathic individuals, a narcissistic personality can often be found. Items on the checklist that probe for narcissism relate to specific personality traits that are indicative of this nature. Lying, manipulation, and an inability to feel remorse may be among the traits that are tested for.

Many narcissistic personality types are quite promiscuous.
Many narcissistic personality types are quite promiscuous.

Often, evaluating an individual's personal history, or lifestyle, may help in determining whether the person shows evidence of psychopathy. The Hare Psychopathy Checklist, therefore, contains several items that investigate the lifestyle of the interviewee. Some of these items look at whether an individual feels the need for constant stimulation to avoid boredom, whether they were involved in criminal behavior as a child, or whether they have difficulties in setting and attaining feasible life goals.

A narcissistic person is able to fake normal behavior and emotions even if emotions are not genuinely felt.
A narcissistic person is able to fake normal behavior and emotions even if emotions are not genuinely felt.

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Discussion Comments


@Brazzlefratz: I agree that there are more people today that lack empathy for others and do cruel things for fun and seem to lack a conscience. Some of them are the folks who execute those few murderers and the kinds of things that one poster mentioned. That's what is really bad about society. Justice is not possible at all. The USA's politicians argue whether or not torture is an effective and justified means of conducting international affairs. Obviously, they lack empathy, feel no remorse, and are just looking for rationalizations to hurt people.

I'd say that Hilary Clinton is a sociopath (or a psychopath), one or another. She talks about human rights and bettering humankind in places like the Philippines and her program to better the life of young ladies who are brought from the Philippines to the USA to perform sexual acts is to punish the young ladies. Some of these young ladies are minors. Hilary's justification is "We will teach them that we don't do that here." Yep, that sounds like a sociopath to me. Then there is Myanmar. She goes to Myanmar to pave the way for better human rights in Burma – one of the worst human rights violators on Earth. She gets the grand red carpet treatment and has lots of photographs taken. She leaves and sends in the Minister of War. Thomas Jefferson had more class with the Native North American Indians. Andrew Jackson was a little more upfront without the floweriness.

There are more Hilarys and George W Bushes and bad sheriffs and bad judges who do bad things and enjoy it. They lack conscience, but some of them do tend to feel weepy if their penchants for cruelty are questioned.


Whether you lump Sociopathy and Psychopathy together, or call them separate personality abnormalities, they appear to me to be much of the same 'genus'. And I do not agree with the observation that they are rare. I think that there are a lot more of them in our society today than there were in the past, and I think that society may well carry an increasing responsibility for this.

We have gone from executing murderers to almost forgiving them; this is indicative of what happens when the pendulum is swung back too far. Correction of bad behavior has been ameliorated to the point that miscreants (particularly youthful ones) no longer see or feel the reasons to modify their behavior in order to obtain the approval of their peers. Indeed, many of their peers seem to almost encourage them to misbehave, and as a result those 'beings' consider that they can do as they please when they please without fear of any consequences.

I'm not saying that those who throw litter out of car windows are sociopaths or psychopaths per se, but the picture is reasonably clear. They only behave like that because they have been allowed to get away with it in their formative years, and once they approach adulthood, the pattern is beginning to set somewhat like concrete. By that time, the only standard that they choose to abide by is their own, and that has little to nothing to do with society's mores.

The worst of it is that eventually, they do something so bad that society is forced via the law to take action against them, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of public funds are then spent on prosecuting them and removing them from society (all too often for a relatively short period of time), when what should have been spent was a relatively inexpensive firm hand at the time when those people's behavior could well have been modified to an acceptable standard with just a 'good thick ear'.

It is said that the worst thing about Democracy is that it carries the seeds of its own destruction; it allows dissent. I would venture that the same thing applies to modern society in its approach to 'political correctness' and the handling of persons who, in days gone by, would have been given a good thrashing and taught to behave themselves. The modern approach of being submissively gentle is clearly not working.

Our law makers need to take heed of what is going on instead of blindly following their political masters regardless of the (lack of) logic. When a first time drug offender with no previous record gets an automatic sentence greater than a rapist, common sense has clearly been flushed down the sewer in favor of a minority group's fervor (or fanaticism if you will).


@KoiwiGal: You really need to get rid of that belief in your so called "professionals". They've diagnosed me wrong time and time again, for ages. They have to rely on the information they are given, and then follow protocols. Trust me it really doesn't work that well, I've had "outstanding doctors"(or whatever you call these overpaid fools), they didn't help in the least.

Trust your intellect, your mind and think. Consider the information from a detached perspective, and never think of anything as a certainty. Such a thing does not exist.

I do agree with you in part though, be thorough, and don't make any hasty assumptions.


@pastanaga - Oh, I definitely agree that something needs to be done in a lot of countries in regards to mental health. However, I'm not sure that psychopathy is one of those illnesses that can always be diagnosed until something has already gone wrong.

Often a psychopath is adept at hiding their symptoms and it's not a coincidence that one of the things they look for in the Hare checklist is "superficial charm". There's a reason that so many people manage to get taken in and manipulated by psychopaths, they put up a really good front.


@KoiwiGal - I think the problem is that people think the condition has some kind of glamour to it. You hear about psychopaths on the news who get a lot of attention and perhaps people think they stand for something, even if that something is anarchy.

Young people who feel disillusioned with life can be drawn to that kind of attention and "ideals" thinking perhaps that the reason they feel different is because they have this condition (or any other number of conditions).

Generally, though, the checklist is considered one of the only ways to truly diagnose this condition and it's usually used in a more or less ethical way.

What I think is sad is when people with these sorts of traits slip through the system because the system basically can't cope with the number of people who need help. There have been several reported cases in the last few decades of people who have been known to have serious mental illness, and have been allowed to walk free and eventually kill someone because there wasn't enough funding or staff to keep them safe even if they asked for it.


You really need to be careful to put too much stock into this test if it isn't delivered by a licensed professional in clinical conditions. There seems to be a trend online that people take tests and get others to take them, and then think the results are really indicative of an illness.

But, this particular diagnosis is taken quite seriously by medical professionals and a true psychopath is rare. If someone is misdiagnosed, they could suffer from future consequences, particularly if they are already in the legal system.

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