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Psychopathy, Overview


In his 1941 work Mask of Sanity, Hervey Cleckley vividly described a group of individuals with no remorse for their wrong-doings, no empathy for their victims, and no apparent mental defects to explain their affective and behavioral anomalies.  Cleckley’s prototype, culled from years of clinical experience, formed the basis for the contemporary construct of psychopathy.

Definition and Conceptualization

A psychopath, as originally described by Cleckley (1941/1988), is “a biologic organism outwardly intact, showing excellent peripheral function, but centrally deficient or disabled in such a way that abilities, excellent at the only levels where we can formally test them, cannot be utilized consistently for sane purposes or prevented from regularly working toward self-destructive and other seriously pathologic results” (p. vii).  The term now typically connotes an individual who exhibits callousness in interpersonal interactions (lack of remorse,