Forensic mental health professionals’ perceptions of psychopathy: A prototypicality analysis of the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality in Sweden
Sörman, Karolina; Edens, John F.; Smith, Shannon Toney; Svensson, Olof; Howner, Katarina; Kristiansson, Marianne; Fischer, Håkan
Law and Human Behavior
Assessments of psychopathic traits are used on a routine basis in forensic evaluations across Westernized countries. Despite this, consensus has not yet emerged concerning what exactly are the “core” features of this construct. Moreover, relatively little is known about how practitioners in the field construe this disorder. This study explored perceptions and attitudes regarding psychopathy among individuals working in the forensic mental health system (N = 90) in Sweden. Participants provided prototype ratings of what they considered to be core psychopathy features based on the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP), a model that increasingly is the focus of research in North America and Europe. The study protocol also included questions regarding (a) global perceptions and attitudes about a number of aspects of the psychopathy construct (e.g., personal experience, perceived prevalence), and (b) attitudinal scales that assessed perceived correlates of psychopathic traits across a variety of domains (e.g., violence proneness, treatment amenability) and moral judgments and attitudes concerning how psychopathic offenders should be treated within the legal system. The majority of the 33 individual CAPP items and the six CAPP scales were rated as at least moderately prototypical of psychopathy, with Dominance, Self, and Attachment domains obtaining the highest mean ratings. Participants viewed psychopaths as more likely to commit crimes than the average criminal, without being blatantly “evil” people. We believe our results help to advance our understanding of the psychopathy construct by exploring forensic professionals’ perceptions of this disorder in general and in relation to the CAPP model specifically.