‘So, what is a psychopath?’ Venireperson perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes about psychopathic personality
Smith, Shannon Toney; Edens, John F.; Clark, John; Rulseh, Allison
Law and Human Behavior
This study surveyed over 400 individuals attending jury duty regarding various perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs they had concerning psychopathic personality (psychopathy). The protocol included (a) prototype ratings of what participants considered to be core features, using the Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP) prototype rating scale; (b) questions concerning knowledge and beliefs about psychopathy (e.g., prevalence in society); and (c) attitudinal scales concerning potential associated features (e.g., criminality, rehabilitation potential), etiological underpinnings, and moral judgments and legal sanctions. Consistent with results of earlier studies using expert raters, jury panel members rated most of the 33 individual CAPP items and all 6 CAPP scales as at least moderately prototypical, with Self and Dominance domains obtaining the highest mean ratings. Many participants also strongly endorsed symptoms of psychosis (e.g., delusions) as prototypical of psychopathy. Despite this, they viewed psychopaths as responsible for their own actions, as capable of determining right from wrong, and as generally not “insane.” Our findings indicate that jury panel members view the prototypical psychopath as highly dominant, self-focused, and lacking in remorse and empathy and reinforce the need for expert witnesses to clearly differentiate between psychopathy and psychotic-spectrum disorders.