Book Project:

Psychopathy Unmasked
The Rise and Fall of a Dangerous Diagnosis

ABSTRACT

Psychopathy is a psychiatric diagnosis associated with callous personality traits and chronic antisocial behaviors. Psychopaths are described as dangerous social predators deprived of empathy and moral intuition, and while they are believed to only make up around 1% of the general population, forensic experts claim they are disproportionately responsible for the majority of violent crimes. Today, the psychopathy diagnosis is being widely used in the legal system to inform a variety of judicial decisions. Once an offender is diagnosed as a psychopath, they are likely to undergo enhanced detainment, such as receiving non-mitigated sentences, getting their parole request denied, being barred from rehabilitation programs, and juvenile psychopaths may be transferred to adult courts. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of offenders undergo a psychopathy assessment each year in North America. However, a growing number of experts have in recent years voiced concerns over the legal use of the diagnosis as more and more studies are challenging its scientific status and forensic utility. 

 

Psychopathy Unmasked: The Rise and Fall of a Dangerous Diagnosis aims to provide a critical rebuttal of psychopathy and its legal use, scrutinizing central claims about the diagnosis that have traditionally served to justify its role in forensic practices. The book surveys and discusses contemporary developments in psychopathy research where studies have consistently shown that diagnosed psychopaths – contrary to mainstream beliefs – are no more dangerous than, or psychologically different from ordinary non-psychopathic criminals. Based on these disqualifying findings, it is argued that we should end the use of the diagnosis in the legal system. 

Intended Readers

Psychopathy Unmasked is intended primarily for undergraduate and graduate university students who may be pursuing degrees in forensic psychology, psychiatry, social work, public policy, criminology, etc. The book can be adopted into core curriculum courses such as Introduction to Forensic Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Law and Mental Health, Crime and the Mind, Psychology of Criminal Conduct, etc.; courses that are usually listed as departmental and program requirements for the above-mentioned degrees. 

Status of the Work

Three chapters (1-3) and the introduction are currently ready, which amounts to ~40% of the total manuscript. The estimated timeline for a complete draft-version of the book is August 2023.