‘The others, as well as being oriented to


‘The unscrupulous man will go and borrow more
money from a creditor he has never paid. When marketing he reminds the butcher
of some service he has rendered him and, standing near the scales, throws in
some meat, if he can, and a soup-bone. If he succeeds, so much the better; if
not, he will snatch a piece of tripe and go off laughing.’ (Theophrastus, 3 sec


is a mental disorder characterized by a lack of empathy and remorse, hidden
emotions, egocentricity and deception. Psychopaths are strongly inclined to
assume criminal behaviours and other aggressive acts towards others, as well as
being oriented to towards violent crime. Often they seem normal people: they
simulate emotions that do not actually prove, or lie about their identity
(Hare, 2009).

referred to a personality disorder (until the eighties) characterized by the
inability to attachment and an abnormality in the emotion management system,
masked by the ability to appear like a normal person (Helfgott, 2004, p.3).

Starting from the findings that the modern conception
of psychopathy is the result of several hundred years of clinical research made
by European and North American psychiatrists and psychologists, we will now
analyze several authors and theories from different eras, culture and
historical periods.

publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-III) changed the name used to define this mental disorder in antisocial personality disorder and it
increased the diagnostic criterion for behavioural sciences (Hare, 1996).

founded a series of Avanced Research Institutes on psychopathy, both before and
after the publication of the Scientific Diagnostic Manual-III (Patrik, 2005, p.
61). To Robert Hare (1991), Canadian researcher in the field of criminal
psychology, goes the merit of having invented the Hare Psychopathy Checklist
which is a method to differentiate antisocial personality disorder from
psychopathy. According to these studies, the spread of antisocial personality
disorder is two-three times higher than psychopathy.

It was the French psychiatrist Philippe Pinel (1801),
referring to a form of madness known at the time as la folie raisonnante, who noted that certain of his patient engaged
in impulsive and self-damaging acts, despite the fact that their reasoning
abilities were unimpaired and they fully grasped the irrationality of what they
were doing (p.9).

scientific study of individual cases failed to develop further until the second
half of the nineteenth century, when the Italian sociologist Cesare Lombroso
(1896) rejected the traditional theory that criminality can involve anyone, and
instead identified a particular type of ‘delinquent born ‘, defined as such
based on somatic evidence.

At the
beginning of the twentieth century, the British psychiatrist Henry Maudsley
(1876) published a work on the ‘moral imbecile’ in which he described the cases
of those irrecoverable persons by means of traditional correction systems.
Maudslay realized that this resistance derived from the punitive effects of
re-socialization, by making sure that the patients somehow activated some sort
of defense mechanism against their own future failures (p.77).


In 1887 Emil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist, identified
the ‘morally insane’ as suffering congenital defects in their ability to
restrain the reckless gratification of immediate egotistical desires (p.281). He
reffered to psychopathic states as one of several forms of degeneration, along
with such syndromes and obsessions, impulsive insanity, and sexual perversions.
In 1904 Kraepelin identified four types of personality who had features akin to
what we speak of today as antisocial personalities.

In 1909, Karl Birnbaum, writing in Germany at the time
of Kraepelin’s later edition, was the first to suggest that the term
‘sociopathic’ might be the most apt designation for the majority of these

The origin of the current description of Psychopathy
can be traced back to the work of Cleckley(American psychiatrist). In his book,
The Mask of Sanity by Hervey, Cleckley, delineated sixteen criteria for the
diagnosis of psychopathy (Cleckley,1941).

Along the
lines of Cleckley’s description of psychopathy, in 1980 Robert Hare developed
the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL), reviewed in 1991 and named Psychopathy
Checklist-Rivised (PCL-R), for the classification of adult psychopathy.