Monday, November 14, 2011

4 Tips for Identifying and Interviewing a Psychopath

Interviewing a Psychopath

By Jane Smith

Here's Johnny!
Psychopathy and crime often go hand-in-hand. Although still not completely understood, psychopaths are the most deceptive and manipulative types of criminals and have long been involved in many cold cases. What makes dealing with psychopaths so difficult is that they wear a very convincing mask of sanity. Still, once identified, criminal investigators can learn to beat psychopaths at their own game. Whether you are a professional investigator or an amateur sleuth, here are a few tips for identifying and handling a psychopath.

1.      Familiarize yourself with the Hare Psychopathy Checklist:

The Hare Psychopath Checklist is considered the standard criteria for identifying a psychopath. If you feel as though you are dealing with a potential psychopath, it’s best to familiarize yourself with this checklist before sitting with them in an interrogation room. The most obvious signs are a strong lack of remorse for the committed crime, an apparent inability to empathize with the suffering of others, and strong self-aggrandizement. 

2.      Investigate the interviewee’s past criminal behavior and look for patterns.

Although personality traits noted in the checklist that are observed when speaking with a potential psychopath are a good way to identify one, there are many non-psychopathic individuals who display these same traits. Past criminal behavior in conjunction with your personal observations is a better indicator of the possibility of psychopathy. Psychopaths often have long histories of crime, particularly violent crime. Crimes are often committed in patterns—psychopaths prefer crimes in which they must manipulate and control their victims. Crimes are also very methodically planned out and deliberate. 

3.      In the interrogation room or interview setting, purvey a sense of disinterested objectivity.

The ultimate purpose of any criminal interrogation with a suspect is to leave the room with an implicating confession. While “normal” criminals will often cave after appealing to emotions, remember that a psychopath cannot process emotions the way that others can. As such, in the interview setting it is absolutely essential to stick to the cold, hard, objective facts. As noted in this Public Agency Training Council article:

“The interview of the psychopath is best accomplished when the interviewer bares in mind that the subject will not be swayed by pleas or appeals based on sympathy, remorse, regret or social obligation - as the psychopath is incapable of comprehending these concepts.  The interview should be based on a non-emotional format with the interviewer presenting the appearance that he or she already possesses all the known facts of the case.”

4.      Make the interviewee as comfortable as possible.
A confession from a psychopath normally occurs when they are made to feel as though a confession will benefit them in some way. Psychopaths love to feel as though their crimes are clever and impressive. It is thus important to create an environment in which your interviewee will feel free to talk about the crime on his own terms. 

Of course, it is important to remember that psychopathy is a very serious and misunderstood mental disorder, and correctly diagnosing an individual is difficult, even for professionals. At the same time, it pays to be aware of the possibility that you may be dealing with a criminal who is radically different, and more difficult to deal with, than anyone you’ve ever encountered. For more information on criminal psychopathy, check out this Scientific American article

About the Author
Jane Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. She writes about free background checks for Backgroundcheck.org. Questions and comments can be sent to: janesmth161@gmail.com

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