Lexical Model of Psychopathy

Some psychological disorders are horrible to look at and difficult to deal with. Psychopathy is one of those kinds of disorders. A psychopath lacks empathy and is indifferent to the welfare of others. Sadly, an agreed-upon definition of psychopathy doesn’t exist. It isn’t even included in the DSM-5 yet.

Historical background

Cleckley was the first psychologist to write a book on the condition. He came up with “The Mask of Sanity,” and it’s a classic on the topic. He was also the first person to regard psychopaths as abnormal. In his view, psychopaths are disordered individuals who can appear perfectly normal.

In psychological terms, this is called normalization. But normalization is different from being normal. Normalized individuals look normal, but they’re not. Now we know that psychopaths are masters at disguise and can scale great heights in society.

Such psychopaths are deemed “successful psychopaths” due to their great normalization skills. Many others who are not so successful end up being imprisoned or even sentenced to death. It is the natural outcome and the ultimate price for their wreaking havoc on society.

The second academic who took the topic seriously and came up with successive literature on the condition is Robert D. Hare, a Canadian psychologist. His work comprises mainly two books, “Snakes in Suits” and “Without Conscience.”

He is the same person who developed a twenty-item checklist to measure psychopathic traits in an individual. However, some psychologists criticize him for his bias against psychopaths. They also criticized the use of his checklist as a golden yardstick for measuring psychopathy.

Indeed, we should not deem a measure of the condition as a condition itself. Psychopathy and its measurements are two different things, and too much emphasis on a measuring tool is a serious problem.

The triarchic model of psychopathy developed by Patrick is the most significant achievement in the history of literature on psychopathy. This model delineates the core traits of a psychopath in only three words: meanness, boldness, and disinhibition.

The Triarchic model is a brilliant attempt, and it successfully portrays the core traits of a psychopathic personality. But it does not cover all the attributes of a psychopathic personality and misses some important ones. For example, egocentricity is not included in the model that is present in almost every psychopathic personality.

The lexical model of psychopathy

Because a lot of work has been done on psychopathy, it’s appropriate to converge the work done so far. The lexical model of psychopathy tries to carry out this unaccomplished task.

In the lexical model of psychopathy, four traits represent every aspect of a psychopathic personality. These traits do not correlate, but they encompass all the features psychopathy is about. The core traits of a psychopathic personality put forward by the lexical model include:

  • Egotism
  • Maliciousness
  • Insensitivity
  • Deceptiveness

All of these traits represent the core features of a psychopathic personality. Also, this model allows us to measure a psychopathic personality against these traits. Demarcation achieved can be used to define and explore different psychopathic personality types.

Egotism is an essential feature of a psychopathic personality. Psychopaths are known to have great self-love. Maliciousness represents a general tendency to harm others. Insensitivity refers to a lack of deep feelings and carelessness. Deceptiveness pinpoints the ability to con others and get away with it.

The main thing is that these four traits are the core traits of a psychopathic personality. According to this model, all the less-important features of psychopaths emerge from these core traits.


High Ranker is a self-taught psychologist and a freelance writer. He graduated in botany and likes to describe himself as a nature lover. He spends most of his time exploring different subjects and navigating existing academic research. He has a profound interest in health sciences and issues related to scientific research. When he's not writing something, you can find him talking to random people, reading a book, or gardening at home.

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