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Screening Tests for Psychopathy and Other Disorders of Aggression

Screening tests can be used to estimate the risk for violent or anti-social behavior — and prepare to treat it.

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Are the TriPM and ICU “Psychopath Tests”?

The TriPM is a valid and reliable assessment of psychopathy. The ICU is a valid and reliable assessment of callous-unemotional traits, which are a risk factor for psychopathy in youths. However, there are many other available tests. In detention settings (prisons, jails, and other detention settings), psychopathy may be assessed by a trained examiner using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) (there are several versions of this test). The PCL-R and related tests are sometimes referred to as “psychopath tests.”

A score above a 30 on the PCL-R has sometimes been used to determine that someone is “a psychopath.” However, psychopathy is a spectrum trait, no matter what scale is used to measure it. Risks for outcomes like aggression, crime, and other antisocial behaviors increase with higher scores on any psychopathy scale. But no psychopathy score can definitively predict a person’s future outcomes, and no single test represents a “gold standard” for assessing psychopathy. 

All validated measures of psychopathy have strengths and weaknesses and are more appropriate in some settings than others. The PCL-R test was created for use in forensic settings and requires a trained examiner to administer. As a result, it is not well suited for assessing yourself or someone you know.

Can the TriPM or ICU be used to diagnose psychopathy?

Scores on the TriPM and ICU are not clinical diagnoses. A person cannot be clinically diagnosed as a psychopath. For a mental disorder to be a clinical diagnosis, it must be listed in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) or The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5 (DSM-5), which are the manuals that mental health professionals use to diagnose mental illnesses. Psychopathy is not listed in these manuals.

However, scores on these measures of psychopathy can be used to compare a person’s level of psychopathy with typical psychopathy scores for people of their age and gender. They can be used to estimate a person’s risk for engaging in violent, criminal, or antisocial behavior.

A person with psychopathy can still benefit from a professional assessment. People with psychopathy may also have any of several recognized clinical disorders.


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Ask Me Anything

Have you ever wanted to hear someone diagnosed as a sociopath talk about what it’s like to be them–and to ask them your questions?

August 12th, 11am PDT on Zoom. Click below for more information and registration (limited to 50 attendees).