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The Psychopath As An Interrogation Subject

Stan Walters / PATC

One of if not the most challenging interviews or interrogations to conduct are that of the psychopath. Estimated by some experts to comprise about 7% of the world’s population, psychopaths make up approximately 55% of the U.S. prison population and are credited with committing roughly 80% of the violent crimes. The interview or interrogation of the psychopaths confirms that a standard or routine approach that is used with all other subjects will not be successful. As a personality disorder, a psychopath is marked by characteristics that include a lack of empathy for their victims, a total lack of personal insight, chronic lying, no remorse and a total lack of impulse control.

The traditional efforts of an interrogator are to attempt to highlight or emphasize within the subject a certain level of awareness and acceptance of responsibility for their behaviors. The psychopath has never and will never attain such level of awareness. These subjects’ behaviors are dictated solely in response to a narcissistic need for ego satisfaction. Psychopaths are incapable of identifying with or appreciating the level of physical, emotional or mental pain that they cause their victims, the victim’s families or their own families. To attempt to get the psychopath to recognize the feelings, fear, trauma or pain they have brought upon their multiple victims is literally a waste of both the interviewer’s and subject’s time.

Once a psychopath is stimulated by the awareness of his or her selfish wants and needs, there is very little that will stop them from driving toward their own self-serving goals. For anyone to believe that psychopaths will follow or adhere to any standards of appropriate social behavior or conduct is naïve at best. These subject’s perceive the world and its’ occupants as existing only for the purpose of serving their own needs that are not to be denied. It is for this very reason that psychopaths will rarely if ever respond to any punishment or threat of punishment, treatment or therapy for their inappropriate behavior. This is also evident in the broad range of and often-large number of anti-social behaviors in which the psychopath will engage.

Psychopaths possess a very high threshold of cognitive and emotional stimulation that requires behavioral extremes to maintain any form of satisfactory or stimulating life style. Coupled with a disregard for socially acceptable conduct, psychopaths are well known for engaging high risk, self-destructive behaviors that are also very devastating to those around them. Blatant sexually deviant behaviors and promiscuity, major acts of sado-masochistic behavior, abandonment of family, schoolwork and jobs are not uncommon as are multiple acts of fraud, deceit, and blatant abuse and manipulation of others.

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.

The dialogue with the psychopath should center on the following:

1. facts and specific examples of evidence and information;

2. that there are those who may in fact be impressed with the subject’s genuine individuality and independence;

3. that others around them are in fact weak and lack the fortitude to experience the fulfillment of life.

Threats of punishment are of no use.

One interesting point however is that it would appear that the more these subjects are allowed to talk and even pontificate or sound off, the stronger and more resistant they become. It will be imperative that the interviewer maintain focus and keep the subject on topic during the interview. Admission or confessions occur because the subject delights in his or her behavior, the evidence of how everyone is shocked yet awed by their audacity and, ultimately, that they feel in some way the admission or confession serves some other form of their ego-fulfilling needs.

About the Author

Stan B. Walters writes, teaches & does keynote speeches internationally on deception, interview & interrogation. He is regularly called on by the media as an expert to comment on high profile cases.


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    deweylandrum

    about 3 years ago

    12 Comments

    From everything I have studied, read, and heard, law enforcement is about the only group that really differentiates between a psychopath and a sociopath. The major difference being that a psychopath has organizational skills and often OCD. They are also usually better at hiding their emotions. Sociopaths tend to be disorganized in behavior and less able to control outbursts, which makes them easier to catch than the psychopath.

    I'm am by no means an expert in this area, but I thought the observation might be worth mentioning.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    CivilianGal

    about 3 years ago

    42 Comments

    I think that Sociopaths tend to act rashly and don't plan things out like a psychopath will. They're the "odd" character that was a loner and who "kept to himself" that the neighbors talk about to the media after an arrest.

    Psychopaths can, more or less, fit in better with society. If they can fake the empathy felt by normal people (as Bundy did) they can move through society virtually unnoticed. The lack of empathy is what can trip them up as they will act inappropriately or make inappropriate comments or even laugh when no one else would. These are the people the defense lawyers like to claim "grieve in their own way" to explain their lack of anyone's feeling's but their own. If you watch the Casey Anthony trial or Joran Van der Sloot who is suspected of killing Natalee Holloway and is in a Peruvian jail, accused in the bludgeoning murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez. (He is said to plead guilty, but claim temporary insanity at last word.) Both of these actors make me think of the psychopathic definition. The only thing they care about is themselves. I don't think a sociopath is as narcissistic. I think of the Unabomber as a sociopath, although he was anti-type as he was smart and did plan ahead. But I don't think he had some need for ego-fullfillment...he had his cause and that was the most important thing. He wanted to inflict the most harm possible on those he saw as the enemy.

    Above is my non-professional, but researched, opinion.

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    Recondo99

    over 3 years ago

    2532 Comments

    The interviewer can also approach the psychopath with a "what's in it for them " type of verbal strategy. Gain community notoriety, increase your "rep", become a jailhouse legend, show'em you're a stand-up guy, etc. ; anything that appeals to their selfish, egotistical way of thinking. LTC Tom Nugent

  • Policelinkbadge_max160_max160_max160_max160_max160_1__max50_max50

    WG_Cop

    almost 6 years ago

    52 Comments

    That was a very good article

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    liljenjen

    almost 6 years ago

    176 Comments

    Very Informative Artical.

  • Beckey_bail_enforcement_max50

    BigTroubleBrevard

    almost 6 years ago

    248 Comments

    Excellent!

  • Caduceus_max50

    headbrer

    about 6 years ago

    5490 Comments

    I'll get back to you on this, but I am fairly sure that there is a distinct difference in the DSM IV. I will get back here with the exact definitions.

  • Caduceus_max50

    headbrer

    about 6 years ago

    5490 Comments

    I'll get back to you on this, but I am fairly sure that there is a distinct difference in the DSM IV. I will get back here with the exact definitions.

  • Dock_max50

    BLG

    about 6 years ago

    250 Comments

    You guys are right, the two terms psychopath and sociopath are used almost interchangeably because they do share alot of the same characteristics. However, there is a distinct difference between the two. A sociopath generally has a lower education level and is constantly in trouble with the law his/her whole life. Psychopaths can be highly educated and more sophisticated in their mannerisms, even though these individuals commit horrendous crimes also, they have the ability to blend back in to society and conform to rules /norms and go undetected; they have a chameleon like affect. That is what makes psychopaths so dangerous, because of how clever and cunning they are. They are masters at maniuplating, but in a sophiscated, charming way if you will. Like Ted Bundy who was defintiely a psychopath, but also was extremely intelligent and dangerous at the same time. There are also several different levels of psychopaths.

  • Dog15_max50

    wothsuyip

    about 6 years ago

    1084 Comments

    headbrer.... It is my understanding, that really those (psychopath / sociopath) are one in the same. It just depends on what circles you run in...... Psychology deals with one's own internal thoughts, feelings, actions, emotions, and behaviors.... whereas, sociology deals with "a group",community, or people as a whole... there for it would be their thoughts, feelings, actions.... and so on! Ted Bundy could easily be called a Psyhopath, due to his internal struggles and problems that made him comitt the crimes he did.... but he could very well be called a sociopath (which, and I maybe wrong, is an older term to describe the samething).....

  • Caduceus_max50

    headbrer

    about 6 years ago

    5490 Comments

    I see this is used for a psychopath. What would be used for a sociopath?

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