Training >> Browse Articles >> Investigations


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.

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.