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Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2004 Apr;48(2):133-48.

The trouble with psychopathy as a general theory of crime.

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  • 1Psychology Services, FCI-Schuylkill, P.O. Box 700, Minersville, PA 17954-0700, USA.


The concept of psychopathy, as defined by Robert Hare, is reviewed with respect to its status as a general theory of crime. A hybrid of the medical pathology model and personality trait approach, the psychopathy concept proposes that a significant portion of serious crime is committed by psychopathic individuals. Hare's version of psychopathy, besides demonstrating weak applicability and a propensity for tautology, is subject to labeling effects, oversimplicity, reductionism, the fundamental attributional error, inattention to context, and disregard for the dynamic nature of human behavior. It is concluded that the psychopathy concept is substantially limited with respect to its ability to describe and clarify general criminal behavior but that it may still have value as a partial explanation for certain types of non-criminal predatory behavior.

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