Most people are both repelled and intrigued by the images of cold-blooded, conscienceless murderers that increasingly populate our movies, television programs, and newspaper headlines. With their flagrant criminal violation of society's rules, serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are among the most dramatic examples of the psychopath. Individuals with this personality disorder are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and know the difference between right and wrong, yet they are terrifyingly self-centered, remorseless, and unable to care about the feelings of others. Perhaps most frightening, they often seem completely normal to unsuspecting targets--and they do not always ply their trade by killing. Presenting a compelling portrait of these dangerous men and women based on 25 years of distinguished scientific research, Dr. Robert D. Hare vividly describes a world of con artists, hustlers, rapists, and other predators who charm, lie, and manipulate their way through life. Are psychopaths mad, or simply bad? How can they be recognized? And how can we protect ourselves? This book provides solid information and surprising insights for anyone seeking to understand this devastating condition.
This work of pop psychology merits attention because Hare has pioneered in the field of psychopathy, which is still in a formative state. Psychopaths, he asserts, are neither sociopaths nor psychotics but rather are people who are well aware of the difference between right and wrong and ignore the distinction. Additionally, they are egocentric and have no feelings of empathy, guilt or remorse. They view others as potential victims, and they leave a trail of unhappiness behind them in those who have succumbed to their deceitful manipulations. Whether nature or nurture underlies their aberration is still uncertain; they are almost impossible to treat, according to Hare, because they are convinced that they have no psychological or emotional problems. Although, as he notes, much of the literature on psychopathy is scientific, Hare here presents material in a form accessible to lay readers.
If you already know a lot on this topic, I'm not sure if this will be revelatory for you. If, however, you are a fan of biology, science, or psychology this book is so much fun. Full of science and stats and peppered liberally with anecdotes, stories, and examples. It made me look for the psychopaths all around me.