A Critical Study on How the Psychopathological Construct of Antisocial Personality and Psychopathy Has Imploded. The Implosion of the Construct


This article focuses on the construct of antisocial personality and behaviors. It is proved (with: empirical studies; and, logic arguments) how this construct imploded.

Lilienfeld (1994) gave an example of this. The author, in fact, discovered a positive correlation between persons that were diagnosed psychopaths and/or antisocial and the frequency of altruistic and pro-social behaviours. Instead of inferring the incoherence of the paradigm, he elaborated an illogical auxiliary assumption to save it. He suggested to use, like diagnostic criterion for the antisocial behaviour, the pro-social behavior!!
In other words, this psychopathological construct arrived to have an incoherent logical structure: P AND NOT P. Thus, this construct is not possible to be either corroborated or refuted. It does not comply with the scientific reasoning.

This is a typical example of the incoherent and illogical reasoning that dominates inside psychopathological constructs.

A New Empirical Theory, which is able to explain those phenomena, will be presented in a next article. At the present tence, you could read it in Epis, De Nova Superstitione.

You can get a copy in PDF (with bibliography and index) at this link: A Critical Study on How the Psychopathological Construct of Antisocial Personality and Psychopathy Has Imploded – The Implosion of the Construct – Article

Rationale – Background


The Paradigm of Antisocial Personality and Behaviour has always been a very weak and misused construct since the beginning. It is a good example of how the psychopathological constructs became a “modern scientific” form / manifestation of the Human Superstition. Ordronaux (1873) was the first author, who became aware about this. Indeed, he stated that this concept is “… an attempt to return to belief in demon possession of the Middle Ages and a revision to superstition”[1]. From that time, the number of the researchers, who criticized this construct and “how” it is used, increased.

Exempli gratia, Kinberg (1946) said that the concept of psychopath “should be abrogated as theoretically unsatisfactory, practically misleading and destructive to scientific thinking”. Karpman (1948) stated that it is “a myth … a nonexistent entity”.  Vaillant regarded this construct to be a misleading stereotype.

Blackburn (1988) affirmed: “it must be concluded that the current concept of psychopathic or antisocial personality remains «a mythical entity» …”[2].

Calvaldino (1998) suggested that this construct is nothing more than “a moralism masquerading as medical science”. He updated both the Blackburn’s critics and the Ordronaux’s critics. The former, indeed, admitted that: “such a concept is little more than a moral judgment masquerading as clinical diagnosis”. The latter argued[3] that: “the only disease to which the moral nature is subject is sin”.

Toch (1998) observed that the term was a form of negative counter-transference.

Shadish et al. (1999) underlined how the process of validation of the psychopathological construct has never been completed.

Cooke, Michie and Hat (2006), reported how this construct is quite controversial in the academic literature. In the same year, the present writer presented and illustrated “how” the construct: imploded on itself; was lacking in any scientific criteria; and, could be explained with a more Empirical Theory that was able to abandon these modern forms of Superstitions.

Although all these critics were well proved and based, they were neglected and refuted by the establishment. The latter, according to the Kuhn’s theory (1962; 1970), was committed to defend the Paradigm. The critical views were: denied; ridiculed; not taught. The researchers, who dared to show interest in them, were actively: dissuaded; discouraged; isolated. Their studies and works were hindered. They were also attacked with argumenta ad personam. The latter is a strategy that is largely used by psychologists to defend their inconsistent constructs (Epis, 2011/2015).

So, the establishment, instead of considering those critics and improving its constructs, has weakened and weakened them, meantime.

For instance, Hill, Murray and Thorley (1986) warned their colleagues that: “… psychopathic personality is an intriguing tale of confusion and inconsistency”.

Blackburn (1988) made the same critics with “softer” and “more indirect” words. He advised clearly that the construct had a very weak point. According to him, “the taxonomic error of confounding different universes of discourse” was present in the construct. This error leaded to create “a diagnostic category that embraces a variety of deviant personalities. Such a category is not a meaningful focus for theory and research, nor can it facilitate clinical communication and prediction”.

Nevertheless, as I told supra (above), the establishment refused to consider all those warnings. Instead of working for decreasing the heterogeneity of the construct, they increased it as much as they could!! At the end, the construct became so heterogeneous to include two opposite and contradictory types in the same set: the criminal psychopath; and, the non-criminal psychopath.

In other words, several psychologists put into the same set: serial killers (such as Jack the Ripper) committed to criminal activities; and, people (such as Mather Teresa of Calcutta) who, on the contrary, were committed to pro-social behaviours!! Some criminologists attempted to reduce all the violations of the Criminal Law like a manifestation of psychopathy!!

Please, do not think that they were joking. I have also thought it (in first instance), but they were not joking at all. They were strongly “devoted” and convinced in what they were saying. All their career and social prestige came from that!!

So, the present writer had to recognize the self-evident implosion of the psychopathological construct for the reasons that you can read infra (below).


Antisocial Personality’s Construct: Birth, Development and Implosion

Before explaining the reasons of the implosion of the construct, a brief résumé (about the “lifespan” of the antisocial personality’s paradigm) is given.  It will be very useful to understand: both, the biases that work in the creation and in the confirmation of the psychopathological paradigms; and, how superstitions can even appear “scientific beliefs”, once they are masked to psychopathological constructs!!


Birth and Development

The first label, which described the antisocial personality and behaviours, was: “manie sans delire” (Pinel, 1801). Then, this construct was called: “moral derangement” or “derangement in the moral faculties” (Rush, 1812); “moral insanity” (Pritchard, 1835). At the end, the label has become: antisocial personality disorder (e.g., DSM IV – R); psychopathy (e.g., Lange-Eichbaum, 1931; Henderson, 1939; English Mental Health Act, 1983; Cleckley, 1976; Hare, 1980); sociopathic personality disorder or asocial personality disorder (e.g., Gelder M., Gath D. and Mayou R., 1983); dissocial personality disorder (e.g., ICD-1O[4], F 60.2); and so on.

If you want, you can invent another name!! We need it!!

This construct is a good example of how the psychopathological discourse is completely dominated by: plenty of biases; a lot of fallacies; trickeries such as that one of nominalism; and, an absent epistemological awareness and reflection (Epis, 2011/2015).

The first label, which described the antisocial personality and behaviours, was: “manie sans delire” (Pinel, 1801). Pinel wanted to explain the behaviour of some people who were: violent and social dangerous; committed to criminal activities; cruel and callous; inclined to kill the others. As he could not explain this phenomenum, he used the ancient trickery of the nominalism. He gave a name to something that he was not able to understand (at all). So, he created the illusion to have explained and understood something that he did not!! Bateson (1972) called this trickery: explanatory principle. Actually, psychopathology (… most of the times …) is nothing more and nothing less than: an explanatory principle; and/or, the ancient trickery of nominalism.

This point is pretty important to understand: both, one of the intellectual dishonesties (a là Lakantos) that belong to the clinical psychologists; and, how Psychopathology became a new set for gathering different forms of the modern Superstitions.

So …, I will give you a brief example, … before proceeding with our discourse.

Do you know Treponema Pallidum? It is a micro-organism that causes an infection to the Central Nervous System. Well …, it happened that the human beings (before discovering this microbe) considered “mental ill” the people who were suffering from this infection!! This micro-organism (alone) was the responsible of the 15% of all the psychiatric population. This is how, superstation works. A physical concrete problem (the real cause) is neglected and transferred to an inexistence dimension: a “thought’s illness” (a false and fabricated cause)[5]!?!? There is not any difference from believing in psychopathology to believing in demons’ possession. The psychosocial mechanisms, which underlie and lead those phenomena, are exactly the same. They are used to explain whatever human beings are not able to explain, using the trickery of the nominalism!! So, nowadays, instead of calling a Shaman and/or a Priest, people call a more “modern and fashionable” psychologist!!!! But, there is no change, except (… maybe …) that Shamans and Priests were better than Psychologists!!

Oh God …, save us from psychologists!

So …, now you know “what” psychopathology is and “how” psychopathology works and explains the phenomena. Therefore, we can proceed in our speech.

Although Pinel used psychopathology, like an explanatory principle, for explaining the violent and cruel behaviour, soon this construct moved away from the objective facts (the criminal activities; the social dangerousness; and the cruel behaviours) to landing at “ghostly and eerie traits” that allows any kind of abuse, misuse and interpretation.

Indeed, this construct was re-baptized: moral derangement (Rush, 1812); moral insanity (Pritchard, 1835); … and it ended to include whoever acted in a different manner from the others. It was immediately declined to wide abuses and misuses.

So, as you remember, Ordronaux (1873) had to report how it was an attempt to mask superstitious ideas for science.

According to Prichard (1835), moral insanity (at the end; and, behind the usual doctrinal and technical words and jargon) was just to perform: “the common actions of life in a different way from that usually practised” by the majority. So …, singular, and/or eccentric, and/or wayward persons were all considered moral insane. Therefore, moral insanity showed clearly another aspect of the true nature of psychopathology: to be an instrument of homologation and social control a là Foucault. To be an instrument to force everyone: to be an uncritical lemming; to follow the flock like a sheep. If you do not follow uncritically the flock, … you are “insane”!!

It is exactly how it happened in the Past: the same substance with different forms. People, who do not believe in the superstitions/beliefs of the Majority, nowadays are accused to be mentally insane, whereas, in the Past, they were accused to be heretics, etc…!!

Do you remember Socrates? Actually, he is a very good example.

Oleson (1998) defines Socrates like an eccentric Sophist. Although he presented (in a very peaceful manner) original ideas, Socrates was considered “the most dangerous man in Athens” (Lindsay, 1918). He was accused of: corrupting the young people of Athens; introducing new Gods; etc… . At the end, he was executed for those false “irrelevant and untrue rumours”. If you think that he was an isolated case, you do not have any idea, how much you are wrong[6]!!

Indeed, most of the peaceful men of this World, who have dared to present a mere original and/or different idea from those that were wanted and supported by establishment, have been always persecuted. “Scientists and statesmen alike have been persecuted by established authority. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela …” as they simply stood “against the powers of established orthodoxy when they disagreed with the existing order” (Eysenck, 1995)[7].

Oleson (1998) supported the idea of Eysenck (1995) using the studies of Ellis (1927) who argued: “that society sought to imprison its great men at every opportunity”.

So…, this is how the majority of times, these constructs are used. Rarely, are they used against serial killers such as Jack the Ripper!! The latters are not as common as media attempt to make people believe!! Actually, they are pretty unusual. Those few cases are used by Power to create social panic. This is a good mean to: both, make people believe in the “rightness” of those superstitions; and, make people renounce their rights and civil liberties to “get” security (a là Bauman)!?!?

Although Milton (1981) stated that the notion of moral insanity, nowadays, has few in common with the construct of antisocial personality and psychopathy, he is right only, and only if, we compare moral insanity with the definitions that were given by: the DSM-IV-R; and, some National Acts such as the English Mental Health Acts 1983. On the contrary, he is hugely wrong if we compare it with the everyday practice that has been done by psychologists and clinicians.

Indeed, only the formers require the presence of objective criminal activities. The latters, on the contrary, have developed (in the practice; and, in the literature) a construct that is used wider and wider than Prichard’s moral insanity.

Whereas moral insanity was (… at least …) connected with an objective behaviour (to act in a different manner from majority), the construct of antisocial personality and psychopathy has lost any link with: both, objective facts; and, criminal behaviours.

Psychologists and clinicians reduced it to be a mere set of personality traits. As personality traits are also very arbitrary and weak creations, the construct came back to be an incongruent, contradictory, unfalsifiable theory. In practice, personality traits allow any kind of interpretation and misinterpretation without any limit. So …, the construct bended to any sort of abuse and misuse. It was not a case, indeed, that two opposite and incompatible types were originated by the same construct: the criminal psychopaths; and, the non-criminal psychopaths.

Whereas the formers are committed to cruel and criminal activities; the latters are normal, pro-social persons, who are well integrated in the society. Just to give an example, Mather Teresa of Calcutta was considered a non-criminal psychopath by several clinicians.

This leaded to a construct that was unable to satisfy any principle of demarcation[8].

Indeed, it was unable to satisfy both the test of validity and the principle of falsification. Any kind of behaviour (both antisocial; and pro-social) was used to confirm the diagnoses, once they were done!! So, they could not be verified and checked with any contra-factual evidence. In other words, once an arbitrary diagnosis is done by a psychologist, any behaviour is retrospectively interpreted to be a confirmation of the diagnosis itself!!

This was one of the reasons that made some researchers take critical positions on this construct, as I wrote in the introduction.

As Kanner said, at the end of the circus and pseudo-scientific jargons (which are used by psychologists to making their superstitions look like science): “a psychopath is somebody you don’t like”.

Please, note: I do not deny the existence of crimes and criminals. I believe: they must be punished. But, I fight the attempt to re-introduce a new “hunting to the witches” a là Maleus Maleficarum[9].

An evidence of how psychologists misuse this construct is given by the necessity, which most Parliaments had, to limit with law its application[10]. Nevertheless, psychologists did not care about law[11]!! So, they extended widely and widely the application of their construct. Therefore, more and more persons committed to pro-social behaviours were considered psychopaths.

This leaded to the creation of a very contradictory construct.  Some authors split the paradigm in two different constructs: the antisocial personality (which kept a connection with an objective criminal activity); and, the psychopathy (which was connected only with personality traits).

Other authors kept a unique paradigm. So, antisocial personality and psychopathy became two different degree of the same “mental illness”.

The increment of the number of the diagnostic scales increased the contradictions among the diagnoses. Most of the time, the diagnoses are made only on “sensations and feelings”, which clinicians have at the moment without using any scale.  This phenomenon was proved during the hearings of the English Mental Health Tribunal. During the contra-examination, it was proved that the diagnoses were done without considering any diagnostic scale (e.g., DSM-IV-R; PCL-R). They were made only using a vague and unclear “clinical experience”. The latter is an “elegant word”, a jargon, which clinicians use, to say that they decided without fallowing any criterion, but their feelings as they had in that moment!!!!

Most of the times, the scales are used only ex post. Before, clinicians decide if somebody is psychopath or not. Then, clinicians create, with a retrospective interpretation (a là Weick), a connection between the factual elements and the theoretical items of the construct, forcing the comparison and assessment.

Epis (2011/2015) used this construct to prove how the functional fixation, the absence of any epistemological awareness and reflection, the confirmation bias, and other fallacies, work within the psychopathological constructs.


A very interesting example, of how the paradigm imploded, is given by Lilienfeld (1994). This is just an example. But, endless other examples can be given.

Lilienfeld (1994) arrived to formulate and to support a theory with an incoherent logical structureP AND NOT P.

The author discovered a positive correlation between persons that were diagnosed psychopaths and/or antisocial with the existing scales and the frequency of altruistic and pro-social behaviours.

Instead of inferring incoherence, and/or a contradiction, inside the Paradigm, he elaborated a “wonderful” auxiliary assumption to save it.

He concluded that “the assessment of psychopathy might need to incorporate behaviors that are heroic or altruistic (e.g. helping individual … )” as in their absence a “substantial subset of psychopaths (who) perform frequent pro social behaviors” could not be detected and they may result “false-negative”.

In other words, he suggested like diagnostic criterion for the antisocial behaviour, the pro-social behaviour!! He made an incoherent and illogical reasoning that can be synthetized with the logical model: P AND NOT P.

This is a documented case, which is a good example of how psychologists: both, think most of the times in their everyday activities; and, develop their constructs!!

Although the strong establishment’s blind effort to save this inconsistent Paradigm, the Paradigm imploded.


[1] This quotation has also been done by McCord and McCord (1964).

[2] Blackburn’s critics were caused mainly by the heterogeneity of the construct of psychopathy.  Indeed, the latter includes a large amount of different types!

[3] Against the moral insanity, which was the antisocial personality’s name, that was used at his time.

[4] The aim of the International Classification Diseases (ICD) is to promote an international uniformity in the classification of the ailments. Its origin was in the work of Jacques Bertillon, who produced the Bertillon Classification of Causes of Death at the International Statistical Institute in Chicago. The latter became the Manual of International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death (ICD). In the 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO / OMS) assumed the responsibility for revising the ICD every 10 years.

[5] This happens also when the real cause is social.

[6] Other very famous similar cases are: Giordano Bruno; Thomas More; etc… .

[7] “Research funds are suddenly cut off, even though promised. Irrelevant and untrue rumours are spread to impugn the offender. He may lose his job, or at least fail to be promoted. He may be barred from the library and other facilities; privileges of all kinds may be withdrawn. In extreme cases, he may be suffering bodily attacks, his family may be threatened, bombs may be planted under his car, he may be burnt at the stake – it is difficult to list all the sanctions orthodoxy can muster to assert its right to be regarded as guardian of truth” (Eysenck, 1995).

[8] The problem of demarcation focuses on the method of scientific investigation. In particular, it refers to the criterion that is used to mark the boundary between what science is and what science is not. Exempli gratia, this criterion was: the induction for the Empiricism; the test of validity per the Logical Positivism; and the principle of falsification for Popper.

[9] The Malleus Maleficarum was the book, which was published by two Dominican Monks (Kraemer and Sprenger) in 1487 for “diagnosing” the “witches”. It was the “precursor” of DSM!!

[10] Some Nations (such as England) request an objective criminal activity. Other Nations (such as Scotland) deny the existence of this “mental illness”.

[11] There are plenty of examples that support this.