yes, therapy helps!
The Hare Psychopathy Rating Scale

The Hare Psychopathy Rating Scale

May 5, 2024

When thinking about the concept of "psychopath", the image of a murderer comes to most people , someone who kills for pleasure and whose performance obeys only his own interests, without a trace of empathy and despising the needs, feelings and desires of those around him (which he also uses as objects to achieve his ends). This image seems very clear ... but detecting these characteristics is not so easy in real life.

Until relatively recent times tools have not been developed that can measure this alteration with precision, distinguishing it from mental and medical pathologies. In this sense, one of the main contributions in the detection and evaluation of psychopathic characteristics is that carried out by Hare, which created the Hare Psychopathy Rating Scale or PCL (Psychopathy Checklist).

  • Related article: "Psychopathy: what happens in the mind of the psychopath?"

Psychopathy: what are we talking about?

To understand the scale of evaluation of Hare's psychopathy, it will be necessary first to establish a definition of what we understand by psychopathy.

The concept psychopathy refers to a personality alteration in which there is a more or less complete absence of empathy and concern for the other and a deep focus on oneself and ones own needs. It is not considered a clinical entity, that is, it is not a mental disorder . And is that the definition that is made of this construct can vary greatly depending on the authors who express it and the type of psychopathy that we are talking about (in fact, you could find very different types of psychopaths reaching some authors to propose up to nine ).

Although the image that most people have of them is the one mentioned in the introduction, the truth is that not all are criminals or commit crimes : there are psychopaths integrated into society and in many cases they become political leaders (some of whom have come to commit great abuses) or big businessmen.

But nevertheless, There are a series of characteristics common to most psychopaths : the most defining and determining is the inability to develop affective relationships, lack of empathy and indifference to the feelings of others. Besides this, the use of others to achieve their ends, the absence of guilt and sense of responsibility over their own actions, the low intensity of most of their emotions, arrogance and self-centeredness, the ability to seduction and superficial relationships and in which the other is not valued and manipulation are usually some of the most common characteristics.

There are also ** problems to plan or assess the future or the consequences of one's actions **, the need to look for sensations, impulsivity, discordance between language and behavior and the need for immediate gratification.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Being a psychopath can have advantages, according to a study"

What are your causes?

It is important to note that, technically, psychopathy is not considered a mental disorder. It is a condition of unknown cause but in which strong genetic components have been detected (for example, it is common in the study of twins to see that both have psychopathic features), although at least half of the variance at the time of suffering or not this alteration is links with environmental factors.

Some differences have been observed at a biological and temperamental level that complicate the processes of socialization during growth, not integrating the primary experiences of socialization in an adaptive way. These are people who are fully aware of their actions , not presenting alterations in volitional capacity and in which there is no impairment of basic cognitive functions (beyond the emotional sphere).

PCL: The Hare Psychopathy Evaluation Scale

The Psychopathy Checklist , PCL or Hare psychopathy assessment scale is one of the most used assessment instruments to assess the existence of psychopathy.

Originated and based on the grouping of the factors and criteria already proposed previously by Cleckley, it is a scale created by Hare that evaluates through 20 items (although originally they were 22), the main personality traits and characteristics of the subjects with psychopathy.

It is a scale that must be filled in based on the information obtained during the semi-structured interview with the subject, the observation and analysis of his behavior, interviews with his environment and knowledge obtained from his file. The interview itself can be spent in about two hours, although it depends on each case.Each item is scored with a 0, a 1 or a 2 according to whether the item in question can not be applied to the subject (0), it can be applied in a certain sense (1) or it can be applied to the subject as something consistent in its behavior (2) . The maximum score is 40 and the existence of psychopathy is considered to be those cases that exceed 30 points (although it must be contrasted with interviews with their environment and checking other possible interviews and records referring to the subject. Scores greater than 25 are considered predictors of antisocial and violent behavior .

It is important to bear in mind that it is an instrument created based on the prison population, in clinical and forensic practice. It has proven useful in predicting the likelihood of recidivism, evaluating possible breaches of sentences and predicting the performance of antisocial behaviors.

What is valued? Items of the scale

As we have seen, within the PCL (in its revised version) or the scale of evaluation of psychopathy created by Hare we find a total of 20 items that try to assess the existence of different characteristics of psychopathy. Specifically, the following items or elements are evaluated.

1. Surface charm / loquacity

One of the most common characteristics of psychopaths is their ease of treatment and superficial appeal, being often very seductive . They are considered fun and entertaining, and seem to dominate many subjects and topics of conversation.

2. Egocentrism and feelings of grandiosity

The psychopath tends to have an overestimated view of himself, with great self-confidence and with a self-centered attitude . In addition, he tends to see only his own vision of things and focus on his own needs. You can feel admired and envied.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Megalomania and delusions of grandeur: playing at being God"

3. Sensation search

Another common feature of people with psychopathy is the tendency to get bored easily and look for activities that stimulate them , looking for action, competition and opportunities.

4. Pathological lying

Lying and cheating are frequent elements in the behavior of the psychopath. He can produce easily credible stories and usually does not worry about being discovered. It does not cost him to break his promises .

5. Handling

Psychopaths tend to be manipulative, using their abilities and seduction skills to make others easier to obtain and achieve their goals, often without worrying about the effects on the manipulated person .

6. Absence of guilt

Aspect linked to the lack of empathy, the psychopath tends not to feel guilty for what happens around him, as well as for the consequences of his actions.

7. Emotional surface

Many psychopaths are known to show a flat emotional spectrum, without manifesting great reactions and resulting in his emotional expression often shallow and even acted . Yes they can experience emotions, but they are generally considered to be of low intensity and superficial.

8. Lack of empathy

One of the most fundamental characteristics of psychopaths is their lack of empathy. The psychopathic subject is usually unable to put himself in the place of the others , or not assessing what others may be feeling or wanting. Together with the high handling capacity they usually have, they often use others only to achieve their ends.

9. Parasitic lifestyle

This criterion assumes that many psychopaths use their relatives and environment in a utilitarian way to survive without having to make efforts, unless this work involves a motivation that allows them to stand out and be number one.

10. Absence of self-control

People with psychopathic personality may not have deep emotionality, but your immediate behavioral reactions can be extreme . The use of violence can be one of them, briefly and in general without causing a subsequent reaction.

11. Promiscuity

The high level of loquacity and superficial attractiveness of many psychopaths makes it easy to have sporadic sexual relations. Also, the absence of empathy and responsibility along with the search for sensations make it difficult to maintain more stable relationships .

12. Previous behavior problems

It is not strange that the psychopathic subject has manifested behavioral problems already in childhood. In this sense it is usually related to the dissocial disorder , being able for example to exercise sadistic behavior and torture animals.

13. Long-term planning problems

Another common element in psychopathy is the fact that they tend to focus on the short term and obtaining immediate gratification. They do not usually consider the future (something that also affects the lack of consideration for the consequences of their actions), or may have some kind of goal that they have not considered how to carry out.

14. Impulsivity

It refers to unintended behavior, acting immediately according to the opportunity and the own desire without considering alternatives or possible consequences.


This item refers to the lack of commitment to others. You may have a certain level of loyalty to your family and close social circle, but usually you do not pay much attention to obligations and duties to others.

16. Non-acceptance of responsibilities for conduct

Linked with irresponsibility, the subject with psychopathy usually does not take responsibility for their own acts. Although he does not feel guilty for them, usually justify them and use different excuses .

17. Short couple relationships

The relationships of a partner with a psychopathy are usually not stable. Although they can have a partner, as we have said before, there is usually no commitment that lasts. They may have a marriage or even children, but they are usually unattended and often incur infidelities and other activities.

18. Juvenile delinquency

We have mentioned before that since childhood the subject with psychopathy manifests a large number of features of this condition. It is not uncommon that in adolescence there are crimes of greater or lesser severity that can have different repercussions for oneself or for others, and may lead to serious crimes and even blood.

19. Revocation of probation

It is an item reserved only for those subjects who have been incarcerated and may have opted for probation.

20. Criminal versatility

This last item tells us about the existence of various types of crime committed by the subject , which can range from robberies, drug trafficking, murder, aggression, sexual offense, kidnapping or reckless driving, among others.

General aspects to consider

In the PCL or scale of evaluation of Hare psychopathy, as we have seen, the personality and behavior of the people analyzed through it are evaluated in search of psychopathological traits. The items in question can be grouped into different facets for analysis. In particular, the existence of two main factors is proposed, with four factors to be considered within them.

Factor 1: Interpersonal / Affective

This first factor refers mainly to the most internal aspects of the subject, such as his personality, the way of approaching interpersonal relationships, affectivity and cognition. It is related to narcissistic features . Within it we can find two basic dimensions, the interpersonal and the affective.

Interpersonal dimension

This dimension evaluates the type of relationship that the subject maintains with their environment and how he links with others. It mainly includes the items of superficial charm, feelings of greatness, lying, manipulation, lack of feelings of guilt, superficial emotionality, lack of empathy and non-recognition of one's own responsibility.

Affective dimension

This second dimension refers to the management and the experience of emotions by the subject . In it would enter the search for sensations, lack of self-control and empathy, superficial emotion, lack of sensitivity and empathy.

Factor 2: Social deviation

This second factor refers mainly to elements that inform us of how the subject relates to the world around him and how his behavior is in it. It is more linked to factors related to the commission of antisocial behaviors. Within this we can find the lifestyle and the anti-social aspect of his personality.


It refers to the type of life that the subject usually takes in their day to day. It includes items such as promiscuity, short couple relationships, lack of commitment or criminal versatility. They may also include the need for stimulation or the absence of long-term goals , the search for sensations and egocentrism.


This section includes the behaviors that the subject has had throughout his life, such as the presence of crimes during youth, if he has been imprisoned and if parole has been revoked or lack of responsibility for their own acts

Bibliographic references

  • Folino, J.O. and Castillo, J.L. (2006). The facets of psychopathy according to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-revised and its reliability. Argentine Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. XVII: 325-330.
  • Lykken, D. (1994) Antisocial personalities. Barcelona: Herder.

Assessing Psychopathy using the Hare Scales PCL-R & PCL:SV (May 2024).

Similar Articles