Comparison of Psychopathy Models

1444 words (6 pages) Essay in Psychology

18/05/20 Psychology Reference this

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 Psychopathy is described as a mixture of different personality traits and socially abnormal behaviors.  Personality is a person’s unique way of thinking, feeling, and acting (Patrick, 2019, p. 259) there are several ways to assess these traits, and some of them are call models.  Some of these models will likely hamper with researchers underlying conceptualization of psychopaths, to see whether or not antisocial behavior is viewed as a core feature when researching youth.  Many say youth and adults are different when it comes to psychopathic tendencies.  The best method to test a child is by using models.  The structural models that have been most used to predict specific criteria’s of personalities in psychopaths are the Three, Five, and the Pen models. These are the models that will be discussed in this paper.

Keywords: Psychopathy, models, personality traits, and conceptualization

PEN Model and Three-Factor Model 

The PEN model was developed by a psychologist named Hans Eysenck.  His primary focus for this model was on three broad personality factors, which were psychoticism, extraversion, and neuroticism (Patrick, 2018, p. 260).  Before he came up with the PEN model, he sought to research personality based on two dimensions: extraversion-introversion and neuroticism-emotionally stability.  He believed that extraversion was linked to levels of brain activity or cortical arousal.  This is why extraverts experience lower levels of cortical arousal, resulting in them seeking arousal from outside stimulation.  Higher arousal levels from introverts lead them to avoid stimulation, which would lead to a further increase in arousal, which lead them to believe that arousal levels could or would change an individuals performance levels.

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He then went into neuroticism-emotionally stability. This is emotional stability to emotionally instability or neuroticism.  Those who would score high on this portion of the assessment unusually high on the neuroticism section tend to experience higher levels of stress and anxiety.  They are pretty much what we call worrywarts.  They are unable to cope with life stressors and focus on negative aspects of any situation vice the positive. Neuroticism is also characterized as a perfectionist; they tend always to feel dissatisfied, angry or frustrated with others when their desires are not being met. A person with signs of low neuroticism will generally experience more emotional stability.  They will feel more able to cope with stressful events and set less stringent demands on themselves.  They tend to be more tolerant of failing and can remain calm in demanding situations (Gray, 1970).

He later added the psychoticism personality trait.   This trait deals with hormones levels such as testosterone.  According to the PEN model, high levels of this trait will reduce an individual’s responsiveness to conditions, which means they will and usually do not adapt to the social norms that we learn through punishment and reward.  These are the people who are more susceptible to have criminal behavior to fulfill their needs.  Genetics affects this trait.

The PEN model also entails with the Three-Factor Model – The Three-Factor Model (TFM) “The Big Three” is said to provide one of the overall results and fit for youth being assessed.  This model is ever-changing across sex and race/ethnicity.  The three-factor model splits the factors and labels them as arrogant and deceitful interpersonal style and deficient affective experience.  The three-factor model is based on emotionality, activity, and sociality/shyness.  This model mainly deals with behavior patterns, thought process, and emotions.  Traits are different aspects of personality that are relatively stable over time and differ between people but are somewhat consistent over situations and influence behavior.

Five-Factor Model

The FFM was developed on the basis of the lexical hypotheses, which suggested that the fundamental traits of human personality had over time become encoded in language.  This was essential to personality traits.  The five-factor model (FFM) provides a possible dimensional assessment on applicable dimensional models of personality disorders.  The advantages that this model offers is the provision of a thorough description of both normal and abnormal personality traits in five dimensions.  The five aspects are considered to be extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience (Patrick, 2018, p. 261).  This includes exceptionally extraverted individuals who are assertive and sociable and not quiet and reserved.  Then we have the agreeable individuals who are very helpful and polite and not aggressive and rude.  Then we go to the conscientious; these people are task-focused and orderly and not un-focused and disorganized.  Then you have the neurotic people who are prone to experiencing negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, and irritation rather than being emotionally resilient.  Lastly, we have highly open individuals who have an extensive rather than narrow range of interests, are sensitive rather than indifferent to art and beauty and prefer newness to schedule.

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Research has proven that using the natural language and theoretically personality questionnaires support the range of the model.  An extensive amount of this research has shown that existing personality disorder can be understood by using the FFM.  The FFM contains dimensions related to controlling impulses and orientation, which is considered conscientiousness and constraint (Patrick, 2018, p. 261).  In an FFM diagnosis, it is to figure out whether the model is close for them to figure out a specific prototype to determine a particular diagnostic result.  Some issues that some researcher say about the FFM is the absence of a comprehensive theory.  While the lexical hypotheses are intriguing and rational, it is to them still to narrow to qualify as a theory of personality.  The FFM has proved to be extremely useful to a lot of researchers and practitioners; however, in a variety of areas, such as in the social, clinical, and industrial-organizational. This model has played a vital role in revitalizing the discipline of personality discipline (Digman, 1990).

Conceptualization of Psychopathy

There are different conceptualizations on what constitutes a set of psychopathic traits.  Psychopathy factors include affective, interpersonal characteristics, and impulsive antisocial characteristics.  Many questions if antisocial behavior and impulsivity should be considered core components of psychopathy (Hare, 2003), while others state that antisocial reflects maladaptive outcomes of the affective, interpersonal, and erratic-impulsive traits.  Impulsivity is conceptualized as a trait external to psychopathy.  Conceptualization between psychopathy and success shows that the higher the psychopathy, the higher the negative outcome will be.  Conceptualization success permits evaluation of whether success reflects normality or superiority in behavioral issues relative to others.  Even though conceptualization puts itself in a category of progress, it also allows a dimensional quantification of success along a continuum ranging from highly unsuccessful to highly successful when considering one’s ability to acquire positive consequences or avoid adverse effects. 


Personality is not determined by just one single factor but by a mixture of factors.  Most elements are psychological, while others are physical, biological, and hereditary.  It is evident that we will always be in need of how to assess these factors and determine which personality trait/behavior individual posses.  So by using the Five-Factor Model, the PEN and Three-Factor Model and all other tests out there to learn these traits to help us have a better understanding of what we are dealing with when it comes to the psychopathy and psychiatric traits that individuals show.  We still have a long way to go when it comes to the research and study of psychopathy and their characteristics.  What is useful is the study of them and learning the triggers and being able to have these studies to compare and contrast as the world and dynamics of society is changing around us daily.


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