The psychopathic criminal is a familiar and enduring figure used by authors, filmmakers and journalists to frighten and seduce their audiences — the cold, calculating serial killer, the mafia gangster, the ruthless business magnate or the Nazi SS officer. The psychopath’s superficial charm, ruthlessness, pathological lying, disregard of emotional attachments, lack of remorse and shame and capacity for extreme and sadistic violence have intrigued both lay people and professionals in the world of mental health for the past two centuries. This has culminated in a new risk-obsessed millennium in which the detection of psychopathic traits in convicted prisoners and psychiatric patients has been refined and enshrined in risk assessment tools that are marketed to predict which individuals are most likely to be violent.
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