Would you know a psychopath if you saw one?

This study is the first to demonstrate that features of psychopathy can be reliably and validly detected by lay raters from “thin slices” (i.e., small samples) of behavior. Brief excerpts (5 s, 10 s, and 20 s) from interviews with 96 maximum-security inmates were presented in video or audio form or in both modalities combined. Forty raters used these excerpts to complete assessments of overall psychopathy and its Factor 1 and Factor 2 components, various personality disorders, violence proneness, and attractiveness. Thin-slice ratings of psychopathy correlated moderately and significantly with psychopathy criterion measures, especially those related to interpersonal features of psychopathy, particularly in the 5- and 10-s excerpt conditions and in the video and combined channel conditions. These findings demonstrate that first impressions of psychopathy and related constructs, particularly those pertaining to interpersonal functioning, can be reasonably reliable and valid. They also raise intriguing questions regarding how individuals form first impressions and about the extent to which first impressions may influence the assessment of personality disorders.

Source: “Detecting psychopathy from thin slices of behavior.” from Psychological Assessment, Vol 21(1), Mar 2009, 68-78.

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