Are investigators in tune with the differences between the personalities of a psychopathic spy and a nonpsychopathic spy? If not, who else might be in tune with these types of spies? Wait, that’s us—forensic psychologists! We are the experts in psychopathy!

You cannot get through a graduate program in forensic psychology without researching seminal works on the construct of psychopathy, such as Hervey M. Cleckley’s work and Robert D. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. If you are not familiar with the construct of psychopathy, be sure to research the term in the Argosy University online library resources. Research found in peer-reviewed psychological journals can provide you with knowledge on this construct and the leading researchers in the field.

Using at least three scholarly resources from the professional literature, research the construct of psychopathy and methods for interrogating psychopaths. Consider how a forensic psychologist could assist a CI investigator in distinguishing a psychopathic spy from a nonpsychopathic spy. The literature may include the Argosy University online library resources; relevant textbooks; peer-reviewed journal articles; and websites created by professional organizations, agencies, or institutions (.edu, .org, or .gov).


Create a 5- to 7-page paper responding to the following:

Summarize the results of your research to demonstrate your understanding of the construct of psychopathy. Be sure to cite your sources in APA format.

Once you have presented a thorough working knowledge of psychopathy, explain how it may affect the actions of those who will try to commit treason. What psychopathic traits might be useful to have in CI investigators who have to interrogate these individuals?

Imagine you are the consulting psychologist to a CI investigator who is about to interrogate a suspect. This suspect has demonstrated many of the traits you have learned are associated with psychopathy.

How would you advise the investigator?

What interrogation strategies would you suggest? Consider the ethical implications of these strategies.

Sample paper


Psychopathy refers to a personality disorder that is marked by deficits in an individual’s behavior and personality (Fine & Kennett, 2004). The behavioral deficits characterizing psychopathy relate to antisocial and lifestyle deficits such as weak behavioral controls, impulsivity, and parasitic lifestyle. The personality deficits relate to the affective and interpersonal aspects such as callousness, pathological lying, low sense of self-worth, and lack of remorse. People suffering from the disorder show callousness in relation to the rights of others. Psychopaths have no remorse. As such, they are likely to exploit others for their own selfish gains (Fine & Kennett, 2004). They can use charming tactics on their victims in order to exploit them. Psychopaths have no empathy and neither a sense of responsibility; they can manipulate and harm others for their own gain. They lack feelings of shame or guilt even when their crooked ways are exposed. However, contrary to expectations not all psychopaths are criminals.

Unlike other people who are limited by the sense of guild, shame or by their conscience, psychopaths have nothing to limit them. They can do anything to achieve what they want at the expense of friends, strangers, and even family members. Psychopaths are also able to conceal their true psychological nature from others. As such, a psychopath is an individual free of any internal restraints. He/she can do anything with no regard of the outcomes or the harms to others. According to (Perri, 2011), the prevalence of psychopathy in the general population is about 0.6 – 4%. The prevalence of the psychological condition is higher in males than in females. The possible factor to account for the difference in prevalent rates lies in the fact that it may be difficult to detect psychopathy among women due to a lesser outward expression of aggressive traits.

Psychopaths may enter in business and other careers such as business. Nonetheless, their lack of guilt or shame persists even when they run successful careers. Many of them turn out to be con artists who defraud even those closest to them. They will often use others in their attempt to acquire money, power, drugs, and other things. Since they are pathological liars, they may be able to escape imprisonment for some time (Fine & Kennett, 2004). On some occasions, psychopaths are able to maintain control over others through manipulation and constant deception (Fine & Kennett, 2004). For instance, they may become politicians or leaders and hence gain more power and influence. This may give them more power to control others. Due to their tendency to deceive others and the lack of a conscience, law enforcement officers must apply special interviewing techniques when dealing with psychopaths. Normal interview techniques may not be effective when investigating psychopaths.

Psychopathy may have a significant effect on the actions of spies who try to commit treason. It may be very easy for them to commit treason since they lack feelings of remorse or guilt. Psychopaths do not have a sense of concern for friends, strangers, family members, or even their family (Thompson, Ramos, & Willett, 2014). As such, it might be easy for them to betray whom they working for, or even a country for their personal gain. Psychopaths lack a sense of responsibility, and may perceive others with a sense of responsibility as gullible fools. According to Thompson, Ramos, and Willett (2014), psychopathic people with high intelligence may often seek to engage in careers that offers them greater control over others. Thus, it might be possible to find an individual suffering from psychopathy behavior holding big positions such as intelligence chiefs. This may put the security of the country at great risk since such as person has no internal restraint preventing him/her from doing anything, as long as one is able to disguise such actions.

A CI investigator who is about to investigate an individual with suspected psychopathy should be aware of a number of traits to look for. Psychopathy is in Cluster B of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5) (Thompson, Ramos, & Willett, 2014). Under Cluster B, the major factors to look out for include histrionic characteristics, being narcissistic, antisocial behavior, and borderline personality. The DSM-5 emphasizes on the observable elements of psychopathy than the subjective personality traits that may be difficult to examine. This enhances the objectivity of the test. The three major facets examined under the DSM-5 manual include the interpersonal facet, affective facet, and the antisocial facet (Thompson, Ramos, & Willett, 2014). The grouping of these items is by objectivity.

In the interpersonal facet, the CI investigator can examine a number of personality traits. The first one is superficial charm, which refers to the tendency to show an insincere engagement with people (Thompson, Ramos, & Willett, 2014). The second trait is a grandiose sense of self-worth. This refers to the feeling or a sense of superiority to others. Such a person may harbor the sense that he/she is better than others are or is more knowledgeable. The other traits under interpersonal domain are being pathological liars and manipulative or conning. The affective facet comprises of traits such as callousness, lack of remorse or guilt, failure to take responsibility for own actions, and shallow affect (lack of emotion). The antisocial scale comprises of the lifestyle facet and the antisocial facet. Traits under the lifestyle facet include tendency to feel bored, irresponsibility, impulsivity, parasitic lifestyle, and lack of clear and logical goals in life (Thompson, Ramos, & Willett, 2014). The antisocial facet comprises of traits such as juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, behavioral problems that may manifest early in life, and poor behavioral controls.

Emerging research indicates that there could be two different constructs of psychopathy. These include primary and secondary psychopathy. Primary psychopathy is the result of certain biological factors and relates to hereditary issues (Thompson, Ramos, & Willett, 2014). It manifests itself early and continues throughout the life course of an individual. Individuals suffering from primary psychopathy tend to exude confidence, have no negative emotions, and are often dominant in the social circles. Secondary psychopathy emerges in the course of an individual’s life (Thompson, Ramos, & Willett, 2014). It is the result of poor socialization process especially in the early years of one’s life. Individuals suffering from this form of psychopathy are referred to as sociopaths. They exhibit certain characteristics such as negative emotions, withdrawal, and a host of other emotional problems. This information may be important to a CI investigator who wishes to know more about the nature of the disorder affecting an individual.

There is little empirical research providing evidence on the best approaches to interrogate psychopathic suspects. The CI investigator should be aware that the interrogation approaches applied to ‘normal’ suspects might not work on psychopathic individuals due to their lack of remorse, guilt or conscience in their actions (Perri, 2011). For instance, the CI investigator may be tempted to use an emotional appeal on the suspect in order to obtain a confession. While this might be appropriate to ‘normal’ crime suspects, the procedure would be fundamentally flawed when applied to a psychopathic suspect. This is because psychopathic individuals are devoid of emotion or empathy. The CI investigator should thoroughly prepare for an interrogation session involving a psychopathic individual. Failure to conduct a thorough preparation might lead to flawed interview results (Perri, 2011). The CI investigator should thoroughly acquaint himself or herself with the details of the case. This includes analyzing the evidence presented, the condition of the suspect, and the family history.

The CI investigator should identify the interrogation strategy that he/she will employ before the actual interview process. It is also important to establish the specific objectives of the interview process. It is imperative that the CI investigator anticipates the possible responses by the psychopathic suspect during the interview process. This includes possible responses to questions that he/she plans to raise during the interview process. The CI investigator should be aware that psychopathic suspects hold a strong belief that they can manipulate everyone (Perri, 2011). The interview process may not make them feel or look guilty. Even when presented with facts, the investigator should be aware that the psychopathic suspect would not show any emotional discomfort. The aim of the CI investigator should be to identify a pattern of denial of undisputed truths regarding the case. The absence of expected emotional affect could also be an indication that the suspect’s confession lacks credibility.

The CI investigator should be able to make changes to his/her interviewing style. However, one should take note that the suspect does not realize the interview strategies in use, which may cause the suspect to fail to cooperate. Using a confrontational approach may not yield anything in case of psychopathic suspects (Perri, 2011). The CI investigator should ensure that he/she remains calm even as the suspect gives lies. In such a scenario, it is highly probable that the suspect’s confession will fail to match with the gathered evidence relating to the case. This may give the IC investigator the opportunity to nail the suspect basing on the lies. It is also worth noting that psychopaths can be able to imitate or feign emotions that they hold a conviction could lower their punishment (Perri, 2011). As such, a psychopath may pretend to be sad if he believes that it will mitigate the punishment or favor the case. The IC investigator must thus be extra keen when dealing with a suspect who shows the traits of a psychopath.

The Reid method is a common procedure for interrogating suspects in the United States and other parts of the world. The aim of this process is to obtain a confession from the suspect. The Reid technique is accusatory in nature and comprise of nine steps (Snook, Eastwood, & Barron, 2014). The first step is an informal interview whereby the investigator aims at garnering confidence of the suspect’s guilt. The next part involves attempting to gain a confession from the suspect. When the process proceeds to interrogation stage, the investigator puts psychological pressure on the suspect. The goal is to increase the suspect’s anxiety and possibly lead to a confession (Snook, Eastwood, & Barron, 2014). During the process, the interrogator may make false confessions or accusations about witnesses to the crime. There is also emphasis for the interrogator to read the body language expressed by the suspect. However, it is worth noting that this strategy may not be effective for interrogating psychopathy suspects. The major reason is that psychopathy suspects are devoid of guilt. As such, it is difficult for the investigator to coerce the suspect into giving a confession.

The interrogation strategy that is suitable for a psychopathy suspect is the PEACE strategy. This stands for preparation and planning, engaging and explaining, account, closure, and evaluation (Snook, Eastwood, & Barron, 2014). The PEACE strategy does not attempt to examine the behavioral cues of deception while interviewing the suspect. In addition, the interrogator does not use emotional appeal, which is common while using the Reid strategy. The goal of the interrogator during the PEACE strategy is to collect accurate and reliable information from the suspect during the process (Snook, Eastwood, & Barron, 2014). The interrogator applies scientific interview techniques such as use of open-ended questions. There is little interruption by the interrogator, which gives the suspect time to give as much information as possible. The PEACE strategy is void of any psychological ploys or trickery common with other strategies and often used to corner the suspect to give more information (Snook, Eastwood, & Barron, 2014). Such methods cannot work on psychopathic suspects because they lack feelings of guilt or conscience.

Reid strategy aims at getting confessions through creating pressure on the suspect to yield a confession. The application of such procedures to obtain a confession raises serious ethical issues. The use of harsh interrogation techniques may lead to false confessions and jailing of innocent individuals. According to Snook, Eastwood, and Barron (2014), most of the steps in Reid’s technique increase the possibility of the suspect giving false confessions. The psychological manipulative practice employed during a Reid interview process raises the risk of innocent people giving false confessions. On the other hand, ethical issues surrounding the peace model concern the investigator’s inability to obtain confessions. Experts argue that PEACE model eliminates the use of trickery and psychological ploys necessary to make a suspect give a confession.


Fine, C., & Kennett, J. (2004). Mental impairment, moral understanding and criminal       responsibility: Psychopathy and the purposes of punishment. International Journal of       Law and Psychiatry, 27(5), 425-443. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2004.06.005

Perri, F. S. (2011). The flawed interview of a psychopathic killer: what went wrong? Journal of   Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 8: 41-57. DOI: 10.1002/jip.128

Snook, B., Eastwood, J., & Barron, W. T. (2014). The next stage in the evolution of          interrogations: The PEACE model. Canadian Criminal Law Review, 18(2), 219.

Thompson, D. F., Ramos, C. L., & Willett, J. K. (2014). Psychopathy: Clinical features,   developmental basis and therapeutic challenges. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and         Therapeutics, 39(5), 485-495. doi:10.1111/jcpt.12182


IC Forensic Psychologist and CI Investigator Roles

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