Psychopaths By Herschel Prins: Chapter Summary

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The term “psychopath” is often thrown around in everyday language to describe people who exhibit extreme and unordinary tendencies, but what defines a legitimate psychopath is much more specific than this loose usage of the term. In Psychopaths: An Introduction by Herschel Prins, a criminal justice professor at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, Prins writes to explain the true meaning of the “used and abused word, psychopathy” (Prins, 33). He defines the psychopath more narrowly, discusses the history of psychopathology, and evaluates potential causes of psychopathic behavior.
In the book, Prins focuses on criminal psychopaths, not individuals who broadly possess psychopathic tendencies. Prins introduces the book by crediting Phillipe Pinel as the “first physician to describe psychopathic disorder” (Prins, 24). Pinel’s name for psychopathy was “manie sans délire,” which means “a state of disordered affect” (Prins, 25). He characterized manie sans délire by impulsive behavior, agitation and aggression. In present-day personality psychology, Pinel’s definition still functions as part of psychopathic disorder. However, the definition has since expanded beyond Pinel’s through the DSM IV. Prins includes the DSM IV’s definition to provide a more extensive list of qualifications for a psychopath.
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Prins briefly references Gordon Allport by including an Allport’s definition of personality, but Allport’s trait theory would have also been a valuable tool for Prins to use to analyze the components of a psychopath. For example, Prins could have examined the impact of cardinal traits on the personality of a psychopath. According to Daniel Cervone, author of Personality: Theory and Research, some examples of cardinal traits are sadistic and authoritative. Prins should investigate which traits are at the core of a
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