“I'm Sorry I did it …but He Started it”: A Comparison of The Official and Self-Reported Homicide Descriptions of Psychopaths and Non-Psychopaths

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Abstract

This study concurrently examined the characteristics of violent actions (homicides) and the manner in which the violent acts are described by the perpetrators. N = 50 offenders incarcerated for homicide were classified as psychopathic or non-psychopathic, according to the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (Hare, 1991, 2003). The instrumentality/reactivity and major details of their violence were coded from the official files. Further, the offenders' own accounts were coded on the same variables by independent raters. Results indicated that whereas psychopaths were far more likely than their counterparts to have perpetrated primarily instrumental homicides, this difference disappeared when examining the self-report descriptions. Overall, although psychopaths and non-psychopaths both tended to exaggerate the reactivity of their homicides, psychopaths did so to a greater degree. Psychopaths also were more likely to omit major details of their offenses.

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