The Role of Boldness in Psychopathy: A Study of Academic and Clinical Perceptions

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The relevance of boldness to psychopathy has recently become a major flashpoint of scientific controversy. Although some authors have contended that boldness is a necessary (although insufficient) component of psychopathy, others have asserted that it is largely or entirely irrelevant to psychopathy. We addressed this issue by examining clinical perceptions of the relevance of the 3 triarchic dimensions (boldness, disinhibition, and meanness) to psychopathy among a sample of mental health professionals and graduate students (N = 228) using a vignette-based, person-centered methodology. A vignette comprising boldness descriptors afforded statistically significant and moderate to large (Cohen’s ds ranged from .47 to .99) increases in perceived resemblance to overall psychopathy above and beyond the other triarchic dimensions, both singly and jointly; these findings extended largely to clinical perceptions of Factor 1 (i.e., interpersonal and affective aspects of psychopathy) but not Factor 2 (i.e., impulsive and antisocial aspects of psychopathy) resemblance. Contrary to the claims of some recent authors, boldness alone was perceived as being as relevant to psychopathy as was disinhibition, although both dimensions were perceived as less relevant to psychopathy than was meanness. These findings offer strong support for the contention that boldness is regarded as a key feature of classical psychopathy and are broadly consistent with interpersonal models of psychopathy.

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