The Link between the Disorder and the Brain

According to Witt (2016), psychopathy is a personality condition caused by poor psychological or mental health. Sufferers frequently demonstrate deception, superficiality, and manipulation. They appear to have a great deal of difficulty forming true relationships and are wary of the concept of platonic friendship. They take joy in deceiving others about their sentiments and causing emotional hurt to others. Psychopaths are often ruthless. They are unable to sympathize or feel guilty about their acts. As a result, individuals are more likely to recognize the significance of their conduct when they participate in socially incorrect behavior. The majority of psychopaths have an exaggerated sense of self-worth.They regard themselves as better being than others as such, they loath any exercises or persons that appear to challenge their aptness for any setting or event they take part in. Most of these patients exhibit extraordinary charm. They show a masterful display of social skills and are filled with shallow emotions. These are pathological liars who would spin anything to fit their narrative. Their insistences and stubbornness at accepting truth makes them believable and more likely to convince around them

As a result of their extremely dramatic characteristics, sociopaths are a regular entry in most films. They are depicted as charming individuals with very dark secrets (Bate, Boduszek, Dhingra & Bale, 2014). Psychopaths are also often regularly depicted as highly intelligent individuals. They are shown to be very devising persons who cleverly and cunningly utilize their environment to achieve a given agenda. Whether it is to seek retribution or settle an old score, the impeccable understanding and use of science and social tact to achieve their desired end often paint psychopaths as exceptionally intelligent individuals. But are they?

Sacco et al. (2016) assert that the common depiction of psychopaths as highly intelligent persons by mass media is immensely misleading. These individuals suffer from a low intelligence quotient hence, contributing to their inability to understand basic social cues. The media has exploited what is a genuine mental problem and extrapolated it for the purposes of entertainment. Psychopathy remains a serious problem and one that continues to affect a considerable section of society. As such, it deserves to be extensively studied.

Thesis Statement

This article seeks to develop a deep understanding of the relationship between psychopathy and intelligences. It intends to offer an explicit account of how the two factors interact in real life as well as offer an intimate explanation on the depiction of psychopathy in mass media. The article shall detail how the mental condition is quantified, as well as outline several old studies that discuss the relationship between psychopathy and intelligence. The research appreciates that that there is a considerable disparity between what was previously known about the condition before the advent of technology and better medical practices and what is believed today. As such, it shall discuss this difference in medical opinion and what exactly inspired the two different standpoints.

Definition and Measurement of the Construct of Psychopathy

As Demakis, Rimland, Reeve & Ward (2015) demonstrate, psychopathy is a mental condition caused by a minimal intelligence quotient. It is characterized by the suppression of most social sensitivities. The authors intimate that persons suffering from the condition exhibit a heightened sense of vanity, delight pleasure in instituting debauchery and causing pain to others. Sufferers appear to have no regrets and typically justify all their actions without much as a flinch.

Measurement of sociopathic tendencies is commonly done through the use of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (Demakis, Rimland, Reeve & Ward, 2015). The technique comprises of several characteristics which describe a patient’s personality. The more the number of similarities between the person’s mannerism and the checklist, the more serious the conditions is. Some of these factors are discussed below.

Superficial Charm and Glib. This is the tendency to be verbally facile, slick, engaging, and smooth in one’s engagement of other parties. Psychopaths exhibit a limited degree of self-consciousness, shyness or verbal inhibition. They have little regard for traditional social conventions and do not appear to be concerned of what society thinks of them. As such, those around them often mistake this as being brash and immensely socially capable. They misinterpret this as the person’s personality rather than as a disease that requires curing. Often, they realize when it is too late or when the person begins to exhibit extreme behaviors.

Parasitic Lifestyle. While many people may exhibit some degree of most psychopathic tendencies, this characteristics almost always certainly the tipping point. Most psychopaths are incapable of sustaining a fulfilling life. They cannot handle basic relationships without being overpowered by the need to defraud or abuse others. Therefore, maintaining a healthy, well-oiled lifestyle is colossally challenging to them. They compensate for this by parasitically depending on those around them (Demakis, Rimland, Reeve & Ward, 2015). They intentionally financially exploit those willing to offer them emotional or physical accommodation. The dependence continues until the host severs the relationship. This attribute makes living with psychopaths exceedingly challenging. Most persons around them often understand that they are best placed to take care of the sociopaths. They are often convinced they can reform the patients and steer them from their socially challenged lives. As a consequence, they persevere through all the psychopaths do to them until they cannot anymore. It is often a painful experience, especially if the patient is a family member.

Promiscuous Sexual Behavior. As Hampton, Drabick, & Steinberg (2014) explain, irresponsible sexual behavior is another key determinant of psychopathy. Patients often exhibit a high propensity to establish a variety or brief, superficial sexual encounters and illicit affairs. As part of the sufferer’s addiction to high risk, they refrain from forming deep and binding emotional relationships. They are often drawn to the sexual part of romantic acquaintances. After having their way with their partners, they often move on to the next ones. As they have attractive social personas, establishing romantic interests is often easy. They tend to maintain a flurry of concurrent sexual relationships and look upon this as an indication of might and not the height of irresponsibility. The selection of sexual partners is often indiscriminate no discernible pattern. Anyone is welcome regardless of their appearance on sexual allure. Unfortunately, with the animalistic sexual rage comes a history of attempted forced sexual encounters. Psychopaths do not easily acknowledge they may not be the suitable sexual mate for many other people. As a consequence, they may coerce their interests.

Early Behavior Problems. Psychopathy manifests itself relatively early in life (Bate, Boduszek, Dhingra & Bale, 2014). It is often indicated by a plethora of activities some of which may include run away from home, truancy, drug and alcohol abuse, arson, bullying, vandalism, theft, lying and developing pleasure from cheating. The young patients often lack realistic long-term goals and are aimless and exhibit a nomadic existence (Howe, Falkenbach & Massey, 2014). They are impulsive and have no ability to resist temptation. They are easily frustrated, unpredictable, and prone to foolishness. They show elevated rates of juvenile delinquency and have a history of run-ins with authority.

Fictional Portrayal of Highly Intelligent Psychopaths by Mass Media

As has been illustrated earlier, the traits exhibited by sociopathic patients often create great dramatic effect. Psychopaths show extreme tendencies an enviable sharp split between good and evil. On one hand, they are suave, charming, and have impeccable interpersonal skills, on the other, they are insensitive fraudsters, coldblooded killers, serial philanderers and rapists with darks secrets and a retinue of financial problems. This in itself is adequate ploy for a successful long-running TV show. Mass media content producers have since seized the moment and are making a windfall from identify with this personality disorder. They appreciate the potential of the concept of psychopathy to rouse audience interest hence increase viewership. However, to most film makers, the actual symptoms of psychopathy are sufficient in depicting the characters they intend to depict. They elect to add another dimension to these persons, a high intellect. One common denominator in all TV sociopaths beside their unnerving personal traits is their elevated IQ. They are depicted to have intimate knowledge of the world around them and are professionally exceptional. This mastery of skill is utilized the psychopaths to harm those he is depicted to have a problem with. However, sadly, this is not remotely true. It is a figment of the scriptwriter’s imagination and a fallacy that has been passed down the ages for so long it has become accepted. Common examples include Hannibal Lecter of the Hannibal TV series, Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma of Batman movies and Gotham TV shows. Others include Geoffrey Baratheon of Game of Thrones, Errol Childress of The True Detective and The Governor from The Walking Dead.

Superior Intelligence Definition and Measurement

Witt (2016) defines Superior Intelligence as the degree of mental aptitude or acumen exhibited by a person. It is defined by person ability to solve analytical problems and is measured by the help of an intelligence quotient test. Developed by Lewis Terman in 1916, the IQ test is a basic survey in which a participant offers solutions to several hypothetical events.

Essentially, the study comprises a series of analytical questions. It demands for the application of a vast array of empirical and practical skills. Persons taking this test are confronted by number of hypothetical real-life incidents to which they must propose solutions. Parameters such as age, level of education, and gender are noted for baseline comparisons. It is important to note that tests for persons in these categories are different mainly because they tend to exhibit totally different characteristics. Once they offer solutions to the questions, their answers are evaluated as per their various developmental specifications. Their responses are the quantified and rated on a scale of 0 to 200. According to Witt (2016), the average IQ for most people falls between 80 and 100. Those between 100 and 110 show a slightly higher than average intelligence. Superior intelligence is characterized by IQ ratings above 110. Persons who record an IQ of above 140 are regarded as geniuses.

Real Life Psychopaths and Their General Intelligence

Psychopathy is a fairly common mental condition. It afflicts many people and places no particular preference to gender, social status or any other common parameters. As it has no queer physical manifestations, the disease is often relatively difficult to identify. Most sufferers do not know they are victims of this condition. Their families are often unaware of the existence of this condition. As Sacco et al. (2016) explain, sociopaths make up a considerable 1% of the population. Some have even been elected to hold the highest political office in the land. However, it is important to note that not all psychopaths break the law or engage in illegal or socially irresponsible behavior. Others have undergone treatment or have assimilated into society. They are regarded as psychopaths mainly because they satisfy the basic diagnostic threshold associated with the illness (The American Nurse Association, 2004).

According to Hampton, Drabick, & Steinberg (2014), the limited social understanding expressed by sociopaths is as a result of their limited intelligence. Most patients have been noted to have an above average intelligence quotient. This discover effectively shatters the “Hannibal Lecter” myth that has, for decades, perpetrated the false conception that psychopaths are smarter than the average person. To this date, there has been no evidence to support this suspicion.

There are many real-life psychopaths in the public limelight today. To successfully study this subject, one must appreciate the psychopaths must not be necessarily extremely depraved individuals. Most of them maintain vibrant public lives and may even be holders of elevated social positions. Some may not engage in criminal activity as a result of active inhibitions in their environment. They may be fundamentally impeded by their social status or any other physical factors. Common examples include Muammar Gadhafi, Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler, Alphonse “Al” Capone, Joseph Mengele, and King Henry VII. For instance, Muammar Gadhafi was a Libyan strongman. He seized control of the country through a coup that almost claimed his life (Bate, Boduszek, Dhingra & Bale, 2014). Upon ascending to power, his psychopathic tendencies did not stop. He established authoritarian rule in the oil-producing North African nations. He surrounded himself with a bevy of beauties who were selected from elite escort services. They received basic military training so as to protect Gadhafi should he ever attacked while in their company. He was one of the World’s richest persons, only missing Forbes Magazine ranking as the acquisition of his wealth was largely unexplained. Muammar developed his own sense of fashion. He would wear dark sunglasses at all times, even at night and insisted to ride on golf carts even win the presidential palaces and state houses of foreign leaders during bilateral or international forums. These are classic manifestations of psychopaths indicative of less than average intelligence. As Demakis, Rimland, Reeve & Ward (2015) intimates, the low level of intelligence exhibited by these individuals limit their understanding of the social world around them. The fail to correctly interpret what society expects of them. Dominant characteristics such as gloating and other outward tendencies take the place of rational decision making.

Old Studies and Links between Psychopathy and Intelligence

The term was largely used in the early days to refer to persons who were prone to criminality, were cunning, or shrewd (The American Nurse Association, 2004). The fundamental characteristic was a pervasive inability to adhere to basic societal norms. In the early days, it was largely assumed by psychopathy was an indication of inherent criminality (Watts et al., 2016). This is an event where a person borne of a criminal is said to have inherited these traits. They were almost always expected to engage in criminal activity. The belief presented a huge problem as the public was opposed to the idea of a generation of criminals. They had limited knowledge of psychopathy as most empirical finding indicated the propensity to commit crimes with little concern for the societal attitude. In some situations, such persons were killed altogether to save society from another generation of law non-abiders. Expectedly, this mindset was repealed with time. The idea that limiting procreation was the main drive behind the killing of psychopaths rubbed most people the wrong way. As such, they proposed life imprisonment or banishment. The new approach of criminal jurisprudence would suffice for the next few centuries.

As Howe, Falkenbach & Massey (2014) explain, old studies depicted sociopaths as having higher intelligence quotient than the rest of the public. This misconception was prevalent largely because there was limited understanding on the subject. The author adds that the social prowess of the sociopaths resulted in a common belief that they were cleverer than most the average person. They appeared more suave and confident in themselves. Their exhibited perfect presentation and projected the most favorable image suitable for whatever exploits they desired to engage in. As a result, scholars concluded that the intelligence of the psychopaths was significantly higher than that of the average man.

New Studies and Links between Psychopathy and Intelligence

Improvements in research capabilities and knowledge on psychopathy led to greater understanding on the subject. As Sacco et al. (2016) note, new studies show that a majority of psychopaths have a lower intelligence quotient. More people have come to appreciate psychopathy as a mental condition as not as behavioral tendency. They have come to appreciate that psychopaths need psychiatric attention and not avoidance or punishment. They cannot be corrected through rehabilitation by the criminal-justice system. Their intelligence is insufficient hence cannot sustain conventional social knowledge. They do not understand the gravity of their decisions and may not even be fully aware of what they engage in. This new understanding has led to the establishment of relevant infrastructure to deal with the problem. More psychiatric stations have been built in a bid to address the prevalent condition. Authorities and development partners have since engaged in drives to sensitize the public on psychopathy. They present empirical findings as justification that psychopathic members of society are a risk both to themselves and to others, hence, require help rather than condemnation. All these endeavors serve to cement scientific findings that psychopaths have less the optimum level of intelligence (Cunningham, Leveno, Bloom, Spong & Dashe, 2014).


This study discussed the correlation between psychopathy. It developed a deep understanding of the subject and employed several literary resources to provide evidence to support the several assertions advanced throughout the paper. The primary deduction in this research was the realization that psychopathy has a reverse correlation with intelligence. It shattered the commonly-held misconception that psychopaths have an elevated intelligence quotient. The paper revealed that this myth is creation of the mass media. Content creators often exaggerate the abilities of these patients for dramatic effect. The misconception has been perpetuated for generations, making it excessively hard to repeal. As no research has ever affirmed this standpoint, it remains to be assumed that psychopaths do not have a high IQ. Conversely, many researchers have established that the intelligence of most sociopaths is below average (Hampton, Drabick, & Steinberg, 2014). This fact is to blame for their lack of social understanding and errant behavior. In essence, they lack the metal capacity to understand how they should conduct themselves.


Bate, C., Boduszek, D., Dhingra, K., & Bale, C. (2014). Psychopathy, intelligence and emotional responding in a non-forensic sample: an experimental investigation. The journal of forensic psychiatry & psychology, 25(5), 600-612.

Cunningham, F., Leveno, K., Bloom, S., Spong, C. Y., & Dashe, J. (2014). Elements of Negligence.Williams Obstetrics, 24e. McGraw-Hill.

Demakis, G., Rimland, C., Reeve, C., & Ward, J. (2015). Intelligence and Psychopathy Do Not Influence Malingering. Applied Neuropsychology: Adult, 22(4), 262-270.

Hampton, A. S., Drabick, D. A., & Steinberg, L. (2014). Does IQ moderate the relation between psychopathy and juvenile offending?. Law and human behavior, 38(1), 23.

Howe, J., Falkenbach, D., & Massey, C. (2014). The relationship among psychopathy, emotional intelligence, and professional success in finance. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 13(4), 337-347.

Sacco, D. F., Merold, S. J., Lui, J. H., Lustgraaf, C. J., & Barry, C. T. (2016). Social and emotional intelligence moderate the relationship between psychopathy traits and social perception. Personality and Individual Differences, 95, 95-104.

The American Nurse Association. (2004). The Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurse: ANA Scopes and Standards. McGraw-Hill.

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association (2000). Seclusion and Restraint Standards of Practice. 3(4)171

Watts, A. L., Salekin, R. T., Harrison, N., Clark, A., Waldman, I. D., Vitacco, M. J., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2016). Psychopathy: Relations with three conceptions of intelligence. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 7(3), 269.

Witt, E. (2016). The relationship of intelligence and psychopathic traits to premeditated and impulsive aggression.

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