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Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

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Most people are both repelled and intrigued by the images of cold-blooded, conscienceless murderers that increasingly populate our movies, television programs, and newspaper headlines. With their flagrant criminal violation of society's rules, serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are among the most dramatic examples of the psychopath. Individuals with this personality disorder are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and know the difference between right and wrong, yet they are terrifyingly self-centered, remorseless, and unable to care about the feelings of others. Perhaps most frightening, they often seem completely normal to unsuspecting targets--and they do not always ply their trade by killing. Presenting a compelling portrait of these dangerous men and women based on 25 years of distinguished scientific research, Dr. Robert D. Hare vividly describes a world of con artists, hustlers, rapists, and other predators who charm, lie, and manipulate their way through life. Are psychopaths mad, or simply bad? How can they be recognized? And how can we protect ourselves? This book provides solid information and surprising insights for anyone seeking to understand this devastating condition.

236 pages, Paperback

First published November 1, 1993

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About the author

Robert D. Hare

13 books219 followers
Robert D. Hare, C.M. (born 1934 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada) is a researcher in the field of criminal psychology. He developed the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-Revised), used to assess cases of psychopathy. Hare advises the FBI's Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resources Center (CASMIRC) and consults for various British and North American prison services.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 721 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.2k followers
September 30, 2019

Since I keep obsessing about our American president, trying to decide if the man is indeed a psychopath or merely an elite narcissist, I thought I should seek out an authoritative book on the subject. Although it is too old to include cutting edge research (twenty-two years old, to be exact), I believe Without Conscience is as close as I will come to a definitive popular treatment. This is because it was written by Robert D. Hare.

So who is Robert D. Hare? He is the Canadian psychology professor who, through many years of prison research, developed the Psychopathy Checklist (not without its critics, but still used extensively in prisons and maximum security psychiatric units). He was the first recipient of the lifetime achievement award of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy in 2005. And what was the name of the award he received? The Robert D. Hare Lifetime Achievement Award.

Hare speaks with authority, and supports his list of psychopathic traits with chilling excerpts from researcher’s interviews with psychopaths and a host of illuminating anecdotes. I am sure you are familiar with the common psychopathic traits—or you wouldn’t be interested in reading this review—so I won’t bore you with listing them here. I will, however, mention a few things that struck me while reading Hare:

1) The psychopath must always be examined by a trained clinical evaluator. You can never trust a psychopath to self-report on a survey, for they lie every time they open their mouths.

2) A diagnosis of psychopathy should not be given lightly. Many people at certain times may exhibit psychopathic behaviors, but only the whole constellation of symptoms will be present in the genuine psychopath.

3) One of the most remarkable things about the psychopath is that he can make contradictory claims within the same sentence, and not notice that there is a problem. For example, listen to this armed robber on trial, in an outburst against an eyewitness: “He’s lying. I wasn’t there. I should have blown his fucking head off.” (This is one of the characteristics that most reminded me of Trump.)

4) Any treatment program designed to evoke empathy in the psychopath is doomed to failure. Instead, the purpose of treatment must be to convince him that he himself—the only one of course who matters—will be happier in the long run if he can modify his behavior, keep a job, and stay out of prison.

5) Psychopaths hate other psychopaths, although they may occasionally team-up. After all, how can two people possibly get along when each one is the most important person in the world?

6) Here is a cheery thought. The percentage of psychopaths in our society may be increasing. Part of psychopathy may be genetic, and psychopaths, being irresponsible, tend to reproduce at a higher rate than the rest of us. Ergo, more psychopaths!

I will end with one of Hare’s anecdotes. It is a minor incident (compared to the serial killers, at least), but it sums up perfectly how the psychopathic mind operates:
One of our subjects, who scored high on the “Psychopathic Checklist,” said that while walking to a party he decided to buy a case of beer, but realized that he had left his wallet at home six or seven blocks away. Not wanting to walk back, he picked up a heavy piece of wood and robbed the nearest gas station, seriously injuring the attendant.
Oh...I almost forgot to tell you what I concluded about Donald Trump. Well, I will be cautious, as Hare advises, and not label our president a psychopath. He may not possess all of the traits, and my excessive, compulsive viewing of MSNBC certainly doesn't qualify as a clinical study.

Besides, I have decided on a term I prefer. “Malignant narcissist. ” I like the sound of that.
Profile Image for Sarah.
74 reviews57 followers
February 27, 2014
Moral of the story 1: No hope for psychopaths.
Moral of the story 2: No hope for me if I get involved with a psychopath.
Profile Image for Sarah.
533 reviews
January 26, 2016
Dr. Robert Hare: This book is about psychopaths...

Sarah: With hearts of gold?

DRH: No, they're pretty heartless, actually.

Sarah: Because they need love?

DRH: No. They're clinical psychopaths.

Sarah: Aw. They must be so sad.

DRH: Not really.

Sarah: So, basically, what you're saying here is...they'll change? I can change them?

DRH: You're an unbelievable idiot.

Sarah: I love you. Call me!


But seriously...
I do kinda wish this book had gone into a bit more depth: psychopathy as a neurological state, psychopathy as a psychological mechanism, psychopathy as a concept and world view, its role in our culture, and so forth. Instead of choosing his model and going with it, or examining the various dimensions in turn, the author seems to get bogged down in defining the term, itself. (I, myself, kinda prefer the term "sociopath.")(Sounds less...murdery.)(But I digress.)

One question Hare kept returning to was, "Are they mad or are they bad?"
They're bad. Obviously. But their "badness" appears to be rooted in a learning disability coupled with environmental factors.

"Should they be held accountable?"
Yes, of course. Culpable persons should most certainly be held accountable. But they're not accountable. They lack a sense of personal accountability. That's...kinda the whole thing. So...?

To me, the real question is, "In dealing with psychopaths, to what extent should we operate within the psychopath's own world paradigm?" My personal opinion is, not at all.* We should not adopt a punitive world view; Nor should we enable them with kindness. Collectively, we should focus on the science and hold fast to our own nonnegotiable truths. Unfortunately, the science just isn't there. (Or wasn't at the time of this writing.) And there we are.

Hare cautions us against diagnosing our loved ones, but since he gives us nothing more than a behavior cluster, diagnostics is all it is. Still, I think it's a useful book to have read.


*Edited to add: There seems to be some confusion about this statement. When I said that we shouldn't operate within the psychopath's world paradigm, I meant that we should reject it in its entirety. That extends to playing a codependent role within the paradigm. As with anything, there's a danger in going to extremes: reacting rather than acting autonomously from a secure and healthy sense of self. In knowing your own mind, you can step outside the circle of fight vs. enable. Fear, itself, reinforces black and white thinking and locks you into the abuser's construct. Healthy compassion, by contrast, concedes no ground. Healthy assertiveness is not psychopathy.



The Checklist:

Factor 1: Personality "Aggressive narcissism"
Glibness/superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying
Conning/manipulative
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
Callousness; lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for his or her own actions

Factor 2: Case history "Socially deviant lifestyle."
Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Parasitic lifestyle
Poor behavioral control
Lack of realistic long-term goals
Impulsivity
Irresponsibility
Juvenile delinquency
Early behavior problems
Revocation of conditional release

Traits not correlated with either factor
Promiscuous sexual behavior
Many short-term (marital) relationships
Criminal versatility
Acquired behavioural sociopathy/sociological conditioning (i.e., a person relying on sociological strategies and tricks to deceive)
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
350 reviews396 followers
April 1, 2015
I really enjoyed listening to this one. The author would make a statement, then provide numerous examples. Totally debunked my idea of a psychopath. Psychopaths lack empathy, but are experts at covering this flaw. While most are not killers, those that are, are the ones we hear most about as their lack of empathy leads to the most grizzly of murders. Most psychopaths are world class con artists tricking even the best psychiatrists. While there is no single test, what I found the most interesting is the vacant look in their eyes. If fact, it seems to be the only trait recognizable in all psychopaths...and there are a lot more than I ever realized.
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
628 reviews4,256 followers
December 29, 2020
“But the fact is, compared with other major clinical disorders, little systematic research has been devoted to psychopathy, even though it is responsible for far more social distress and disruption than all other psychiatric disorders combined.”

I recently finished Without Conscience, which is essentially a handbook for psychopathy. There’s lot of interesting information in here, from the different personality traits psychopaths have, to how to protect yourself from one and the fact there is essentially no effective treatment for psychopathy. Which is absolutely terrifying.

Dr Hare explicitly tells you not to use this book to diagnose people you know as psychopaths as it’s not as simple as ticking traits off a list, intensive interviews must be conducted, yet I was constantly running through possible psychopaths in my head - it’s fun! Especially when you can see how it applies so readily to copious amounts of serial killers - Ted Bundy is the perfect example of a psychopath.

Not all psychopaths become criminals of course, they often become successful business people as they can be quite ruthless, so there were was also a chapter or two about those types of psychopaths, which was very insightful. Especially for those who are trapped in romantic relationships with such individuals. Dr Hare is very clearly an expert in his field, and he relays all the information in a very accessible manner, using anecdotes and research to demonstrate his points.

All in all, worth a read if you have an interest in the psychology of crime. I’d like to read a more up-to-date version perhaps to see if there have been any developments since! 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Zahra.
138 reviews48 followers
April 18, 2022
این کتاب همون‌طور که از اسمش مشخصه درباره اختلال شخصیت ضد اجتماعیه و نویسنده کتاب هم یک جرم شناس معروف آمریکایی به نام رابرت هیره. متن کتاب نه خیلی جذابه نه خیلی خسته کننده، نمونه هایی که معرفی می‌کنه هم شامل مجرم های واقعی میشه و هم شامل شخصیت های غیر واقعی فیلم ها و کتاب ها. نویسنده داخل کتاب به این سوال معروف که آیا افرادی که اختلال شخصیت ضد اجتماعی دارن هیولا بدنیا میان یا حاصل شرایط محیطشونن جواب میده و اونا رو از بدو تولد مبتلا به این اختلال میدونه و دلایل زیستی و پزشکی هم برای تشخیصش ارائه می‌کنه. در کل کتاب بدی نیست به جذابیت مایند هانتر نبود و خیلی از مواقع لحن خشک آکادمیک طور داشت. اگه تو دانشگاه رشته‌ای که با روانشناسی سر و کار داره خونده باشید احتمالا کتاب خستتون کنه و چیز جدیدی هم برای ارائه نداشته باشه.
در آخر اینکه بعد خوندن این کتاب نه روی خودتون و نه روی اطرافیانتون فقط براساس معیارها و توصیفاتی که توی این کتاب میشه برچسب ضد اجتماعی بزنین. فقط یه متخصص با انجام تست های مختلف و تخصصی می‌تونه همچین تشخیصی رو بده.
Profile Image for N.
792 reviews196 followers
May 29, 2011
I was watching Doctor Who yesterday, and the Doctor, ever the optimist, said something like, “people are good, down in their bones”.

Well.

Nice thought.

What about the psychopaths, though?

In Without Conscience, Robert Hare posits that there are some 2million psychopaths in the United States (and approximately 20% of the prison population is comprised of psychopaths). It’s something that doesn’t necessarily correlate with childhood abuse; some people are just bad, down in their bones. Of course, there are the exceptional serial killer cases like Ted Bundy, but most psychopaths are more banal in their wrongdoing: they just lie and cheat their way through life remorselessly.

There seem to be a good few books about psychopaths on the market, but I chose to read this one because it’s written by a psychologist, not a journalist. (Sniff, sniff.) Hare is occasionally guilty of slipping into dry academiaspeak, but for the most part, he presents an easy-to-read book. It’s no hyperbole to say that Without is GRIPPING. Most people – well, most people who watch pop culture crap like Criminal Minds, *ahem* – are familiar with the popular stereotypes of psychopathy, but the reality is almost creepier. Without is filled with chilling case studies of psychopaths that Hare has encountered.

Recommended.
Profile Image for David.
Author 17 books333 followers
January 4, 2015
This was not a very good book. Having listened to several audiobooks about psychopaths, notably Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door and Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test, I think the lesson learned here is that journalists are better writers than academics.

Criminal psychologist Robert Hare is famous for having devised the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, which is referenced several times by Stout and Ronson. However, in this book he spends entirely too much time talking about how much research he's done and how clever he is to have formulated this unique way of studying and understanding psychopaths, yet the actual evidence he cites is largely anecdotal and even speculative at times. I started to doubt the doc's credibility about the third time he used fictional characters (e.g., Hannibal Lecter, Buffalo Bill) to make a point.

He does this throughout Without Conscience: he will describe psychopathic behavior, and then use a sensationalist example, often from a movie! He talks about psychopaths as if they are monsters who are practically a separate species. Granted, many psychopaths, even those who aren't murderers, are monsters. But it hardly seems useful or truly serving the cause of truthful inquiry to dwell on how horrible psychopaths are, using serial killers as the primary examples, even though Hare himself admits that serial killers are an extreme minority of psychopaths, rather than addressing more interesting and informative questions like how to identify psychopaths and what to do about them.

Martha Stout and Jon Ronson cover much the same ground, and while of course they talk about the most spectacular, cruel, and flamboyant psychopaths as well — serial killers, bigamists, con-men, etc. ��� they do both more entertainingly and with a little more sense of balance, addressing the fact that most psychopaths, while horrible people to deal with, live fairly ordinary lives (often miserable ones), doing as much damage to themselves as others. Whereas Hare seems to want everyone to hire a professional like himself and apply the Hare Psychopathy Checklist whenever you suspect you're dealing with a psychopath, which could be anyone who exhibits any psychopathic behaviors.

Here is where Hare's book also seems to flounder: he uses many examples of psychopathic behavior, and conflates them with psychopaths. Rapists, for example, are "often" psychopaths, he says. Yet while noting that not all rapists are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are rapists, Hare then goes on to describe rape as a crime that is typical of a psychopathic mindset, the extreme lack of empathy for others, the lack of impulse control, etc. Okay, and? What does this actually tell us about the relationship between rape and psychopathy?

He makes vague assertions about how various crimes, from stock market manipulation to government fraud and abuse to violent crime, "may" be the result of psychopaths, and that this is evident of the massive social and economic damage psychopaths do. Well, yes, I'm sure a lot of Wall Street predators and street-level grifters and conniving, bad people everywhere in-between are psychopaths, but not all of them, so just how many are and what is the measurable contribution of psychopaths to our social ills? It's impossible to say, but Hare just hints that psychopaths are becoming more common, as evidenced by how much "worse" society is getting - again, with no evidence.

The few chapters that were interesting and informative were those that talked about what makes a psychopath's brain different — they seem to often have linguistic mannerisms like misusing words or inventing neologisms, and they also seem to often have poor impulse control, an inability to control themselves even when they may be very smart and quite capable of foreseeing the consequences of their actions. This would also explain why psychopaths tend to get caught out eventually, whether they are serial killers or just that lying manipulator in your office who's always telling stories behind people's back.

Hare does not offer much hope for the treatment of psychopaths, since he points out the condition seems to start in childhood, if not at birth, and no form of behavioral therapy actually changes them: at best, you might convince a psychopath to "play by the rules" so long as they are convinced it's in their best interests.

Overall, while there were some interesting bits and a very comprehensive description of psychopathy, Without Conscience appeared to me to be scientifically weak, too much a vehicle for Robert Hare to promote himself and his work, and not as good as other books that have covered the same subject.
Profile Image for Bird.
85 reviews
February 26, 2008
Oh, you gotta read this. Excellent descriptions and explanation of psychological method. Horrifying interviews. I've met these people and you have, too. On the downside, ain't nuthin we can do about it. Except pack heat, maybe.
Profile Image for Bibliovoracious.
339 reviews27 followers
March 14, 2017
Psychopathy is NOT insanity. Psychopaths are not all criminals, nor in jail - they are in fact sprinkled throughout the population, and almost EVERYONE has interacted with at least one. There are far MORE of them rolling around than one might think.

These are some of the revelations that overturned my preconceived notions. A diagnosis of psychopathy is actually an ironclad diagnosis of SANity- one who knows exactly what they are doing, but doesn't care how it affects another. Very chilling. The title rather sums it up. A psychopath acts as though they have no conscience, like they lack a piece that others share and take for granted in others- the ability to imagine how their actions might hurt someone or care about it. Those missing this piece are always a little apart from society and act accordingly, driven by a cold selfishness, and usually faking human, aka empathic relationships.

Some psychopaths are rapists and serial killers, perfectly oblivious to their victims' pain, but some are blithely conducting non-criminal business, but still distributing pain and suffering, as ruthless executives, terrible roommates, miserable spouses or neighbours, and incomprehensibly mean, unfeeling children.

There is no "why" in the research yet. Psychopathy can appear early, in children of model parents, and has no cure. It's a mystery why some people are psychopaths (or the synonymous sociopaths), and there's no way to help them. But there is a definition. Yay! Very uplifting!

This is a very chilling book by the doctor who defined psychopathy and created the Hare checklist for diagnosing psychopaths.

What there is, is relief for parents of children who mysteriously kill animals and are cruel to other children: it is not the parents fault. There is relief for people who cannot comprehend why someone is hurting them with a shocking absence of sympathy. If someone has done something truly incomprehensible to you, it might be worth reading this book. It may remain impossible to comprehend (like imagining a human who doesn't breathe), but it will provide a comfortable label and information.

After all, statistically we are all probably going to interact with one at some point in our lives.
Profile Image for Maureen.
726 reviews87 followers
June 9, 2008
Dr. Robert Hare has a theory he calls "psychopathy," that he uses to describes anyone whose behavior doesn't conform to his standards. He has tried for years to get it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the psychiatrists' and psychologists' main reference work. Its editors have rejected Dr. Hare's proposition as being too vague. Still, people will read this and think that their landlord or the guy next to them on the bus is a psychopath. I have read many useful psychological evaluation books. This is most decidedly not one of them.
Profile Image for Ana.
805 reviews593 followers
February 11, 2017
For anyone who ever studied Forensic Psychology, Hare is a God and nothing less. Him and Cleckley are the first ever mentioned in relation to psychopathy and its clinical measurement or diagnosis, as well as any treatment possibility. I loved every second of this book, not just because it provided me with so much insight into different psychopathic killers that I already knew of, but because it provides statistical data and studies of different crimes that can be done by psychopaths, how their minds tend to work and how difficult it actually is to spot one of them, or even to fully diagnose them. Totally recommend this to anyone with an interest in forensic psychology or "errors" of the mind.
Profile Image for Saki-chan.
78 reviews
February 6, 2016
Los psicópatas son depredadores que encandilan, manipulan y se abren camino en la vida sin piedad, dejando una larga estela de corazones rotos, expectativas arruinadas y billeteras vacías.

Me dio risa esa frase xD.

Si prestamos demasiada atención a los ejemplos más brutales y llamativos, corremos el riesgo de no ver el cuadro completo: los psicópatas que no asesinan pero que están presentes en nuestras vidas.

Creo que todo el mundo debería estar informado sobre este tema, la gente cree por lo general que los psicópatas son tipos de película, de esos que hay poquísimos y en lugares lejanos, es decir: por ahí en USA donde hay un montón de locos. Y la cosa no es así, es probable que te termines cruzando con al menos un psicópata a lo largo de tu vida, básicamente están en todas partes, y no es una exageración o una paranoia sino un hecho comprobado. Por tanto desconocimiento sobre el asunto es que se siguen viendo tanto casos de violencia doméstica, incluso me he dado cuenta de que en la televisión en programas supuestamente serios cuando se habla de una persona obviamente psicópata se dicen frases como "él cambió" o "fue por las drogas" ¡cuando no tiene nada que ver!.

Como sea, hace poco me puse a buscar libros sobre psicopatía, lamentablemente no encontré gran cosa, incluso me enteré de que muy pocos psiquiatras se especializan en el tema, bien, al final conseguí esto que ven aquí y a pesar de que no le tenía mucha fe quedé más que satisfecha con el resultado.

Supongo que habrá mejores libros pero "Sin conciencia" no es para nada despreciable, tiene muchos ejemplos, muchas fuentes bibliográficas, y hace mucho énfasis en la personalidad y el modo de pensar del psicópata. Además Robert D. Hare es el creador del Psychopathy CheckList, una lista usada para diagnosticar la psicopatía en criminales; por lo tanto podemos afirmar que el tipo sabe de lo que habla :P

A lo largo de las paginas el autor nos ira explicando de manera sencilla las características principales de los psicópatas, su modo de pensar y sus técnicas de manipulación. El libro tiene varias anécdotas sobre psicópatas que supuestamente han tenido relación con Robert o con conocidos de él, y aunque no dejan de ser pequeñas historias sin demasiada base creo que la mayoría son buenos ejemplos de lo que puede ser la actitud tomada por un psicópata en la vida real, además de eso toda la información relacionada con la personalidad psicopática cuenta con sus respectivas fuentes, así como distintos puntos de vista sobre el origen del trastorno, por lo tanto no es algo que Robert D. Hare se inventé o salga de la nada.

El libro me ha aclarado muchas cosas, como por ejemplo la diferencia que existe entre sociópata y psicópata, dos palabras que suelen utilizar como sinónimos. Para abreviar los sociópatas se vuelven así por una mala crianza, pueden desarrollar fuertes vínculos emocionales y sentir remordimiento de sus actos; en cambio los psicópatas no tienen empatía, vienen así de fábrica y de momento no tienen cura (y personalmente dudo mucho que algún día la tengan).

No le puse 5 estrellas porque eché en falta varias cosas, como las relaciones de pareja de los psicópatas y sus métodos de conquista, fases como el anclaje, el spot publicitario y la manipulación por atrezo son temas de los cuales Robert D. Hare no hace hincapié o simplemente no menciona; tampoco dice nada de los hijos de los psicópatas. No sé si estas omiciones serán porque Robert no sabe del asunto, porque todavía no había salido ningún buen libro al respecto o porque simplemente lo consideró quizás algo muy complejo para explicarlo brevemente, sea cual sea la razón fue decepcionante. Otra cosa que no me gustó es la repetición de algunos enunciados del tipo "no todos los asesinos son psicópatas" o "no todos los violadores son psicópatas", como si el lector potencial sufriera de cierto nivel de retraso y no fuera capaz de entender las cosas a la primera.

De todas formas es un libro muy recomendable, perfecto si quieren iniciar en el tema o ampliar sus conocimientos, además de que quizás te ayudé a no terminar casandote con alguien así luego podrás apreciar mejor las películas y los libros relacionados con el asunto, ¡se los juro!, se esfuerzan mucho haciendo esos guiones xD, y cuando lo hacen mal los critico muajajaja.

Para mayor información: internet, el Dr Hugo Marietan y el blog ¿INHUMANOS O ANTIHUMANOS? PSICÓPATAS COTIDIANOS.
Profile Image for Shadowdenizen.
829 reviews35 followers
August 5, 2015
Ok, disclaimer first. I'm not a PHD or MD, I've not taken advanced classes in sociology, psychiatry, biology, or anything similar. I'm just a reader with an amateur interest in the various aspects of the human psyche.

That said, "Utterly Chilling" is the best way I can describe this book. Take what you know about "Psychopaths", and add an extra level of creepiness, and you still haven't reached the zenith yet.

A fascinating, engrossing read about a truly disturbing subject. While this book isn't quite so much about the genesis of psychopathy, it nonethless seems to presents a chilling (if unkowing) counterpoint to The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

In this book, the author (Robert Hare) gives us compelling overviews of some of these cases, culled from and backed by years of research in this arena. The book is clearly, cleanly organized, and each statement he makes is backed by copious examples from his research. (Meaning this book is quite readable to the layperson [IE someone like me], though I find that Mr. Hare does seem to have a slight tendency to go into "Professor-Speak" mode at times.)

The author seems to be of the belief that psychopaths are born that way, and that there is "no hope" for them [hence the comparison to "The Lucifer Effect", which posits almost the exact opposite, that evil is situation rather than dispositional), and he does not seem to hold out much hope for redemption/rehabilitaton of these people; the best that he offers is advice is spotting/avoiding these people.

As a fascinating read into the lives of truly disturbed individuals, this is truly gripping, though (despite his years of experience), I'm not sure I agree 100% with his point-of-view on the subject (just as I didn't agree 100% with the point-of-view of Dr. Zimbardo while reading "The Lucifer Effect.". To my [admittedly untrained, amatuer eye], I think the truth is likely far more complex and somewhere between these 2 extremes.
Profile Image for KatieMc.
818 reviews85 followers
May 25, 2015
I don't regret reading (actually listening) to this book, but I am glad I am finished. A psychopath is born that way and will probably always be that way and will make your life hell. No hopeful treatment options offered. The best the author could do was offer advice on how to spot psychopathic behavior and avoid becoming ensnared in their manipulation.

The author uses this book as a platform for promoting the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, a tool for diagnosing psychopathy. Setting aside the complexities of clinical definition and diagnosis, I did learn some interesting things:
• Psychopaths almost always display psychopathic behaviors in early childhood
• Psychopaths don't have normal physiological responses to fear (e.g. sweaty palms, nervous stomach)
• Psychopaths are probably born with the tendencies, but their environment and upbringing may influence just how awful they become
• Criminal activity by psychopaths often declines after age 40
• Psychopaths are generally satisfied with themselves and therefore are not receptive to treatment
• Group therapy settings such as those often found in prisons do nothing to improve symptoms, and often make them worse
• Very few psychopaths are actually serial killers, likely fewer than 100 in North America, compared to 2 million non-serial killer psychopaths


Sorry people, not a pretty picture.
Profile Image for Rheama Heather.
228 reviews3 followers
March 21, 2021
Oh. Now I’m embarrassed how casually I’ve dropped the word “psychopath" without knowing the true meaning of the word.

The author of Without Conscience, Dr. Hare, is the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist, a widely used diagnostic tool for mental health professionals. Through prison interviews and scientific research, Dr. Hare explains what it genuinely means to be a psycho. (Hint: If you’re worried about being one ... you're not.)

Lacking conscience and empathy, psychopaths bulldoze their way through life, faking emotions they’ve never experienced. Not having their own feelings, it's no surprise they're unconcerned about yours and mine. They're reward seeking creatures, in constant pursuit of money, power, prestige, flattery, stimulation, thrills, sex, and whatever else they covet. Negative consequences have absolutely no effect on a psychopath.

Dr. Hare points out there are more of them than you might think. A few will become the violent offenders we typically think of as psychos. (Think Ted Bundy.) Some end up in jail for other types of criminal activity. Still others live leisurely at the expense of friends, family, or unwitting victims of their cons. The ones who manage not to crash and burn tend to end up in positions of authority as police officers, soldiers, lawyers, surgeons, CEOS, and politicians. Emphasis on CEOs and politicians. In other words, careers fit for the supremely confident, glib, and ruthless.

Dr. Hare claims psychopathic traits may be recognized by parents as early as age two and noticed by others at age three. At least some psychopaths, then, are born, not made. Published in 1993, Without Conscience emphasizes the neural differences in psychopathic brains. (Fun facts not found in this book: psychopaths have a lesser sense of smell, and if you yawn in their presence, they won’t contagiously yawn back.)

Can psychopathology be cured? No. Do psychopaths want to be cured? Hell no. In their own minds, they can do no wrong. They'll only seek help to appease others and may end up scamming their therapist as easily as they con everyone else. Of course, society would benefit greatly if they could be treated properly. I assume current research must focus on medication and early intervention as possible ways to train the brain.

The information in Without Conscience is fascinating and highly useful in the legal system when determining sentencing and parole. (Life and never, respectively, please.) I recommend this book to everyone, especially women. Especially kind and nurturing women who are the bread and butter of the psycho. Dr. Hare reveals some signs (uncomfortably long eye contact, over the top gesticulations when speaking, etc.) that will help you run the other way.

Run, baby, run.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for R.Z..
Author 7 books15 followers
October 5, 2011
Scary book, but one that may be of some help should we ever fall prey to a psychopath in our lives. Psychopaths are probably hard-wired that way from birth which is why treatment (at least so far) cannot change them. They have distinct characteristics in common with each other and Dr. Hare and his colleagues have created a test to determine whether or not any given individual is actually a psychopath, one of which is an amazing ability to "read" unsuspecting persons, discover their weaknesses and/or desires, and play into these to get what they want from them. They have learned to charm and lie, yet nevertheless may get caught in their lies as they twist truths to promote their own agendas. Parents of psychopathic children who recognize the disorder early enough may be able to teach socialization skills that will help them to stay out of serious trouble as they grow up and make their way in the world.

Because one is a repeated criminal does not make him/her a psychopath, and this is important to note, because some of these can be rehabilitated whereas a psychopath cannot.
Profile Image for Andrea.
309 reviews38 followers
August 23, 2014
The problem with this book can perhaps be blamed on Hare's acknowledgement in his preface: i would like to thank (...) and Suzanne Lipsett for showing me how to convert technical material into readable prose. Yes, it's quite readable (thanks to Suzanne?) but altogether too anecdotal throughout 3/4 or more of the book. Hare is one of the leading experts on psychopathy, so the semi dumbed-down tone of the book and countless examples of psychopathic behavior taken from popular sources (true crime cases as well as the movies)would be more befitting to a bright young pop science writer than a mature researcher. To be fair, Hare does offer us a thought-provoking chapter (ch. 10, out of 13) "The Roots of the Problem". Finally, some theory and a(brief) presentation of viable biological models! Follows another rather interesting chapter (10)on the ethics of labeling, which is especially relevant in light of the broad use (and misuse) of his famously successful Psychopathy Checklist in the criminal justice sector. Ch.11, Can Anything be Done? (nope) is brief but raises a few unavoidable issues. Then, back to practical matters, such as ch.13, A Survival Guide (no, not for psychopaths, who seem to have little difficulty thriving and surviving in all climes, but for their past and future victims and family members, including, perhaps, the reader)
Finally, published in 1993, this short volume could greatly benefit from being expanded and updated.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
117 reviews32 followers
December 17, 2016
Was going to give it two stars because:

- It's sensationalist (serves me right for reading a book on this topic, I guess).
- It focuses almost entirely on convicted criminal psychopaths, when the vast majority are never convicted of any crime.
- It is anecdote after anecdote with almost no enlightening statistics information about studies or evidence
- He asserts things without offering proof, and sometimes the things are objectively wrong (e.g. saying that people are getting more violent)
- He says a few things that make me think he really admires psychopaths and wishes he wasn't weighed down by conscience

So that is all two stars... And then he said this:

Some criminals learn to do crime. They are raised in families or social environments in which criminal behaviour [...] is the accepted norm. [...] Dramatic examples of these sub-cultures of criminals include [...] the brands of Gypsies common in some parts of Europe.

You can't just make a sweeping statement about a race like that! NO STARS FOR YOU.
Profile Image for Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly.
755 reviews331 followers
November 19, 2015
How must you live your life?


With compassion, many say. Love one another. The golden rule. But this is on the presumption that we are all the same, and that it’ll just take an epiphany or some religious quotes for some erring people to mend their ways and return to the civilised fold. No, this book says. There are many who do not have empathy at all. You get a cute, little kitten and you smash it to death with a hammer and those watching—cat lovers or not—would express horror with what you’ve done. But not the psychopaths who would wonder what the fuss is all about.

But they look normal and they are not all criminals. They could be your husband, your friend, your boss, the baker down the street. Or even you, yourself. This is the book to read if you are one or know one.
Profile Image for Nicole.
866 reviews318 followers
September 11, 2020
This was a really interesting and easy to read book about psychopaths yet is still academic.

If you are a criminology or psychology student I definitely recommend you pick this book up.

Even if you aren't a psychology student, this is a great book to read as it challenges common misconceptions as to what being a psychopath actually means.

It was also very short, so it definitely was a quick read.

I also really liked how it discussed real life and very famous true crime cases e.g John Wayne gacey, Ted bundy etc.

Overall, if you are interested in true crime or psychopaths I think you'll find this book really interesting and I highly recommend it

TW: real life accounts of abuse, murder, violence and animal abuse
March 22, 2011
Hope that Dr. Hare would prepare ten minutes UTube to let everyone know how to recognize psychopaths before they ruin our marriages, homes and businesses. Too much complements and eyes of the snake predator are the best warning signs.
I wish I knew that before.
Profile Image for Tyler .
323 reviews306 followers
September 1, 2008
It’s in a everyone’s interest to learn about the people in society who take more out of it than any other group – who take and take, in fact, and never give anything back but grief and pain.

Among us these people dwell, devoid of conscience and probably born that way. This book identifies the traits of psychopaths and explores their thinking. It's an early study, introducing us to the subject as it was understood by the 90's. It gives advice on how to recognize and protect oneself from a psychopath (or sociopath, as they’re also called). For example, one should deal with them, if one must, only in the presence of third parties.

Psychopaths themselves are dazzling creatures to read about. But as interesting, and more disturbing, is a change in social values that increasingly exalts the cluster of traits and behaviors that psychopaths possess. More and more, the values (such as "winner take all") reflected in government and economic policy cater precisely to antisocial personalities. One wonders if the only reason the entire governmental and financial system hasn't already collapsed is merely that psychopaths don’t exist in large enough numbers to exploit every possible systemic loophole. After all, there are only three million of them in the United States at latest count.

But aside from this "camouflage society," the book mainly addresses the personal ramifications of an encounter with a psychopath. The world we actually live in makes much more sense when we learn about people who have no conscience and who exploit our trust. This book is a good starting point.
Profile Image for James.
Author 8 books87 followers
March 13, 2008
An excellent analysis of the much-misunderstood problem that is variously called antisocial personality disorder, sociopathy, or psychopathy, by the clinician who developed the best and most used test to diagnose this condition, the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Dr. Hare explains what it means to be a sociopath or to be stuck dealing with one, what makes them tick and what to expect from them. Knowledge is power, and the information in this book makes it possible to recognize sociopathic people much more quickly and to avoid being victimized by them.
29 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2008
Okay, maybe you have to be a psychologist to appreciate this, but I thought it was fascinating. Wait: No, I don't think you have to be a psychologist to appreciate this -- it's just fascinating how nasty and evil people can be!

If this kind of thing intrigues you (all you people out there who like to read about real-life serial killers, this is for you!), then don't hesitate to pick up. Again, fascinating!
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