Research on psychopathic personality has been dominated by a focus on criminality and social deviance, but some theoretical models argue that certain putatively adaptive features are important components of this construct. In 3 samples (forensic mental health practitioners, probation officers and a layperson community sample), we investigated adaptive traits as conceptualized in the Triarchic model of psychopathy (Patrick et al., 2009), specifically the relevance of boldness to construals of psychopathic personality.
Participants completed prototypicality ratings of psychopathic traits, including 3 items created to tap components of boldness (Socially bold, Adventurous, Emotionally stable), and they also rated a series of attitudinal statements (e.g., perceived correlates of being psychopathic, moral judgments about psychopaths).
The composite Boldness scale was rated as moderately to highly prototypical among forensic mental health practitioners and probation officers and positively associated with other theoretically relevant domains of psychopathy. Across samples, higher composite Boldness ratings predicted greater endorsement of adaptive traits (e.g., social skills) as characteristic of psychopathy. For the individual items, Socially bold was rated as highly prototypical and was associated with theoretically relevant correlates. Adventurous also was seen as prototypical, though to a lesser degree. Only forensic mental health practitioners endorsed Emotionally stable as characteristic of psychopathy.
Our results provide partial support for the contention that the boldness concept is viewed as an important component of psychopathy, particularly among professionals who work directly with offender populations.
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