Exploring the relationship between psychopathy and criminal thinking: utilising the Tri-PM within a forensic sample

Published date02 January 2023
Date02 January 2023
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
AuthorShannon DeBlasio,Dara Mojtahedi
Exploring the relationship between
psychopathy and criminal thinking:
utilising the Tri-PM within a
forensic sample
Shannon DeBlasio and Dara Mojtahedi
Purpose The Triarchic Psychopathy Measure (Tri-PM) was developed in 2010 as an alternative
approach to the assessment of psychopathy. The measure aims to capture psychopathic traits on a
3-factor model,which encompass the characteristics establishedin previous measures, as well as those
evidenced within practise. Though support for the tool in academic research is growing, less is known
about the scale’s utility within crime forensic settings. Thus, this study aims to explore the relationship
betweenthe Tri-PM psychopathy constructsand criminal cognition within a forensicsample.
Design/methodology/approach Seventy-three adult male offenders, convicted for acquisitive or
sexual crimes, from a Category B prison within the Northwest of England completed questionnaires
measuring their criminal backgrounds, psychopathy traits (Tri-PM; Patrick, 2010) andcriminal thinking
styles(Psychology Inventory of Criminal ThinkingStyles; Walters, 2001).
Findings The Tri-PMmeasurement proved to be a successful predictorof most criminal thinking styles.
Moreover, the meannessconstruct was the strongest predictor of proactivethinking styles, whereas the
disinhibitionconstruct was the strongest predictor of reactive thinkingstyles, and the boldness construct
was negatively associated with reactive thinking. Comparisons among offender groups also indicated
that acquisitiveoffenders reported higher scoresof psychopathy and criminal thinking.
Originality/value Thisstudy offers valuableinsight intothe proposed relationshipbetweenpsychopathy
and criminalthinking, using a recent additionto the repertoire of psychopathy measurements,the Tri-PM.
This study also offers practical implications for those offering treatment within forensic settings, with
significantrelationshipsidentifiedbetween the highlyscoring psychopathyconstructsand various criminal
thinking styles.
Keywords Psychopathy, Tri-PM, Criminal thinking, PICTS, Assessment, Treatment,
Regression analysis, Sexual offenders, Prison research
Paper type Research paper
Psychopathy is a multifaceted personality disorder, commonly presented as a battery of
interpersonal (e.g. egotism, deceitfulness), affective (e.g. callousness, emotional
disinhibition), lifestyle (e.g. impulsivity) and behavioural (e.g. criminal deviance) traits
(Boduszek et al.,2017;Dhingra and Boduszek, 2013). This contemporary definition
condenses the early work of Cleckley (1941), who listed a 16-item “checklist” to support
practitioners define and diagnose psychopathy. According to Dhingra and Boduszek
(2013), the revised definition reflects the exact traits which place psychopathic individuals
in an emotional and cognitive state, where deviant tendencies are less likely to be inhibited
and antisocial behaviour may be motivated. As such, psychopathy has been found to be a
Shannon DeBlasio is based
at the School of Criminal
Justice, Arden University
Ltd, Birmingham, UK.
Dara Mojtahedi is based at
the School of Human and
Health Sciences, University
of Huddersfield,
Huddersfield, UK.
Received 31 May 2022
Revised 19 July 2022
Accepted 26 September 2022
This paper forms part of a
special section “Recent
developments in the
assessment, management and
treatment of psychopathy”,
guest edited by Michael Lewis,
Jamie L. Flexon and Jane L.
PAGE 14 jJOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGICALRESEARCH, POLICY AND PRACTICE jVOL. 9 NO. 1 2023, pp. 14-30, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841 DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-05-2022-0021
prominent risk factor for future violence (Coid et al., 2013;Hill et al., 1996), evidenced by the
overrepresentation of psychopaths within convicted populations (Coid et al., 2009;Hare,
2003;Woodworth and Porter, 2002). Furthermore, compared to non-psychopathic offenders,
psychopathic offenders show greater criminal tendencies such as earlier onset of criminality
(Andersonet al., 1999), greater criminal versatility and offence frequency (Hare, 2003), higher
recidivism rates (Steadman et al., 2000), higher risk-taking te ndencies (Prince et al., 2018)
and greater pridein antisocial behaviour (Simourd and Hoge, 2000). The intricate relationship
between psychopathy and offending is evidenced further by comparative studies identifyin g
noticeable differences in psychopathy levels between offending “types”, such that offenders
convicted of violent offences such as sexual offences (Ogloff, 2006), arson (Mojtahedi et al.,
2017) and homicide (Hodgins et al., 1996) possess elevated psychopathy scores r elative to
white-collar and property criminals (Boduszek et al., 2017). Although most academics are in
agreement over the relationship between psychopathy and crime, conflicting views have
arisen over the most reliable tools for measuring psychopathy (Cooke et al., 2006). The present
study aimed to examine the Triarchic Psychopathy Measure’s (Tri-PM, Patrick, 2010)a
relatively newly constructed measure of psychopathy ability to predict criminal thinking in a
sample of incarcerated offenders.
Psychopathy measurement
Since its early development as a diagnosable trait, psychologists have introduced various
frameworks for modelling and measuring psychopathy. Although some disagreements exist
between competing frameworks, most considerthe same underlying behavioural themes of
callousness, manipulativenessand poor behavioural control as key characteristics (Dhingra
and Boduszek, 2013;Rauthmann,2012).
The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 1991) is one of the most widely adopted
measures of psychopathy within academic and clinical practice (Jackson and Hess, 2007;
Serin, 1996). However, despite its widespread use and validation within the criminal justice
system (Evans and Tully, 2016), the PCL-R has received some criticism for its inclusion of
antisocial lifestyle characteristics as diagnosable items, deviating from Cleckley’s (1976)
seminal conceptualisation of psychopathy as a collection of trait-like features. The
instrument’s categorical approach to measuring the construct has also been questioned,
with researchers presenting evidence in favour of a dimensional measurement (Guay et al.,
2007;Marcus et al.,2004). The above caveats, coupled with the labour-intensive nature of
administrating PCL-R tests (Copestake et al.,2011), have led to the production of
alternative self-report psychopathy tools (e.g. Levenson Self-report Psychopathy Scale,
Levenson et al.,1995; Psychopathy Personality Inventory, Lilienfeld and Andrews, 1996).
Yet there is still much contention amongst academics and clinicians in relation to the
definition of psychopathy, identification of essential traits and optimal approach to
measuring the construct (Cookeet al., 2006; Hare and Neumann, 2006).
The Triarchic model was proposed by Patrick (2010) to reconcile different conceptions of
psychopathy by combining historical conceptualisations of psychopathy (e.g. descriptive
work with psychiatric patients; Cleckley, 1976) with modern-day perspectives (e.g. links to
neuro-behavioural indicators, Patrick et al.,2012). The model is ascribed by three
intersecting constructs,derived from the extant literature, that reflect the majorsymptomatic
themes of psychopathy: disinhibition, reflecting impulsivity, restraint difficulties, anger/
hostility, mistrust towards others and emotional disinhibition; meanness, which
encompasses callousness, cruelty, predatory aggression and excitement seeking; and
boldness, reflecting high dominance, low anxiousness and venturesomeness (Patrick et al.,
2009;Patrick, 2010). The model was later operationalised into a 58-item measurement tool,
the Tri-PM (Patrick, 2010), which has since received further validation and use within
criminal, clinical and general populations from various countries (Craig et al., 2013;Drislane
et al., 2014;Sellbom and Phillips, 2013). A key advancement made by the instrument is the

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