Science News writes about one of the coolest studies this decade: a look into the most realistic psychopaths in film!
This paper hails from forensic psychiatrist Samuel Leistedt, who has interviewed and diagnosed real psychopaths, people who he describes as feeling no empathy for others. Explains the site: “They’re cold-blooded,” he says. “They don’t know what an emotion is.”
Says Science News, “Leistedt and his colleague Paul Linkowski spent three years watching 400 movies looking for realistic portrayals of psychopaths. Leistedt says he personally watched all 400, some several times.
He first weeded out clearly unrealistic characters, such as those with magic powers or who were invincible or not human (such as ghosts). That whittled it down to 126 films from 1915 to 2010, showing 105 male and 21 female potential psychopaths. A team of about 10 forensic psychiatrists and movie critics watched and weighed in on diagnoses.
They did this to develop tools for teaching psychiatry students, and ended up tracing a social history of how psychopaths have been viewed and understood since the early 20th century. Learning to diagnose a psychopath is not easy, he says. Not only are definitions and traits of psychopathy disputed, but students get limited chances to interview psychopaths.
Psychiatrists and neuroscientists have identified behavioral characteristics of psychopaths and parts of the brain that appear to function differently than in the average person. But much remains unknown; experts still disagree about whether and when there’s a genetic basis for psychopathy. Hollywood images of psychopaths have shifted over time as this understanding has changed, and as real-life cases came to light from serial killer Ed Gein to Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.
Overall, portrayals have gotten more realistic over time, Leistedt and Linkowski report in the January Journal of Forensic Sciences. Instead of giggling killers with facial tics, at least a few of today’s portrayals have more depth, giving a “compelling glimpse into the complex human psyche,” they write.”
Click the above link for a few of the best and worst portrayals from Leistedt and Linkowski’s paper.
Here’s a tease: