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Cult leaders generally display the traits of a charismatic Narcissist, with an Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic or Paranoid Personality Disorder.(2)(3)  They are also likely to be psychopaths.


The Oxford Dictionary Definition of "Psychopath" is: A mentally ill person who is highly irresponsible and antisocial and also violent or aggressive. (Psychiatry) a person consistently exhibiting psychopathic behaviour. Occasionally also (esp. formerly): any mentally ill or emotionally unstable person (potentially offensive).


The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) is a diagnostic tool used to rate a person's psychopathic or antisocial tendencies. People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get with they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include:

  • lack of a conscience or sense of guilt

  • lack of empathy

  • egocentricity

  • pathological lying

  • repeated violations of social norms

  • disregard for the law

  • shallow emotions, and

  • a history of victimising others.

Originally designed to assess people accused or convicted of crimes, the PCL-R consists of a 20 item symptom rating scale that allows qualified examiners to compare a subject's degree of psychopathy with that of a prototypical psychopath. It is accepted by many in the field as the best method for determining the presence and extent of psychopathy in a person.


The Hare PCL-R contains two parts, a semi-structured interview and a review of the subject's file records and history. During the evaluation, the clinician scores 20 items that measure central elements of the psychopathic character. The items cover the nature of the subject's interpersonal relationships; his or her affective or emotional involvement; responses to other people and to situations; evidence of social deviance; and lifestyle. The material thus covers two key aspects that help define the psychopath: selfish and unfeeling victimisation of other people, and an unstable and antisocial lifestyle


The twenty traits assessed by the PCL-R score are:

  1. glib and superficial charm

  2. grandios(exaggeratedly high) estimation of self

  3. need for stimulation

  4. pathological lying

  5. cunning and manipulativeness

  6. lack of remorse or guilt

  7. shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)

  8. callousness and lack of empathy

  9. parasitic lifestyle

  10. poor behavioural controls

  11. sexual promiscuity

  12. early behaviour problems

  13. lack of realistic long-term goals

  14. impulsivity

  15. irresponsibility

  16. failure to accept responsibility for own actions

  17. many short-term marital relationships

  18. juvenile delinquency

  19. revocation of conditional release

  20. criminal versatility


When properly completed by a qualified professional, the PCL-R provides a total score that indicates how closely the test subject matches the "perfect" score that a classic or prototypical psychopath would rate. Each of the twenty items is given a score of 0, 1, or 2 based on how well it applies to the subject being tested. A prototypical psychopath would receive a maximum score of 40, while someone with absolutely no psychopathic traits or tendencies would receive a score of zero. In the USA, a score of 30 or above (or in the United Kingdom, a score of 25 or above) qualifies a person for a diagnosis of psychopathy. People with no criminal backgrounds normally score around 5. Many non-psychopathic criminal offenders score around 22.

Recommended Reading: Taming Toxic People: The Science of Identifying and Dealing with Psychopaths at Work and at Home, by David Gillespie, 2017.

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