Penetrating gaze, serious attitude, superb intelligence, neat clothing, perverse thoughts and bloodthirsty objectives. This is how films and series always paint the psychopaths .

Before continuing reading this post, I invite you to know in depth the subject of psychopathy. I leave you a link down here:

“Psychopathy: what goes on in the mind of the psychopath?”

Stereotypes and misconceptions about psychopathy

But, how real is this stereotype that Hollywood sells us with the ones in real life? In this article you are reading we propose to question ten of the most popular and widespread myths about psychopaths.

Myth 1: They lack empathy

empathy is the ability of human beings to understand the emotions, feelings and moods of other people. Lack of empathy is often associated with psychopathy. In this sense, we need to clarify something.

Empathy comprises two spheres: the cognitive area and the emotional area . The first consists of the ability to understand the feelings of others, to know what emotion the other person is experiencing; the second consists of being able to live, feel or experience what the other person is feeling when he or she expresses it to us.

Psychopaths are able to understand emotions (when someone feels anger, love or fear for example) and even imitate the behaviour expected from these emotions. However, they cannot feel these emotions themselves. This is probably due to the fact that, as numerous neurological studies show, psychopaths have alterations at a cerebral level in specific areas related to this capacity .

Myth 2: They can’t be afraid

To understand fear we could say that there is a real fear and an unreal fear . The first one is the fear that we commonly know, the one that has real consequences, i.e. to suffer an accident when we are in a speeding car.

On the other hand, the unreal fear, which we could well call psychotic fear , goes hand in hand with a psychotic type of disorder where there is a fracture in the reality of the individual’s psyche, the subject hears voices that want to kill him or she feels threatened by persecutory images.

The first fear is unknown to them, however they may experience unrealistic fear . It should be clarified that not all psychopaths present psychotic pictures as neither do psychotics have traits of psychopathy, but we will talk about this later.

Myth 3: Cold Look, Serious Gestures, Superior Intelligence

This profile has already become a cliché for the films and series . We know that there’s a correlation between our state of mind and the facial expressions that we gesture, but as we saw in the previous point, psychopaths are perfectly capable of imitating behaviours related to emotions, even some psychopaths are usually charismatic and kind enough to go unnoticed and get what they want.

As for intelligence, we could say that not experiencing emotions is a point in its favor, since this favors that its actions are carried out with greater coldness and meticulousness , besides setting itself instinctive and intellectual objectives. However, there is no direct correlation between psychopathy and a person’s IQ.

Myth 4: They are the product of a dysfunctional family

Completely false. We will not argue that there is a significant correlation between family background and criminal tendency.Abuse, mistreatment, abandonment, bad examples as role models are undoubtedly very important criminogenic factors to be taken into account when explaining the criminogenesis of an offender.

In spite of this, there are no conclusive data that link the dysfunctional family as the cause of an individual’s psychopathic behaviour , as there are multiple examples of psychopaths who have committed terrible crimes but when we analysed their family environment, we found that this nucleus was perfectly functional and integral.

Myth 5: One-sixth of people are psychopaths

Some experts estimate that the global number of psychopaths corresponds to 6% of the world’s population. Robert Hare, a psychologist renowned for his studies on psychopathy, estimates that it is 1% of the world’s population and 25% corresponding to prisoners .

The DSM-5 indicates its prevalence to be between 0.2% and 3.3% of the world population. However, all of these data only gather the number of psychopaths who transgress the norm and cause harm, but as we will see in the second part of this article, not all psychopaths have transgressed the law .

Some simply go through life using their powers of seduction and deception to satisfy their needs or are successful entrepreneurs who have climbed to the top using their skills, so all the numbers are essentially inaccurate.

Myth 6: His crimes are savage, bloody and sadistic

There is no denying that their lack of emotion sometimes leads them to experience the limits of the human when they commit their violent crimes. But let’s take into account that the media (both television and movies and series) live on how many viewers always see them and describe a scoop as bloodthirsty always hogs the attention, describing their perpetrators as psychopaths, a vision that is often distorted from reality .

Relating psychopaths to violent crimes is sometimes distant from what really happens because they do not always incur in crimes related to physical violence , murder, genocide, or rape. There are psychopaths who are adapted to society and the upper class by committing financial crimes, art theft, fraud among other white-collar crimes.

Myth 7: They are unstable and have uncontrollable needs

We should not confuse impulsivity with the demand for gratification of a need .

The concept of impulsivity refers to the tendency to execute an action without thinking about its consequences, while in the second case and in relation to psychopathy, we could say that by not adapting to the rules, when a need requires gratification the psychopath will move on to the act of satisfying it without morally debating whether the way to obtain that gratification is right or wrong. Psychopaths have a “cold” mind, they know the consequences of their acts, impulsiveness is rarely seen in them as they tend to execute their acts with much premeditation .

Myth 8: Psychopaths Are Crazy

This could depend on everyone’s conception of the term loco , but if we take the word loco as someone who has a disconnection with reality (no end of stigma), let’s say for example a schizophrenic) the answer to this question of madness, in most cases corresponds to a resounding no, because they execute their actions with full consciousness and dolo .

Although it could be the case of a psychopath who in addition to suffering from psychopathy also suffers from severe psychotic episodes or even schizophrenia itself. The specific study of the subject will yield the relevant results.

Myth 9: Psychopaths never integrate or will reintegrate into society

Let’s keep something in mind: s i a psychopath adapts to society or not is because it has been completely his decision , and if most of them transgress the law it has been because he has learned that it is the best way to satisfy his needs.

There are psychopaths who learn to accept some rules if they feel it is convenient for them or as a guideline to achieve a greater goal. As far as reintegration is concerned, although it is true that the efforts to reintegrate psychopaths into society have given practically no results, criminology learns more and more about them and the alterations that characterise the psychopathic personality on a daily basis, which allows it to act to propose more effective treatments looking to the future .

Myth 10: All Psychopaths Are Criminals

We close this article with the most popular myth about psychopaths . Let’s clarify that the crime as defined by the law is the action or omission sanctioned by criminal laws. By understanding this concept, it is easy to understand that not all behavior that seems bad to us is a crime if it is not sanctioned by the law.

Thus, for example, if one day a friend asks us to stay in our house, claiming that life has treated him unfairly and that after a week he will help us with the rent and the homework, but after several months he does not cooperate, he eats all the reserves of our pantry, and even borrows our things taking advantage of our kindness to the point where the situation seems unfair to us, does this deserve to be called a crime? Not at all, for it is we who have allowed our psychopathic friend to take advantage . There are thousands of cases where psychopaths spend their time like this, leading a parasitic lifestyle but without necessarily transgressing the law.


In conclusion, there are many myths surrounding the enigmatic psychopaths , many of which have been fed by the morbidness of urban legends, the media and of course the entertainment industry, which often present them to us as perverse, twisted and bloodthirsty beings.

However, the criminological sciences are working together to reveal the hidden motivations of these beings in the hope that one day they will be given adequate treatment to enable them to be reintegrated into society.