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Differentiating psychopathy from antisocial personality disorder: a triarchic model perspective

  • N. C. Venables (a1), J. R. Hall (a2) and C. J. Patrick (a1)



The triarchic model of psychopathy characterizes the disorder in terms of three distinguishable phenotypic facets: disinhibition, meanness and boldness. The present study sought to (1) inform current debates regarding the role of boldness in the definition of psychopathy and (2) clarify boundaries between psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).


This study evaluated the degree to which facets of the triarchic model are represented in the most widely used clinical inventory for psychopathy, the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R), in comparison with ASPD as defined by DSM-IV criteria. Adult male offenders from two distinct correctional settings (n = 157 and 169) were investigated to ensure replicability of findings across samples exhibiting high base rates of psychopathy and antisocial behavior.


We found evidence for convergent and discriminant validity of the three triarchic facets in predicting symptomatic components of psychopathy as assessed by the PCL-R. Additionally, and crucially vis-à-vis current debates in the field, we found that boldness contributed incrementally (over and above disinhibition and meanness) to prediction of PCL-R psychopathy, in particular its interpersonal style component, but not ASPD.


The three distinct facets of the triarchic model of psychopathy are represented clearly and distinctly in the PCL-R, with boldness through its interpersonal facet, but not in DSM-defined ASPD. Our findings suggest that boldness is central to diagnostic conceptions of psychopathy and distinguishes psychopathy from the more prevalent diagnosis of ASPD.


Corresponding author

* Author for correspondence: Mr N. C. Venables, M.S., Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA. (Email: [N. C. Venables] (Email: [C. J. Patrick]


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