Core Traits of Psychopathy

Cristina Crego, Thomas A. Widiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


There remains considerable debate as to what are the core traits of psychopathy. One approach to addressing this question is to identify the traits that are present in persons said to be actual or even prototypic examples of psychopathy. Ted Bundy, Clyde Barrow, Bernie Madoff, James Bond, Chuck Yeager, and Sherlock Holmes have all been described as being a psychopath. The current study conducted nine data collections, obtaining ratings on these six persons. Biographical summaries of each person were provided. In addition, for 3 cases (Bundy, Bond, and Holmes), participants who indicated that they knew the person well provided ratings without the biographical history. Each person was described with respect to the five-factor model, the Cleckley criteria, and additional traits from more recent models of psychopathy (e.g., boldness and fearlessness). Traits evident across all six persons were fearlessness, boldness, feels invulnerable, thrill-seeking, and excitement-seeking. However, this includes persons who would not be said to be psychopaths. The traits that were most specific to psychopathy were traits of antagonism, such as callousness, manipulativeness, dishonesty, arrogance, and cruelty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674-684
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 7 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Psychological Association


  • Cleckley
  • Five-factor model
  • Personality traits
  • Psychopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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