1st Edition

Understanding Psychopathy The Biopsychosocial Perspective

By Nicholas Thomson Copyright 2019
    172 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    172 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Understanding Psychopathy is an essential, accessible new guide on psychopathy and its development. Through the lens of the biopsychosocial model, Thomson explores a wide range of factors contributing to the development of psychopathy, from the genetic to the environmental, supported by the latest research into the disorder.

    Thomson examines psychopathy from all angles, analysing social, psychological and biological factors, in addition to the history and assessment of psychopathy, and links to violent crime. Theory and research are supported throughout with fascinating case studies. These case studies provide accessible and relevant examples for readers who are new to the field, and to those more familiar with psychopathy and its implications.

    Understanding Psychopathy is a brilliant resource for psychology students, researchers and practitioners in the criminal justice system alike, with grounding in forensic psychology, clinical psychology and criminology.


    The author is donating his royalties in full to Project EMPOWER, UK, a multidisciplinary initiative dedicated to enhancing prevention and intervention services to individuals and their families who experience intimate partner violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, or human trafficking.

    Chapter 1: Psychopathy and the Biopsychosocial Model

    Chapter 2: History and Assessment of Psychopathy

    Chapter 3: Psychopathy and Violent Crime

    Chapter 4: Genetics and the Environment

    Chapter 5: Biological Factors

    Chapter 6: Psychological Factors

    Chapter 7: Social Factors

    Chapter 8: The Biopsychosocial Model of Psychopathy


    Nicholas D. Thomson, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Program Evaluator for the Injury and Violence Prevention Program at VCU Health Trauma Center, and Honorary Fellow at the University of Durham. He is an accredited psychotherapist by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy and has over a decade of clinical experience working in prisons and inpatient settings in both the US and UK, and currently runs a private practice. Formerly, he was the module leader for the Forensic Psychology and Psychopathy programs, and taught Abnormal Psychology at the University of Durham.

    "In the last 20 years, studies investigating psychopathy have increased exponentially. Several theoretical frameworks have been developed focusing on either social, psychological or biological explanations. Yet, there is a great deal of controversy and lack of replication among existing studies. If we manage to consider the unique and interactive influences among biological, psychological and social influences, as argued in this book, we may begin to offer a better explanation of the complicated phenomenon of psychopathy. Psychopathy is an exciting area of research, and Thomson offers an in-depth expert analysis of the latest research on the biopsychosocial mechanisms of psychopathy, providing an excellent resource for researchers and clinicians alike." - Dr. Kostas Fanti, PhD., Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Cyprus and Director of the Developmental Psychopathology Lab.

    "Thomson provides us with a highly readable volume on the multifarious nature of psychopathy. Having done the exhaustive scientific leg-work, he presents the evidence for a biopsychosocial understanding of psychopathy, and thus provides the topology, the banks of the river so to speak, for beginning the challenging journey of tracing the inter-connected multi-causal nature of this personality disorder. It may help address one of the most puzzling questions regarding the link between covert antisocial features of the disorder (deceitful, callous, manipulation of others) and the more overt features (impulsive, reckless, aggression), which can precede the covert features, and that both are components of a broad genetic factor." - Dr. Craig Neumann, PhD., Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at the University of North Texas.

    "Understanding Psychopathy provides a comprehensive review of the development and causal links of psychopathy. By integrating the latest research from the biological, psychological, and social sciences, the book extensively considers psychopathy from a biopsychosocial perspective. Thomson delivers an accessible and compelling resource for forensic practitioners, researchers, students, and laypersons." - Dr Annette McKeown, PsyD., Principal Forensic Psychologist, Kolvin Service UK.

    "This outstanding new book on psychopathy, focusing on the biopsychosocial model, offers a comprehensive and detailed overview of the most recent theoretical and empirical analyses. It is well written, easily accessible and clearly presented and the use of case examples in combination with thorough scientific discussion makes it a pleasure to read. It provides key insights for both readers who are new in the field as well as for more experienced professionals. In short, a must-read for everyone who wants to gain deeper understanding of psychopathy." - Vivienne de Vogel, Professor at the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, and researcher De Forensische Zorgspecialisten, The Netherlands

    "Over the past 30 years, the construct of psychopathy has received unparalleled attention from researchers and scholars interested in the origins and maintenance of criminal behavior. Psychopathy is the subject of numerous empirical studies, theoretical articles, book chapters, and books, and the popularity of psychopathy in mainstream movies, television shows, podcasts, and books aimed at the general public has increased dramatically in recent years. The topic of psychopathy has also been written about from multiple perspectives, including psychological, biological, neurological, neuropsychological, and sociological.

    Given the unprecedented attention devoted to psychopathy over the past few decades, it is rare to read anything "new" on the subject. But Thomson’s Understanding Psychopathy offers a refreshingly novel treatment of psychopathy. Thomson examines the development of psychopathy from a biopsychosocial perspective, and Understanding Psychopathy provides up-to-date, insightful, and comprehensive coverage of the multidisciplinary research that has been conducted over the past 30 years. Although the book focuses primarily on the development of psychopathy using the biopsychosocial approach as a guiding framework, there are also chapters addressing the assessment of psychopathy and the relationship between psychopathy and crime. Understanding Psychopathy simultaneously serves as a comprehensive synthesis of existing research and a blueprint for current and future researchers interested in conducting meaningful science in this area. Thomson has succeeded in writing a scholarly and practical book that will be attractive to students, researchers, clinicians, and anyone else interested in this fascinating disorder." - David DeMatteo, JD, PhD, ABPP (Forensic), Drexel University, Department of Psychology and Thomas R. Kline School of Law

    "This remarkably comprehensive volume represents a landmark in the field of psychopathy research.  As detailed throughout the book, the puzzle of psychopathy has often been approached in a piecemeal fashion.  Theory and research tends to emphasize biological, psychological, and sociological accounts as relatively separate.  Fortunately for the field, Thomson has organized a novel and pathbreaking account that successfully ties these separate threads together, to provide a comprehensive biopsychosocial perspective to contextualize and understand psychopathy. A remarkable accomplishment and a critical addition to the libraries of researchers, students, and front-line practitioners." - Dr. Robert F. Krueger, Ph.D., Distinguished McKnight University Professor, University of Minnesota, USA.