October 10, 2010

Without Conscience by Robert D. Hare

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I read Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. It’s by a guy named Robert D. Hare. The copyright is 1993, and it was published in 1999 by The Guilford Press.

The reason I read this book is because I wanted to learn more about psychopaths.

Why Psychopaths?

Here’s a quote from Sun-tzu’s The Art of War:

Know the enemy,
Know yourself,
And victory
Is never in doubt,
Not in a hundred battles. [1]

So Psychopaths Are The Enemy?

Well, for a lot of people they probably are, but, for me, they are the competition. Here’s a quote from Andrew M. Lobaczewski’s Political Ponerology:

In the psychopath, a dream emerges like some Utopia of a “happy” world and a social system which does not reject them or force them to submit to laws and customs whose meaning is incomprehensible to them. They dream of a world in which their simple and radical way of experiencing and perceiving reality would dominate; where they would, of course, be assured safety and prosperity. In this Utopian dream, they imagine that those “others”, different, but also more technically skillful than they are, should be put to work to achieve this goal for the psychopaths and others of their kin. “We”, they say, “after all, will create a new government, one of justice”. They are prepared to fight and to suffer for the sake of such a brave new world, and also, of course, to inflict suffering upon others. Such a vision justifies killing people, whose suffering does not move them to compassion because “they” are not quite conspecific. They do not realize that they will consequently meet with opposition which can last for generations. [2]

David Rockefeller

An example of a psychopath would be David Rockefeller. Here’s a quote from David Rockefeller’s own book, called Memoirs:

For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as “internationalists” and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure—one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it. [3]

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

Here are two quotes from Robert D. Hare’s book that I liked:

If crime is the job description, the psychopath is the perfect applicant. [4]

Psychopaths are found in every segment of society, and there is a good chance that eventually you will have a painful or humiliating encounter with one. Your best defense is to understand the nature of these human predators. [5]

Who is Robert D. Hare?

Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., considered one of the world’s foremost experts in the area of psychopathy, is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. There he developed the Psychopathy Checklist, which is rapidly being adopted worldwide as the standard instrument for researchers and clinicians. [6]

What Are Psychopaths?

Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret. [7]

. . . psychopaths are generally well satisfied with themselves and with their inner landscape, bleak as it may seem to outside observers. They see nothing wrong with themselves, experience little personal distress, and find their behavior rational, rewarding, and satisfying; they never look back with regret or forward with concern. They perceive themselves as superior beings in a hostile, dog-eat-dog world in which others are competitors for power and resources. Psychopaths feel it is legitimate to manipulate and deceive others in order to obtain their “rights,” and their social interactions are planned to outmaneuver the malevolence they see in others. [8]

Fictional Psychopaths

. . . portrayals of psychopaths that focus on grotesque and sadistic killers such as [Hannibal “the Cannibal”] Lecter give the public a highly distorted view of the disorder. In most instances it is egocentricity, whim, and the promise of instant gratification for more commonplace needs, not the drooling satisfaction of bizarre power trips and sexual hungers, that motivate the psychopath to break the law. [9]

Real Psychopaths

. . . many psychopaths never go to prison or any other facility. They appear to function reasonably well—as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, businesspeople, writers, artists, entertainers, and so forth—without breaking the law, or at least without being caught and convicted. These individuals are every bit as egocentric, callous, and manipulative as the average criminal psychopath; however, their intelligence, family background, social skills, and circumstances permit them to construct a facade of normalcy and to get what they want with relative impunity. [10]

Thus, an individual with a mix of psychopathic personality traits who grows up in a stable family and has access to positive social and educational resources might become a con artist or white-collar criminal, or perhaps a somewhat shady entrepreneur, politician, or professional. Another individual, with much the same personality traits but from a deprived and disturbed background, might become a drifter, mercenary, or violent criminal. [11]

Key Symptoms of Psychopathy

• glib and superficial
• egocentric and grandiose
• lack of remorse or guilt
• lack of empathy
• deceitful and manipulative
• shallow emotions

Social Deviance
• impulsive
• poor behavior controls
• need for excitement
• lack of responsibility
• early behavior problems
• adult antisocial behavior

. . . Do not use these symptoms to diagnose yourself or others. [12]


Laboratory experiments using biomedical recorders have shown that psychopaths lack the physiological responses normally associated with fear. [13]

For them, fear—like most other emotions—is incomplete, shallow, largely cognitive in nature, and without the physiological turmoil or “coloring” that most of us find distinctly unpleasant and wish to avoid or reduce. [14]

The Emergence of Psychopathy

The position I favor is that psychopathy emerges from a complex—and poorly understood—interplay between biological factors and social forces. It is based on evidence that genetic factors contribute to the biological bases of brain function and to basic personality structure, which in turn influence the way the individual responds to, and interacts with, life experiences and the social environment. In effect, the elements needed for the development of psychopathy—including a profound inability to experience empathy and the complete range of emotions, including fear—are provided in part by nature and possibly by some unknown biological influences on the developing fetus and neonate. As a result, the capacity for developing internal controls and conscience and for making emotional “connections” with others is greatly reduced. [15]

What About Treatment?

The term treatment implies that there is something to treat: illness, subjective distress, maladaptive behaviors, and so forth. But, as far as we can determine, psychopaths are perfectly happy with themselves, and they see no need for treatment, at least in the traditional sense of the term. It is a lot easier to change people’s attitudes and behaviors when they are unhappy with them than when they consider them perfectly normal and logical.
But isn’t the behavior of psychopaths maladaptive? The answer is that it may be maladaptive for society but it is adaptive for the individuals themselves. When we ask psychopaths to modify their behavior so that it conforms to our expectations and norms, we may be asking them to do something that is against their “nature.” They may agree to our request, but only if it is in their own best interests to do so. Programs designed to get psychopaths to change their behavior will have to take this into account or be doomed to failure. [16]

Protect Yourself

Know what you are dealing with. This sounds easy but in fact can be very difficult. Although this book should help, all the reading in the world cannot protect you from the devastating effects of psychopaths. Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, manipulated, conned, and left bewildered by them. A good psychopath can play a concerto on anyone’s heartstrings. [17]

Try not to be influenced by “props.” It is not easy to get beyond the winning smile, the captivating body language, and the fast talk of the typical psychopath, all of which blind us to his or her real intentions. But there are a few things worth trying. For example, don’t pay too much attention to any unusually captivating characteristic of people you meet—dazzling looks, a powerful presence, mesmerizing mannerisms, a soothing voice, a rapidfire verbal pitch, and so forth. Any one of these characteristics can have enormous sleight-of-hand value, serving to distract you from the individual’s real message. [18]

Don’t wear blinkers. Enter new relationships with your eyes wide open. [19]

Keep your guard up in high-risk situations. Some situations are tailor-made for psychopaths: singles’ bars, social clubs, resorts, ship cruises, foreign airports, to name but a few. In each case, the potential victim is lonely, looking for a good time, excitement, or companionship, and there will usually be someone willing to oblige, for a hidden price. [20]

Know yourself. Psychopaths are skilled at detecting and ruthlessly exploiting your weak spots, at finding the right buttons to press. Your best defense is to understand what your weak spots are and to be extremely wary of anyone who zeros in on them. Judge such people more critically than you do those who do not seem to be aware of, or catering to, your vulnerabilities. [21]

That’s it.

Daniel Kemp


1. Sun-tzu. The Art of War. Edited and translated by John Minford. (New York : Penguin Books, c2003), 19

2. Andrew M. Lobaczewski. Political Ponerology. Edited with notes and commentary by Laura Knight-Jadczyk and Henry See. Translated by Alexandra Chciuk-Celt. (Grande Prairie : Red Pill Press, c2006), 98-99

3. David Rockefeller. Memoirs. (New York : Random House, c2002), 405

4. Robert D. Hare. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. (New York : The Guilford Press, c1999), 83

5. Ibid., 207

6. Ibid., 237

7. Ibid., xi

8. Ibid., 195

9. Ibid., 74

10. Ibid., 113

11. Ibid., 174

12. Ibid., 34

13. Ibid., 54

14. Ibid., 56

15. Ibid., 173

16. Ibid., 203

17. Ibid., 207

18. Ibid., 208

19. Ibid., 211

20. Ibid., 212

21. Ibid., 212

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  • MikoLone

    Are you a phsycopath? It seems like you might have the egocentric and grandiose part of the checklist seeing how you want to rule the world and all of that.