Psychopathy: Choosing Victims

BundyI just stumbled across a very interesting study by Angela Book, Kimberly Costello, and Joseph A. Camilleri, who managed to explore how violent inmates choose their victims. The motivation for the study was built upon previous research that had explored the idea that a person’s gait (the way they walk and how they hold themselves) is likely to factor in when they are targeted by violent criminals, as it perhaps betrays a person’s vulnerability.

The authors include a statement from Bundy where he explains that he could tell a victim by the way she walked down the street, the manner in which carried herself, etc.

The study found that psychopathic criminals did tend to indicate gait as important for selecting a victim, but only if they scored highly on the Factor 1 part to the psychopathy checklist (PCL-R). There are a number of variations of this test, but one of the simplest is divided into two factors: Factor 1 measures personal characteristics, such as manipulating behavior, charm and charisma, and factor 2 measures aspects of an unstable lifestyle, such as impulsivity and antisocial behavior. So those scoring highly on the personal characteristics, the characteristics that trick us into liking and trusting them, were more likely to mention gait as an indicator of vulnerability.

The authors point out that a previous study exploring similar things found no such correlation, but the participants in that study were college students who exhibited some psychopathic traits, not seasoned criminals serving time in jail.

I found this study interesting for two reasons. Firstly, observing gait is most likely done while their is no personal interaction going on, i.e. you’re being studied and watched, probably without knowing it. And so then, secondly, psychopaths who score/would score highly on Factor 1 characteristics have probably already assessed you for weaknesses as they talk to, charm, and manipulate you throughout the course of the day.

The inmates in the study had to consciously express characteristics about victim-choosing, and so gait had to be realized. This is to distinguish it from the idea that these people are looking for certain weaknesses without really knowing what they’re doing. Obviously, with practice and success, checking a person’s gait would become second nature, but it appears to be a learned behavior.

Anyway, food for thought.

Copyright Jack Pemment, 2013

Reference

Book, A.B.; Costello, K.; Camilleri, J.A. (2013) Psychopathy and victim selection: The use of gait as a cue to vulnerability, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, In press

18 thoughts on “Psychopathy: Choosing Victims

  1. Paula

    Interesting. My ex would score high in Factor 1. He is very manipulative and charming (selectively) and can be considered charismatic upon first meeting him. He was/is preoccupied with how people walk and carry themselves, in particular, how women walk and carry themselves. He would talk about how many young American women can’t walk “correctly.” (I’m sure this stemmed from his highly narcissistic traits of superiority and grandiosity.)

    He often watched people and compared them. I remember being in Paris with him and sitting in the touristy section of Montemartre with him one night. He would guess the woman’s country just by how she walked and the shoes she chose. I would get disturbed by it because he would say to me, “But you don’t seem to fit my observations, Paula. Your walk was the first thing I noticed because you walk with really nicely.” But he could never explain what “really nicely” meant beyong, “You know how to walk, Paula.”

    I sometimes worry that he was hoping to prime me as his partner in crime. He wants a child so badly and probably thinks he needs someone as close to having all of his twisted traits as much as possible. Just reading studies like this freaks me out.

    Like

    Reply
  2. PonerologyNews.com

    Just wrote about this story too and looking into it more brought me to your blog. Very cool to find another blogger interested in the study of aggression and psychopathy. It’s so important to educate the public on these issues. Thank you.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jack Pemment Post author

      Yeah, totally. I’ve seen numerous times now that psychopathy is responsible for 50% of violent crime, even though there are fewer than 1% of the population who are pathologically psychopathic. There’s also a sordid connection between psychopathy and domestic abuse – education is crucial here because the victims become convinced that everything is their fault, which includes the abuse they suffer, daily. Glad to see you’re spreading the good word, too!

      Like

      Reply
  3. positivagirl

    For sure! If you read my story on datingasociopath.com I was the perfect target because of what I had been through. I met not one but two after a massive trauma. One a distempered sadistic psychopath. And another a charismatic sociopath…. (one destroyed me emotionally with constant gaslighting smear campaigns and abuse) the other emptied by bank account, got me thousands into debt I lost my job, and almost lost my home. (one after the other) I stayed (and still am) friends kind of with the final one… he is very interesting to watch. He has a new victim for supply right now, a single dad, so, of course he wants access to his child (not with me)…. they only think of themselves are totally self centred and self absorbed. Thanks for visiting my page, will take some time to read through yours! šŸ™‚

    Like

    Reply
  4. positivagirl

    Of the two, the distempered one was the worst. Asexual (i learned) cruel, abusive. Dangerous. I know it would never have happened if i wasn’t so massively vulnerable (my child died in horrible circumstances I had severe chronic ptsd as well as extreme grief reaction)…. but their similarities were remarkable. I visit a support forum for victims. An incredible place. Gave me the strength to leave, get out and stay out. With the first, to be honest, he could have killed me. A funny thing? Is that the charismatic sociopath – whilst he did empty bank and caused mass carnage in my life, he did actually heal the psychological mental damage done by the distempered one! Really… and all the money that was taken was delivered back to me by a massive windfall after we split!! So maybe some of them do have a purpose in life. A charismatic sociopath can be good for someone frozen in shock ptsd – because they mirror you and be all you want them to be, mirroring me, was exactly what I needed. It reminded me who I was. And actually got me well!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jack Pemment Post author

      Wow, that’s some crazy experiences. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with a sociopath first hand. Fortunately, my experience is purely academic, but I am looking to study violent inmates first hand. Keep educating, though! Don’t let others have to experience the same things that you went through.

      Like

      Reply
      1. positivagirl

        Interesting that one mind Jack. I studied to be a counsellor, and I remember in my course the lecturer said to me, how our fascinations resonate with our own past, even if past life and why?

        What makes you fascinated with understanding the violent psychopathic mind? Why?

        Like

      2. Jack Pemment Post author

        Haha! I hope it doesn’t resonate with my early past. Had a great upbringing, no parent of sibling issues at all. My fascination comes from the brain of a psychopath being significantly different to a normal brain. This raises a number of legal and ethical issues, but also questions about development. Why does it end up that way?

        Like

      3. positivagirl

        In the last 8 months with my socio. I developed a morbid obsession with it. I watched a video I think it was on BBC, and it turned out that when they did the research., One of the principle researchers actually had the brain patter of a psychopath. And then, when pushed further did the tests and he also registered highly on psychopath. Yet he had a background of a stable happy home life. So, he (kind of) turned out ok. People around him could see how he had been assessed as this. But his family and his social educational standing held him in good stead. And he was quite shocked with the results and it put a lot down to nurture rather than nature.

        Like

      1. positivagirl

        I am going to tell you something. Which is a true story. Sociopaths, they too sometimes have a life path and their own story and not all are bad.

        After a huge trauma. i had ptsd, was so massively traumatised.I met a distempered psychopath who mentally emotionally destroyed me.

        I never thought i could trust anyone again. And who do I meet next, charismatic psychopath…. and he HEALED me…. seriously., we split 8 months ago, and stayed friends learned about sociopaths together.

        A sociopath can bring a person out of trauma from PTSD – a good one…. because they mirror you. And in trauma you forget who you are. And he brings you back, he might cost a bit…. but he did the job.

        So. we split 8 months ago. After 8 months of friendship. today – we split forever with love. And thanked each other, me him for the healing and him me for the teaching….

        We are all here for a reason. I am cool. I am happy, I am very happy i met him and his particular brand of ‘sunshine’ šŸ™‚

        Like

  5. Pingback: Psychopath watching you | No Psychos, No Druggies, No Stooges

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s