Magazine article USA TODAY

Movie Villains Not Prototypical

Magazine article USA TODAY

Movie Villains Not Prototypical

Article excerpt

Movie villains from Norman Bates to Hannibal Lecter have popularized the notion of the psychopath as cold, cruel, lacking in empathy, and beyond the reach of treatment. A study by Tim Stickle, professor of psychological science at the University of Vermont, Burlington, suggests that this monolithic view--shared by some treatment professionals--not only is wrong, but prevents many diagnosed with psychopathy, or precursors of it, from receiving therapies that could help them live happier, more productive lives.

The study focused on 11- to 17-year-olds housed in juvenile detention centers who were classified as callous and unemotional, or CU, exhibiting severe anti-social behaviors that put them at risk of developing psychopathic traits as adults. While some in the research sample did fit the classic definition of psychopathy, a significant subgroup did not.

'They appear callous and unemotional to others, but their own emotional experience is that they're very distressed, have high levels of anxiety, higher levels of depression, higher levels of emotion," says Stickle. 'We think of these harmful, antisocial, aggressive kids as being immune to fear, immune to negative feelings, but, in fact, we're showing a whole group of them not only are not immune, but are very susceptible. …

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