Applicability of Traditional and Revised Models of Psychopathy to the Psychopathy Checklist

Recently, psychopathy has become virtually synonymous with the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) measures. However, the “gold standard” 2-factor model that underlies these measures has been questioned for its uncertain empirical support and emphasis on antisocial behavior that is not specific to psychopathic personality deviation. This study (N 870 civil psychiatric patients) compares the fit of the traditional 2-factor model with that of a revised 3-factor model of psychopathy. The revised model better describes the structure of the Screening Version of the PCL (PCL:SV) than the traditional model. Although the revised model’s exclusion of some items that assess antisocial behavior reduces the PCL:SV’s power in predicting patient violence, this model arguably assesses psychopathy in a more specific, theoretically coherent fashion that may reduce misapplications of the construct. Implications for future research are discussed.