Asked by: Gavin Ansell, Staffordshire
Serial killers and other offenders dubbed ‘evil’ by the public and media usually meet the criteria for what forensic psychologists call ‘psychopathy’. Cool and calculating, these individuals combine superficial charm with callousness and a lack of empathy.
Traditionally, this group was seen as being nigh-on impossible to treat. However, this pessimistic perspective was recently labelled an ‘urban myth’ by psychologists in New Zealand, and there is limited evidence that intensive group and individual therapy programmes, based around the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can help reduce violent offending by psychopaths, if not change their personalities per se.
Another promising, but preliminary, line of research suggests that computer-based cognitive training can help psychopaths experience empathy and regret.