Category Archives: Life Sciences

What is a psychopath?


What is a psychopath?

Let me start off by saying the terms psychopathy and sociopathy are non-clinical terms that are not defined within the DSM-IV. Without medically defined meanings, there really isn’t any ability to define differences in between the terms. In the UK, the tendency is away from the use of the term psychopathy to avoid confusion with ‘psychosis’ (symptom or feature of mental illness).[1] In the United States the move to replacing the term psychopathy with sociopathy was driven by change of thought on caused the condition (internal vs. external).[2]

Siemens MAGNETOM Trio

The term psychopath comes to us via way of German researchers who in the 1880s used it to imply that the condition is from an “internal sickness.” In the mid-twentieth century came the new liberal social thought which sought to find external causes for social deviancy. The psychologist G. E. Partridge coined the term “sociopath,” in 1930 to reflect this change of view.[2] The recent use of fMRIs has swung views on the underlying cause of psychopathy back to an internal origin.

Thus the terms psychopathy and sociopathy describe the same condition but from different viewpoints.

The American Psychiatric Association’s "DSM-IV" refers to psychopathy, sociopathy, and dissocial personality disorder as synonyms for 301.7 Antisocial Personality Disorder. [3, page 702]

Again, without any primary medical definitions for these terms, it is the author’s call on how to use the terms to express his ideas.

Shortest Definition of a Psychopath

The shortest, simplest definition of a psychopath is

          A psychopath is a person who is sane but amoral.

It is a character defect not a mental illness.

An Expanded Definition of a Psychopath

Dr. Hervey Milton Cleckley

The Mask of Sanity cover
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Hervey Cleckley, a American psychiatrist, in his 1941 groundbreaking book, “The Mask of Sanity,” describe the psychopath as someone who has only a very superficial sense of beauty/ugliness and only the most elementary understanding of the basic concepts of goodness, evil, love, horror, and humor.[4]

Cleckley says the psychopath functions by mimicking the normal behavior of those around him hiding “a grossly disabled and irresponsible personality.” He, psychopathy is rare in women, is “brilliant and charming” and talks “entertainingly” all the while carrying “disaster lightly in each hand.”

Hervey Cleckley’s “The Mask of Sanity,” (1941) is a must read for anyone wanting to or needing to have an understanding about psychopaths and how they function. The book describes the clinical interviews he had with incarcerated criminals. The book has been out of print for a number of years.

But a private printing for non-profit educational use is available as a free PDF download at The Cassiopaean Experiment or in the Scitechlab Library: The Mask of Sanity (with a fancy cover).

Dr. Robert D. Hare, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and creator of the Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) has written two books for the general public on psychopathly — Without Conscience (1999) and Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work (2007).

  Dr. Robert D. Hare APA
Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
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Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work
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Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR Fourth Edition (Text Revision)
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In ‘Without Conscience,’ Prof. Hare describes psychopaths by saying “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 other, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.” [5, page xi]

Just pickup any newspaper and you will read about the “serial killers, rapists, thieves, swindlers, con men, wife beaters, white-collar criminals, hype-prone stock promoters and “boiler-room” operators, child abusers, gang members, disbarred lawyers, drug barons, professional gamblers, members of organized crime, doctors who’ve lost their licenses, terrorists, cult leaders, mercenaries, and unscrupulous businesspeople.”[5, page 3]

Psychopaths, even those who are “psychopathic killers, however, are not mad, according to accepted legal and psychiatric standards. Their acts result not from a deranged mind but from a cold, calculating rationality combined with a chilling inability to treat others as thinking, feeling human beings.” [5, page 5]

What happens when you Interact with Psychopaths

Death By Psychopath

Prof. Hare emphasizes “on a more personal level, it is likely that at some time in your life you will come into painful contact with a psychopath. For your own physical, psychological, and financial well-being it is crucial that you know how to identify the psychopath, how to protect yourself and how to minimize the harm done to you.” [5, page xii]

Hare explains, “Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought. [5, page 1]

He goes o to say that they use “their charm and chameleonlike abilities to cut a wide swath through society and leaving a wake of ruined lives behind them.” [5, page 2]

A 1992 FBI report reached the conclusion that almost half of the killers of law enforcement officers matched the profile for psychopathly. [times] At least two million psychopaths live in North America [5, page 2]

The Researcher’s Definition of Psychopathy: Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)

Psychopathy relationship to DSM-IV Cluster B Personality Disorders
Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)
Robert D. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) isn’t available for public sale.

Researchers do however use the term psychopathy. Clinically psychopathy doesn’t fall neatly into any particular DSM-IV disorder but could be considered, in this author’s opinion, as a ‘super disorder’ in that it contains components of multiple orders.

Under Robert D. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), psychopathy falls roughly over three DSM-IV Cluster B Personality disorders — antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.[6]

Hare’s fundamental psycho-diagnostic tool list 20 traits that are measured on a scale of 0 to 2 to determine a diagnosis —

Factor1: “Aggressive narcissism”

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior

Factor2: “Socially deviant lifestyle”

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behavior problems
  • Revocation of conditional release

Traits not correlated with either factor

  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Criminal versatility

The score is obtained from file information and a semi-structured interview. A score of 30 is needed for a research diagnosis of psychopathy. Incarcerated offenders have a mean score of about 22 while noncriminals typically score around 5.

Hare believes the DSM’s use of antisocial personality disorder as a catchall diagnosis that includes psychopathly is wrong.[2]

Hare said, “it’s like having pneumonia versus having a cold. They share some common symptoms, but one is much more virulent.”[2]


  1. No author; Madness or Badness; Mind in Manchester; Webpage; No date. Accessed December 2, 2008 @
  2. Seabrook, John; Suffering Souls: The search for the roots of psychopathy, The New Yorker; Online; November 10, 2008. Accessed December 2, 2008 @ (print version).
  3. American Psychiatric Association Task Force on DSM-IV; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Pub.; 2000.
  4. Cleckley, Hervey M.; The Mask of Sanity ~An attempt to reinterpret the so-called psychopathic personality; The C. V. Mosby company; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; 1941.
    Available as a free non-profit educational PDF download at The Cassiopaean Experiment or with a fancy cover in the Scitechlab Library: The Mask of Sanity.

  5. Hare, Robert D.; Without Conscience; The Guilford Press; NewYork; 1999.
  6. Hare, Robert D.; Manual for the Revised Psychopathy Checklist (2nd ed.); Multi-Health Systems, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 2003.
  • Hare, Robert D.; Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder: A Case of Diagnostic Confusion; Online; Psychiatric Times; Volume 13 No. 2; February 1, 1996. Accessed December 1, 2008 @
  • Hare, Robert D.; Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work; HarperCollins Publishers; New York, NY, USA; 2007.

The humble fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster

The humble fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster

An Introduction

By Professor Doktor

01 Drosophila melanogaster
André Karwath


Morphology of Drosophila melanogaster

02 Drosophila melanogaster Morphology
     V. Hartenstein, FlyBase
Color graphic side view of the exterior morphology of Drosophila melanogaster.

Drosophila melanogaster is commonly known as the fruit fly, a little insect about 3mm long and 2 mm in width. Its eggs are about half a millimeter long. Like all insects, Drosophila is covered in a chitinous exoskeleton; has three main body segments; and has three pairs of segmented legs. And as with other flies, Drosophila has a single pair of wings on its thorax middle section. The last segment of the thorax has a pair of rudimentary wings called halteres that serve as “knobby” balancing organs.[1]


Drosophila‘s life cycle

03 Drosophila melanogaster Life Cycle

Like all members of the order Diptera, Drosophila goes through the entire metamorphosis cycle. Reproduction in Drosophila is rapid.[1] The female after mating will lay approximately 400 eggs which take about 12 hours to hatch. Over the next six days, the continuously growing and eating larva will molt two times and end up as an immobile pupa. During the four day metamorphosis stage,[2] the larval tissues are reabsorbed and the imaginal (adult) tissues undergo extensive morphogenetic changes to form adult structures.[3] Twelve hours after eclosion, the adult Drosophila becomes fertile and the female becomes receptive to courting males.[2]

The period of time is quit sensitive to temperature. The above times represents 25°C (77°F) and decreasing the temperature down to 18°C (64°F) will double the development time.[2] A single pair of flies can produce hundreds of offspring within a couple of weeks, and the offspring become sexually mature within one week.[1]

Geographical distribution

04 Drosophila melanogaster Origin
Image Editor
The above figure shows the origin distribution of Drosophila melanogaster.
05 Drosophila Melanogaster Modern Distribution
Image Editor
The modern day distribution of Drosophila melanogaster.

Originally native to the Old World tropical regions, man has introduced Drosophila melanogaster to every continent of the world except Antarctica. It can survive in a wide range of habitats. It is limited by cold temperatures and the lack of water. Drosophila can adapt to temperatures that are colder then it could normally survive in by utilizing buildings built by man. The only aspects that limit the habitats Drosophila melanogaster can live in is temperature and availability of water. The preference for moist environments is indicated by its scientific name, Drosophila, which means “lover of dew.”[1]


Drosophila‘s behavior

06 Drosophila melanogater Mating
T. Chapman, PLoS Biology
A Drosophila melanogaster couple mating.

07 Drosophila melanogaster Larva Feeding
Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology
Drosophila melanogaster larvae feeding in a peach.

Drosophila melanogaster has simplistic behavior. They are easily drawn towards light or the smell of any food source, and will almost indiscriminately mate with any individual of the opposite sex.[1]

The adults thrive on rotting plants, spoiled fruit and fermenting liquids. The female looks for fruit that is green or only slightly ripened fruit. Her objective is to find fruit that will be just starting to rot when her eggs hatch.[1]






Pure gold — Drosophila use in biological research

08 Drosophila melanogaster in Incubator
Paul Whitington, U of Melbourne
Drosophila melanogaster in an incubator

Drosophila melanogaster is one of the most valuable of organisms in biological research. Originally, it was mostly used in genetics, for instance to discover that genes were related to proteins and to study the rules of genetic inheritance. More recently, it is used mostly in developmental biology, looking to see how a complex organism arises from a relatively simple fertilized egg.” Now most of the research is concentrated in embryonic development, but there continues to be research focused on the development of the compound eye, the wings, legs, and other organs. “Drosophila is so popular, it would be almost impossible to list the number of things that are being done with it.”[2]


09 Drosophila melanogaster in Lab
Gary Hime, U of Melbourne
Researcher sorting Drosophila melanogaster.

Drosophila has been used as a model organism for research for almost a century, and today, several thousand scientists are working on many different aspects of the fruit fly. Part of the reason people work on it is historical — so much is already known about it that it is easy to handle and well-understood — and part of it is practical: it’s a small animal, with a short life cycle of just two weeks, and is cheap and easy to keep large numbers. Mutant flies, with defects in any of several thousand genes are available, and the entire genome has recently been sequenced.”[4]


Model organism with super genes

10 Drosophila Salivary Chromosomes
Dr. Elissa Lei, NIH
Drosophila salivary gland polytene chromosomes.

“The genes involved in the development of Drosophila, with few exceptions, are the same as those involved in the development of higher organisms. Developmental biology studies the sequential activation and interaction of genes, in relation to developing morphology. Right now, Drosophila is the only organism for which one can begin with a list of genes active in the egg and follow the morphological changes and gene activations through to adulthood.[4]

Drosophila studies have provided the widest knowledge base available for any single organism; accordingly, developmental biologists use the fly to ferret out the activity of genes with similar functions in higher organisms. Despite its small size, the fly is by no means a small developmental problem. Drosophila is just one level of magnitude less complex than you or I. If you know the genes involved in the development of the fly, you also know, to a reasonable approximation, the genes involved in the development of the worm, the fish, the mouse, and for that matter, ourselves.”[4]

Fruit flies relate to human

11 Drosophila melanogaster Human Connection
Image Editor
Drosophila melanogaster is used to study medical conditions in humans.

“Believe it or not, fruit flies have many things in common with humans! Fruit flies and humans share many human disease genes, cellular processes, brain cell development, and behaviors. For example, fruit flies that are deprived of sleep have reduced ability to learn. Fruit flies also can sense the direction of gravity.”[4]







  1. Miller, C.; Drosophila melanogaster (On-line), Animal Diversity Web; 2000. Accessed October 27, 2008 @
  2. Manning,Gerard; A quick and simple introduction to Drosophila melanogaster; The WWW Virtual Library: Drosophila; October 1, 2006. Accessed October 26, 2008 @
  3. Wikipedia; Drosophila melanogaster (webpage); Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation; October 12, 2008. Accessed October 27, 2008 @
  4. Brody, Thomas B.; Meet the Interactive Fly; The Interactive Fly [edition 53], sponsored by Society for Developmental Biology (; August 24, 2008; Accessed October 27, 2008 @
  5. Navarro, B. J. and Elland, Carol (Editor); Studying Drosophila; Flies in Space (website); NASA; September 2006. Accessed October 27, 2008 @

A Selection of Good Drosophila Books for Beginners

A “brilliant book for the beginners to get a feel of Drosophila. Majority of new fly workers use this as a guide to understand various aspects of fly genetics, as it is well written.This book covers all important aspects which one encounter while studying Genetics of fly. Hence makes it a must read for all beginners” — Hoxful The book takes a practical approach to performing various experiments with flies. An edited book that covers lab culture, molecular biology, and mutagenesis techniques. This is a reprint of the classic ‘Demerec’ book of 1950. Much of the descriptive biology of the fly is covered in this book.

Fly Pushing: The Theory and Practice of Drosophila Genetics

Drosophila: Methods and Protocols (Methods in Molecular Biology)

Drosophila: A Practical Approach (Practical Approach Series)

Biology of Drosophila

A Selection of Additional Internet Resources

  • FlyBase
    FlyBase is the core Internet resource for Drosophila researchers, with information on stocks, genes, mutants, researchers, publications and much much more.
  • The Interactive Fly
    An ambitious and extensive hypertext encyclopedia of fly genes and developmental processes, and a great starting point.
  • FlyMove
    Excellent learning resource, with extensive pictures and animations of embryonic development.
  • The Animal Diversity Web
    Animal Diversity Web (ADW) is an online database of animal natural history, distribution, classification, and conservation biology at the University of Michigan. Animal Diversity Web has thousands of species accounts about individual animal species. This online encyclopedia can be used as a science learning tool and a virtual museum. It is written largely by and for college students.
  • The Encyclopedia of Life
    The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is a project to organize and make available via the Internet virtually all information about life present on Earth. At its heart lies a series of Web sites — one for each of the approximately 1.8 million known species. Each site has content ranging from historical literature and biological descriptions to images, videos and distribution maps.
  • Other resources
    A link to a page on The Interactive Fly website with a list of other resources.