Geeking Science: P is for Psychopath

Image from Dreamtime (paid for)

In “Hope for the Future” (1/28/2024), I created a small slice of the future run by psychopath. And if I continue the Gas Station Killer (first post appearing at 2/7/2021) series far enough, the serial killer(s) posing and modus operandi will lead the police to their doorstep(s). Unlike ADHD and autism, the killer versions of neuro-spicy have little benefit in a healthy society, hunter-gatherer or modern, but they do provide a ton of fun material for writers of thrillers and mysteries. The challenge is to present them realistically without reminding people (too much) that these types are monsters are real.

Psychopath and sociopath are used interchangeably by non-specialists, but neither are defined in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders.” There the diagnosis becomes defined as “antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)”. Under 18, the diagnose is “conduct disorder”.  In either case, going against societies standards, even quantified ones like laws, without remorse, is standard. Lying, tricking, and endangering others is done without empathy. Some going against society restrictions is expected, especially during teenage years, but people with ASPD have it in unhealthy levels. (Baby)

But when psychopathy is added to the mix, it takes ASPD to another level. About 1% of the population has psychopathy, and 25-30% of people with ASPD have these traits. Psychopathy isn’t a disorder or a diagnosis, but more like introvert or extrovert – just a set of traits some people have. Few of these traits are good … just saying: insincere charm, easily bored, manipulation of others, no guilt, failure to accept responsibility, and usually many sexual relations, likely because of the inability to connect emotionally but the brain’s neuro-spicy bonus of immediate rewards administered at a higher priority than “average”. Given the lack of guilt, failure to accept responsibility, and the manipulation of others, if this combo is found in someone with average intelligence (and 50% of all humans are at or below average – statistics being what they are over a population), crime and getting caught doing the crime is common. 15-25% of people in prisons display psychopathy traits. (Baby)

The upside of psychopathy is little-to-no imposture syndrome and virtually no anxiety issues. Helps not to care. Hey, not all traits personality need to be negative, even in a group package like psychopathy.

Not every person with psychopathy or ASPD is a serial killer, or even a criminal. Some function in society fine, and there are even jobs tailor-made for them. For example, repossession (of cars), foreclosures (of homes), and dunning (of credit) are all necessary in a capitalistic society for a lending system to function. I had a sister who worked in a dunning call center for about two months, but it destroyed her emotionally – people in that position needed a good helping of psychopathy to survive long-term. Sure we all hate people in these positions, especially when we are on the receiving end of life raining lemons on us after covering our bodies in papercuts, and being unable to pay back loans. But if a lending system is to exist, recourse on collecting the loans are needed too. (Not sure which is worse, not having a lending system or having a lending system.)

But back to the FUN part of psychopaths for writing. Serial killers – thank goodness there is not as many of these monsters in reality as show up in fiction but aren’t they fun in a fictional setting?

There are “organized” and “disorganized.” Organized creating premeditated crimes (which mysteries love so much), and the other creating crimes of passion (perfect for thrillers).

The organized are sane, not healthy but they are sane, an important distinction. They are aware they are killing people and society will punish them for this behavior if it is discovered. To stay unfound they are usually charming and have a “normal” life, even with spouses and children. A good job is necessary to get time off and travel money. Police hate organized killers as they don’t make many mistakes and stringing together enough of the mistakes for the police to actually find them could mean a long line of bodies. Readers love a good organized psychopath for murder mysteries.

The especially fun parts for readers are Modus Operandi (MO) and the signature. In romances, a reader loves how far-flung locations change up love stories; for mystery readers, a good MO makes all the difference between their “book candy” hauls. The method of operation combines things like the type of victim, where the victim is acquired, and the weapon used. All the things that make up the crime. The signature is something the perpetrator does not have to do to commit the crime, such as leaving a riddle with the body or redressing the person in a red gown. The signature comes from the fantasies driving the un-aliving. (Bonn)

Staging and Posing may be part of the signature. For the “Gas Station Killer”, the body(s) was found posed in a gas station bathroom. This particular killer does not stage to confuse the police, although moving the body away from the kill site means a lot of evidence is missing, and the amount of people using gas station bathrooms means any evidence missed during the transfer is highly compromised. The killer is driven by their fantasy to pose the victims.

Have you even written a serial killer with an MO and signature? Comment below what parts of the science of psychology you drew from to create your antagonist (or anti-hero) below. As I indicated, I used posing for the “Gas Station Killer” signature and their MO was the type of person they chose to kill and how they drained the blood from the body. In “Hope for the Future,” I played off organized and disorganized killers on a prisons ship interacting – using their different strengths to create a functional society which could (hopefully) perpetuate itself for the members to survive. Hard to do when most of the ship has the antisocial personality disorder and the inability to follow laws. But if the convicts do not figure it out, death will be long and uncomfortable to the last few left standing at the end.


Baby, Dany P. (reviewer). “How Sociopathy and Psychopaths are Different.” WebMD. 16 March 2023. ( – last viewed 11/16/2023)

Bonn, Scott A. “Serial Killers: Modus Operandi, Signature, Staging & Posing – Understanding and classifying serial killer crime scenes.” Psychology Today. 29 June 2015. ( – last viewed 11/16/2023)

Lampley, Steven. “The Psychological Phases of Serial Killers.” Psychology Today. 25 August 2020. ( – last viewed 11/16/2023)

6 thoughts to “Geeking Science: P is for Psychopath”

  1. Conduct disorder for a psychopathic teen sounds much less threatening than psychopath does.
    Great post, very informative. But I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the psychopath was repossessing someone’s car, and the car owner tried to grab his/her arm or something in an attempt to get the psychopath to wait a minute, give the owner a chance to explain and get another day to come up with the money, or any postponement, and I’m not sure I’d want to see how the psychopath would react to that.

    1. Someone with a psychopathy nature should have learned how to control reactions by the time they are an adult, but like an introvert getting touched on a bad day or an extrovert not knowing when to backoff, problems may arise. Most adults have learned to “mask” to public-average to fit in.

  2. I’ve always been fascinated and not a little frightened by the psychopath. I gobble up any novel with a psychopath character, and books or films are the only places I’ve ever met one. At least as far as I know….

  3. Good versus Evil. I see psychopathy on a continuum with the saint on one end and the devil on the other. We can all have degrees of psychopathy. But the successful ones can be very frightening to think about in that I think we all know a few whether we know it or not. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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