Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

by Robert D. Hare

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Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare

Most people are both repelled and intrigued by the images of cold-blooded, conscienceless murderers that increasingly populate our movies, television programs, and newspaper headlines. With their flagrant criminal violation of society's rules, serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are among the most dramatic examples of the psychopath. Individuals with this personality disorder are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and know the difference between right and wrong, yet they are terrifyingly self-centered, remorseless, and unable to care about the feelings of others. Perhaps most frightening, they often seem completely normal to unsuspecting targets--and they do not always ply their trade by killing. Presenting a compelling portrait of these dangerous men and women based on 25 years of distinguished scientific research, Dr. Robert D. Hare vividly describes a world of con artists, hustlers, rapists, and other predators who charm, lie, and manipulate their way through life. Are psychopaths mad, or simply bad? How can they be recognized? And how can we protect ourselves? This book provides solid information and surprising insights for anyone seeking to understand this devastating condition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462531158
Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
Publication date: 03/12/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 236
Sales rank: 194,518
File size: 20 MB
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About the Author

Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and the first recipient of the R. D. Hare Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy.

Paul Boehmer is a seasoned actor who has appeared on Broadway, film, and television, including The Thomas Crown Affair and All My Children. Coinciding with another of his passions, sci-fi, Paul has been cast in various roles in many episodes of Star Trek.

Read an Excerpt


"Experiencing" the Psychopath

I could see the dark blood from Halmea's mouth trickling down the sheet toward the part of her that was under Hud. I didn't move or blink, but then Hud was standing up grinning at me; he was buckling his ruby belt buckle. "Ain't she a sweet patootie?" he said. He whistled and began to tuck his pant legs into the tops of his red suede boots. Halmea had curled toward the wall....

Larry McMurty, Horseman, Pass By

Over the years I've become accustomed to the following experience. In response to a courteous question by a dinner acquaintance about my work, I briefly sketch the distinguishing characteristics of a psychopath. Invariably, someone at the table suddenly looks thoughtful and then exclaims, "Good lord—I think So-and-So must have been—." or, "You know, I never realized it before, but the person you're describing is my brother-in-law."

These thoughtful, troubled responses aren't limited to the social realm. Routinely, people who have read of my work call my laboratory to describe a husband, a child, an employer, or an acquaintance whose inexplicable behavior has been causing them grief and pain for years.

Nothing is more convincing of the need for clarity and reflection on psychopathy than these real-life stories of disappointment and despair. The three that make up this chapter provide a way of easing into this strange and fascinating subject by conveying that characteristic sense that "something's wrong here but I can't quite put my finger on it."

One of the accounts is drawn from a prison population, where most of the studies of psychopathy take place (for the practical reasons that there are a lot of psychopaths in prisons and the information needed to diagnose them is readily available).

The two other accounts are drawn from everyday life, for psychopaths are found not only in prison populations. Parents, children, spouses, lovers, co-workers, and unlucky victims everywhere are at this moment attempting to cope with the personal chaos and confusion psychopaths cause and to understand what drives them. Many of you will find an uneasy resemblance between the individuals in these examples and people who have made you think you were living in hell.


After I received my master's degree in psychology in the early 1960s, I looked for a job to help support my wife and infant daughter and to pay for the next stage of my education. Without having been inside a prison before, I found myself employed as the sole psychologist at the British Columbia Penitentiary.

I had no practical work experience as a psychologist and no particular interest in clinical psychology or criminological issues. The maximum-security penitentiary near Vancouver was a formidable institution housing the kinds of criminals I had only heard about through the media. To say I was on unfamiliar ground is an understatement.

I started work completely cold—with no training program or sage mentor to hint at how one went about being a prison psychologist. On the first day I met the warden and his administrative staff, all of whom wore uniforms and some of whom wore sidearms. The prison was run along military lines, and accordingly I was expected to wear a "uniform" consisting of a blue blazer, gray flannel trousers, and black shoes. I convinced the warden that the outfit was unnecessary, but he nevertheless insisted that one at least be made for me by the prison shop, and I was sent down to be measured.

The result was an early sign that all was not as orderly as the place appeared: The jacket sleeves were far too short, the trousers legs were of hilariously discrepant length, and the shoes differed from each other by two sizes. I found the latter particularly perplexing, because the inmate who had measured my feet had been extremely meticulous in tracing them out on a sheet of brown paper. How he could have produced two entirely different-sized shoes, even after several complaints on my part, was difficult to imagine. I could only assume that he was giving me a message of some sort.

My first workday was quite eventful. I was shown to my office, an immense area on the top floor of the prison, far different from the intimate, trust-inspiring burrow I had hoped for. I was isolated from the rest of the institution and had to pass through several sets of locked doors to reach my office. On the wall above my desk was a highly conspicuous red button. A guard who had no idea what a psychologist was supposed to do in a prison—an ignorance I shared—told me that the button was for an emergency, but that if I ever need to press it, I should not expect help to arrive immediately.

The psychologist who was my predecessor had left a small library in the office. It consisted mainly of books on psychological tests, such as the Rorschach Ink Blot Test and the Thematic Apperception Test. I knew something about such tests but had never used them, so the books—among the few objects in the prison that seemed familiar—only reinforced my sense that I was in for a difficult time.

I wasn't in my office for more than an hour when my first "client" arrived. He was a tall, slim, dark-haired man in his thirties. The air around him seemed to buzz, and the eye contact he made with me was so direct and intense that I wondered if I had ever really looked anybody in the eye before. That stare was unrelenting—he didn't indulge in the brief glances away that most people use to soften the force of their gaze.

Without waiting for an introduction, the inmate—I'll call him Ray—opened the conversation: "Hey, Doc, how's it going? Look, I've got a problem. I need your help. I'd really like to talk to you about this."

Eager to begin work as a genuine psychotherapist, I asked him to tell me about it. In response, he pulled out a knife and waved it in front of my nose, all the while smiling and maintaining that intense eye contact. My first thought was to push the red button behind me, which was in Ray's plain view and the purpose of which was unmistakable. Perhaps because I sensed that he was only testing me, or perhaps because I knew that pushing the button would do no good if he really intended to harm me, I refrained.

Once he determined that I wasn't going to push the button, he explained that he intended to use the knife not on me but on another inmate who had been making overtures to his "protégé," a prison term for the more passive member of a homosexual pairing. Just why he was telling me this was not immediately clear, but I soon suspected that he was checking me out, trying to determine what sort of a prison employee I was. If I said nothing about the incident to the administration, I would be violating a strict prison rule that required staff to report possession of a weapon of any sort. On the other hand, I knew that if I did report him, word would get around that I was not an inmate-oriented psychologist, and my job would be even more difficult than it was promising to be. Following our session, in which he described his "problem" not once or twice but many times, I kept quiet about the knife. To my relief, he didn't stab the other inmate, but it soon became evident that Ray had caught me in his trap: I had shown myself to be a soft touch who would overlook clear violations of fundamental prison rules in order to develop "professional" rapport with the inmates.

From that first meeting on, Ray managed to make my eight-month stint at the prison miserable. His constant demands on my time and his attempts to manipulate me into doing things for him were unending. On one occasion, he convinced me that he would make a good cook—he felt he had a natural bent for cooking, he thought he would become a chef when he was released, this was a great opportunity to try out some of his ideas to make institutional food preparation more efficient, etc.—and I supported his request for a transfer from the ma chine shop (where he had apparently made the knife). What I didn't consider was that the kitchen was a source of sugar, potatoes, fruit, and other ingredients that could be turned into alcohol. Several months after I had recommended the transfer, there was a mighty eruption below the floorboards directly under the warden's table. When the commotion died down, we found an elaborate system for distilling alcohol below the floor. Something had gone wrong and one of the pots had exploded. There was nothing unusual about the presence of a still in a maximum-security prison, but the audacity of placing one under the warden's seat shook up a lot of people. When it was discovered that Ray was brains behind the bootleg operation, he spent some time in solitary confinement.

Once out of "the hole," Ray appeared in my office as if nothing had happened and asked for a transfer from the kitchen to the auto shop—he really felt he had a knack, he saw the need to prepare himself for the outside world, if he only had the time to practice he could have his own body shop on the outside ... I was still feeling the sting of having arranged the first transfer, but eventually he wore me down.

Soon afterward I decided to leave the prison to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology, and about a month before I left Ray almost persuaded me to ask my father, a roofing contractor, to offer him a job as part of an application for parole. When I mentioned this to some of the prison staff, they found it hard to stop laughing. They knew Ray well, they'd all been taken in by his schemes and plans for reform, and one by one they had resolved to adopt a skeptical approach to him. Jaded? I thought so at the time. But the fact was that their picture of Ray was clearer than mine—despite my job description. Theirs had been brought into focus by years of experience with people like him.

Ray had an incredible ability to con not just me but every body. He could talk, and lie, with a smoothness and a directness that sometimes momentarily disarmed even the most experienced and cynical of the prison staff. When I met him he had a long criminal record behind him (and, as it turned out, ahead of him); about half his adult life had been spent in prison, and many of his crimes had been violent. Yet he convinced me, and others more experienced than I, of his readiness to reform, that his interest in crime had been completely overshadowed by a driving passion in—well, cooking, mechanics, you name it. He lied endlessly, lazily, about everything, and it disturbed him not a whit whenever I pointed out something in his file that contradicted one of his lies. He would simply change the subject and spin off in a different direction. Finally convinced that he might not make the perfect job candidate in my father's firm, I turned down Ray's request—and was shaken by his nastiness at my refusal.

Before I left the prison for the university, I was still making payments on a 1958 Ford that I could not really afford. One of the officers there, later to become warden, offered to trade his 1950 Morris Minor for my Ford and to take over my payments. I agreed, and because the Morris wasn't in very good shape I took advantage of the prison policy of letting staff have their cars repaired in the institution's auto shop—where Ray still worked, thanks (he would have said no thanks) to me. The car received a beautiful paint job and the motor and drivetrain were reconditioned.

With all our possessions on top of the car and our baby in a plywood bed in the backseat, my wife and I headed for Ontario. The first problems appeared soon after we left Vancouver, when the motor seemed a bit rough. Later, when we encountered some moderate inclines, the radiator boiled over. A garage mechanic discovered ball bearings in the carburetor's float chamber; he also pointed out where one of the hoses to the radiator had clearly been tampered with. These problems were repaired easily enough, but the next one, which arose while we were going down a long hill, was more serious. The brake pedal became very spongy and then simply dropped to the floor—no brakes, and it was a long hill. Fortunately, we made it to a service station, where we found that the brake line had been cut so that a slow leak would occur. Perhaps it was a coincidence that Ray was working in the auto shop when the car was being tuned up, but I had no doubt that the prison "telegraph" had informed him of the new owner of the car.

At the university, I prepared to write my dissertation on the effects of punishment on human learning and performance. In my research for the project I encountered for the first time the literature on psychopathy. I'm not sure I thought of Ray at the time, but circumstances conspired to bring him to mind.

My first job after receiving my Ph.D. was at the University of British Columbia, not far from the penitentiary where I had worked several years before. During registration week in that precomputer age, I sat behind a table with several colleagues to register long lines of students for their fall classes. As I was dealing with a student my ears pricked up at the mention of my name. "Yes, I worked as Dr. Hare's assistant at the penitentiary the whole time he was there, a year or so, I would say it was. Did all his paperwork for him, filled him in on prison life. Sure, he used to talk over hard cases with me. We worked great together." It was Ray, standing at the head of the next line.

My assistant! I broke into the easy flow of his remarks with, "Oh, really?" expecting to disconcert him. "Hey, Doc, how's it going?" he called without losing a beat. Then he simply jumped back into his conversation and took off in another direction. Later, when I checked his application forms, it became apparent that his transcript of previous university courses was fraudulent. To his credit, he had not attempted to register in one of my courses.

Perhaps what fascinated me most was that Ray remained absolutely unflappable even after his deceit was revealed—and that my colleague was clearly going along for the ride. What, in his psychological makeup, gave Ray the power to override reality, apparently without compunction or concern? As it turned out, I would spend the next twenty-five years doing empirical research to answer that question.

The story of Ray has its amusing side now, after so many years. Less amusing are the case studies of the hundreds of psychopaths that I have studied since then.

I had been at the prison for a few months when the administration sent an inmate to me for psychological testing prior to a parole hearing. He was serving a six-year sentence for manslaughter. When I realized that the complete report of the offense was missing from my files, I asked him to fill me in on the details. The inmate said that his girlfriend's infant daughter had been crying nonstop for hours and because she smelted he reluctantly decided to change her diapers. "She shit all over my hand and I lost my temper," he said, a grisly euphemism for what he really did. "I picked her up by the feet and smashed her against the wall," he said with—unbelievably—a smile on his face. I was stunned by the casual description of his appalling behavior, and, thinking about my own infant daughter, I unprofessionally kicked him out of my office and refused to see him again.

Curious about what subsequently happened to this man, I recently tracked down his prison files. I learned that he had received parole a year after I had left the prison, and that he had been killed during a high-speed police chase following a bungled bank robbery. The prison psychiatrist had diagnosed this man as a psychopath and had recommended against pa role. The parole board could not really be faulted for having ignored this professional advice. At the time, the procedures for the diagnosis of psychopathy were vague and unreliable, and the implications of such a diagnosis for the prediction of behavior were not yet known. As we will see, the situation is quite different now, and any parole board whose decision does not take into account current knowledge about psychopathy and recidivism runs the risk of making a potentially disastrous mistake.

Elsa and Dan

She met him in a laundromat in London, where she was taking a year off from teaching after a stormy and exhausting divorce. She'd seen him around the neighborhood, and when they finally started to talk she felt as if she knew him. He was open and friendly and they hit it off right away. From the start she thought he was hilarious.

She'd been lonely. The weather was grim and sleety, she'd already seen every movie and play in the city, and she didn't know a soul east of the Atlantic.

"Ah, traveler's loneliness," Dan crooned sympathetically over dinner. "It's the worst."

After dessert he was embarrassed to discover he'd come out without his wallet. Elsa was more than happy to pay for dinner, more than happy to sit through the double feature she had seen earlier in the week. At the pub, over drinks, he told her he was a translator for the United Nations. He traveled the globe. He was, at the moment, between assignments.

They saw each other four times that week, five the week after. Dan lived in a flat at the top of a house somewhere in Hampstead, he told her, but it wasn't long before he had all but moved in with Elsa. To her amazement, she loved the arrangement. It was against her nature, she wasn't even sure how it had happened, but after her long stint of loneliness she was having the time of her life.


Excerpted from "Without Conscience"
by .
Copyright © 1993 Robert D. Hare, PhD.
Excerpted by permission of The Guilford Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Author's Note, ix,
Preface and Acknowledgments, xi,
Introduction: The Problem, 1,
1. "Experiencing" the Psychopath, 8,
2. Focusing the Picture, 21,
3. The Profile: Feelings and Relationships, 33,
4. The Profile: Lifestyle, 57,
5. Internal Controls: The Missing Piece, 71,
6. Crime: The Logical Choice, 83,
7. White-Collar Psychopaths, 102,
8. Words from an Overcoat Pocket, 124,
9. Flies in the Web, 144,
10. The Roots of the Problem, 155,
11. The Ethics of Labeling, 180,
12. Can Anything Be Done?, 192,
13. A Survival Guide, 207,
Epilogue, 219,
Chapter Notes, 221,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A fascinating, if terrifying, look at psychopaths. . . . Hare makes a strong case for the view that psychopaths are born, not made. . . . A chilling, eye-opening report—-and a call to action." —-Kirkus


Interested general readers; mental health and legal professionals. As a supplemental text in psychopathology courses, the book will be read with interest by students at the undergraduate or graduate level.

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Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us 0 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Empty, pathetic and destructive, they run the gamut from the emotionally frozen, disengaged, cruel parent to the serial killer -- all marked by one thing, their inability to relate sympathetically to others.  As Hare suggests, it is dangerous to label individuals without proper clinical research including intense interviews and applying the "Psychopathic Checklist" before a likely diagnosis can be made. However recent research has shown that there are literally millions of psychopaths in jail, mental institutions or simply walking the streets. They can be in your work places, a problem child or sharing your bed. It's a frightening thought, and this book has been written to outline the essential characteristics of the psychopath and a general "survival guide" to help us recognize and prevent the majority of harm to oneself and our loved ones.  This book will put you on the right path. Always remember 1 out of every 25 people have this mental disorder, so your chances of meeting or already knowing one are very high. Take precautions now before it's too late.   
Guest More than 1 year ago
While trying to learn about controlling parents who use children as pawns and lie and hurt people without remorse, I stumbled across this book. It is unbelievably educational. While I refuse to use it as a diagnosing tool 'since I am a lay person' I have shared the book and highlighted many pertinent facts that might actually help a family in need. The saddest fact that it reiterates is that psychopaths/sociopaths seem to be incurable and no treatment exists for the adults or their innocent child'ren' victims. This is a MUST read if you just want to understand the mind of a person who is so cleverishly disquised as somewhat of a kind person but has the cloak and daggar of a reprehensible one in their soul. I think all family doctors, lawyers and judges NEED to read this book so maybe they can recognize these types of people and suggest pschological testing before it affects the well-being of the children. Too many parents are getting away with creating horror in the lives of others IN FRONT of their OWN children, thus being and unconscionable role-model.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is excellent. Very well written. I'm not much of a reader, but I would actually fall asleep at night reading this book. Hare goes into great description of the world of a pyscopath and provides great examples. If you have children dating / marriage age - definetly read this!!! It's scarey to think you have been involved with one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having been married to a psychopath that destroyed nearly everything in my life, this book was essential in my path to recovery. It helped me to understand why this man did the things he did, that there wasn't anything in my response to him that likely would have changed anything, and that the man that ruined every aspect of my life was not all that uncommon. Robert Hare is a leader in this field, and that is why I chose his book to begin with. I have since read many others on this topic, but I continually return to this book for reference. I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read books left and right by former FBI profilers such as John Douglas, Robert Ressler, Roy Hazelwood, Russ Vorpagel and others in an attempt to understand the psychopath. Nothing brings it home like this book! It proves that being a psychopath and being a serial criminal are not necessarily one and the same although the seeds are there. The very words of the individuals interviewed in this book are very telling. I would highly recommend this to anyone wishing to understand the psychopath. It practically concludes that the human psyche is extremely predictable at the level of these disturbed beings. The good in people comes in all forms. But the warped mind can be pathetically too predictable! That's why I'd tremble if I had an FBI profiler on my tail! He'd know more about me than I did! Much the same way Andrei Chikatilo reacted to his interviewer in Citizen X.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is not only amazingly well written and impossible to put down, but it handles the subject of psychopathy beautifully. Hare's extensive research and knowledge on the subject makes for a fantastic read and I would suggest it to anyone interested in the subject.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a brilliant and readable book that explains and describes pyschopaths. Psychiatrists have described Bill Clinton as a psychopath, so just on that score everyone should read this book to understand his behavior. And if not for that, since at least 1 out of 100 people are psychopaths, the odds are you'll run into one someday. This can be a guide to how to deal with them.
drakevaughn More than 1 year ago
Robert Hare, the creator of the Psychopathy Test used throughout prisons, documents his clinical and personal experiences with psychopaths in this fascinating book. The focus is mostly upon prisoners and extreme cases, such as serial killers and rapists, and their twisted motivations. Hare is careful to avoid any sweeping conclusions on the cause of psychopathy, concentrating more on its diagnosis. The only downside was the sections on corporate and workplace psychopaths, since most of the examples were antidotal and focused on society rather than individual clinical examinations. Also, some of the book was dated and the concentration on youth violence was hyperbolic as were his views on a deteriorating society. Even so, as a pop-psychology read, Hare breaks down the common characteristics of psychopaths, educating laymen about this affliction. Recommended for casual readers who are interested in a base knowledge concerning psychopathology.
nemojoel More than 1 year ago
A little repetitive but very interesting. It will make you think twice about those you thought you knew.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Without Conscious is a must have for anyone who has come into contact with a psychopath/sociopath, as well as, anyone who wishes to not fall victim to one. Dr. Hare delivers his research on the subject matter in an easy to follow and understand approach making this book a quick read. When many people hear the term psychopath they immediately visualize Charles Manson or the likes, however, the majority of psychopaths blend in with society and this book offers glimpses into the other, more common types. Basically, a well written and very informative book that I would recommend to everyone. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful forensic appearing book. I don't envy Dr. Hare's personal experiences with psychopaths but totally admire and give him big props for all of his tenacity and hard work in exposing such filth! Dr. Hare's readings are WELL worth reading and learning from! This book is a must have!
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LeapingLissy More than 1 year ago
It was a little repetitive and self-congratulatory, but there were also some very insightful points.