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Psychologists Studied Horror Movie Psychopaths And Determined Which Ones Are The Real Deal

Updated September 24, 2018 89.8k views10 items

People have an unquenchable fascination with psychopaths in our movies. At least from a fictional perspective, they're thought of as borderline supernatural, as though they exchanged some portion of sanity for heightened mental abilities. Even more so for horror movie serial killers.

You no doubt have your favorites, and might even have a perfectly folded list in your pocket right now. If you do, today’s your day to augment it with this list containing movie serial killers, diagnosed for your pleasure. Because the truth is, most movie psychopaths are exaggerated, overblown, or just plain fictional.

But not all.

Two enterprising doctors, Samuel Leistedt and Paul Linkowski, decided to study 400 films made between 1915 and 2010 and pulled 126 realistic characters that exhibited some form of psychopathy. Which, by the way, is a fantastic job - who wouldn't want to figure out who the most realistic killers in movies are? 

Anyway, the two released a paper with their findings in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, entitled Psychopathy and the Cinema: Fact or Fiction? They, along with senior forensic psychologists and film critics, placed those characters into categories to determine just how accurate and realistic they are in terms of clinical psychopathy. 

The first category the characters are put into is based on the primary-secondary psychopathy method developed by Benjamin Karpman. 

Both types have clear boundaries between the behaviors that the characters exhibit, for example: if a character is highly manipulative, then they'd be categorized into primary, however if a character has poor impulse control, then they'd be categorized secondary.

They then categorized them further based on the PCL-R, a comprehensive psychopathy test. The categories are: Classic/Idiopathic, macho, manipulative, and pseudopsychopath. They more or less measure just how much empathy the characters lack, with Classic/Idiopathic having the least empathy, while pseudopsychopaths don’t qualify being labeled as psychopaths at all, being more along the lines of a sociopath.

Without further ado, here’s a list of the most realistic horror movie psychopaths, as diagnosed by real psychologists.

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