Remarkably little is known about the extent to which psychopathic individuals are aware of their condition (have insight). There are cases in which psychopathic individuals have reported that they are psychopathic or sociopathic and have even rattled off a list of core features of psychopathy. However, classical clinical descriptions of psychopathic individuals emphasize their lack of insight into the specific nature of their difficulties. Many psychopathic individuals appear to recognize that they are different from other people. However, they are often more aware of their special abilities or talents than of any shortcomings.
Several cognitive theories of psychopathy emphasize the state dependent or situation-specific nature of cognitive deficits associated with psychopathy. According to these accounts, psychopathic individuals exhibit few cognitive problems under most conditions. That is, they can think, reason, remember, and problem-solve as well as the average healthy person. However, when they are in the midst of trying to achieve an immediate and tangible goal (e.g., to impress you or to obtain something you have), they become relatively poor at processing peripheral information and may even exhibit a dramatic decline in their cognitive abilities. In this circumstance, they may demonstrate strikingly poor judgment and additional impairments in their self-awareness.
The executive committee of the Aftermath:Surviving Psychopathy Foundation has compiled a list of questions frequently asked by people who have been closely associated with a psychopathic individual. Read this forum to see the questions and our answers.
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