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Just Science Podcast: Just Psychopathy and Criminal Behavior

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2020
3 pages

This first episode in the Case Studies season of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Mitchell Pilkington, the crime scene manager at Layton City Police Department (Utah), who discusses psychopathy and criminal behavior.


Although Pilkington is a law enforcement professional, he has had academic training in criminal psychology and has continued personal studies in this field. In this interview, he distinguishes between the mental and behavioral characteristics of persons with psychosis, sociopathy, and psychopathy. These are not mental conditions that necessarily lead to criminal behavior, but can increase the risk for committing criminal behavior. Pilkington notes that persons with psychosis have a mental incapacity to experience the world and other people from a normal or true perspective, being unable to distinguish right from wrong in the context of a consensus morality or system of law. A sociopath, on the other hand, is capable of learning right from wrong and controlling his/her behaviors accordingly, but has not received the social influences or ethical guidance needed to develop a conscience or behaviors that facilitate unselfish and law-abiding behaviors. A psychopath, on the other hand, has a genetic condition that makes him/her incapable of caring how his/her behaviors affect other people. Although violence is not an inevitable manifestation of psychopathy, psychopaths do not care if others die or are physically and mentally harmed by the psychopath's behavior.

Date Published: November 1, 2020