How Media Exposure Relates to Laypersons’ Understanding of Psychopathy
Journal of Forensic Sciences Vol. 62 Iss. 6 (2017) p. 1522 - 1533
Posted: 9 Jun 2020 Last revised: 1 Jul 2020
Date Written: November 1, 2017
While conceptualization of psychopathy has evolved, so too has the public's relationship with psychology changed. Concurrently, portrayal of psychopaths has made several shifts, both through nonfiction sources and in popular film and television. Psychopathic villains of the mid‐20th century have made space for a growing cast of protagonist psychopaths. This study examined whether a relationship existed between exposure to fictional psychopaths and how lay individuals conceptualize psychopathy. Specifically, this study explored conceptualization differences based on exposure to antagonist versus protagonist fictional psychopaths. Surveyed community participants supported earlier research suggesting mixed misunderstanding of psychopathy. Additionally, higher exposure to protagonist psychopaths was associated with higher endorsement of flattering distractor traits, reflecting a kind of romanticized psychopathy. These findings have legal, practical, and ethical implications, including the potential for biased jurors, confounded research about psychopathy's labeling effect, and questions about how psychologists should respond on an individual and systemic level.
Keywords: Media, Psychopathy, Juror bias
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