The role of fearless dominance in psychopathy: confusions, controversies, and clarifications. Academic Article uri icon


  • Based on their 2011 meta-analysis of the correlates of the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI), Miller and Lynam (An examination of the Psychopathic Personality Inventory's nomological network: A meta-analytic review, Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3, 305-326) conclude that its Fearless Dominance (PPI-FD) higher-order dimension exhibits weak construct validity, leading them to question the relevance of boldness to the conceptualization and assessment of psychopathy. We examine their assertions in light of the clinical, conceptual, and empirical literatures on psychopathy. We demonstrate that Miller and Lynam's assertions (a) are sharply at odds with evidence that well-validated psychopathy measures detect both secondary and primary subtypes, the latter of which is linked to social poise and immunity to psychological distress, (b) are inconsistent with most classic clinical descriptions of psychopathy, in which fearless dominance plays a key role, (c) presume an a priori nomological network of psychopathy that leaves scant room for adaptive functioning and renders psychopathy largely equivalent to antisocial personality disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (d) are premised on a misunderstanding of the role of Cleckley's "mask" of healthy adjustment in psychopathy, and (e) are contradicted by data-some reported elsewhere by Miller and Lynam themselves-that PPI-FD is moderately to highly associated with scores on several well-validated psychopathy measures, as well as with personality traits and laboratory markers classically associated with psychopathy. A scientific approach to psychopathy requires the question of whether its subdimensions are linked to adaptive functioning to be adjudicated by data, not by fiat.

published proceedings

  • Personal Disord

altmetric score

  • 113.102

author list (cited authors)

  • Lilienfeld, S. O., Patrick, C. J., Benning, S. D., Berg, J., Sellbom, M., & Edens, J. F

citation count

  • 275

complete list of authors

  • Lilienfeld, Scott O||Patrick, Christopher J||Benning, Stephen D||Berg, Joanna||Sellbom, Martin||Edens, John F

publication date

  • July 2012