Conceptualizing successful psychopathy: An elaboration of the moderated-expression model

Steven W. Steinert, David A. Lishner, Michael J. Vitacco, Phan Y. Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Hall and Benning (2006) and Lilienfeld, Watts, and Smith (2015) proposed the differential-severity, differential-configuration, and moderated-expression models as potential frameworks for conceptualizing successful psychopathy. We argue that two of the three proposed frameworks (the differential-severity model and differential-configuration model) suffer from key conceptual challenges that will impede understanding and limit research on the possible links between psychopathy and successful behavior. Instead, we propose an elaboration of the moderated-expression model offers the most potential for advancing understanding of successful psychopathy. This elaboration is accomplished by (a) defining success in a more nuanced manner that encompasses consideration of both avoidance of negative outcomes and attainment of positive outcomes; (b) distinguishing between core psychopathic traits versus moderating traits external to psychopathy; (c) emphasizing the importance of situational context in determining success; and (d) providing a categorization scheme for different classes of potential moderators (structural, environmental, contextual) of the link between psychopathy and success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Moderation
  • Psychopathy
  • Social context
  • Success
  • Traits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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