A Rorschach Investigation of Narcissism and Hysteria in Antisocial Personality

by Carl B Gacono, J Reid Meloy, Thomas R Heaven
Journal of Personality Assessment ()


We investigated Rorschach responses associated with narcissism and hysteria in a group of antisocial personality disordered offenders. The Rorschach protocols of 42 subjects who met the criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev. [DSM-III-R]; American Psychiatric Association, 1987) for antisocial personality disorder were analyzed using Exner's (1986) criteria for pairs, reflections, and personal responses, and Gacono's (1988) criteria for the impressionistic response. Severe, or primary psychopaths (n = 21), scoring ≥30 on the Hare (1980) Psychopathy Checklist (PCL), were compared to moderate, or secondary pscyhopaths (n = 21), scoring <30 on the PCL. The mean number of pair and impressionistic responses did not significantly differ for the two antisocial groups. The highly psychopathic group, however, did exhibit a significantly greater mean number of reflection and personal responses. We discuss pair and reflection responses and their relationship to narcissism in psychopathic disturbance. We recommend interpreting the personal response within the context of the psychopathic character and view personal responses as expressions of narcissism and omnipotence in highly psychopathic subjects. We also hypothesize that the impressionistic responses are indicative of primitive dissociative processes and hysteria in psychopathic subjects, and that their presence provides construct validity for the work of Guze (1976) and others who suggested an underlying histrionic dimension to psychopathy.

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