The PCL:SV - Psychopathy Checklist Screening Version

Item definitions and Scoring instructions are listed below. It may be handy to have these open in a separate tab.
Factor 1 Clearly not present (0) Maybe present (1) Clearly present (2) Omit Item (X)
Lacks Remorse
Lacks Empathy
Doesn't Accept Responsibility
Factor 2 Clearly not present (0) Maybe present (1) Clearly present (2) Omit Item (X)
Poor Behavioural
Lacks Goals
Adolescent Antisocial Behaviour
Adult Antisocial

Item Descriptions and Cutoff Scores

How To Use The PCL:SV

The following is taken from the PCL:SV Manual.

Each of the PCL:SV items is scored using a 3-point scale based on the degree to which the personality and behavior of the individual matches the item descriptions below. The scoring of the items is subjective and requires considerable inference and judgment; however, research indicates that experienced raters can be highly reliable when making judgments of this kind. Scores of 2, 1, and 0 are defined as follows:

The item applies to the individual; a reasonably good match in most essential respects; his/her behavior is generally consistent with the flavor and intent of the item.
The item applies to a certain extent but not to the degree required for a score of 2; a match in some respects but with too many exceptions or doubts to warrant a score of 2; uncertain about whether or not the item applies; conflicts between interview and file information that cannot be resolved in favor of a score of 2 or 0.
The item does not apply to the individual; he/she does not exhibit the trait or behavior in question, or he/she exhibits characteristics that are the opposite of, or inconsistent with, the intent of the item.
Scores of 18 or higher offer a strong indication of psychopathy.

Omitting Items

Sometimes there is insufficient inforration to score an item. At other times, the interview and collateral information may be totally divergent, and it may be impossible to determine if either of the sources is credible In such instances an item may be omitted.

Items should be omitted only when absolutely necessary; they should not be omitted simply because the rater is uncertain about which score to assign.

A maximum of 2 items can be omitted without invalidating the results. Only 1 item from each factor can be omitted without invalidating the corresponding score. If an acceptable number of items were omitted, then scores should be prorated using Tables 4 and 5 of the PCL:SV manual. (However, this tool will automatically prorate your scores).

Item Descriptions

These definitions are brief, comprising a number of simple statements ordered roughly in descending order of importance and frequency (prototypicality). However, raters should not use the item definitions as a simple checklist. Instead, they should use the entire item description to form an impression (prototype) in their minds, then compare the individual being rated to the prototype.

Once raters have assessed someone who matches an item description very well, that individual can serve as an exemplar for the item; it may be helpful to conjure up a mental image of that person while rating the item in question. Also, because PCL:SV items are derived from the twenty-item PCL-R, the user would benefit from familiarization with the scoring criteria from the PCL-R items.

Item 1: Superficial

This item describes an individual whose interactional style appears superficial (i.e., glib) to others. Usually, the individual tries to make a favorable impression on others by "shamming emotions, telling stories that portray him/her in a good light, and making unlikely excuses for undesirable behaviors. He/she may use unnecessary frequently inappropriate jargon. Despite its superficiality, the individual's style may be considered charming or engaging. Some evaluators have difficulty scoring subjects who are extremely superficial but not at all charming. For example, some people consistently and clearly display an image of a "macho" or "tough guy." Normally, these individuals are scored with a 1. Still, the key aspect is that this presentation appears affected and superficial. Both types of individuals are "slippery in conversation" when challenged with facts that contradict their statements or with inconsistencies in their statements, they simply change their stories. People who come across as straightforward and sincere, shy and reserved, or immature and unskilled, are usually scored with a 0.

Item 2: Grandiose

Individuals who score high on this item are often described as grandiose or as braggarts. They have an inflated view of themselves and their abilities. They appear self-assured and opinionated in the interview (a situation where most people are somewhat reticent or deferential). If they are in hospital or prison, they attribute their unfortunate circumstances to external forces (bad luck, the "system") rather than to themselves. Consequently, they are relatively concerned about their present circumstances and worry little about the future. (Note that psychotic delusions of grandeur are irrelevant to the scoring of this item, unless they are accompanied by the other characteristics listed.)

Item 3: Deceitful

People with this characteristic commonly engage in lying, deception, and other manipulations in order to achieve their own personal goals (money, sex, power, etc.). They lie and deceive with self-assurance and no apparent anxiety. They may admit that they enjoy conning and deceiving others; they may even label themselves "fraud artists."

Item 4: Lacks Remorse

High scores on this item are given to individuals who appear to lack the capacity for guilt. It is normal to feel justified in having hurt someone on at least a few occasions; however, high scorers on this item appear to have no conscience whatsoever. Some of these latter individuals will verbalize remorse but in an insincere manner; others will display little emotion about their own actions or the impact they had on others and will focus instead on their own suffering. (In scoring this item, it is necessary to take the nature of the individual's harmful behaviors into account. Clearly, a lack of remorse concerning relatively trivial acts may not be pathological.)

Item 5: Lacks Empathy

This item describes individuals who have little affective bonding with others and are unable to appreciate the emotional consequences (positive or negative) of their actions. As a result, they may appear cold and callous, unable to experience strong emotions, and indifferent to feelings of others. Alternatively, they may express weir emotions, but these emotional expressions are shallow and labile. The verbal and nonverbal aspects of their emotion may appear inconsistent.

Item 6: Doesn't Accept Responsibility

People who score high on this item avoid taking personal responsibility for their harmful actions by rationalizing their behavior, greatly minimizing the consequences for others, or even denying the actions altogether. Most of their rationalizations involve the projection of blame (or at least partial blame) onto the victim or onto circumstances. Minimizations usually involve denying that the victim suffered any serious or direct physical, emotional, or financial consequences. Denial usually involves claiming innocence, that is, that the victim lied or the individual was framed; alternatively, he/she may claim amnesia due to substance use or to physical or mental illness.

Item 7: Impulsive

This item describes people who act without considering the consequences of their actions. They act on the spur of the moment, often as the result of a desire for risk and excitement. They may be easily bored and have a short attention span. Consequently, they lead a lifestyle characterized by instability in school, relationships, employment, and place of residence.

Item 8: Poor Behavioral Controls

This item describes people who are easily angered or frustrated; this may be exacerbated by the use of alcohol or drugs. They are frequently verbally abusive (e.g., they swear, insult, or make threats) and physically abusive (e.g., they break or throw things; push, slap, or punch others) The abuse may appear to be sudden and unprovoked These angry outbursts are often short-lived.

Item 9: Lacks Goals

High scores on this item are given to those who do not have realistic long-term plans and commitments. Suck people tend to live their lives "day-to-day," not thinking of the future. They may have relied excessively on family friends, and social assistance for financial support. They often have poor academic and employment records. When asked about their goals for the future, they may describe far-fetched plans or schemes.

Item 10: Irresponsible

This item describes people who exhibit behavior that frequently causes hardship to others or puts others at risk. They tend to be unreliable as a spouse or parent; they lack commitment to relationships, fail to care adequately for their children, and so forth. Also, their job performance is inadequate; they are frequently late or absent without good reason, etc. Finally, they are untrustworthy with money; they have been in trouble for such things as defaulting on loans, not paying bills, or not paying child support.

Item 11: Adolescent Antisocial Behavior

People who score high on this item had serious conduct problems as an adolescent. These problems were not limited to only one setting (i.e., occurred at home, at school, and in the community) and were not simply the result of childhood abuse or neglect (e.g., running away to avoid beatings, stealing food when it wasn't available at home). Such people frequently were in trouble with the law as a youth or minor, and their antisocial activities were varied, frequent, and persistent.

Item 12: Adult Antisocial Behavior

This item describes people who frequently violate formal, explicit rules and regulations. They have had legal problems as an adult, including charges or convictions for criminal offenses. Their antisocial activities are varied frequent and persistent.

Scoring Instructions

These individual item descriptions should be read carefully prior to making the ratings. Raters should use the item definition to create a prototype, or ideal image, of the item then decide how closely the individual matches the prototype. Although the item definitions contain a list of characteristics, they are ostensional (as opposed to extensional or intensional) in nature. That is the characteristics are merely examples of the types of characteristics associated with a trait: raters should not use the characteristics as a simple checklist. An individual could receive a score of 2 on an item by displaying one or two of the characteristics to a great degree, or by displaying several of the characterstics to a moderate degree. It is even possible that a rater could give a score of 2 to someone who exhibits none of the characteristics in the item definition, as long as that rater noted other characteristics that obviously are consistent with the item definition.

Raters should take into account the intensity, frequency, and duration of the individual's symptoms when scoring the item. Also, raters should keep in mind that the time frame for scoring the PCL:SV is the individual's entire life; each item is supposed to reflect a personality trait rather than a symptom that is present only briefly or rarely.

Percentile Ranks