In Session with “The Silence of the Lambs” with Dr. Adam

Hello, Freudian Scripters. This week Dr. Sam & Dr. Fran discuss a classic psychological thriller, The Silence of the Lambs. This movie may have won a ton of awards, but would they win one for their portrayal of psychological themes? 
This week, the doctors are joined by an expert in forensic psychology—Dr. Adam Coffey. The doctors discuss serial killing, psychopathy, and whether the two are related. Dr. Adam also gives an introduction into forensic psychology and the “CSI effect.” And finally, we all know Hannibal as a psychopathic cannibal, but does he meet criteria for psychopathy? We play Diagnosis Bingo to find out!
You don’t want Hannibal Lecter in your head, so pour yourself a nice glass of chianti, serve up some fava beans and listen to this week’s session!

Glossary of Terms

Serial killer –  someone who commits a series of murders, often with a period of time between murders and committed upon unknown victims

Severe mental illness  –  a mental disorder characterized by serious impairment that interferes with multiple life domains; examples may include schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders or severe forms of other mental disorders

Forensic psychology  –  the intersection between psychology and the law; the practice of applying the science of professional psychology to matters of the legal system

Incompetent to Stand Trial  –  refers to the state of mind of the defendant during criminal proceedings (not at the time of the crime); when a defendant is unable to understand the charges brought against them or coordinate with their attorney to establish a defense

Insanity  –  legal finding (not a psychological term or diagnosis)

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity –  a legal defense made when a defendant was either unable to understand what they were doing at the time of a crime or unable to differentiate between right and wrong at the time of the crime

Psychopathy  –  personality traits that are consistent across time and settings characterized by deficits in interpersonal and emotional facets of life and antisocial behavior

Glib –  superficially charming

Grandiose sense of self –  unrealistic feeling a sense of superiority

“Successful psychopath” –  an individual who has psychopathic traits and is able to avoid antisocial or criminal behavior

“Fledgling psychopaths” – a term used to describe a child with impulsivity, hyperactivity, and behavior problems that are hypothesized to predict psychopathic traits

Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) –  one of the gold standard measures used to assess psychopathy

Motivational interviewing –  a counseling approach centered on eliciting behavior change by addressing ambivalence and insecurity



Interested in diving deeper into the history of criminal profiling at the FBI? Check out this article (or watch Mindhunter on Netflix for a loose portrayal).

Looking for more information on the serial killers that inspired the characters in The Silence of the Lambs? We recommend Last Podcast on the Left!

Read more about what defines and drives a serial killer here

Ever wonder why we are drawn to true crime and media portrayals of serial killers?  Learn more in these two articles.

Our guest, Dr. Adam Coffey, shared some great resources on today’s episode!  He recommends this resource to learn more about what psychopathy is and where it comes from

Check the facts with this article on the relationship between psychopathy and violence and this one on treatments for psychopathy

Dr. Adam also referenced “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work” by Dr. Paul Babiak and Dr. Robert Hare.

And be sure to check out Dr. Adam’s research on the relationship between psychopathy and rule violating behaviors in a community sample!