Sellbom Receives Early-Career Award

Professor receives prestigious honor for his contributions to forensic psychology

Psychopaths fascinate the American entertainment industry. Films like Silence of the Lambs, A Clockwork Orange, The Dark Knight, No Country for Old Men, and, of course, American Psycho allowed audiences to peer into the inner workings of the psychopathic mind (or at least Hollywood’s interpretation of said mind) from a safe distance. These striking portrayals of individuals able to commit violent crimes without the smallest semblance of remorse mesmerized audiences.

Dr. Martin Sellbom has devoted his career to the study of such individuals. Born in Malmo, Sweden, Sellbom earned his PhD in from Kent State University. He is currently an assistant professor in the University of Alabama’s Department of Psychology and director of the University’s Personality, Psychopathology, and Measurement Lab.  According to the lab’s website, Sellbom’s research focuses on differentiating between criminal and non-criminal psychopaths by assessing “intellectual, neurocognitive, emotional, personality and contextual variables.”

Through his research, Sellbom has been able to improve two personality tests that are frequently used to identify psychopathic tendencies, which has led to more accurate assessments of psychopathic personality traits in individuals. This ability to pinpoint psychopathic potential has proved useful to such agencies as the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Aviation Administration when hiring potential employees.

Because of his contributions to psychopathic research and identification, Sellbom was recently awarded the 2013 Saleem Shah Award Early Career Development Award. Given by the American Psychology-Law Society (APLS) in conjunction with the American Academy of Forensic Psychology, the award honors one psychologist who has made significant contributions to forensic psychology within seven years of receiving a PhD in the field.

Sellbom was nominated for the Saleem Shah Award by Stanley Brodsky, the coordinator of the psychology-law concentration at The University of Alabama. In recommending Sellbom, Brodsky wrote, “Martin has achieved a very good record of scholarship and national recognition in a very short time. He has 66 publications and almost 100 first- or co-authored conference presentations. … His work in psychopathic personality disorder has significant implications for the criminal justice system and is a longtime major focus in APLS conferences.”

Sellbom is passing on his passion for research to the graduate and undergraduate students who work in the Personality, Psychopathology, and Measurement Lab. He and his team recently conducted a study, “Hypersexuality in college students: The role of psychopathy,” that highlighted hypersexuality, a trait commonly identified in psychopaths, within the general population in an attempt to prove that there is a spectrum of psychopathy. Sellbom said he believes that this sort of research is essential to both graduate and undergraduate students and will shape their careers in the future.