Am I A Psychopath?

Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." His character is probably along the lines of what most of us think of when the word "psychopath" is mentioned.

Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” His character is probably along the lines of what most of us think of when the word “psychopath” is mentioned.

Am I a psychopath?

Please, think carefully about that before you offer an answer. I’m giving you fair warning.

I pose the question for good reason; apparently, a fair number of journalists are psychopaths compared to other professions.

Last year, Kevin Dutton, an Oxford research psychologist, wrote a  book titled, “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.” In it, he makes an argument that psychopathic personality traits such as charm, confidence, ruthlessness and keeping a level head under pressure can be positive attributes in the world if applied appropriately.

In other words, not all psychopaths are, by definition, violent individuals looking to harm others.

In the article, “A Better Definition of Psychopath,” Rick Nauert defined psychopaths in the following manner:

Broadly speaking, they are people who use manipulation, violence and intimidation to control others and satisfy selfish needs. They can be intelligent and highly charismatic, but display a chronic inability to feel guilt, remorse or anxiety about any of their actions. Scientists estimate that 15-25 percent of men and 7-15 percent of women in U.S. prisons display psychopathic behaviors. The condition, however, is hardly restricted to the prison system. (Joseph Newman, a a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) estimates that up to 1 percent of the general population could be described as psychopathic.

In an interview with Smithsonian Magazine, Dutton elaborated on the subject:

When psychologists talk about psychopaths, what we’re referring to are people who have a distinct set of personality characteristics, which include things like ruthlessness, fearlessness, mental toughness, charm, persuasiveness and a lack of conscience and empathy. Imagine that you tick the box for all of those characteristics. You also happen to be violent and stupid. It’s not going to be long before you smack a bottle over someone’s head in a bar and get locked up for a long time in prison. But if you tick the box for all of those characteristics, and you happen to be intelligent and not naturally violent, then it’s a different story altogether. Then you’re more likely to make a killing in the market rather than anywhere else.

Dutton has even pointed out that “a number of psychopathic attributes [are] actually more common in business leaders than in so-called disturbed criminals.”

Now THAT doesn’t come as a surprise, does it? Look at the finance industry …

In 2011, Dutton conducted what he calls “The Great British Psychopath Survey.” He is currently conducting an American version. You can take the test here.

The British version found the professions with the most psychopaths are:

1. CEO
2. Lawyer
3. Media (Television/Radio)
4. Salesperson
5. Surgeon
6. Journalist
7. Police Officer
8. Clergy person
9. Chef
10. Civil Servant

Meanwhile, the professions with the lowest rates of psychopathy are:

1. Care Aide
2. Nurse
3. Therapist
4. Craftsperson
5. Beautician/Stylist
6. Charity Worker
7. Teacher
8. Creative Artist
9. Doctor
10. Accountant

Now, in my decade of journalism, I’ve encountered only a handful of people in the profession who may rank high on the psychopath scale — and they are definitely more likely to be found in television. (Sorry television journalist friends!)

In the interview with Smithsonian Magazine, Dutton admitted that “normal” people may do well to step up some of their psychopathic traits:

Normal people can work out their psychopath muscles. It’s kind of like going to the gym in a way, to develop these attributes. It’s just like training.

Psychopaths don’t think, should I do this or shouldn’t I do this? They just go ahead and do stuff. So next time you find yourself putting off that chore or filing that report or something, unchain your inner psychopath and ask yourself this: “Since when did I need to feel like something in order to do it?”

Another way you can take a leaf out of a psychopath’s book: Psychopaths are very reward-driven. If they see a benefit in something, they zone in on it and they go for it 100 percent. Let’s take an example of someone who is kind of scared of putting in for a raise at work. You might be scared about what the boss might think of you. You might think if you’d don’t get it you’re going to get fired. Forget it. Cut all that stuff off. “Psychopath up,” and overwhelm your negative feelings by concentrating on the benefits of getting it. The bottom line here is, a bit of localized psychopathy is good for all of us.

He has some great points. It’s easy to over think things on occasion and resort to inaction as a reasonable solution.

So in response to the initial question: Am I a psychopath?

Well, I took Dutton’s survey and scored a 118 out of 224, making me average. Average once again! Will I never be exceptional!? Screw this test! What does it know!? I’ll be what I damn well please!

Oh, sorry, I was letting loose with my psychopathic traits.

I did score somewhat high when it came to rebelliousness. Here is what the survey had to say about that:

High scores are nontraditional and question authority frequently. They may be defiant and oppositional to people who give them orders. Low scorers tend to respect and obey authority figures, including parents, teachers, and bosses.

At least I have a rebellious streak in me. That provides some comfort.

Perhaps I’ll have to begin exercising some of my psychopathic traits as Dutton recommends. Get ready Boss, I’m asking for a raise. Damn the consequences!!! 🙂

6 thoughts on “Am I A Psychopath?

  1. I read a couple of books and articles while researching psychopathy for a novel. I found that a lot of Wall Street guys display psychopathic traits. It’s probably why I made my main character’s psychopathic father an investment broker.

  2. Only 1% of the population are psychopaths. So even in the fields where most of them work, it’s not likely we’d see more than a few percent of people in those fields be psychopaths. So the odds are still very low that a person would be a psychopath even in the fields where most of them are found.

    The real trouble is that, even though they are rare in any fields, they tend to be more likely to rise to higher positions.

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