Do psychopaths feel connected to other people
Psychopathy - the cold heart
Anyone who thinks that psychopaths are only encountered in a criminal environment or in prison is wrong. It is true that people with psychopathic traits are disproportionately represented among violent felons. But they are also not uncommon in the boardrooms of many companies - on the contrary.
Managers, lawyers and surgeons
In 2006, the psychologist Robert Hare came to the conclusion that almost four percent of managers in companies are psychopaths - in the general population, they are only represented by around one percent. Other studies even come to significantly higher values: In 2016, Australian researchers found that every fifth top manager in US companies shows psychopathic traits.
A few years ago, the British psychologist Kevin Dutton examined the industries and professions in which people with psychopathic tendencies are particularly successful. The top three include CEOs, lawyers and senior positions on television and radio. But surgeons, people in sales, police officers, journalists, administrative managers and chefs also show a disproportionately high frequency of psychopathic traits. On the other hand, it is rather rare to find psychopaths in social professions, as therapists, teachers or even as craftsmen.
Resistant to stress, convincing and willing to take risks
The reason: Psychopaths often have personality traits that promote a career in certain industries. “Those at the top are often particularly charming and intelligent, but have emotional deficits,” explains Carolyn Bate of the University of Huddersfield. This helps them to act ruthlessly and without fear and to keep a cool head even in stressful situations. When climbing the corporate ladder, they literally walk over the corpses of their colleagues.
This is especially true for those who have less of an aspect of egocentric impulsiveness than fearless dominance - the traits that make a psychopath fearless, persuasive, and immune to stress. Combined with intelligence and a high level of education, these characteristics often give them advantages over their colleagues in everyday working life.
Immune to a bad working atmosphere
In addition, people with psychopathic tendencies seem to cope more easily with a poor work climate and abusive bosses, as a 2018 US study suggested. According to this, employees with psychopathic traits suffer less from poor treatment and experience less anger or stress. In this situation, a lack of empathy and emotions is obviously an advantage.
"They don't react as strongly to the things that cause stress, fear or anger in others," says study director Charlice Hurst of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. "This is why psychopaths even benefit from bad bosses - they remain more committed and positive compared to their work colleagues."
How psychopathic are politicians?
Psychopathic traits can also be helpful in politics, as a recent study revealed. In this study, researchers led by Scott Lilienfeld from Emory University examined 42 former US presidents for key features of psychopathy. The result: In the ratings of six independent experts, the politicians scored higher on the psychopathy scale than a comparison group from the normal population. This was especially true for the aspects of fearless dominance.
Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan achieved particularly high scores. "These results demonstrate that at least one facet of psychopathy is related to successful political leadership," the researchers state. "They show that the fearless dominance that goes with psychopathy can contribute to success in politics and perhaps other areas."
However: The second aspect of psychopathy, egocentric impulsiveness, was only slightly pronounced in most US presidents. “But there were notable exceptions,” said Lilienfeld and his team. Among them was Lyndon B. Johnson - a US president known for his ruthlessness, domination, and unobtrusive manner. The politicians against whom impeachment motions were filed during their term in office, who committed adultery or were suspected of abuse of power, also showed higher values in the area of egocentric impulsiveness.
The US presidents were not psychopaths in the clinical sense, as Lilienfeld and his team also emphasize. Nevertheless, their findings underscore that "a little psychopathy" apparently does no harm in many careers. How they would have classified the current US President Donald Trump, however, remains open….
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