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Why are psychopaths successful?

2023-10-06 20:33:00, Kuriozitete CNA

Why are psychopaths successful?

In common parlance there is a very widespread tendency to label "psychopaths" as people who display a number of particular traits, but who are generally perceived as problematic, aggressive or dangerous, depending on the case. And usually the use of this term does not allow for many nuances: someone is or is not a psychopath.

But in the scientific field, psychopathy is a much more general category and is not considered a mental illness in itself, despite the fact that it is a possible indicator of disorders, which can affect the behavior of the individual in society and on his psychological state. .

For about 15 years, several studies with a dimensional approach have tried to question the idea that psychopathy is an attribute that is present or absent. According to some researchers in the field of psychology and psychiatry, the great attention to violent and criminal psychopathic behavior in the 20th century has overshadowed the study of another rather large category of psychopathic people.

We are talking about those "successful", psychopathic people, whose personality in most cases does not cause suffering, and who in some cases manages to benefit from those traits. In 2011, the Welsh journalist and writer John Ronson wrote the book "Psychopaths in Power".

The book, the fruit of conversations with psychologists, experts and company managers, raised a number of doubts about the possibility of defining clear boundaries in determining who is or is not a psychopath. He further described the manipulative and seductive power that psychopathic people use to control other people and satisfy their egos.

And he shows in this book how some of those traits allow them to feel comfortable in positions of political or economic power. In current international classifications, psychopathy does not exist in a narrow sense, except as an indicator of other mental disorders.

In its fifth edition, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) is associated with antisocial personality disorder (APD), defined as "a pattern characterized by disregard for and violation of the rights of others."

Like other personality disorders, antisocial personality disorder "begins in adolescence or early adulthood, is persistent over time, and causes distress or harm" as well as behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture.

The most recent studies on successful psychopaths remind us in part of some theses contained in one of the most important and most cited books in the history of psychiatric research on psychopathy, written in 1941 by the famous American psychiatrist Hervey Klekle "The Mask of health".

According to Kleklej, a psychopathic person is able to demonstrate normal "social functioning," at least when assessed using standard psychiatric criteria. But he is at the same time imposing, self-centered, unscrupulous and impulsive. So he possesses various traits of an antisocial personality.

Unlike other psychiatrists after him who studied psychopathy mainly in prisons, contributing to its connection with criminal and violent behavior both in public opinion and in the academic approach, Kleklej derived most of his data from the observation of prison patients. admitted to psychiatric hospitals.

There he met people who were able to hide and control the worst aspects of their personality and behavior. He hypothesized that this ability was also widespread in society and in various prestigious professional contexts.

For example, he profiled a psychopathic businessman who worked hard, and whose life seemed completely normal, except for constant marital infidelity, insensitivity to other people, being unscrupulous and addicted to alcohol.

Klekle's work was echoed in the 1970s by Canadian psychologist Robert Heir, the creator of the PCL-R, the Psychopathy Checklist, a test to diagnose psychopathy through the score obtained from the evaluation of 20 elements of a person's character. He associated the psychopathic individual with antisocial behavior and specific personality traits such as contempt for the rights and feelings of other people and an inability to feel compassion and remorse.

According to the most common approach, psychopathy is a group of different personality traits that interact with each other. In the traditional model, the 2 basic traits are lack of impulse control and meanness, i.e. aggressively seeking resources without any respect for other people.

Meanwhile, today researchers add a third factor: courage. A courageous person is not necessarily a psychopath. But a person with high levels of boldness, meanness, and impulsiveness may be able to use their social security to hide other, more extreme personality traits and excel in leadership positions./ Translated and adapted by  CNA

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