CNN interviewed Oxford University psychologist Kevin Dutton about his upcoming book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths, and the result is a fascinating conversation about the nuances of psychopathy and the surprising ways in which psychopathy can be an asset… And also very dangerous.
When we think about psychopaths, most of us picture Hannibal Lechter, but not all psychopaths are violent. In fact, most aren’t. CNN explains:
Dutton maintains that many people have great success in highly skilled fields not in spite of but BECAUSE of certain psychopathic traits, including a British neurosurgeon he interviewed.
Dutton may have been destined to study psychopaths. His father was one. Not a violent psychopath. A charming one, as so many are. Wait until you hear Dutton describe how his father once conned a restaurant full of patrons.
In the interview above, Dutton explains how psychopathy isn’t just a YES or a NO and certainly can’t be determined by just a few traits. For instance, in hero populations like firefighters, parts of the profile of psychopathy are turned up really high (like fearlessness), which on the surface would indicate psychopathy, but other aspects are dramatically low (like lack of empathy) which show they are actually quite far from true psychopathy.
And while it’s true that being a psychopath isn’t exactly desirable, there are traits of psychopathy that can be valuable toward success. His website explains:
In fact, psychopaths have a lot of good things going for them. They are fearless, confident, charismatic, ruthless and focused – qualities tailor-made for success in twenty-first century society.
There’s a fun little quiz you can take, as a preview of the book, on Dr. Kevin Dutton’s website. Just click “Take the Psychopath Challenge”. Then come back and tell us how you scored!