From an NPR "review" of Jon Ronson's book "The Psychopath Test" (not really so much about psychopaths, more about psychological tests in general, unfortunately):
"Robert Hare, the eminent Canadian psychologist who invented the psychopath checklist, ... recently announced that you're four times more likely to find a psychopath at the top of the corporate ladder than you are walking around in the janitor's office," journalist Jon Ronson tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.I see this rather frequently, accusing sociopaths of trying to twist bad behavior to look like good, flaws to look like superhero traits, and damaged brains to look superior. People who make these accusations must believe that sociopaths are villains by definition, but that's not an entirely consistent or defensible position to take. Neither are some of the other assertions I see most frequently:
Picture a psychopath and you might think of Norman Bates. But Ronson says successful businessmen can also score high on the checklist. While researching his book, Ronson visited the Florida home of Al Dunlap — known as "Chainsaw Al" — who as CEO of appliance maker Sunbeam was notorious for his gleeful fondness for firing people and shutting down factories.
"So I turned up at his house, and it was full of sculptures of predatory animals," Ronson says. "And he immediately started to talk about how he believed in the predatory spirit, which was word for word what Bob Hare writes about in the checklist: Look out for their belief in the predatory spirit."
But Dunlap managed to turn the psychopath test on its head, Ronson says.
"He admitted to many, many items on the checklist, but redefined them as leadership positives," he says. "So 'manipulation' was another way of saying 'leadership.' 'Grandiose sense of self worth' — which would have been a hard one for him to deny because he was standing underneath a giant oil painting of himself — was, you know, 'You've got to like yourself if you're going to be a success.'"
- Either we're 4 times more likely to be at the top of the corporate ladder than be the janitor (and so presumably resourceful enough to get those jobs), or we're so impulsive and evil to the point that we are all leeches on productive society.
- Either 1 in 25 people (technically Americans) are sociopaths, so presumably some of them are your normal seeming co-workers or neighbors, or the only people who could properly be classified sociopaths are serial killers, people you would never meet, particularly not writing or commenting on a blog.
- Either we're very talented chameleons who are able to hide in plain sight, or we're so obvious that anyone we date can immediately and successfully diagnose us.
There are many others, of course, but this post is already getting long. I don't mind people believing one thing or the other and broadcasting that belief loudly and frequently, I just ask for a little bit of rationality and consistency in those professed beliefs.