Despite the term psychopath being often mentioned in hypothesizing media and criminal justice settings, psychopathy is not a recognized psychological or psychiatric disorder. While it has been used inconsistently in the medical community for a long time, the term psychopathy is now recognized as either an extension or subcategory of antisocial personality behavior. It would be wrong to assume that an individual with psychopathic tendencies will end up as a criminal. While there is no much research linking psychopathy with mass murderers and serial killers, it would be a reasonable assumption that there are quite a number of psychopaths in those groups. The purpose of this paper is to use established research to describe some ways of coping with psychopathy. It will also propose a study to investigate ways to deal with it.
Psychopathy can be defined as a mental disorder in which the sufferer manifests antisocial and amoral behavior such as the inability to form meaningful personal relations and extreme egocentricity. According to Stevens et al. (2011), the three factors in the mediated model of psychopathy are interpersonal features, lifestyle features and affective features. The interpersonal features are all about the tendency of a psychopathic person to be deceptive or manipulative, or to exhibit superficial charm when it comes to achieving desired outcomes. The lifestyle features are all about impulsivity, risky behavior as well as general irresponsibility. The affective features are all about the psychopaths general lack of feeling or empathy towards others, and a tendency to numb emotional expression.
According to Lilienfeld et al. (2014), people high psychopathic traits tend to pursue a career in prosocial, high-risks occupations such as firefighting, military combat and law enforcement. They are likely to be emergency personnel, police officers, and detectives. Such individuals exhibit high levels of cold-heartedness and fearless dominance that raises the social and physical boldness; something that draws them towards law enforcement. This is coupled with an adaptive capacity to emotionally distance themselves from other individuals in distress. All in all, such psychopathic traits are usually associated with destructive management and leadership behavior as well as workplace deviance.
Lilienfeld et al. (2015) is of the opinion that several problems are deterring research into successful psychopathy. There is a lack of consistent operationalizations of success. Also, researchers have failed to examine the roles of parenting and intelligence as likely protective variables. They have also failed to look at statistical interactions between putative protective variables and psychopathy. As much as such interactions have been suggested by the moderated-expression model, they are rarely tested by scientists. To overcome these problems, researchers need to attend to the necessary desiderata. By doing this, they will hopefully gain a better understanding of how an individual showing pronounced psychopathic can end up becoming the prototype of a typical criminal.
Successful and unsuccessful psychopaths: A neurobiological model is a review article written by Yu Gao and Adrian Raine. The article analyses current knowledge on the differences and similarities between successful and not-so-successful psychopaths. According to Gao & Raine (2010), although there has been an increasing interest in psychopathy research, not much is known about the etiology of successful and non-incarcerated psychopaths. The knowledge analyzed in the article is derived from five population sources: college students, community samples, serial killers, individuals from employment agencies, and industrial psychopaths. The article also outlines an initial neurobiological model of successful psychopaths and those that are not so successful. It is assumed that successful psychopaths have enhanced or intact neurobiological functioning that motivates their normal or even advanced cognitive functioning. In turn, this assists them to achieve their goals using non-violent and covert methods. In contrast, in unsuccessful and incarcerated psychopaths, the structural and functional impairments of the brain as well as autonomous nervous system dysfunction are assumed to motivate emotional and cognitive deficits together with more overt offending.
There is definitely a continuing need to understand successful psychopathy. This is because successful psychopaths blend excellently into the society in a way that they can go about their businesses undetected by most people. The only real defense against them is being able to recognize the signs of this deadly personality early on so as to escape from them or avoid them as soon as possible. It is unfortunate that most people have no idea that successful psychopathy exists until they come into contact with a high functioning psychopath. Once an individual has faced unpleasant things in the hands of such a psychopath, he or she will develop a 6th sense for sporting them. This underlines the importance of understanding successful psychopathy (Hall, & Benning, 2006).
Successful psychopaths are able to adjust the settings in accordance to different social settings. Such a trait can be quite constructive and there are a number of professions and jobs that require such traits. Below is an experiment on how to diagnose successful psychopathy. It is a set of questions that gives an indication as to where a subject is a successful or unsuccessful psychopath. All the participant has to do is indicate the extent to which he or she agrees or disagrees with each statement. Three points if the participant strongly agrees, two points if he or she agrees, and zero points if he or she strongly disagree.
I am a spur-of the moment kind of person who seldom plans ahead.
Cheating on a partner is okay as long as the cheater is never caught.
It is acceptable to cancel an appointment if something better comes up
Seeing an injured animal or one in pain does not bother me at all.
I find skydiving, riding rollercoasters and driving fast cars appealing
It does not matter if I inconvenience other people provided I get what I want.
I am a rather persuasive individual who can get other people to do as I wish.
I can tackle a dangerous job excellently since am capable of making up my mind quickly.
I find it easy to remain calm and composed when others are overwhelmed by pressure.
Often when things go wrong it is not my fault by someone elses.
Once the participant has answered the questions, the score will determine whether he or she is a successful or unsuccessful psychopath. A score of between 0 and 11 shows that the individual is a successful psychopath who is capable of deceiving others that he or she is warm, empathic, has an advanced awareness of social responsibility as well as a strong sense of conscience. Such a person can carefully weigh up the merits and demerits of a situation before he or she acts. On the other hand, a score of between 23 and 33 shows that the participant is an unsuccessful psychopath. Such an individual is not afraid of going for what he or she wants, even if it means breaking the rules and stepping on other peoples toes. The individual is a means-to-an-end person who is self-confident, decisive and not afraid of anything. It does not matter whether something is wrong as long as the job gets done.
Gao, Y., & Raine, A. (2010). Successful and unsuccessful psychopaths: A neurobiological model. Behavioral sciences & the law, 28(2), 194-210.
Hall, J. R., & Benning, S. D. (2006). The successful psychopath. Handbook of psychopathy, 459-478.
Ishikawa, S. S., Raine, A., Lencz, T., Bihrle, S., & Lacasse, L. (2001). Autonomic stress reactivity and executive functions in successful and unsuccessful criminal psychopaths from the community. Journal of abnormal psychology, 110(3), 423.
Lilienfeld, S. O., Latzman, R. D., Watts, A. L., Smith, S. F., & Dutton, K. (2014). Correlates of psychopathic personality traits in everyday life: Results from a large community survey. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 740.
Lilienfeld, S. O., Watts, A. L., & Smith, S. F. (2015). Successful psychopathy: A scientific status report. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(4), 298-303.
Mullins-Nelson, J. L., Salekin, R. T., & Leistico, A. M. R. (2006). Psychopathy, empathy, and perspective-taking ability in a community sample: Implications for the successful psychopathy concept. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 5(2), 133-149.
Stevens, G. W., Deuling, J. K., & Armenakis, A. A. (2011). Successful psychopaths: Are they unethical decision-makers and why? Journal of Business Ethics, 105, 139-149.
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