DAY 286: Diagnosing psychopaths

14 Jun


TILL now I thought ‘psychopath’ was just a generalised term, roughly translating to ‘nutjob’.

Not so! Also known as antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy is a category in the weighty Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – a manual that’s informed doctors and psychiatrists since 1952.

In Jon Ronson’s ripping new read, The Psychopath Test, the journo uses Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist to personally diagnose a number of suspected psychopaths, from a dictator (no great stretch) to an executive responsible for laying off thousands of workers. It’s surprising, experts in the book note, how many psychopaths you’ll find at the head of companies, running the stockmarket or in the entertainment business.

Of course, there’s a tendency for the layman to gaily over-diagnose in this day and age: so-and-so’s got ADHD, blah blah’s probably mildly autistic (no other explanation for it), you-know-who’s a narcissist… suddenly everyone’s either a pop psychologist or a psychopath. But damn it, this one’s fun. Turns out I know three!


Upon perusing this checklist you’ll probably think, what tosh! Anyone would avoid admitting to those characteristics. But the psychopath sees things like cunning, glib charm and impulsivity as positive traits (necessary traits for CEOs and Wall Street traders), and so will load up points while brimming with pride, under the godlike delusion that he or she will get one over the profiler anyway, probably by slicing off their nipples.

I think that’s how it works.

If you want to test someone else without them knowing, you can casually base questions around each point on the checklist, as though in conversation. (1.) “If someone was ineffectually trying to get their point across, would you do it for them? Wait, I haven’t finished… Ow!”

Or you can test yourself, via these scenarios a psych student put together.

I self-scored 9, but having riffled through the DSM when I was taking A-level psychology, I know psychopathy’s not my particular problem. Not top of the list, anyway.

Incidentally, a score above 28 in Texas – should you already be in trouble – incurs the death penalty.

Keeper? Would be a bit hard to assess someone in my head with any more than five categories to work through, so twenty’s a bit much. I suspect I’ll have forgotten all about this idea by tomorrow.

PS: Here’s some email spam that went around a while back.

A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met a guy whom she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing. She believed him to be her dream guy so much that she fell in love with him right there, but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister..

Question: What was her motive for killing her sister?

Answer: She was hoping the guy would appear at the funeral again. If you answered this correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test by a famous American psychologist used to determine if one has the same mentality as a killer.  Many arrested serial killers took part in the test and answered the question correctly. 

%d bloggers like this: