Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Which Professions Have The Most Psychopaths? (PsyBlog)

Are you working with a psychopath? Is your occupation more likely or less likely to attract psychopaths? Kevin Dutton, author of Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds (2011) and The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success (2012), is (aside from Robert Hare) one of the better-known authors on psychopathic personalities (in the U.S. we call psychopathy anti-social personality disorder).  

This brief summary of some of the data comes Jeremy Dean, author of PsyBlog.

Which Professions Have The Most Psychopaths?


Are there ‘successful psychopaths’ amongst us?


According to a survey conducted by psychologist Kevin Dutton—called the Great British Psychopath Survey—here are the top 10 professions with the most psychopaths:
  1. CEO
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media (TV/Radio)
  4. Salesperson
  5. Surgeon
  6. Journalist
  7. Police Officer
  8. Clergyperson
  9. Chef
  10. Civil Servant
And here are the professions with the least psychopaths:
  1. Care Aide
  2. Nurse
  3. Therapist (emphasis added by editor)
  4. Craftsperson
  5. Beautician/Stylist
  6. Charity Worker
  7. Teacher
  8. Creative Artist
  9. Doctor
  10. Accountant

Although people tend to think of psychopaths as killers—indeed about 15-25% of people in prison are psychopaths—in fact many people with psychopathic tendencies are not criminals.

Here are some of the traits of psychopaths:
  • Self-confident
  • Cold-hearted
  • Manipulative
  • Fearless
  • Charming
  • Cool under pressure
  • Egocentric
  • Carefree
If you look through the list of professions, then you can see how a few of these traits might be useful.

None of this means that every CEO or lawyer is a psychopath, nor should the suggestion be that having psychopathic tendencies is helpful in any of these jobs (although it may be!).

Rather, there is an overlap between psychopathic personality traits and the types of people who go into those professions.

Successful psychopath?


A few people try to talk up the benefits of psychopathic personality traits, saying that there are such things as ‘successful psychopaths’: people who benefit from being that way.

But many psychologists have questioned whether there really is such a thing as a ‘successful psychopath’.

That’s because research has found that psychopaths generally do worse at the things that are often associated with success: their relationships are worse, they earn less money and do not generally attain high status (research described in Stevens et al., 2012).

Maybe the standard for a ‘successful psychopath’ should be lower. We should simply be amazed that someone with little or no fear response, unlimited confidence and without fellow-feeling can live outside of an institution, let alone become a respected professional.



~ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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