I was listening to one of the episodes of This American Life podcast (totally recommend!) the other day. They were talking about psychopathic traits and a psychological test for determining if you are a psychopath. They said this test is used in the US prison system in order to determine if a prisoner should be sentenced for a crime, released after doing his/her time or if they’re ready for parole. They ask many questions so as to search for the fundamental and distinctive characteristics that would eventually put an individual under the ‘psychopath’ classification.
Here are some examples of the questions they ask:
- How would you teachers describe your behavior in high school? (Should I be freaking out already? By the way, my answer for that one would have to be: rebellious, irresponsible and underachiever. I didn’t do poorly by any means, but I could have done a lot better, I guess). I had better stop answering the questions here for the sake of my reputation...
- As a child, did you get into a lot of fights?
- When you were young, did you ever do rowdy things outside school like vandalize, break windows, set fires, hurt animals?
As a non-practicing psychologist but yet very curious person, I dig a little deeper to find out which are the basic psychopathic traits so I could see what a regular psychopath should be like. I will share them with you just in case you run into one on the way to the grocery store.
There are different ‘check lists’ according to each researcher, but basically the first one I found is a collection of narcissistic factors while the second focuses more on behavior.
Persuasiveness/ superficial charm and good intelligence
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Lack of remorse or guilt
Insensitive/ lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
According to this list, I'm totally convinced most politics are psychopaths.
Socially deviant lifestyle
Constant need for stimulation/ tendency to boredom
Poor behavioral control
Promiscuous sexual behavior
Lack of realistic, long-term goals
Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink and sometimes without
Early behavioral problems
Many short-term relationships
According to this one, absolutely all teenagers are psychopaths.
I’ll confess to fit almost every trait to some extent. Does that make me a clinical science fair case? But still, I’m far too neurotic to be psychopath.
Anyway… just in case you are wondering, the test rates each item on a score from 0 to 2. The sum total determines the extent of a person's psychopathy which means: even under the most favorable circumstances, you will always be only two steps away from being a psycho.