If you’re worried you’re a psychopath, you’re probably not a psychopath

So University students across the country are receiving their final marks back. Scary. In a few weeks I will get my dissertation mark back and my final degree grade of University. So before I get my mark back, I wanted to talk to you guys about my dissertation. I had my fair share of crying and wanting to shoot myself in the head but throughout my last year I really enjoyed learning about my dissertation topic, so I want to emancipate it, here on my blog (kinda).

I, like a lot of people, find myself fascinated by criminals, and psychopaths. So I decided to examine three personality traits, including psychopathy. The Dark Triad is the name given to three personality traits that are considered socially malevolent (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). These traits are Narcissism, Psychopathy and Machiavellianism. This probably sounds very confusing, but stick with me guys, because it gets interesting.

blog 5So these traits can be thought of simply. So Narcissistic individuals are attention-seeking and think very highly of themselves. Sherlock Holmes is an example of a very narcissistic individual. He thinks he is the cleverest person alive and that he knows all the mysteries in the world. Machiavellians are individuals who are manipulative and strategic. For example, they might cheat in a relationship, but only if they know they can get away with it. Psychopathic individuals are impulsive and lack empathy. I’m sure a lot of you can think of serial killers or murderers that fit that description.

The Dark Triad, however, is a tool that assess everyday people on these traits. By this I mean, that you can score highly on the Dark Triad questionnaire, but this does not make you a psychopath or mean there is anything wrong with you. If you want to take the test, here is a link: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151123-how-dark-is-your-personality . Basically, if you have these traits you may be more likely to succeed in certain careers or act a certain way.

Just a note: if you are worried you might be a psychopath, you probably aren’t one!

blog 5 2So the Dark Triad traits relate to short-term sexual relationships and infidelity (Jones & Weiser, 2014). So each of the Dark Triad traits related to cheating whilst in a romantic relationship. But psychopathy produced the strongest correlation with committing infidelity. Perhaps because Psychopathic individuals engage more readily in sexual behaviour without considering consequences, in comparison to Narcissists or Machiavellians.

The Dark Triad traits also relate to ‘living a fast life’. If someone engages in a fast life strategy, then they will often seek a lot of sexual partners and will have a causal attitude towards sex (Jonason, Koenig and Tost, 2010; McDonald, Donnellan & Navarrete, 2012). Overall, men have a faster life strategy than women, due to the evolutionary benefits of ‘sowing their seed’ (to put it in a crude way).

blog 5 4So then Jonason et al., (2009) looked directly as Sociosexuality and the Dark Triad traits and found that the Dark Triad was linked to short-term mating styles, but that this relationship was mediated by sex. Basically, the individuals’ gender influenced how much the Dark Triad traits affected the individual’s likelihood of engaging in casual sex. So a man and a woman with the same Dark Triad score would not engage in the same amount of casual sex. We would expect men to engage in more casual sex (Oliver & Hyde, 1993). Basically, the nature of the Dark Triad means that individuals with these traits are better suited to short-term sexual relationships, compared to long-term romantic relationships, which require reciprocity (Foster, Shrira & Campbell, 2006). Think of Barney from ‘How I Met Your Mother’, he thinks of himself as gorgeous and clever and has a lot of casual sex.

blog 5 6So psychopaths often get a bad reputation, and it’s clear to see why. Psychopaths lack empathy, cheat in their relationships and basically don’t give a flying ****. When we think of a psychopath, we think of Adolf Hitler, Ian Brady, Hannibal Lecter, and Lord Voldemort. But there are also many psychopaths living in the real world (maybe you can think of a few) who pose no threat to society. Well… that bit is debateable. Robert Hare (an expert in psychopathy) reports that 1% of the general population can be classed as Psychopaths. But psychopaths and individuals with psychopathic traits are needed to make the world go round. According to Wikipedia the ten careers that have the highest proportion of psychopaths are:

  1. CEOblog 5 7.jpg
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media
  4. Salesperson
  5. Surgeon
  6. Journalist
  7. Police officer
  8. Clergy
  9. Chef
  10. Civil servant


And we need these people. We need people who are cut-throat and ‘sharks’. We need people who are able to make hard decisions and are ruthless. We world can’t just be filled with loving, caring, empathetic people. It would not work.

To sum up, I guess, I’m saying that psychopaths get a bad reputation that isn’t necessarily true. While there are serial killers and murderers who are psychopaths, there are also a lot that aren’t psychopaths. We shouldn’t be so quick to fear psychopaths or people who don’t fit into our idea of what is good and right. So what if psychopaths are brutal, and like short-term relationships and fire people? They are necessary and needed, otherwise the world would fall apart.

Just a thought,

Em x

blog 5 8blog 5 9If you want to read more about psychopaths in general I suggest reading ‘The Psychopath Test’ by Jon Ronson.

Also I have heard that ‘Snakes in suits: when psychopaths go to work’ by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare is very interesting also.


If you want to read more about what I talked of then here are some references:

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556-563

Jones, D. N., & Weiser, D. A. (2014). Differential infidelity patterns among the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 57, 20-24

Jonason, P. K., Koenig, B. L., & Tost, J. (2010a). Living a fast life: The Dark Triad and Life History theory. Human Nature, 21(4), 428-442. Doi: 10.1007/s12110-010-9102-4

McDonald, M. M., Donnellan, M. B., & Navarrete, C. D. (2012). A life history approach to understanding the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 601-605. Doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2011.12.003

Foster, J. D., Shrira, I., & Campbell, W. K. (2006). Theoretical models of narcissism, sexuality, and relationship commitment. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(3), 367-386. Doi: 10.1177/0265407506064204

Jonason, P. K., Li, N. P., Webster, G. D., & Schmitt, D. P. (2009). The Dark Triad: Facilitating a short-term mating strategy in men.  European Journal of Personality, 23, 5-18. Doi: 10.1002/per.698

Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114(1), 29-51



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