We have all heard of psychopaths – they’re the ones who commit horrible crimes without remorse. They feel no guilt, no shame, no love. They’re dangerous. But according to statistics, 1 person in 25 may be a psychopath. Granted, these statistics vary. Some researchers claim that it is in fact 1 person in a 100 that may be a psychopath.
The term “psychopath” first emerged about two hundred years ago. In the 1800s, doctors who worked with mental patients noticed that some patients suffered from “moral depravity”, even if they appeared normal from the outside. These people had no sense of ethics.
But the term “psychopath” was not used to describe these people until a hundred years later. Then, in 1930, the term “psychopath” was changed to the term “sociopath” to highlight the damage that these people with moral deprivation had on society. Nowadays, researchers tend to use the term “psychopath”. However, some prefer to use the term “psychopath” to refer to more dangerous individuals (with genetic psychopathy traits from birth) and the term “sociopath” to refer to the less dangerous individuals (who are products of their environment).
It is worth noting however that not all psychopaths are dangerous or are killers. A lot of people who exhibit psychopathy traits are CEOs, surgeons, and political leaders.
15 At First Glance, They Appear Extremely Charming
You know those people you sometimes meet, the ones who charm you instantly? You feel good in their presence and you want to be near them all the time. But be careful! Being charming is one of the signs that someone is a psychopath.
In fact, fake charm is one of the most important tools that a psychopath has at his or her disposal. Psychopaths have the ability to focus solely on you. Psychopaths don’t experience anxiety or self-doubt. They have zero distractions, and they listen to you closely. They are the predator and you are the prey. They’re not distracted by thinking of what to say next – they’ll say whatever will get them what they want.
One scientist recalled the story of his assistant who did an interview with a psychopath prisoner. The assistant said - "I sat down and took out my clipboard and the first thing this guy told me was what beautiful eyes I had. He managed to work quite a few compliments on my appearance into the interview, so by the time I wrapped things up, I was feeling unusually… well, pretty. I'm a wary person, especially on the job, and can usually spot a phony. When I got back outside, I couldn't believe I'd fallen for a line like that."
14 They Are Egocentric
Psychopaths are extremely egocentric and narcissistic. They don’t care about others because they believe that the world revolves around them. Because psychopaths are so selfish and self-centered, they are incapable of loving others. And this doesn’t just mean that they are incapable of loving their friends or acquaintances. They are incapable of loving their partners, parents, or even their own children.
However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t pretend to love others if doing so will achieve some kind of goal. For example, a psychopathic prisoner might pretend to love and appreciate their children so that they cover their prison fees.
13 They Are CEOs, Lawyers, Civil Servants, Policemen, And Clergymen
In 2011, the research psychologist and author Kevin Dutton performed a survey called “The Great British Psychopath Survey”. Dutton asked the participants to fill out a questionnaire to find out how psychotic the participants were. He also asked them to write down their occupations and their income.
It turned out that CEOs, lawyers, civil servants, policemen, and even clergymen were more likely to be psychopaths than craftsmen, care workers, accountants, and doctors. However, interestingly, Dutton noted that while doctors were not likely to be psychopaths, surgeons were extremely likely to be psychopaths.
This may be because surgeons must do awful things to patients when they’re on the operating table. You can’t have too much empathy for the patient or else you won’t be able to carry out the surgery. According to Dutton, psychopaths are attracted to occupations that have a hierarchy as well as occupations that allow them to wield power over others.
12 They Perform Extremely Well In The Stroop Task
Psychopaths perform extremely well in the Stroop Task. You’ve probably performed the Stroop Task at some point in your life. The Stroop Task is basically a test in which you have to say what color the word is printed in. Sounds easy, but it’s not. That’s because the words are usually printed in conflicting colors. So while the word may say “blue”, the actual color the word is printed in might be red. If you’ve done this test before, you probably know how difficult it is to stop yourself from just reading the word.
However, studies have shown that psychopaths perform much better in the Stroop Test than normal people. They are not distracted by the different color because of their narrowed attention focus.
11 They Don’t Accept Responsibility
Psychopaths are extremely irresponsible. They will always blame others for events that were caused by their own actions. They will lie and manipulate you in order to convince you that they are not responsible. If they are backed into a corner they might admit blame, but they will not feel sorry for their actions and they will not shy away from blaming others in the future.
Sometimes psychopaths will admit to erring without being pushed by others. However, their humble action is in actual fact another form of manipulation – they want to be perceived as a sacrificial lamb. They accept blame so that you don’t have to, forcing you to feel grateful to them.
10 They Have No Fear
Psychopaths show a lack of emotions, including guilt and shame. Psychopaths are also fearless. Research has revealed that when normal people are subjected to situations where they know something painful will happen (mild electric shock, for example), a brain network is activated and they show a skin conductance response which results from sweat gland activity. On the contrary, the same brain network was not activated in psychopaths. In addition, psychopaths showed no skin conductance response.
One psychopath said that he didn’t really understand fear: "When I rob a bank I notice that the teller shakes. One barfed all over the money. She must have been pretty messed up inside, but I don't know why. If someone pointed a gun at me I guess I'd be afraid, but I wouldn't throw up."
9 They Lie All The Time
Psychopaths are great liars. They will lie to you in order to get what they want. And don’t think that they will be ashamed if you find out that they are lying to you. They will simply change their story, leaving you more confused than ever. In addition, a lot of psychopaths seem to be extremely proud of their ability to deceive others. When one young psychotic woman was asked if she was a good lair, she replied – “I'm the best. I think it's because I sometimes admit to something bad about myself. They think, well, if she's admitting to that she must be telling the truth about the rest."
Another psychopath confided that he tells fake secrets and asks for favors to get others to trust him – “I keep secrets and tell them fake secrets to further gain their trust, and once they trust me enough, I ask for favors, reminding them of the favors I did them. I can get literally anything from them, which is incredibly useful.”
8 They Will Offer To Do Huge Favours For You
A couple of years ago, self-professed psychopath Jacob Wells revealed the traits that make a person a psychopath. One of these traits, according to Wells, is extreme generosity – psychopaths will offer to do immense favors for you.
Wells says – “I gain their trust fully by doing and/or offering to do immense favors that nobody else would do. I offer to solve their problems, in any way possible, and then ask them how far to take it so I don't violate their morals. If they don't like a teacher/co-worker/neighbor/whatever, I offer to get rid of them.”
Obviously, psychopaths don’t perform favors out of the goodness of their heart. They are seeking ways of controlling someone. When the time comes when they need something from you, all they’ll have to do is remind you of the huge favor they once did for you.
7 They Don’t Feel Repulsion Or Disgust
The emotion of disgust is an important one. It stops normal people from engaging in unethical, disgusting actions. However, research has found that psychopaths don’t feel repulsion or disgust in the same way that normal people do.
Psychopaths just don’t seem to recognize the emotions of disgust and repulsion. One self-professed psychopath writes – “As a psychopath, I do not recognize facial expressions of repulsion and disgust naturally. Disgust, in my understanding, is somewhat equal to contempt though with a trace of something else which I can’t quite pinpoint.”
Researchers have shown gory pictures of mutilated faces to psychopaths and have found that they have extremely high thresholds for disgust.
6 They Contradict Themselves
Psychopaths are extremely inconsistent. They will constantly contradict themselves. Their opinions will change continuously. For example, one day a psychopath might have great sympathy for homeless people. Another day, he or she might express contempt for the homeless, questioning how someone could be so stupid or lazy to end up in a situation like that.
Their inconsistent behavior can also be seen in the way they act towards you. One day they might be extremely loving and caring while the next day they could turn cold and insensitive, leaving you confused and thinking that you have somehow repelled them.
5 They Engage In Antisocial Behavior
If you know someone who constantly behaves in an antisocial way, then it might be that the person is a psychopath. According to research, psychopaths engage in antisocial behavior such as stealing, cheating, or killing even if such behavior is high in risk and will bring no gain.
It is said that psychopaths engage in high-risk behavior because of the adrenalin rush that it allows them to experience. Because psychopaths show a lack of emotion and generally feel less than others, it is believed that any extreme emotion will feel good to them. For example, when Robert Hare, a criminal psychology researcher, asked a psychopath if she has ever done anything bad just for the thrill of it, she replied – “Yeah, lots of things. But what I find most exciting is walking through airports with drugs. Christ! What a high!"
Others, however, believe that psychopaths engage in antisocial behavior to further prove that they are superior to other people, including the police.
4 They Are Impulsive
Psychopaths are extremely impulsive. They rarely assess the advantages and disadvantages of a situation. In fact, most of the time psychopaths will do something purely because they feel like it. They want immediate satisfaction and relief and thus few psychopaths will have long-term plans.
Psychopaths will quit jobs, leave relationships, and change plans at a whim. One man, married to a psychopath, said – “She got up and left the table, and that was the last I saw of her for two months.”
Another self-professed psychopath has confessed – “If I feel like doing something, I'm going to do it right then and there, and I lose focus and attention just as quickly. I've noticed I can be at a party enjoying myself as just as quickly feel like leaving, it's just not fun anymore. Everyone is confused with my ups and downs and certainly, I can't be bipolar since it actually takes some time to rapid cycle, my moods just change like the weather. It all depends on what is interesting to me at that time.”
3 They Don’t Learn From Their Mistakes
Psychopaths are incapable of learning from their mistakes. They will perform the same action again and again even if it means that they will get into trouble every single time. That’s why a lot of prisoners go back to their old ways of stealing and killing when they are released from prison.
Robert Hare, a criminal psychology researcher, recalls a psychotic prisoner whom he studied. The prisoner had been convicted more than 20 times for things such as reckless driving, leaving the scene of an auto-accident and even criminal negligence which caused death. After Dr. Hare asked the prisoner if he would still drive after he was released from prison, the prisoner looked surprised and answered with – “Why not? Sure, I drive fast, but I'm good at it. It takes two to have an accident."
2 They Are Violent
Psychopaths are very easy to insult. And, unlike other people, when insulted they are unable to control their behavior. While normal people might be able to keep their anger in, psychopaths do not possess such power.
Most psychopaths are short-tempered and the slightest provocation or criticism will result in them losing their head. They will scream, threaten you, and sometimes even resort to physical violence. However, their outbursts do not last long and once they are back to being calm and collected they will act as if nothing has happened.
When Robert Hare, a criminal psychology researcher, heard that one prisoner beat another prisoner senseless just because the latter had accidentally bumped into him, and asked why he did it, the prisoner replied – “I was pissed off. He stepped into my space. I did what I had to do."
1 Their Emotional Responses Will Seem Either Extremely Genuine Or Extremely Fake
Because Psychopaths can’t feel normal emotions such as love, fear, or empathy, sometimes it may seem like their responses are lacking. While their words may be perfectly suitable for the situation at hand, their tone of voice or body language may be saying something else.
However, most psychopaths learn how to mimic emotions extremely well. Recently, a study has been carried out to test the theory of mimicry. The study consisted of three parts. In the first experiment, the study participants (prisoners) were told to imitate a fearful expression. According to the study author, Angela Book: “people higher on psychopathy were better able to make that face.”
In the second experiment, prisoners watched a video of people telling real stories of bad things they did. These people showed no remorse. Prisoners were instructed to retell the story as if they regretted their actions. According to Book: “people higher on psychopathy were seen as more genuine.”
In the third experiment, four videos were shown of people telling false-remorse stories. The people had to be rated on psychopathy and antisocial behavior. According to Books, “the two videos where the inmates were high on interpersonal and personality traits related to psychopathy were rated as being more genuine.”