Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Psychopathic spectrum disorder

“Psychopath” is a term with extremely negative connotations. When most of us hear it, we likely envision bloodthirsty and murderous individuals, like Hannibal Lecter, Ted Bundy, Dexter Morgan and Charles Manson.

We also throw the word around in social settings on a pretty frequent basis. If a person is acting aggressively or impetuously, we say something along the lines of “you’re being a psycho.”...

We overuse a lot of words without thinking critically about their meaning.

But, when it comes to the word “psychopath,” there actually might be some validity behind its colloquial application.

In other words, some of us might have more psychopathic tendencies than we realize. And when our friends say “you’re a psychopath, dude,” they may be more correct than they even realize.

This shouldn’t necessarily be viewed in a negative light, though, as there’s a great deal of evidence possessing psychopathic traits has a number of benefits.

Actually, you could make the argument many of the most successful leaders and individuals in history were psychopaths in some respects.

Being a bit of a psychopath can help you achieve success in many walks of life, as crazy as that sounds (no pun intended).

Almost anyone you know could be a psychopath, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad people.
Dr. James Fallon, a successful neuroscientist, discovered he’s a psychopath when comparing brain scans of psychopathic murderers to scans of his own brain.

Psychopaths have decreased activity in portions of the frontal lobe associated with morality and empathy, and Fallon’s brain exhibited the same anatomical patterns.

Fallon has never committed a crime in his life. He’s a family man and extremely respected in his field.

The difference between him and psychopathic killers is he can switch off all the negative qualities of psychopathy at will — aggression, carelessness, coldheartedness — while maintaining the positive qualities, such as charisma.

Thus, psychopathy is linked to genetics and neurology and occurs in various degrees...

There’s no one thing that makes a psychopath.

You want to think of those traits being like the dials on a studio mixing desk, that you can turn up and down in different situations – if they’re all turned up to maximum, then you’re a dysfunctional psychopath.

Being a psychopath isn’t black and white; it’s a spectrum, like height and weight.

Psychopaths have a wide range of personality traits: deceptive charm, the innate ability to lie, remorselessness, unrealistic goals, a lack of empathy and impulsivity, among others.
Thus, it feels somewhat counterintuitive to argue anyone with such attributes could make a good leader. How can a person lead others when he or she is reckless, apathetic and irrational?

Well, as we’ve noted, there are shades of grey to being a psychopath.

For example, psychopaths on the extreme end of the spectrum lack one of the most important qualities to strong and effective leadership: empathy.

If you can’t relate to others and don’t have a high degree of emotional intelligence, you’re not in a good position to guide other people.

But if you’re on the less extreme end of the psychopath spectrum, you can still exhibit empathy while also possessing psychopathic qualities that present an advantage in terms of leadership.

Andy McNab, a retired SAS sergeant who’s worked alongside Kevin Dutton, has argued psychopaths achieve success because they have the ability to turn off the empathy switch when necessary.

They’re not always completely coldblooded, but can be ruthless in the appropriate context.

Scott Lilienfeld, professor of psychology at Emory University, led a study that assessed the personalities and rated the performances of US presidents.

Ultimately, the research revealed presidents were more successful when they possessed fearless dominance, a quality frequently attributed to psychopaths...

An easy way to think about it is as a combination of physical and social fearlessness.  People high in boldness don’t have a lot of apprehension about either physical or social things that would scare the rest of us. It’s often a kind of resilience because you don’t show lot of anxiety or frustration in the face of everyday life challenges.

Simply put, psychopaths are intrepid and audacious individuals who keep calm under pressure, qualities imperative to impactful leadership.

Correspondingly, there’s evidence psychopaths can be fundamentally heroic. Their impulsivity makes them less hesitant to take risks in dangerous situations.

This makes a lot of sense: While heroism is often linked with selflessness, you also have to be somewhat reckless to sacrifice your own safety for that of others...

So the next time someone calls you a psychopath, thank them for the inadvertent compliment.


  1. There are a few things we take for granted in social interactions with people. We presume that we see the world in roughly the same way, that we all know certain basic facts, that words mean the same things to you as they do to me. And we assume that we have pretty similar ideas of right and wrong.

    But for a small – but not that small – subset of the population, things are very different. These people lack remorse and empathy and feel emotion only shallowly. In extreme cases, they might not care whether you live or die. These people are called psychopaths. Some of them are violent criminals, murderers. But by no means all...

    “It stuns me, as much as it did when I started 40 years ago, that it is possible to have people who are so emotionally disconnected that they can function as if other people are objects to be manipulated and destroyed without any concern,” he says.

    Psychopathy challenges this view. “A high-scoring psychopath views the world in a very different way,” says Hare. “It’s like colour-blind people trying to understand the colour red, but in this case ‘red’ is other people’s emotions.”

    At heart, Hare’s test is simple: a list of 20 criteria, each given a score of 0 (if it doesn’t apply to the person), 1 (if it partially applies) or 2 (if it fully applies). The list in full is: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of behavioural control, behavioural problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behaviour. A pure, prototypical psychopath would score 40. A score of 30 or more qualifies for a diagnosis of psychopathy. Hare says: “A friend of mine, a psychiatrist, once said: ‘Bob, when I meet someone who scores 35 or 36, I know these people really are different.’ The ones we consider to be alien are the ones at the upper end.” (continued)

  2. (continued)But is psychopathy a disorder – or a different way of being? Anyone reading the list above will spot a few criteria familiar from people they know. On average, someone with no criminal convictions scores 5. “It’s dimensional,” says Hare. “There are people who are part-way up the scale, high enough to warrant an assessment for psychopathy, but not high enough up to cause problems. Often they’re our friends, they’re fun to be around. They might take advantage of us now and then, but usually it’s subtle and they’re able to talk their way around it.” Like autism, a condition which we think of as a spectrum, “psycho­pathy”, the diagnosis, bleeds into normalcy.

    For their co-authored book, “Snakes in suits: When Psychopaths go to work”, Hare and another researcher, Paul Babiak, looked at 203 corporate professionals and found about four per cent scored sufficiently highly on the PCL-R to be evaluated for psychopathy. Hare says that this wasn’t a proper random sample (claims that “10 per cent of financial executives” are psychopaths are certainly false) but it’s easy to see how a lack of moral scruples and indifference to other people’s suffering could be beneficial if you want to get ahead in business.

    “Cognitive empathy is the ability to know what other people are feeling, and emotional empathy is the kind where you feel what they’re feeling.” Autistic people can be very empathetic – they feel other people’s pain – but are less able to recognise the cues we read easily, the smiles and frowns that tell us what someone is thinking. Psychopaths are often the opposite: they know what you’re feeling, but don’t feel it themselves. “This all gives certain psychopaths a great advantage, because they can understand what you’re thinking, it’s just that they don’t care, so they can use you against yourself.”...(continued)

  3. (continued)Fallon himself is a case in point. In 2005, he was looking at brain scans of psychopathic murderers, while on another study, of Alzheimer’s, he was using scans of his own family’s brains as controls. In the latter pile, he found something strange.

    “I saw one that was extremely abnormal, and I thought this is someone who’s way off. It looked like the murderers I’d been looking at,” he says. He broke the anonymisation code in case it had been put into the wrong pile. When he did, he discovered it was his own brain. “I kind of blew it off,” he says. “But later, some psychiatrist friends of mine went through my behaviours, and they said, actually, you’re probably a borderline psychopath.”

    Speaking to him is a strange experience; he barely draws breath in an hour, in which I ask perhaps three questions. He explains how he has frequently put his family in danger, exposing his brother to the deadly Marburg virus and taking his son trout-fishing in the African countryside knowing there were lions around. And in his youth, “if I was confronted by authority – if I stole a car, made pipe bombs, started fires – when we got caught by the police I showed no emotion, no anxiety”. Yet he is highly successful, driven to win. He tells me things most people would be uncomfortable saying: that his wife says she’s married to a “fun-loving, happy-go-lucky nice guy” on the one hand, and a “very dark character who she does not like” on the other. He’s pleasant, and funny, if self-absorbed, but I can’t help but think about the criteria in Hare’s PCL-R: superficial charm, lack of emotional depth, grandiose sense of self-worth. “I look like hell now, Tom,” he says – he’s 66 – “but growing up I was good-looking, six foot, 180lb, athletic, smart, funny, popular.” (Hare warns against non-professionals trying to diagnose people using his test, by the way.)...

    One of my inmates said that his problem was that he’s a cat in a world of mice. If you compare the brainwave activity of a cat and a mouse, you’d find they were quite different.”

    It would, says Hare, probably have been an evolutionarily successful strategy for many of our ancestors, and can be successful today; adept at manipulating people, a psychopath can enter a community, “like a church or a cultural organisation, saying, ‘I believe the same things you do’, but of course what we have is really a cat pretending to be a mouse, and suddenly all the money’s gone”. At this point he floats the name Bernie Madoff.(continued)

  4. (continued)This brings up the issue of treatment. “Psychopathy is probably the most pleasant-feeling of all the mental disorders,” says the journalist Jon Ronson, whose book, The Psychopath Test, explored the concept of psychopathy and the mental health industry in general. “All of the things that keep you good, morally good, are painful things: guilt, remorse, empathy.” Fallon agrees: “Psychopaths can work very quickly, and can have an apparent IQ higher than it really is, because they’re not inhibited by moral concerns.” ...

    “How many psychopaths go to a psychiatrist for mental distress, unless they’re in prison? It doesn’t happen,” says Hare. The ones in prison, of course, are often required to go to “talk therapy, empathy training, or talk to the family of the victims” – but since psychopaths don’t have any empathy, it doesn’t work. “What you want to do is say, ‘Look, it’s in your own self-interest to change your behaviour, otherwise you’ll stay in prison for quite a while.’ ”...

    If someone’s brain lacks the moral niceties the rest of us take for granted, they obviously can’t do anything about that, any more than a colour-blind person can start seeing colour. So where does this leave the concept of moral responsibility?...

    He suggests that instead of thinking in terms of blameworthiness, the law should deal with the likelihood that someone will reoffend, and issue sentences accordingly, with rehabilitation for those likely to benefit and long sentences for those likely to be long-term dangers...

    What this doesn’t mean, he says, is a situation like the sci-fi film Minority Report, in which people who are likely to commit crimes are locked up before they actually do. “Here's why,” he says. “It's because many people in the population have high levels of psychopathy - about 1 per cent. But not all of them become criminals. In fact many of them, because of their glibness and charm and willingness to ride roughshod over the people in their way, become quite successful. They become CEOs, professional athletes, soldiers. These people are revered for their courage and their straight talk and their willingness to crush obstacles in their way. Merely having psychopathy doesn't tell us that a person will go off and commit a crime.”...

    Speaking to all these experts, I notice they all talk about psychopaths as “them”, almost as a different species, although they make conscious efforts not to. There’s something uniquely troubling about a person who lacks emotion and empathy; it’s the stuff of changeling stories, the Midwich Cuckoos, Hannibal Lecter. “You know kids who use a magnifying glass to burn ants, thinking, this is interesting,” says Hare. “Translate that to an adult psychopath who treats a person that way. It is chilling.”

  5. Behaving like a psychopath could help you in your career and love life. It’s counterintuitive – who, after all, would hire Hannibal Lecter or want to date Norman Bates – but that’s the idea behind The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success, part popular science book, part self-help guide from Andy McNab and Oxford psychology professor Kevin Dutton.

    “I wanted to debunk the myth that all psychopaths are bad,” says Dutton, who has explored this subject before. “I’d done research with the special forces, with surgeons, with top hedge fund managers and barristers. Almost all of them had psychopathic traits, but they’d harnessed them in ways to make them better at what they do.”

    It was through this research that he met retired SAS sergeant and bestselling author McNab, who in tests exhibited many of these psychopathic traits, including ruthlessness, fearlessness, impulsivity, reduced empathy, developed self-confidence and lack of remorse...

    As one dysfunctional psychopath – who was serving a life sentence for multiple murders – put it to Dutton: “It’s not that we’re bad, it’s that we’ve got too much of a good thing.”

    How, then, can you act more like a psychopath in your everyday life?

    In business

    Focus...The ability psychopaths have to turn down their empathy and block out other concerns make them the best operators in high-pressure environments, he says. “If I was on trial, I’d want a psychopath [to represent me] too. I want someone who’d be able to rip people apart in the witness box, go back to their family and not think anything more about it, because it’s just a job for them.”

    Fearlessness...“If it’s asking for a raise or picking up the phone to call someone you wouldn’t otherwise, functioning psychopaths have a natural advantage in that they can turn this fear down.”

    Lack of empathy...But it’s important, McNab says, not to turn down the ‘empathy dial’ completely when doing business. “You don’t want to be a Gordon Gekko character, screwing people over all the time. They get hurt once but you get hurt forever because they’ll never trust you again. That’s the difference between a good and a bad psychopath: knowing when to turn that up and when to kill it.”

    In relationships

    Fearlessness...“Once you get used to being rejected it doesn’t hurt, you realise it doesn’t matter. Then your confidence gets up and you start approaching everyone – you’re coming across as less confident, less worried and your hit rate starts going up. It’s a great example of how you can turn this fear down if you work on it.”

    Ruthlessness...“A lot of the problems in relationships come from the fact that people stick in them when they’d be better off out,” says McNab, who had been married five times – though has been with his current wife for 14 years. “You have to know when to cut loose.”

    Self-confidence...Psychopaths never mind striking out on their own – and this is a good example to follow, Dutton says, if you start feeling constrained by your friends. “Your friends might be smoking and drinking all the time while you’ve decided to get fit. You have to be prepared to stand apart sometimes. It doesn’t mean ditching them, it’s just healthy to be your own person once in a while.”


    In December 2013, Dr. Kevin Dutton conducted a national ‘psychopath survey’ of the UK. Since it first appeared over 2.5 million people have taken part and found out for themselves.

    Psychopathic traits can lead to success in life. Everyone has psychopathic characteristics to some degree. Take the test to get a general idea of where you sit on the spectrum...

    The Great Good Psychopath Survey
    Enter your scores for the Seven Deadly Wins and find out where you are on the Good Psychopath Spectrum.

  7. Levin said that serial killer Dennis Rader's cool and dispassionate detailing in a Kansas courthouse last year of his 10 murders was not surprising for a psychopath. Even Rader's gory name he created for himself, BTK ("bind, torture, kill") -- is an example of a psychopath's pride in his work.

    "For a person with a conscience, Rader's crimes seem hideous, but from his point of view, these are his greatest accomplishments and he is anxious to share all of the wonderful things he has done," Levin tells WebMD. "He held this close to his vest for three decades."...

    "There is a stereotypical view that serial killers are loners, antisocial, and unable to maintain any relations, but that's mythology," Levin says.

    Some psychopaths and serial killers may appear outwardly successful and 'normal'. "Rader, like so many of the others, was extraordinarily ordinary," Levin says. He was married with two children. "He looked beyond suspicion, he was active in the church, a Boy Scout leader and a compliance officer, and that is the secret to the success."

    Serial killers often "don't look like sociopaths or deranged killers, because if they looked like monsters, they would be apprehended almost immediately," Levin says...

    Not all psychopaths morph into criminals or serial killers, experts tell WebMD.

    The BTK killer "definitely fits the characteristic of a psychopath, and he just happens to be a psychopath who evolved into a serial killer," says Jacqueline Helfgott, an associate professor of criminal justice at Seattle University in Washington. (continued)

  8. (continued)"Throughout history there have been other people like him who can maintain a family and live a double life," she says. Rader was a "very successful psychopath."

    His style in the courtroom was also typical of a psychopath, she says. "Psychopaths have low autonomic arousal. They don't react and don't show a lot of affection or emotion. They don't feel when or what other people feel."

    "There are millions of sociopaths, most of whom never become serial killers," Levin says. "They may lie when they sell you a used car, but killing is not their cup of tea."...

    So how would you be able to tell if a psychopath lived next door to you or sat next to you in church? "You wouldn't," Helfgott says. "You would have to know every segment of their life and be able to tie it all together."

    "The most essential characteristic is an excessive need for power and control, and we see this in most of sexually oriented serial killers," Levin says. "They enjoy the suffering of their victims. It makes them feel special and important, like big shots."...

    Welner adds that "people who are true psychopaths really are cold and callous and lack empathy and have a detached way of feeling emotion."

    "If they exhibit emotion, it's an effort to create an impression," he says.

    And that's one of the reasons that therapy is not beneficial. "They will just learn what to tell a therapist to show that they have improved," Welner says.

    To be effective, rehabilitation or prevention should involve structure and limit-setting, he says...

    Welner is now working on a new tool for jurors and judges that helps to define depravity and influence sentencing in cases like the BTK killer.

    The depravity scale consists of 26 items that can help distinguish crimes and reduce the arbitrary nature of sentencing through a better working definition of depravity and heinous crimes.

    "In cases like BTK, based on what he said, it's clear that he intended to emotionally traumatize victims and cause gross suffering. It was clear in the way he communicated with media that he intended to terrorize the community and clear that he got a thrill," he says. "It is unusual that his case comprises so many features that we have under study in the depravity scale," Welner says.

    The scale would underscore why someone like this should be considered as the worst of the worst, he says.

  9. People with psychopathic traits are less likely to catch "contagious yawning" than those with higher levels of empathy, a new study suggests.

    Psychopathic characteristics include being selfish, manipulative, impulsive, domineering and lacking in empathy, Baylor University researchers explained.

    Contagious yawning refers to yawning when other people yawn, and it is associated with empathy and bonding. It occurs in many social animals, including people, chimpanzees and dogs, the study authors explained in a university news release.

    The study included 135 college students, who all completed a lengthy written psychological evaluation. Lead researcher Brian Rundle, a doctoral student in psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, pointed out in the news release that the test doesn't tell specifically whether or not someone is a psychopath.

    "It's not an 'on/off' of whether you're a psychopath. It's a spectrum," Rundle said...

    So, should you be worried if someone doesn't yawn after you do?

    "The take-home lesson is not that if you yawn and someone else doesn't, the other person is a psychopath," Rundle said. "A lot of people didn't yawn, and we know that we're not very likely to yawn in response to a stranger we don't have empathetic connections with," he explained.

    "But what we found tells us there is a neurological connection -- some overlap -- between psychopathy and contagious yawning. This is a good starting point to ask more questions," Rundle concluded.

  10. Brian K. Rundle, Vanessa R. Vaughn, Matthew S. Stanford. Contagious yawning and psychopathy. Personality and Individual Differences. Volume 86, November 2015, Pages 33–37.


    •We exposed males and females assessed on a measure of psychopathic traits (PPI-R) to a contagious yawning paradigm.
    •We used an emotion-related startle paradigm to assess electromyographic startle amplitudes in males.
    •Scores on the affective component of the PPI-R are negatively related to contagious yawning for males and females.
    •Other components of the PPI-R were not related to contagious yawning.
    •Startle amplitudes are predictive of contagious yawning frequency in males.


    Psychopathy is characterized by a general antisocial lifestyle with behaviors including being selfish, manipulative, impulsive, fearless, callous, possibly domineering, and particularly lacking in empathy. Contagious yawning in our species has been strongly linked to empathy. We exposed 135 students, male and female, who completed the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R), to a yawning paradigm intended to induce a reactionary yawn. Further, we exposed males to an emotion-related startle paradigm meant to assess peripheral amygdalar reactivity. We found that scores on the PPI-R subscale Coldheartedness significantly predicted a reduced chance of yawning. Further, we found that emotion-related startle amplitudes were predictive of frequency of contagious yawning. These data suggest that psychopathic traits may be related to the empathic nature of contagious yawning in our species.

  11. He Counts Their Tears is the story of Aaron, a handsome and very successful man whose charming and very gentlemanly demeanor hides the evil that lurks within. Aaron is a predator of souls. No one, however, would ever suspect the terrible truth because he seems so very pleasant and because no one ever presumes that evil walks among us. But indeed it does.

    Aaron is actually two people: Aaron Stein, MD, the well-known fertility specialist and Secret Aaron, his alter ego. Aaron Stein, MD, the empathetic healer, is perfectly wonderful and almost too good to be true. Secret Aaron, his psychopathic counterpart, is a manipulative con artist who enjoys developing relationships with women purely for the thrill of discarding them. It is a ruse he engages in again and again.

    Aaron has a problem. He plays a “little game” he likes to call The Method. It is a game of control, a game in which he “has all the power” over an unsuspecting victim, usually a beautiful woman whom he chooses as his prey. He enjoys controlling her and then psychologically and emotionally destroying her. He will watch her squirm and suffer. He will watch her think she is going mad. He will delight in it. She will still be physically alive when he is done with her but otherwise destroyed and ruined. Aaron’s victims rot away much as corpses do, only they feel the pain the dead are spared. One committed suicide and the rest are still emotional cripples, distrustful of others. Those who can afford it are in counseling. Some have developed eating disorders. All of them have suffered terribly, with bouts of sadness and despair. None of it, absolutely none of it, can justifiably be blamed on Aaron, because Aaron has ways of protecting himself and of protecting Secret Aaron. With no real attachments to anyone, Aaron is secure in his omnipotence, knowing that evil will always prevail and that, if all else fails, his devoted cousin, Constance, will see to it that he is never found out.

    One may wonder, how can anyone be so evil? The answer is simple: When one lacks a conscience, one is capable of anything.

  12. The likelihood is that we all know at least one psychopath, as it’s estimated that between 1-4% of the population fall somewhere on the psychopathic scale. These people are often overly confident, manipulative, and lack empathy and remorse. Some are even violent, but not all. Many are able to quite easily live within society - indeed, for some professions, psychopathy seems to be almost a benefit. But psychologists are increasingly viewing psychopathy as less of a way of being, and more as a mental illness...

    Traits such as a tendency toward boredom, pathological lying, superficial charm, and impulsivity are just a few of the 20 signs in the PCL-R test, a psychological assessment used to determine a person’s potential psychopathy. As with any scale, there is no definitive line, with blurred boundaries of what’s considered normal and what is psychopathic...

    According to Xanthe Mallett, a forensic anthropologist and criminologist at the University of New England, there are certain signs she looks for during interview to judge if someone might be a psychopath. Often, she will look to see if their verbal and physical cues match up, as while psychopaths are often very good actors, they usually eventually slip. Another is the invasion of personal space, with one study apparently showing that “individuals with high levels of ‘cold-heartedness’ preferred shorter interpersonal distances.”

    So if an extreme psychopath can be recognized and labeled, can they be treated? The answer is probably not. Firstly, they’re very unlikely to seek help, with the condition only normally being diagnosed when someone is arrested. Secondly, they simply lack empathy, and nothing can currently change that.

  13. Because of this interest, I was intrigued to come across the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, a personality test for traits associated with psychopathy. I think that we can all agree that one thing that does not contribute to a happy life is a relationship with a psychopath. But what traits are associated with psychopaths? The test seeks to measure:
    •Social influence — a tendency to seem charming, persuasive
    •Fearlessness — a tendency to embrace risk without fear or anxiety
    •Stress immunity — stays cool in difficult circumstances
    •Machiavellian egocentricity — a tendency to consider only personal needs
    •Rebellious nonconformity — a tendency to neglect of social conventions and regulations
    •Blame externalization — a tendency to assign blame for problems or obstacles to other people
    •Carefree lack of planning — limited willingness to make future plans
    •Cold-heartedness — no guilt or remorse

    People throw around the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” quite frequently, but these are technical terms with very specific meanings. That said, if there’s someone in your life who seems to show many of the above traits, it might be useful to reflect on that.

    Do you know anyone who fits these traits? To my great relief, I realize, I don’t.

  14. (Confession: I drink my coffee black. I also like tonic water, radishes, and celery) A study recently published in the journal Appetite had some surprising insight into the relationship between taste and personality. Specifically, the potential that those who enjoy bitter foods have sadistic tendencies.

    Say what?

    Researchers had participants report their taste preferences, and then complete a series of questionnaires that screened for the “Big Five” factors of personality. Those who reported that they favor bitter flavors — such as black coffee, tonic water, radishes, and celery — were more likely to have “malevolent” personality traits, including narcissism, psychopathy, Machavellianism, and everyday sadism, the study found.

    Other tastes (sweet, sour, and salty) had some connections to personality types, but bitterness was by far the strongest predictor of the bunch. But while the study found a link between taste in food and personality, you shouldn’t use coffee dates to weed out your friends just yet.

    The study was self-reported, which means participants had to identify themselves as liking bitter tastes. As Gizmodo points out, people don’t always tell the truth about food (there are even studies to prove it). Just because someone says, or even thinks, they like bitter tastes, doesn’t mean they actually do. Plus, tastes change. You may think you hate radishes and celery only to eat them accidentally and find them delightful, or wean yourself off of cream and sugar and drink your coffee black for health reasons.

    The study was also carried out in America, where palates tend to err on the syrupy sweet side of things. Do the findings indicate that countries where bitter foods play a bigger culinary role are more sadistic? No — and testing globally may help paint a clearer picture of how taste factors into personality.

    So could your coffee preferences offer insight into your personality? Maybe — but we’re holding out for more research.

  15. Christina Sagioglou,Tobias Greitemeyer. Individual differences in bitter taste preferences are associated with antisocial personality traits. Appetite Volume 96, 1 January 2016, Pages 299–308.


    •Bitter taste preferences are positively associated with antisocial personality traits.
    •Bitter taste preferences most robustly predict everyday sadism.
    •Results suggest close relationship between the gustatory system and personality.


    In two studies, we investigated how bitter taste preferences might be associated with antisocial personality traits. Two US American community samples (total N = 953; mean age = 35.65 years; 48% females) self-reported their taste preferences using two complementary preference measures and answered a number of personality questionnaires assessing Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism, everyday sadism, trait aggression, and the Big Five factors of personality. The results of both studies confirmed the hypothesis that bitter taste preferences are positively associated with malevolent personality traits, with the most robust relation to everyday sadism and psychopathy. Regression analyses confirmed that this association holds when controlling for sweet, sour, and salty taste preferences and that bitter taste preferences are the overall strongest predictor compared to the other taste preferences. The data thereby provide novel insights into the relationship between personality and the ubiquitous behaviors of eating and drinking by consistently demonstrating a robust relation between increased enjoyment of bitter foods and heightened sadistic proclivities.

  16. A key difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is whether he has a conscience, the little voice inside that lets us know when we’re doing something wrong, says L. Michael Tompkins, EdD. He's a psychologist at the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center.

    A psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. If he lies to you so he can steal your money, he won’t feel any moral qualms, though he may pretend to. He may observe others and then act the way they do so he’s not “found out,” Tompkins says.

    A sociopath typically has a conscience, but it’s weak. He may know that taking your money is wrong, and he might feel some guilt or remorse, but that won’t stop his behavior.

    Both lack empathy, the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel. But a psychopath has less regard for others, says Aaron Kipnis, PhD, author of The Midas Complex. Someone with this personality type sees others as objects he can use for his own benefit...

    In real life, some people with antisocial personality disorder can be violent, but most are not. Instead they use manipulation and reckless behavior to get what they want.

    “At worst, they’re cold, calculating killers,” Kipnis says. Others, he says, are skilled at climbing their way up the corporate ladder, even if they have to hurt someone to get there.

    If you recognize some of these traits in a family member or coworker, you may be tempted to think you’re living or working with a psychopath or sociopath. But just because a person is mean or selfish, it doesn’t necessarily mean he has a disorder.

    It’s not easy to spot a psychopath. They can be intelligent, charming, and good at mimicking emotions. They may pretend to be interested in you, but in reality, they probably don’t care.

    “They’re skilled actors whose sole mission is to manipulate people for personal gain,” Tompkins says.

    Sociopaths are less able to play along. They make it plain that they’re not interested in anyone but themselves. They often blame others and have excuses for their behavior.

    Some experts see sociopaths as “hot-headed.” They act without thinking how others will be affected.

    Psychopaths are more “cold-hearted” and calculating. They carefully plot their moves, and use aggression in a planned-out way to get what they want. If they’re after more money or status in the office, for example, they’ll make a plan to take out any barriers that stand in the way, even if it’s another person’s job or reputation.

  17. Sherlock’s dry response to policeman Philip Anderson’s remark about him being a psychopath — "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research" — is now one of the hallmarks of the show...

    We all wondered which would Sherlock really be, a sociopath or psychopath, and why...

    The term "psychopath" doesn't appear in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the medical handbook used by psychiatrists. The closest entry isantisocial personality disorder, which is defined by "impairments in personality," such as egocentrism or lack of empathy, and "pathological personality traits," such as manipulativeness or impulsivity.

    Psychopaths and sociopaths are sometimes considered the same thing, but there are some key differences between them, Fallon told Business Insider.

    According to him, psychopaths can be divided into two categories: primary psychopaths and secondary psychopaths, or sociopaths.

    A primary psychopath usually gets his or her defining characteristics as a result of a combination of genes, brain connections, and environment, said Fallon. This type of person doesn't typically respond to punishment, fear, stress, or disapproval, and often lacks empathy. Most primary psychopaths, Fallon added, mimic emotions and understand them cognitively, but do not feel them.

    A secondary psychopath (sociopath) gets to be this way mostly as a result of his or her environment. Severe abuse at a young age can play a particularly strong role in the development of a sociopath, said Fallon. Unlike a primary psychopath, a secondary psychopath or sociopath can feel stress or guilt, said Fallon, and is generally capable of empathy. He or she may also be prone to anxiety, Fallon added.

    Both primary and secondary psychopaths can further be divided into "distempered" and "charismatic" psychopaths, Fallon explained:

    A distempered psychopath tends to fly into rages that can resemble epileptic fits. These people may also often have an extremely strong sex drive.

    A charismatic psychopath is often a charming liar and fast talker who can manipulate others to part with anything — including their lives...

    Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant but antisocial detective. He doesn't seem to show emotion or care about other people's feelings — even those of his trusted sidekick Dr. Watson — and he's not driven by the fear of offending others. By all appearances, he is a primary psychopath.

    What's more, he never loses his cool and seems to have very little interest in women (with the possible exception of his femme fatale Irene Adler), and yet he wins the admiration of Watson and his many fans, which probably makes him a charismatic psychopath.

    That said, the Sherlock played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the MASTERPIECE/PBS series is perhaps a tiny bit more humane than Doyle's original character. He occasionally shows acts of kindness toward Watson, and despite his tough veneer, he betrays the tiniest glimpses that he cares about others.

    But these changes were probably necessary to make him more likeable to audiences, Fallon said. After all, "real psychopaths are terrible characters.", reports the Business Insider.