Why Are There So Many Psychopaths in Positions of Power?

Psychopaths in Positions of PowerA 2010 study that examined a sample of 203 individuals from different companies’ management development programs revealed something interesting.

It was found that about 3% of business managers scored in the psychopath range while the incidence of psychopathy in the general population is approximately 1%. So why are there so many psychopaths in senior management positions?

The Study

A more recent study, published in 2014 in the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, shed new light on the behavior of psychopaths, which could explain this phenomenon.

During an experiment, a group of people were given a standard test of psychopathy. At the same time, the participants were shown a series of picture aimed to test their levels of empathy.

For this purpose, the researchers measured their galvanic skin response to examine their emotional reaction to the shown pictures.

The research showed that psychopaths with average or high levels of intelligence were able to control their galvanic skin response.

As a result of this, their responses appeared normal. At the same time, psychopaths with low IQ exhibited abnormal test results, which are typical for individuals with psychopathic tendencies.

What the Results Mean

Psychopaths are great manipulators, and this research provides new evidence for that. The results of the study suggest that psychopaths with high IQs are able to hide their true identity, faking their emotional responses and probably personality traits as well. As a result, they often show a different picture of themselves and trick others into believing this is their real self.

Carolyn Bate, the first author of the study, said:

“The ones who are at the top of businesses are often charming and intelligent, but with emotional deficits, as opposed to psychopaths who are quite erratic and tend to commit gruesome crimes and are often caught and imprisoned.”

She also thinks that psychopaths in positions of power could be far more than 3%, because if people are aware they are psychopathic they can also lie – they are quite manipulative and lack empathy.”

These findings are quite interesting to consider and could apply to other spheres except for the business world. I’m sure that if psychologists had the opportunity to study those in positions of political power, the figure would go beyond 3%. Being manipulative and able to fake one’s emotions is a quality that certainly helps one become a successful politician. Not even to mention that in order to reach the highest levels of political power, some lack of empathy and conscience is a must.

Dr. Paul Babiak writes in his book, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work:

They are masters of impression management; their insight into the psyche of others combined with a superficial – but convincing – verbal fluency allows them to change their situation skillfully as it suits the situation and their game plan.”

Doesn’t this sound like most of our politicians? They are just playing their game, tricking people into believing that their concerns about the world and society are sincere. They pretend to care while in reality, they only want more power and money. And we don’t even need a study to know this for sure.

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