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Psychopathy: The Secret to Success?

Author: Christine Chen

Editor: Kevy Chen and Emily Yu

Artist: Carys Chan

Psychopaths are often associated with serial killers and other criminal behaviors, but it’s far from a sporadic need to kill or steal. Psychopathy is a neuropsychiatric disorder that is marked by a lack of emotional response, lack of empathy, and poor behavioral controls. Psychopaths tend to think mostly at the moment, leading to little to no remorse when committing a crime. This makes their behavior seem completely insane. Research indicates that psychopathy is genetic, and combating it with prison time has little use. However, there is hope in targeting younger individuals who display signs of psychopathy. 

Psychopaths are known to have antisocial personalities due to their inability to integrate emotional responses into decision-making. However, psychopathy goes beyond that. There have been advances in neuroimaging, leading to two prominent neurobiological theories proposed by Blair and Kiehl. Both focus on abnormalities in limbic and paralimbic networks. Blair focuses on the dysfunction of the amygdala. He explains that the amygdala, which is crucial for emotional processing, is in lower volumes with psychopaths when faced with emotional tasks. Kiehl’s model extends to broader abnormalities, suggesting a compensatory process that psychopaths use to make up for their lack of emotional responses. Kiehl’s model demonstrates the various brain structures that form a network for emotional responses. He found that psychopaths exhibit irregularities in ventral-medial areas of the prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, core limbic structures like the amygdala and hippocampus, and surrounding paralimbic regions. Damage to the prefrontal cortex leads to impulsive behavior and disrupts decision-making. With the advancement of neuroimaging, it has been shown that there is reduced gray matter in the orbitofrontal areas of psychopaths, meaning it is less developed, which correlates with their lack of emotions. 

There are many subtypes of psychopathy: narcissistic, borderline, sadistic, and antisocial. Narcissistic psychopathy is characterized as someone who displays narcissism. They will often have a history of abusing others and have difficulty forming relationships, most likely due to their history of abuse, trauma, or neglect. In addition, they tend to have an air of entitlement, which leads them to pathologically lie about their history and demand admiration from others. Narcissism with a lack of empathy can be destructive to the person and their relationships. Borderline is a mild form of psychopathy. They are mostly characterized by a lack of empathy, allowing them to lie or threaten, as they believe they are looking out for themselves. Psychopathic sadists are characterized as people who enjoy taunting and mocking, whilst gloating about their successes. Antisocial psychopathy is a severe form of antisocial personality disorder, characterized by impulsive, irresponsible, and sometimes criminal behavior. Typically, they are manipulative, deceitful, reckless, and lack empathy. All these subtypes should be taken into consideration, instead of grouping them all together. 

Additionally, psychopathy is often confused with sociopathy, as they are both antisocial personality disorders characterized by a disregard for others. However, a sociopath is likely to be more impulsive and violent. A psychopath is antisocial, manipulative, and absent of shame. Many people have discussed the benefits of being a psychopath. When charm, confidence, manipulation, and coolness are in the “right doses,” it can be a good thing. In a 2011 survey, people filled out a questionnaire to find out how psychopathic they were. They also entered their occupation and salary. CEOs, lawyers, media, journalists, and surgeons came out on top. The lowest were care workers, nurses, and doctors. However, surgeons took the top ten, why? Well, most surgeons take risky operations, so being cool under pressure, as well as having little empathy for the patient is beneficial. If things go wrong on the operating table, the most important thing a surgeon can do is be calm and unwavering. Decisiveness, risk-taking, and manipulation help CEOs succeed. With media and journalism, charm, confidence, and a lack of empathy could help when investigating high-pressure situations. 

In the media, psychopathy is almost always associated with people like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. Although psychopaths are more likely to be violent, controlling it at a young age can make associated traits more beneficial. Surprisingly, 1% of the population are psychopaths, and that means CEOs, lawyers, surgeons, and people in the media are most likely to be psychopaths. 



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