Pathological liars. Serial Killers. Psychopaths.
What makes someone addicted to lying? What is going on in the mind of a serial killer? Are master manipulators crazy?
In this post I want to answer all of these questions and more. We are going to dig into the psychology of psychopaths and pathological liars.
Before we get too far into the science, what do these terms mean?
What is a Pathological Liar? (Definition)
Pathological liars are a type of psychopath who also lie consistently for no apparent reason. The Mayo Clinic describes psychopathy as a personality disorder where the person “typically has no regard for right and wrong. They may often violate the law and the rights of others.” Often, psychopaths have little empathy, have antisocial behavior, and lack inhibitions.
In short, not all psychopaths are pathological liars, but all pathological liars are psychopaths.
This is very disturbing footage of a psychopathic child from the 1990 documentary Child of Rage:
Beth shows what are called “psychopathic tendencies,” which psychologists believe is due to the mistreatment she received at the hands of her parents. Beth is NOT a psychopath; after therapy and strong, loving relationships, Beth is now a fully functioning adult. Luckily, her psychopathic tendencies never grew into true psychopathy.
Psychopathy researchers found that psychopaths often have these common traits:
- lack of empathy, guilt, conscience, or remorse
- shallow experiences of feelings or emotions
- impulsivity, and a weak ability to defer gratification and control behavior
- superficial charm and glibness
- irresponsibility, and a failure to accept responsibility for their actions
- a grandiose sense of their own worth
Were Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein Psychopaths?
“I’m most fascinated by people who will lie when it is totally unnecessary… There are predatory liars – these are not them. Their lack of self-awareness just seeps into constantly telling stories of who they think they should be or how they think the world works.” Bonnie, Science of People Reader
The CIA has released all kinds of interesting personality reports of historical figures. Read some of the findings below. See any similarities?
Henry A. Murray was tasked with putting together a personality evaluation of Adolf Hitler in 1943. The report concludes that Hitler was a masochist and a suicidal, neurotic narcissist.
In 1961, the CIA’s psychiatric staff put together a report stating Fidel Castro was “so highly neurotic and unstable a personality as to be quite vulnerable to certain kinds of psychological pressure. The outstanding neurotic elements in his personality are his hunger for power and his need for the recognition and adulation of the masses.”
Jerrold Post, the founder of the CIA’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, found that Saddam’s pursuit of power is tied with messianic dreams and “there is no evidence he is constrained by conscience; his only loyalty is to Saddam Hussein. In pursuing his goals, Saddam uses aggression instrumentally. He uses whatever force is necessary, and will, if he deems it expedient, go to extremes of violence, including the use of weapons of mass destruction…While Hussein is not psychotic, he has a strong paranoid orientation.”
We can’t say conclusively if Hitler, Castro, or Hussein were “psychopaths,” but we can spot some of their tendencies.
Chapter 1: Liars Among Us
Here at the Science of People lab, we ran a survey that gathered data from 144 participants. We found that on a given day:
- 58.3% of people lie between 1-3 times
- 16% lie between 3-5 times
- Only 16.7% said they never lie
Studies show that pathological lying manifests over a period of years and not in a short period of time. It might start with an innocent white lie, then over time lead to many daily devious lies.
Sometimes pathological liars even manifest their dreams as reality—in other words, they start believing what their mind tells them.
Kind of scary, right?
But there’s more to pathological liars than you might think.
For example, do you know how many people are pathological liars in the general population? Continue on to find out.
Chapter 2: All About Pathological Liars
How to Tell if Someone is a Pathological Liar (Spot The Signs!)
According to researchers, psychopaths make up about 1% of the general population and as much as 30% of offenders in federal correctional settings.
Most people might think that liars tend to look down, avoid eye contact, or a nervous smile.
But pathological liars don’t typically show the normal signs of lying.
Pathological liars may be so accustomed to lying that they no longer show obvious signs of lying.
However, there are certain traits you can spot:
Here’s the above image in text form. Pathological liars tend to:
- Have a lack of empathy
- Focus on basic needs, such as food and money
- Find pleasure and gratification in lying
- Speak in terms of cause-and-effect instead of emotions
- Be cunning and manipulative
- Lie just for the sake of lying
These are the most common traits. Read on to find out more:
The Warning Signs of Psychopathy
How do you spot a psychopath in-the-making?
Psychopaths are typically highly impulsive and highly emotional. They are at high risk of substance abuse and incarceration. According to Joseph Newman at the University of Wisconsin:
Psychopaths are very difficult to have relationships with because they lack social kindness and empathy.
Researchers believe that psychopathy has roots in early childhood. Children who show an early lack of fear, indifference towards peers, and who appear callous in the face of emotion are at the greatest risk.
How Psychopaths’ Brains Are Different
Did you know that normal people’s and pathological liars’ brains are different? Specifically, psychopaths exhibit less activity in the amygdala where fear is processed, and in the orbital frontal cortex or regions where decision-making happens.
They also lack empathy.
“I am pretty good lie detector but when it comes from someone close it can be devastating. The liar in my life was an ex-husband who had a double life. One with me, recovery, nice home, and job, and the other with drugs, no job, and other women. The fact that I didn’t see the lies made me feel stupid.”Shelly, Science of People Reader
One Harvard study researched 80 prisoners and used functional MRI technology to determine their responses to different scenarios—scenarios involving intentional harm or painful facial expressions.
The study found that psychopaths showed no activity in areas of the brain linked to empathic concern.
Weird, right? Psychopaths and pathological liars might not feel pain when they see others get hurt, like we do.
What other differences do psychopaths have?
The Scientific Personality Traits of Psychopaths
A new study conducted by Austrian researchers Sagioglou and Greitemeyer found certain personality traits linked to liking bitter tasting food and drinks.
500 participants were shown a list of foods from all across the taste spectrum––salty, sour, bitter, sweet–and were instructed to rate how much they liked the foods. Once submitted, the men and women each took a personality test measuring:
- and narcissism
The results of the study revealed that having a preference for bitter tastes is linked to having a “dark personality” or associated with psychopathy, narcissism, and sadism. People who dislike bitter tastes, however, were found to be more agreeable, sympathetic, and cooperative.
“My son is a compulsive liar, to the extent that I can’t believe anything he says without doing a fact check. It is taxing on the relationship as I constantly feel like a private investigator and he feels as if I don’t trust him and therefore don’t love him.”Nadine, Science of People Reader
The researchers theorized that the reason why people with dark personalities have a predilection for bitter tastes was because they enjoy sensation-seeking and super-tasting.
Sensation-seeking: a personality trait defined by the search for experiences and feelings that are “varied, novel, complex, and intense,” and by the readiness to “take physical, social, legal, and financial risks for the sake of such experiences.”
People with darker personalities have a preference for the ups and downs of these intense experiences. Those who enjoy caffeine and spicy foods have already been positively correlated with sensation-seeking. A mild, “normal person,” sensation-seeking experience would be something such as riding a rollercoaster, for example.
Super-tasting: having a high sensitivity to bitter compounds.
Super-tasting has previously been linked to increased emotionality in humans, another characteristic typical of psychopaths. They prefer to eat foods that are bitter. We can speculate that psychopaths would enjoy bitter foods because, in the wild, bitter foods are a warning sign of being poisonous, so they might get a thrill from eating them (again, sensation-seeking behavior).
Normal-behaving people, or “non-tasters,” would find bitter foods unappealing. Those people are also reported to be more relaxed and calm.
With all this in mind, the researchers’ results indicated that people who prefer bitter taste experiences were linked to having more hostile thoughts and behaviors. These are people who checked “yes” next to “given enough provocation, I may hit someone,” and “I enjoy tormenting people.”
In other words, keep a lookout for people who order black coffee at your local coffee shop, or enjoy gin and tonics at the bar—it may give you a key insight into their true personality.
Pathological Liars Talk Different Than Us
Psychopaths tend to describe their crimes using the past tense:
- The use of past tense indicates psychological detachment from a crime.
- The use of present tense can indicate someone is still “going through” the event emotionally,
Psychopaths also were found to use more verbal “hiccups” in their speech like saying “uh” and “umm.” This indicates they need more time to think about their response compared to normal people (aka more time to fabricate lies).
If you notice a lot of past tense and verbal hiccups, this doesn’t exactly mean the person is a psychopath. This is just a couple verbal indicators, like the many other verbal body language cues you can find.
Chapter 3: How to Deal With a Pathological Liar
Stop, Drop, & Go
Whenever you catch a pathological liar lying to you, I want you to remember the technique of Stop, Drop, & Go:
- Stop. Don’t engage the liar in their conversation. Talking about it further might encourage them to continue down their path of lies, spiralling down into a never-ending web.
- Drop. Drop the topic and change it. Immediately talk about something else or start up a new conversation starter topic.
- Go. If all else fails, move on! Don’t try to change a pathological liar who is insistent on further lying.
The Stop, Drop, & Go Method is highly effective, even if you’re engaged in a random conversation with a stranger and they veer off into unwanted convo territory (can you relate?).
Most people know the denial loop. It goes something like:
Denial -> Anger -> Depression -> Acceptance
But for psychopaths, their denial loop usually looks something like this:
If you’ve tried to convince a pathological liar or psychopath of their wrongdoings, it might be a time-waster. Remember: denial is a common tactic used in order to “protect” their reputation.
Instead of getting them to deny, expect it and try avoiding the topic altogether.
Be The Therapist
Sometimes you’re dealing with a psychopath who’s a friend or family member. Maybe they’re constantly lying to you but can’t help it.
In this case, sometimes you have to play therapist:
- Listen without judgment. It might be hard, but try to employ a little compassion the next time you’re faced with a lie from a loved one.
- Rephrase. Often, psychopaths want you to simply hear them. Try rephrasing back to them what they said instead of trying to find solutions.
- Connect them. If you can, try reaching out to their other friends or find a support group. This will lessen the burden on you, too.
Special Note: This does not mean you actually should replace a licensed therapist. Seek help from a licensed professional if real help is needed.
“I Remember it Like This…”
If a pathological liar runs in the family, and you KNOW they’ve made up a lie (childhood, past event, etc.), then you can play the “I remember it like this” card.
This method avoids direct confrontation while avoiding being completely passive. Here’s how it works:
- Pathological liar: “A couple weeks back Vanessa and I went to the swimming pool and a SHARK appeared out of nowhere!!” (obvious lie)
- You: “Hmm, that doesn’t sound right. I remember it like this…”
This is a great way to preserve a person’s emotions while not directly hurting their feelings.
OK, so you’ve tried being indirect. You’ve listened calmly. But now you’ve had enough of their lies and you want to call them out.
Now it’s time to go full on wrestling mode.
Here are some tips to get you through the full-on confrontation:
- Prep. Take your time to say your next words.
- Speak. Speak fully, deeply, and with confidence.
- Make eye contact. Don’t waiver, make good eye contact so they know you really mean it.
- Powerful body language. There’s no backing down now, so use your body language to spell confidence and not weakness. Turn your torso to front them, use active hand gestures, and widen your stance for that extra confidence boost.
Chapter 4: Can Psychopaths be Cured?
“An ex-boyfriend of mine had me believe from the time we first met until we had been dating almost a full year that he was a third-year law student taking a break from his studies. Turns out he had never stepped foot in a law school.”Steph, Science of People Reader
There is no cure for psychopaths, but the sooner psychopathic tendencies are spotted, the more help can be given.
It is incredibly difficult to teach empathy, but loving relationships and therapy can help re-engage healthy social behaviors. The discussion on treating psychopaths is not that different from the conversation about lowering recidivism and helping criminal rehabilitation.
Since researchers estimate that 25% of criminals in state facilities show psychopathic tendencies, we know that the treatment could be one and the same.
One model that has had some success is called the Decompression Model. This was developed by staff at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC), and is based on the fact that psychopaths don’t think about or respond to punishment the same way as nonpsychopaths (due to brain differences).
In this way, punishment doesn’t discourage bad behavior. In fact, criminal psychopaths are six times more likely than other criminals to commit new crimes following release from prison.
The Decompression Model is all about positive reinforcement.
Whenever good behavior is spotted, staff members at the MJTC immediately offer some kind of reward. This is because even though psychopathic brains don’t respond to punishment, they do respond to rewards. This increases and reinforces learning a new behavior.
Results: Over 300 subjects who were treated at MJTC were matched with similar subjects not treated at MJTC, and followed over a five-year period. Ninety-eight percent of the non-MJTC youth were arrested again within four years, compared to only 64% of MJTC youth. This is a 34% reduction in recidivism!
MJTC youth were 50% less likely to commit a violent crime, and while non-MJTC youth killed 16 people after their release, MJTC youth didn’t commit a single homicide!
Furthermore, detailed economic analysis revealed that “for every $10,000 spent at MJTC, the state of Wisconsin saved $70,000 by reducing the future costs of incarceration.”
Chapter 5: How to Stop Being a Pathological Liar
Are you a pathological liar yourself? The first step is recognizing it. The second step is to take action.
Even if you’re not a full-on pathological liar, see if you catch yourself doing any of the following to minimize your lying tendencies:
DON’T Act Like A Hero
Pathological liars might play hero and act as if they’ve accomplished great things. They might wildly exaggerate stories (“I fought an elephant… On Mount Rushmore… And won!”) or brandish their achievements.
Action Step: If you catch yourself being heroic, I recommend trying to find other ways you can be interesting that don’t rely on lying.
DO Be The Cause, Not The Effect
Pathological liars tend to tell stories and pin themselves as the victim:
- Got fired from their job? The boss wanted them out from the beginning.
- Son ran away from home? He always hated living with them.
- Slipped on a banana peel? It was out to get them!
You see, being the effect or playing the victim game never works. It only leads to toxic behaviors.
Action Step: Instead, try being the cause:
- Reflect. In each situation, ask yourself if there was something you could have done to change it. I like to keep a journal at night time to go over any lessons I learned from my actions.
- Avoid Negaativity. Victim mentality stems from a mindset that everyone is out to get you. You want to avoid all negative thinking—especially with people in your immediate surroundings. Got negative family, friends, or coworkers? Learn how to deal with that negativity here.
- Forgive and Move On. Learning forgiveness is tough! If you’re naturally rebellious, you’ve got to find a way to move on. I find daily meditation keeps my mind from ruminating on the what if’s.
Blabbering is when someone keeps talking, and talking, and talking, and…
But never gets to the point.
We all know someone like that in our life. I’m not saying they’re a pathological liar or psychopath, but pathological liars might respond elaborately and quickly to questions, but provide vague answers that don’t really answer the question.
Story time: I was at the movie theatre a few months back, when I met a supposed “CEO” of a large tech firm. When I asked him how he started the company, he couldn’t explain all the details of actually starting up—he just kept going on about how “cool” his company was.
Action Step: If you’re a blabber, get straight to the point. If you’re telling your new favorite conversation starter or small talk topic, don’t forget to include all the small details. These are the points that often make a story interesting and personal—not to mention credible!
BONUS: Is Lying Ever Justified?
Do I look good in this dress? Should we tell her the truth about what happened to Sparky? Is there any reason lying is justified?
To answer the big question: “Is lying ever OK?” we turned to our readers and gathered their opinions.
Some of them thought lying was NEVER justified. They believed we should be honest at all times and that lying only hurt others:
“I believe lying is never justified. I believe in honesty and truth in every situation. Unless it is to save your own life or when other people lie to me for good intentions. I don’t lie to others even for good intention, but I understand whenever people do it to me. Although I urge those people to tell the truth next time.”Sandra, Science of People Reader
Others thought lies should be used modestly, such as in the cases of white lies. After all, if we are given the ability to lie in the first place, why not use it?
“Yes, if you don’t want to offend someone (e.g. you really don’t want to go to their dinner party for a reason you’d rather not go into – maybe you don’t like who they’ve invited) then maybe it’s OK it say you’ve already got something booked in.”Gill, Science of People Reader
And yet a small minority believe lying is OK most of the time! Give ‘em what they want to hear, and that’s all lying is for.
“Bending the truth makes the world a nicer place!”Jackie, Science of People Reader
What are your opinions about lying? Leave a message below—I’d love to hear them!
The BIG Take-Away
Maybe there is someone in your life who you are thinking shows psychopathic tendencies or pathological lying. If so, this last study with MJTC criminal youth is crucial for you.
When dealing with psychopaths, punishments do not work.
Trying to give consequences, punish, or shame for behavior will only make them worse. Remember, their brain doesn’t respond to punishment and fear in the same way as ours. Positive reinforcement is the kindest and most effective thing you can do. Most importantly, this is a better way to interact in general. Always look for good behavior to reward instead of looking for bad behavior to punish.
Always reward the good, and you will see more of it.
Ready to keep learning? Read on…
39 replies on “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Science of Psychopaths”
God is Love and thete is s unlimited amount of it in him which comes out as self love. Decide that self love is valuable and God is so worthy to be praised. Worship God (Love) not yourself or others and you’ll always be connected to an unlimited amount of Love.
Hello T, Be careful in self-diagnosing, you may have tendencies versus APD (inclusive of psychopathy and sociopathy). Your desire to protect your children is commendable and also indicates a degree of empathy that a psychopath would not possess. Both NPD and APD have a complete lack of emotional empathy. Depending upon the degree of cognitive function, cognitive empathy can be developed to a degree. Psychopaths have a higher cognitive function than sociopaths, and it is the greater body of sociopaths that occupy prisons. There are many psychopaths that function effectively within society. Cognitive function being the key determining factor. As to how psychopathy manifests in children, there must be a genetic predisposition coupled with some form of child neglect or abuse (emotional, psychological, physical). Both are required. There is no cure for psychopathy at present. All children need the presence of emotional empathy to thrive. If your spouse has emotional empathy, or any other person that has significant interaction with them can make the difference, but it is not a guarantee.
After reading this and many other articles about psychopathic traits, it is starting to convince me I may have most of these traits. This article has opened my mind to the cues that I need to be aware of. As a father and husband I would not want to pass any of my traits across to them but how does one manage these traits and is there a path to suppress these traits and begin to develop empathic love for one another?
I believe there is a solution to every problem in the world. I don’t know what you are going through but i know one thing you have struggled a lot and you, only you can change your mind . Keep trying . its difficult i know but don’t stop trying to became kind. real happiness is in making other happy. take care and spread kindness
It’s interesting. I think our environment & life experiences have a huge impact on people. People need security, love, self-esteem, & stimulation. I think a psychopath deeply feels insecure & needy so they numb their emotions & focus on their goals to make themselves feel satisfied. In some environments that can help you survive but it is a problem when you become a monster from it. I believe that normal people can temporarily become psychopathic if they are in an environment where their needs aren’t met, and they feel like they must compete to survive. It’s a big spectrum. Everyone needs love.
I agree with your last three sentences!
God is Love and there is an unlimited amount of it in him which comes out as self love. Decide that self love is valuable and God is so worthy to be praised. Worship God (Love) not yourself or others and you’ll always be connected to an unlimited amount of Love
Apart from that, it was a very well written and researched article.
Harley Quinn* ^
This was so sad and difficult to watch. I do believe that children who don’t receive love at a young age have this detachment from others. They never knew what it felt to be loved and all they know is hurt. I feel so bad for these children and it is so important to give them positive encouragement and so much love.
Would you say people who bully other people constantly and smile while seeing the pain they cause are psychopaths? There is one person I think of running for POTUS that seems to have many of the traits you mention and who wants ultimate power and admiration. That is a scary thought!
Check the movie <fishead( http://www.fisheadmovie.com/ It's a great movie on the topic of psychopathy and psychopathy in corporate world done by two Czech guys. It includes interviews with e.g. Philip Zimbardo etc. Definitely worth watching!
Fascinating input and comments. I have an interest in this subject purely to try to understand how some people in society behave in certain adverse ways and where this behaviour stems from. Childhood dsyfunction is obviously a major cause and just the basic lack of love care and nuturing. Secondly it has been mentioned by many criminal psychologists speaking about the psychopaths that committ terrible acts that there could be a genetic link. I totally agree that a new way of treating a dealing with people with these tendencies is needed. Unfortunately I believe that as society has rapidly changed with technology and the diet and environment has detoriated these all play apart in the deteroration of the mental health of people. Especially people that are already damaged and compromised early on. Treating the whole person is in my opinion the best option, looking at metabolic type (important for the correct diet for the individual), stress reduction techniques, positive feedback and confidence building activities. It is a complex area and would need tailored treatment for the individual and ultimately the person would want to be involved and want to try to improve. And a belief in a high power unfortunately religon has such a bad reputation, real belief is Love nothing more, for your fellow man, animals and environment.
The article is very interesting. I have had some interaction with people with psychopathic tendencies and I find that the personality dysfunctions do almost consistently start at a young age and adults who now exhibit antisocial behaviors have past histories with strong indicators of what was to come. The crimes, drug dependency and even the mental and physical well being of people with this problem could be much better addressed by the mental health system especially in the formative years. But, there are some major hurdles that have to be overcome.
1.Getting the general public to recognize that mental health care is not a pseudo science. It can benefit everybody and make society a generally safer and happier place for everyone.
2. That mental health treatment is worth the investment and needs a lot more resources than are currently available. Many at risk kids are identifiable in school. But, there just isn’t much being done for them because of a lack of money.
3. Mental health care needs to be available to everyone, not just a few people fortunate enough to have the resources and access. The mental health care system in the United States is pretty pathetic and misapplied even in places like prisons. Prisons are ultimately where many people with mental illness end up. Recidivism would be greatly reduced if the incarcerated received the care they need. But, resources are limited.
4. The mental health care industry as a whole needs far better oversight. There are so many substandard practitioners who aren’t effective, aren’t curing anybody and basically form their practices around a core of patients who are destined to forever return for their monthly visits and nobody, not even the insurance providers who often pay for the visits, are paying attention. It just goes on and on with patients in a kind of limbo where they are deliberately made dependent on their doctors who see them for five minutes a month and collect a payment. There are effective treatments for many mental health problems that patients never get because even their doctors aren’t making an effort. Until this stops, it’s going to be difficult to give mental health care validity in the public eye.
There are a lot of people out there who live just on the edge where a little push can send them in the wrong direction. Religion used to play more of a role in providing these people a place to vent and some moral guidance. But, it’s lost a lot of ground as more and more people break away from actively worshiping a deity. Those who are suffering from mental issues need someone they can talk to in confidence and get reliable information and other support. That system only exist in a few places. We need better than this.
I am an orthodox Muslim, and we criticize Saddam for his cruel secular dictatorship, but the lie about WMDs by CIA here shows how science is used for political and cultural imperialism.
Psychopaths and psychopathic tendencies are things that I sometimes forget exist! It’s so crazy to me that some people out there, albeit 1% is a very small number, really have no empathy. There was just nothing behind that little girl’s eyes – creepy
This is one area that super interests me! As i am a psychology student, i delve quite often into the science behind psychopaths and it never ceases to amaze me!
Boy that video was TOUGH to watch. I’m happy that little girl didn’t develop as a psychopath as an adult.
Brett Gyllenskog is the perfect example of a psychopath.
I know a psychopath: he shows exactly the types of behavior listed above. He was also abused as a child and teen. It’s amazing how pinpointed your description of a psychopaths fits his behavior.
How’s this….rather than “reward” him for bad behavior, I LEFT him! I don’t need that crap in my life since he felt nothing for me anyway! Let his ex reward him. She’s the one he repeatedly cheated with!
it is not your job to live in fear of a psychopath, psychpaths are cowards if you take a stand and fight they will learn fear.
I found this a interesting, however it only explained the most extreme cases of psychopathy. Not all psychopaths are insane and murderers, for example Dr. James Fallon, a family man and a highly respected neuroscientist, has never committed a crime in his life. This is all great information for people just wanting to know the basic information about psychopaths. There was really only one thing I didn’t like though, this article highly generalized psychopaths and made it seem like all are horrible people who go on killing sprees. I would like to make it clear that I am not insulting anything in your article, I am just stating that the kind of psychopaths you are explaining are the most extreme kind. Psychopaths get bad rep in the same way CGI does, if it’s bad you notice it, and if it’s good you won’t even know it’s CGI and you can’t give it credit. CGI can only be known for what it does wrong. Psychopaths are very well integrated into the general populace, in fact 1% of the entire populace are psychopaths. In the United States alone there are roughly 3 million psychopaths. I just think that anyone reading your article will create a caricature in their heads that all psychopaths are not intellectual, horrible people. In fact I myself am a psychopath and have not killed anyone. Psychopathy comes in different degrees, the only psychopaths that have the conditions which you are explaining are primarily the ones who are unable to have empathy all together. Your information is very correct about these kind of psychopaths, however it would be best if you didn’t generalize all psychopaths into one category. I understand if you want to say I’m bias because I am one, fair enough. None the less, you should at least let whoever read this to know that this is not the only kind of psychopath and that there are psychopaths everywhere who function just the same in a normal society as anyone else. In fact most people has slight psychopathic tendencies. I’m not telling you how to write an article, and my apologies if it sounds so, you probably have more experience and collective knowledge than I have obtained, however I am just offering a different point of view, sorry for the crazy long paragraph, and I hope you understand what I’m trying to say here. Good article, thanks for reading
Hi Connor, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. You are absolutely right that not all psychopaths are criminals– and I apologize that we gave that impression in the article. We did talk about the more extreme types in the article, but it’s so important to consider the spectrum and we appreciate your insight on this!
Danielle | Science of People Team
How did you figure out you are a psychopath? Was it from a doctor or did you self identify with other sites? I’ve heard that there are functioning phychopaths, but I’ve always wondered how theyou know that information. I read on most sites that most psychopaths are too impulsive to take the time to look up things like this (but you kind of adressed this with your generalization rebuttal).
I’ll be honest with you, I was studying on psychology to better understand how the human brain can be used and manipulated when I came across a test called the PCL-R, which is the best online psychopath test. So out of curiosity I took the test and scored very high on it. I assumed that the algorithm for the test was too vague and didn’t work, but I still questioned it, so I went to a doctor and got evaluated. And that is how I found out for sure that I’m a psychopath. you do have a point about how impulsive psychopaths are, however I came across this cite when I was sharpening my wit and felt like commenting. I started writing and got a little caught in narcissism and just kept writing until I ended up with a paragraph. If you have any questions, shoot a reply. There’s no guarantee I’ll respond very quickly though, I’m a busy person.
I use to work in a daycare center for several years and have come to realize that all kids long for positive reinforcement. Even when they do something wrong, they long for love and attention. So let us go out and help this next generation with love/affection/rewards.
Personality disorders are tricky, especially when it comes to certain disorders, where the person doesn’t realize that they are disordered such as individuals with Narcissism or psychopathy. I think individuals suffering from Borderline Personality disorder are much more likely to seek help, because they are often suicidal and more inclined to ask others for help, in contrast to the Narcissist or psychopath.
They usually aren’t happy people. If anything, they might experience a sense of euphoria by hurting others sometimes, or instilling fear in others… but that is not “happiness”. It’s all they’ve got though, and without it they’d be nothing. It is power for them. So you can’t be surprised then that they act that way. It’s what essentially makes them feel like they have a purpose/goal in life. It’s what makes them feel alive. Without it, they’d be effectively dead.
Everything which people do due to which they experience emotion, be it eating, or interacting with other people, pursuit of success, or hurting other people, listening to music, or doing drugs, or various other behaviours… stimulates the release of certain chemicals in the brain. Some of these things stimulate these reactions more than others, although it depends. Today’s popular theory is that it depends 50/50 on genetic/environmental factors, just how susceptible a person is to developing certain personality traits and behaviours which reinforce the release of those certain chemicals (although I’m putting my own twist and interpretation on this here).
Drugs are recognised to stimulate the release of certain chemicals in the human body to such an extreme degree, that some people develop a physical dependency on drugs. This also applies to caffeine, and sugar even. But to a certain extent, it applies to everything. Why wouldn’t it apply to hurting people? Why wouldn’t it apply to helping people?
Give “psychopaths” a chance to be happy, especially at a younger age, and help them develop a physical dependence on it, instead of helping them developing such a physical dependence on being unhappy and hurting people instead. Give them a chance, a choice. People don’t get to choose their own genetic factors, and usually neither do they get to choose their environment at a young age. This is up to parents, schooling systems, etc. Give them a chance, and a choice. If they still choose wrong… then at least you won’t be to blame, as opposed to a parent who beats the shit out of their kid for every thing he/she does “wrong”.
I hope that makes sense. I haven’t spent this long drafting an anonymous reply for a while. This was difficult to word properly.
There’s another interpretation I have on the topic of “choice”. If you corner someone, and starve them off choice at a young age, belittle them and make them feel powerless… don’t be surprised if in some cases (that 1%), you end up raising a psychopath. For the rest of their life they’ll be striving to regain a sense of pride and power. The more choice someone has, the more power they have. Give them choice from a young age, and make them feel secure with themselves. Perhaps that could mean that they don’t go off the rails for the rest of their life, stepping on people and hurting people for the sake of regaining a sense of pride and power.
This rationale of mine is an extension of the superiority/inferiority complex.
Hey there! Thank you for your eloquent comment. I absolutely agree that psychopaths have a warped sense of “happiness”. They engage in activities that stimulate them, but it’s dangerous stimulation.
Danielle | SOP Team
This is such a good post, thank you
Thank you for reading, Nick!
Danielle | Science of People Team
Thank you for the time it took you for this reply. As being one of those children without choices, love or belongingness, you are 100% correct. In everything. As I now have 3 children, 2 girls and one boy, I strive everyday to not be or be in the environment I was raised into . To show the future there is a better way. BUT.. .I have continuously failed on keeping them away from the anger and hate part of it. Genetically they are like me. One girl I didn’t raise and she turned out just like me. Attitude wise. Point is. You cannot change them until they themselves know by experiences that there are better ways. The ones I love the most have always talked to me like a person. Consideration to me has more of a lasting impression than anything else. Thank you again.
These are the types of people I deal with daily, unfortunately by the time they get to me they have already committed horrendous crimes. “Lack of empathy, guilt, conscience or remorse”…precisely! Great article!
Hi Bill, thank you for your comment! Are there certain ways you have found best for working with psychopaths?
Danielle | SOP Team
Postive reinforcement is key here. I’m glad that programs like MJTC exist to help people with psychopathic tendencies. It’s easy to treat them like regular criminals, but these individuals have a serious mental illness that needs a different kind of treatment. Great article!
Based on this article I think Frank Underwood from House of Cards would also be classed as a psychopath, although he is not an impulsive person. Thoughts?
What psychology major should I major in to learn more about things like this and related to this ?
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