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The Neuroscientist Who Discovered He Was a Psychopath 241

Posted by timothy
from the if-only-he-was-an-analyst-and-therapist dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Joseph Stromberg writes at the Smithsonian that one afternoon in October 2005, neuroscientist James Fallon was sifting through thousands of PET scans to find anatomical patterns in the brain that correlated with psychopathic tendencies in the real world. 'Out of serendipity, I was also doing a study on Alzheimer's and as part of that, had brain scans from me and everyone in my family right on my desk,' writes Fallon. 'I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological.' When he looked up the code, he was greeted by an unsettling revelation: the psychopathic brain pictured in the scan was his own. When he underwent a series of genetic tests, he got more bad news. 'I had all these high-risk alleles for aggression, violence and low empathy,' he says, such as a variant of the MAO-A gene that has been linked with aggressive behavior. It wasn't entirely a shock to Fallon, as he'd always been aware that he was someone especially motivated by power and manipulating others. Additionally, his family line included seven alleged murderers, including Lizzie Borden, infamously accused of killing her father and stepmother in 1892. Many of us would hide this discovery and never tell a soul, out of fear or embarrassment of being labeled a psychopath. Perhaps because boldness and disinhibition are noted psychopathic tendencies, Fallon has gone in the opposite direction, telling the world about his finding in a TED Talk, an NPR interview and now a new book published last month, The Psychopath Inside. 'Since finding all this out and looking into it, I've made an effort to try to change my behavior,' says Fallon. 'I've more consciously been doing things that are considered "the right thing to do," and thinking more about other people's feelings.'"
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The Neuroscientist Who Discovered He Was a Psychopath

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  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:21AM (#45507241) Journal

    If he were a psychopath, he'd not be disturbed by it. Of course, maybe he's only faking being disturbed by it to promote his career.

    • by carbuck (1728596) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:28AM (#45507285)
      Some psychopaths crave attention. Take serial killers, for example. Some leave tips for the police, hoping to get caught. They like the high-profile attention they receive during their killing streak and the even higher attention after they're caught. Maybe he's just an attention whore.
      • by geek (5680) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:17PM (#45508475) Homepage

        It's not the attention. Its the challenge. They sometimes leave clues because its like playing chess against the police. More often than not however they leave clues because it's part of the ritual or pathology, not because they crave attention. Hence the reason the FBI often says they want to get caught. Very few care or have cared about the attention. Typically the attention seekers aren't so much psychopaths as they are malignant narcissists.

    • by Camembert (2891457) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:29AM (#45507289)

      If he were a psychopath, he'd not be disturbed by it. Of course, maybe he's only faking being disturbed by it to promote his career.

      Or, he's simply a scientist who discovers that he himself is an interesting test case.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by flyneye (84093)

        Hmmm lettsee now. Scientists using themselves as test cases in psych research....Leary & Dass, Lilly, inadvertantly Hoffman, don't think they received proper credit personally, but most don't recognize their credibility BECAUSE of the first person testing. Unfortunately, because of the subject of scrutiny , requirements of detatchment as an observer instead of subject, do not apply , therefore falling outside the stodgy, antiquated procedure of method. Thinking like this, decreases my faith in science i

      • by davester666 (731373) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:05PM (#45508355) Journal

        Hm, a psychopath that considers himself the most interesting person he knows...

    • by tinkerton (199273) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:33AM (#45507307)

      maybe psychopaths are not as one-dimensional as you think.

      • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @12:43PM (#45507679) Homepage Journal

        Spot on.

        We ALL have psychopathic tendencies, empathic tendencies, etc ad nauseum. All of us learn, from the cradle, what is "acceptable" behavior, and what is not. We are all born with the potential to become almost anything, good or bad. Some of us have to work hard to learn some things, others of us just follow our natural inclinations.

        We actually NEED all of these traits, IMHO. Consider the doctor - if he's psychopathic, then he's probably a cold, analytical, unfeeling kind of guy. Is that necessarily a "bad thing"? Absolutely not - those traits are good things in a scientist. He isn't going to allow stupid feelings, opinions, or emotions stand in the way of his research.

        Sure, there is probably some point, or degree, at which being psychopathic makes you totally worthless to society. Where is that point?

        Lizzie Borden probably had some value, up until she committed murder. PERHAPS had she been properly evaluated, and received counseling, she might have understood herself, and the people around her better. Being better able to relate with her family and acquaintances, she may have made more intelligent decisions. Or not - each person remains an individual after all. We each make conscious decisions to get along with people, or not to get along.

        IMHO, we, as a race, developed all of our traits and tendencies for a reason. Even our worst traits have value under certain conditions and circumstances. Our best traits can actually work against us in other conditions and circumstances.

        I wonder how many slashdotters have ever taken a test, only to learn things about themselves that they didn't know. A leadership course in the Navy included a self-evaluation test, that was never turned in to the instructors. The purpose of the test was to reveal to the student which type of leadership he could use most effectively. You may, or may not, imagine my surprise to learn that I was primarily an authoritarian. (note that being 'primarily' authoritarian doesn't preclude other tendencies) Once I understood that somewhat important fact, I was able to improve my leadership ability tremendously.

        We could probably all benefit from a little self analysis.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          IMHO, we, as a race, were created by God and anything that doesn't adhere to the most average standard representation of God's image (aka normal) is a pathology that represents an incursion of the forces of hell into our heavenly realm. Therefore, it must be cured and harnessed to prevent the spread of evil.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by tinkerton (199273)

            That's very interesting. How should I interpret this averaging? Does God have one ball and one tit?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:59PM (#45508289)

          Not everyone who is a psychopath chooses to do evil. It's well known that many people who lack a visceral, emotional "sense of right and wrong" operate instead on logic and rules that substitute for a sense of right and wrong; and like this person, they seek feedback from trusted people about the morality of their actions. For them, being a psychopath is a brain disability which can be dealt with, and not a license to run around killing people and wreaking havoc.

          • Arguably true...but then, it depends what you mean by true psychopathy -> if I care for only my family, or my tribe, am I a psychopath? If I am exhausted from caring for people beyond my resources and capacity...am I an evil person?

          • by tinkerton (199273)

            That is nicely put and concise. I would add that (my guess) belief systems have a major impact both on psychopaths and non-psychopaths. And I don't know if psychopaths may be more amenable to do very ugly things than non-psychopaths.
            A belief system of the type "The world is a jungle and you have to be ruthless and stop at nothing" can have very ugly effects at times. Likewise 'a leader has to have a big picture vision and should do what it takes to achieve it and not be afraid to break a few eggs on the way

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            Indeed. I think I've heard about this guy on the radio. When it comes to the 'murdering psychopath' twist, it was identified that you not only needed the genes, they also generally had to be 'activated' by a horribly abusive childhood.

            IE you have a reasonably well adjusted member of society if you raised your potential psychopath well, or a person without the genes horribly(sad as that is). It's only when the two mix that you get serial killers.

            Just because you're a psychopath doesn't mean you need to be

    • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:35AM (#45507317)

      the definitions we are given are often oversimplified. Psychopaths can have empathy, love and other feelings for others. But it appears they can turn them off at will. Use your favorite search engine and read about the studies, fascinating stuff.

      Even normal people can turn empathy off under certain circumstances or through conditioning.

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        I think that knowing ourselves empowers us to overcome what we are. Humans feel all sorts of desires and compulsions all the time. To control them is the goal. To be in charge of ourselves makes us human. If we give in to animal instincts then we are not human but simply an animal.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          To be in charge of ourselves makes us human.

          No, it makes us disciplined. A useful skill, at least in moderation, but hardly the defining factor of humanity.

          If we give in to animal instincts then we are not human but simply an animal.

          That you survived long enough to learn to write means you've given in to your animalistic need to eat and live quite a lot of times. In other words, your philosophy might need some further thought.

          • by amiga3D (567632)

            That I have survived doesn't indicate "giving in" to animalistic needs. The need to eat also has to be controlled else we become huge and heavy. Discipline is a human thing. Animals simply react to instinctive triggers.

    • Med school selects for people with these tendencies. The "feely. friendly" crowd that actually CARE for the patient are driven from the profession, early on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Med school selects for people with these tendencies. The "feely. friendly" crowd that actually CARE for the patient are driven from the profession, early on.

        Is there a source for this idea?

      • AC asks for your source. I'll echo that question.

        In my own experience, some doctors are very empathic, while others are not. Nurses seem to have an even higher percentage of empathic people, while the heartless nurses seem to be even worse than a cold, unfeeling doctor.

        If there is screening in the medical profession for psychopaths, it seems that the screening is only about 40% effective.

      • by fliptout (9217) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:32PM (#45508017) Homepage

        My anecdotal experiences contradict your statement.

        Consider doctors must slog their way through 4 years med school, 4 years residency, 2 years or so of fellowship, ~200K of student debt, and the threat of lowering wages due to healthcare reforms. All that, and they don't start their career in earnest until around age 32.

        Most likely, doctors don't put up with that unless they want to help others to some degree. If they are driven purely by greed, there are other lucrative careers with more immediate earning potential- banking, law.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      I think he is more disturbed by the stigma of the label. These criteria for psychopathy are not much different than basic animal survival traits. By acknowledging his reasoning of right and wrong and making an effort for change only completes him as a human. A human with a brain scaped for survival. Big deal, probably a fun guy to have a beer with.
      If I recall correctly , NIMH and others are rethinking indications of mental illness,yes?
      Perhaps we just need to wait for the book....

  • by bkmoore (1910118) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:26AM (#45507267)
    Elizabeth Bordon took an axe
    And gave her Mother forty wacks
    And when the job was nicely done
    She gave her Father forty-one
  • Too cute a story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:34AM (#45507313)
    I question the serendipitous discovery. As a neuroscientist aware of his family's predilection for anti-social behavior, wouldn't his interest in this career path likely have been influenced by curiosity about himself?
    • by tsa (15680)

      Yeah, that scan didn't come from nowhere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lamps (2770487)

      He explains in his TED talk that a relative informed him of his family's history of psychopathy after he developed an interest in the topic - this prompted him to perform neural scans of himself and family members. Whether he became interested in psychopathy because he had some suspicions about himself (as a neuroscientist, he would've had a course or two in psychopathology in grad school, and would have had a reasonable understanding of how antisocial personality disorder is formally defined; this isn't to

      • Okay. You are wicked smart, but let me issue a small rebuttal. I had no college course in psychopathology. It occurred to me, based on conventional wisdom freely available to anyone just barely solvent enough to pay attention, that I might resemble some previously described niche in the human typecast. This guy already knew. He looked to the science for confirmation or some implausible doubt.
  • Maybe this guy proves that despite your genes you still have a choice. No excuse like "I'm sorry your honor, I couldn't help killing him, it's because of my bad genes".

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      So a cause isn't an excuse if there exists a single exception?

      So your wheel falls off, turns out the mechanics over-tightened the bolts last tire change/rotation, and the stresses made it fall off as you were on the highway ay 70 mph. You swerve, killing a family of 4. As there exist somebody somewhere that managed to stop their car safely after a wheel came off, you are 100% at fault, because a single exception disproves the rule.

      Now that I've turned it into a car analogy, how would you treat the car
      • The car analogy largely fails. If you want to force it, then I would respond that you should have taken responsibility to change your own damned tire, and seen to it that the job was done right, with a torque wrench instead of an over powered impact wrench. Yes, you're still responsible for your vehicle.

        But, no, being psychotic is no excuse for murdering. That psychotic has a functioning brain, with which he makes decisions. He can decide to kill you, or he can decide to just beat the crap out of you, o

        • by AK Marc (707885)

          Anecdote: I met a psychotic person who actually USED that diagnosis to his advantage. I overheard him tell a guard, "I'm psychotic, if you fuck with me to much, I'll just kill you, and the court won't do shit to me because I'm psychotic!" That threat was enough to cause the guard to back down. Being psychotic didn't force the inmate to attack the guard, instead the inmate just used his condition to communicate a credible threat, thereby manipulating the guard's conduct.

          When you tell people what they are, they become it. If you tell people that they are psychotic, and that means they can't control themselves, then it will be true, even if they aren't psychotic, and psychotics can control themselves. That's a different issue than having some "flaw" that leads to or encourages some outcome.

          The car analogy largely fails. If you want to force it, then I would respond that you should have taken responsibility to change your own damned tire, and seen to it that the job was done right, with a torque wrench instead of an over powered impact wrench. Yes, you're still responsible for your vehicle.

          Yes, you should build your own house with your own hands, and raise all your own food yourself as well. At some point, specilization comes in, and you have to hire someone for jobs. It

          • You might ask what the law actually says, in regards to your automobile. Most states spell out very specifically that YOU are responsible for the safe operation of your vehicle. If you run someone over because of mechanical failure, you will be held responsible. You MIGHT be able to file suit against the garage that did the work on your vehicle, and you MIGHT actually win the suit, but you are still responsible for the accident.

          • Being psychotic is a different, unrelated mental state [wikipedia.org] where the person loses touch with reality in some manner:hallucinating, bizarre/illogical thinking, delusions, abnormal violence, or similar things.

    • by burni2 (1643061) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @12:03PM (#45507487)

      1.) he was someone especially motivated by power and manipulating others
      2.) MAO-A gene that has been linked with aggressive behavior
      3.) is family line included seven alleged murderers

      It's not all bad genes, but his genes affect his behaviour pretty strong, and the genes(family line) increase the chance of turning into a murderer.

      The question is when will the trigger level be reached where he cannot suppress the violent tendencies and go postal. Yes he might have learned to emphasize
      or simply learned to emulate it pretty convincing. And there is another question perhaps some folks at slashdot don't have the mild form of asperger but are just psychopaths, and get into a rage like "Hans Reiser".

      So psychological conditioning is very important in these cases too, do you get a bonus for treating people in a human way or in an inhuman way.

      - Is your peer group awarding you for helping someone or for calling someone a sissy, faggot or else ?
      - Do you get a bonus if you treat your fellow workers with respect or you just use their burned out corpses as a ladder for your own success

      And well taking these additional thoughts into consideration - soldiers are trained not to emphasize with the enemy, soldiers being awarded for brave behaviour (brave=where mostly the basis is a good rage like killing spree) - amok runs like the one in washington are a consequence of this trained behaviour and genetic disposition.

      And the major question is how would a psycho-scan of the GOP and the Democrats turn out, because if you recall the term "liberal sissy" it carries a very distinct aggressive undertone and aims at casting someone out of a social group, and these are sociopahs (read: "manipulating others").

      It's genes it's the environment it's the education the question is is there any free will or just a trigger level a source and a drain ?

  • by loufoque (1400831) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:44AM (#45507373)

    The most troubling aspect of this story is that the person felt that he needed to change his behaviour when he learned society would diagnose him as abnormal, despite having been a functional member of society and a respected scientist for several decades with his behaviour as-is.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      If you don't know any doctors who are assholes, you don't know many doctors.

    • by slew (2918) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @12:57PM (#45507751)

      Subjectively he was a functional member of society and a respected scientist and he was subjectively aware that he was motivated by power and a tendency to manipulate other.

      So he felt that he needed to be more introspective about his behaviour when he found out something about himself that threatened to make the vaguely subjective awareness into something objective. Why is that troubling? Intelligent people often don't like being a subject to the fates. To me it would be more troubling if as a functioning member of society and a respected scientist he was simply fatalistic about it and say went on a killing rampage because he discovered this fact about himself.

      Correlation does not make causation...

    • by Derec01 (1668942)

      The most troubling aspect of this story is that the person felt that he needed to change his behaviour when he learned society would diagnose him as abnormal, despite having been a functional member of society and a respected scientist for several decades with his behaviour as-is.

      In the article, you'd see that much of his desire to change was motivated by deep questioning of those close to him and analysis of how he'd treated them over the years. It was the diagnosis that prompted him to look deeper, at which point he decided to change based on what he found. It wasn't simply that he decided to change immediately due to the diagnosis.

      It is, after all, quite possible to be both functional and a respected scientist as well as a jerk.

  • Selection bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @11:55AM (#45507441) Homepage Journal

    The problem with psychopathy is that the very definition came from selection bias.

    We took a bunch of people who exhibited aberrant behaviour (socially unacceptable behaviour) and looked for common attributes. Then we invented a name for these attributes ("psychopathic") and the name became associated with the behaviour, but not the attributes.

    There is abundant evidence that psychopathic tendencies are a spectrum. It's not a binary label, there's levels and shades of grey.

    There is also abundant evidence that psychopathic tendencies are common [forbes.com].

    There is also the evolutionary model, which proposes that leadership requires vision that isn't swayed by other people. The tribe will occasionally need leaders, so it's an advantage to have some psychopaths in the population. They are the ones who can step back and analyze a situation rationally, who aren't helpless against the flow of public opinion, and are immune to groupthink and mob psychology.

    It should come as no surprise that lots of people are closet psychopaths, to any specific degree. The problem isn't that they are psychopaths, it's that they somehow feel that that they are damaged, dangerous, or somehow unacceptable. (Viz: gay people [wikipedia.org]).

    Relax, it's all right. We've identified a set of genes, you have a subset, and life is what you make of it.

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      Full-on psychopaths do not normally make good leaders and I know of no evidence that it's an advantage to have psychopaths in the population. People who have empathy and consideration for others can make dispassionate decisions when necessary, or at least many of them can. It may be an advantage to have most of the characteristics of psychopaths in the population, or all of the characteristics except in the most lethal combination.

      • Full-on psychopaths do not normally make good leaders and I know of no evidence that it's an advantage to have psychopaths in the population.

        That's a bold statement. Is it an opinion? (ie - can you back it up with references?)

        Lots of references for my point of view here [google.com].

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          It's an opinion, which I thought was about sufficient to express disagreement with the opinion I was replying to.

      • by Zorpheus (857617)

        People who have empathy and consideration for others can make dispassionate decisions when necessary, or at least many of them can.

        Psychopaths have empathy, they can just turn it off.
        Good point that people with empathy can make dispassionate decissions when needed. I would say intelligent people can do that normally.
        Makes me wonder what is so special about psychopaths, maybe that they turn their empathy off more regularly, and more easily?

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          My understanding is that the most extreme individuals really don't have empathy. They can create an illusion of empathy because they understand on an intellectual level what it is and that most people have it and expect them to show it.

          • by superwiz (655733)
            Unless, of course, they have more advanced capacity for turning it off. Some people get overwhelmed with emotions. Inability to handle emotions is certainly an extreme. But what if lack of emotional response is just a life-long suppression. All that MRIs show is the blood flow to regions of the brain. What if suppression of emotions is just an efficiency mechanism to stop flow of blood to those parts of the brain. That would indicate superior faculty rather than a deficiency. But on the MRI it would s
    • It's rather disturbing that a rational person that makes up there own mind is considered a psychological issue. None of those are bad traits, it's the moral code that person lives by that matters as those traits just tend to make them successful.

      • by superwiz (655733)
        That's the point. Television (which most people use as the source of their values) exists for the purpose of selling whatever is advertised. It trains people not for cooler intellect, but for submitting to the emotional side of themselves. In this child-like state most people are more prone to manipulation and pressure to shop.
    • "They are the ones who can step back and analyze a situation rationally,"

      Is there some evidence that psychopaths are more or less rational than other people?

      • Is there some evidence that psychopaths are more or less rational than other people?

        Fair point. I was using the term "rational" as a counterpoint to "emotional".

        Psychopaths are well known for making choices which are coldly beneficial, without consideration for feelings which would arise from the affect their choices have on others - their choices have little or no emotional bias. Psychopathy tests score emotional aspects such as "Lack of Remorse or Guilt" and "Callousness and Lack of Empathy" as suggestive for psychopathy.

        Both emotional and un-emotional choices are rational in the sense o

    • Re:Selection bias (Score:5, Insightful)

      by s.petry (762400) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:22PM (#45507925)

      The bigger problem in my opinion is the author starts with the false premise that psychopathic behavior is determined by genetics. While genetics could (and most likely does) play a factor, it's not the major factor or only factor involved. The false premise should be obvious because the person performing the experiments was not a displaying characteristics of being a psychopath.

      This study is not unique in using this false premise. In the last few years several 'studies' with this same false premise have made headlines. I won't backtrack on those articles except to mention them as "using genetics to determine if you are depressed", "using genetics to determine if a person is a psychopath or sociopath", and "using genetics to determine if you will be a criminal in the future".

      As you wisely state, being a psychopath is not a binary thing. We all have tendencies toward at least some of the generalizations used to describe a psychopath. The same could be said for a diagnosis of a sociopath. The article does not address the main factors in what actually creates a psychopath or sociopath. Such as living in an abusive environment, education, lack of discipline for wrong doing, etc... All of those factors are sociological, not genetic.

      In your example of leadership, I don't believe it's fair to characterize their traits as psychopathic. Psychopathic would be more self interested than the welfare of a group, so a leader being truly psychopathic would be contrary to many leaders. We see leadership in two forms, those that are concerned for themselves (many US politicians today, Aristotle) and those that are concerned for the majority more than themselves (Washington, Jefferson, Socrates).

      When it comes to many of these alleged genetic studies, I have become very cynical. There seems to be a lot of biased studies trying to place all of the blame on genetics and ignore every other factor involved in creating mental disorders. Whether it is to remove blame for actions or possibly (and more frighteningly) eugenics purposes makes no difference. Either way, the studies seemingly are trying to set a labeling standard.

    • If we were to take it as given that psychopathy is a good thing for a leader to have -- not just good for him but good for those led -- then how ought a person to vote informed by that knowledge?

      Should I uniformly vote for the most ruthless person in every race? Or should I identify the most ruthless person at the highest level and then vote for him and the people he will most readily use to accomplish his purposes?

      Or can I take into account what his apparent goals are? If he's truly psychopathic, it shou

      • If we were to take it as given that psychopathy is a good thing for a leader to have -- not just good for him but good for those led -- then how ought a person to vote informed by that knowledge?

        Should I uniformly vote for the most ruthless person in every race? Or should I identify the most ruthless person at the highest level and then vote for him and the people he will most readily use to accomplish his purposes?

        That's an insightful question, this discussion has taken an interesting twist.

        Distinguish the attributes of leadership from the goals of leadership. We can rate everyone in the political arena on a scale of ruthlessness (where would Dick Cheney be?), but by itself that's not a useful guide for our decisions. First choose the leaders whose goals are the same as yours, or whose goals will benefit you the most. Once you have winnowed down the candidates, the one that's the most ruthless will likely be the most

    • by Meditato (1613545)

      By that definition, all behavioral disorders are selection biases.

      There are a set of concrete neurological and genetic characteristics that constitute psychopathy.

  • Well, if you're going to buy into the whole scheme of quantitative analysis, that we are reducible to a set of statistics, it makes sense to surrender to the scheme.

    Particularly the part about his 'genetic history' contributing to his pathology is telling. Shake that rattle witch doctors. Use numbers the way a numerologist would.

  • Out of how many? That seems like a whole lot of murderers.

  • Lets start on people in positions of power... politicians..CEOs. Surely the numbers would be off the charts. I don't think anyone can rise to the top of the political or capitalist systems and be a really really nice person.

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      It depends on whether there's a balancing point beyond which the psychopathic tendancies are no longer helpful in achieving power. If you're seen as too dangerous by your superiors you might be fired instead of promoted.

      • by superwiz (655733)
        Not if you superiors are ambitious. Ambitious people try to find use for other ambitious people. Scared people try to defend themselves against even the most minor threats. But then scared people rarely rise very far.
        • by Shavano (2541114)

          But if ambition and psychopathy are a scale, you want the ambitious people working for you who aren't constantly looking for a way to stab you in the back and climb over you.

          • by PPH (736903)

            If ambition and psychopathy are independent factors ...

            The ambitious psychopath will work for you and then stab you in the back to get ahead. The ambitious, well adjusted person will compete for your job on their merits and push you aside. Or they'll quit and go to work for themselves, figuring that energy expended working one's way up through an organization is wasted.

          • by superwiz (655733)

            But if ambition and psychopathy are a scale, you want the ambitious people working for you who aren't constantly looking for a way to stab you in the back and climb over you.

            You do if you are confident that you can win. You work with people who might stab you in the back and you watch your back. But these people bring in more of what you look for.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @12:45PM (#45507699)

    Let's take somebody from a privileged background with good breeding and then transpose his life with that of a common man. More specifically a petty thief with inferior parental lineage. We'll get the privileged individual brought up on charges, remove his access to money and his home and create false situations where he's accused of theft! At the same time we'll take the petty thief and give him all of the privileges, money and responsibilities in life. I assert that the man of good breeding will always conduct himself with dignity and honor regardless of the circumstance while the petty thief will always act like a common thug. That's because one's parents genetics determine what we become in life, forget education and opportunity if you're born from an oak tree you're strong, from a willow, soft.

    I'll bet you a standard gentleman's wager, $1....

  • I heard an interview with him, and it's worth pointing out that just because you have gene(s) that predispose you to something doesn't mean it's a random roll of the dice whether you get it or not. There's an interaction between genes and environment (it's not a simple "is it nature or nurture?"). In his case, the psychopathic tendencies only come out if you have a bad childhood. In other words, if two children have bad childhoods, the one with the bad genes will end up being truly bad, but the one with
  • by rwyoder (759998) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:29PM (#45507991)

    "Did you ever take that test yourself? Deckard?"

  • Jimmy Fallon is a psychopath.
  • I think we forgot the value of "cooler intellect." Rational introspection doesn't seem to be of value anymore. This is largely practiced in order put people into a trance in which they can be easily convinced to shop. But we can keep out of science, can't we? Suppressing ones emotions (including empathy) is more important when attempting to analyze a situation than embracing them.
  • So, you are saying that Jimmy Fallon is a psychopath.? He seems like such a nice guy on TV. But, that may explain how he got the Tonight Show gig. Isn't that how Leno got it?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'll have to watch the TED talk. I find I have both mild psychopathic thought tendencies and also issues with depression. In my case they generally balance each other out rather than feeding each other. Perhaps the one issue is due to continued suppression of the other. Related to an earlier story, I also hear "voices" in my head -- basically I have a more or less continuous internal discussion going on in the background. I have had to sit down and have a "conversation with myself" on a couple of occa

  • by hduff (570443) <hoytduff&gmail,com> on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:26PM (#45509051) Homepage Journal

    Nature v. Nurture

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 24, 2013 @04:42PM (#45509597)

    Granted, my knowledge of psychopathy is based in psychology and not neurology, but rather than degrees of psychopathy it's better to think of types of psychopaths. While there is a scale or spectrum of psychopathy, measured by the Revised Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R, or PCL-YV for the Youth Variation), subjects are generally extremely psychopathic or not at all. To be deemed a psychopath a subject need a score >= 30, 40 is the maximum. For a simple comparison, the typical 'career criminal' scores, on average, a 20 on the PCL-R. For the true psychopaths, it is the type of psychopathy that is of primary importance. Of the ten basic subtypes of psychopaths, only two --malevolent psychopaths and tyrannical psychopaths-- are characterized by overt anti-social behavior and violence, the two rarest but the two most commonly associated with the term 'psychopath' in popular culture. The rest are more driven by material gains (this isn't necessarily 'better', but it is much more common and probably, given my extremely limited knowledge of the subject, what drives Dr. Fallon if he is a true psychopath). The two violent subtypes are predominantly characterized by sadism and extreme self-aggrandizement, respectively (murderous variants of these two types rarely kill only one victim, as the violence amuses them). For example, sexually sadistic serial killers such as Ted Bundy are malevolent psychopaths; a serial killer like the Zodiac Killer who taunts authorities and views his (not a sexist pronouns, 80% of psychopaths are men) victims as inferior i.e.: the Zodiac 'hunting people' and his belief that after his death "ALL THEI [sic] HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES."

    But, again, this understanding is psychological not neurological. However, there is most likely a genetic component, as psychopathy appears equally across social classes and family environments. Further, psychopaths cannot be successfully treated psychologically. In fact, treatment generally exacerbates their qualities and makes them better psychopaths be teaching them to recognize, and thus better mask, their distinctive psychopathic traits.

  • out of fear or embarrassment of being labeled a psychopath. Perhaps because boldness and disinhibition are noted psychopathic tendencies, Fallon has gone in the opposite direction, telling the world about his finding in a TED Talk, an NPR interview and now a new book published last month, The Psychopath Inside

    I'd infer that his "boldness and inhibition" suggest that he's tenured.

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