Are you a psychopath? asks Kevin Dutton

This post first appeared as a postcard in my role as beach writer at

Psychopaths get a bad rap in the popular media, but really, they’re not all bad, says Kevin Dutton, research psychologist at Oxford University and author of “The wisdom of psychopaths – Lessons in Life from Saints, Spies and Serial killers.”

While pure psychopaths with an uncontrolled violent streak are invariably ‘toxic’, for others who are somewhere on the psychopathic spectrum, it’s about achieving control by tuning the dials on the mixing desk to the right level to be successful. In other words, it’s OK to display some psychopathic characteristics in the right context.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that CEOs often score highly for psychopathic traits, such as charm, persuasiveness, confidence, fearlessness, ruthlessness. Similarly, micro-surgeons need the ability to ‘switch off’ their empathy, so they are not thinking about the patient on the operating table as someone’s spouse or child, to help them make cold, clinical decisions. In general, people who score highly on the psychopathic index are often better able to make rational decisions when faced with moral dilemmas; too much empathy can result in procrastination.

Kevin described how an insight from research into 1970s serial killer, Ted Bundy, led psychologists to discover that people who scored highly on the psychopathic index were sometimes better at analysing people’s behaviour, for example detecting people who were smuggling goods through airport security. Kevin says this is due to the psychopath’s skill as a ‘social predator’ in studying people’s body language to see whether they are having an effect. They are matched only by Buddhist monks who can achieve similar ability through years of meditation and self awareness.

Having psychopathic traits can also help people become more creative, through being more comfortable with rule breaking. One way of looking at cheats is that they are also natural creatives!

To find out how you score on the psychopathic index, you can take the test at

See more at: