What is an example of psychopathic charm

No cold heart?

Even the linguistic appearance is deceptive: Neither among psychiatrists nor among psychotherapists, psychopathy is considered a mental disorder or illness. Over two hundred years ago, this apparently paradoxical personality syndrome was characterized by the French psychiatrist at the Paris Salpêtrière Philippe Pinel (1809) as "manie sans delire". And in Wilhelm Hauff's fairy tale "The Cold Heart" from 1827, a connection was made between cold-heartedness and economic success. Finally, the American psychiatrist Harvey Cleckley gave his 1941 case study collection on the psychopathic personality the now famous title "The Mask of Sanity".

Psychopathy: complex and multidimensional

Today, the vast majority of researchers agree that psychopathy is a complex, multi-dimensional personality construct. Important aspects of this are reduced impulse control, a strong focus on the present instead of delayed reward, unscrupulousness in pursuing one's own plans, strong debt externalization tendencies, little or no feelings of guilt, little compassion for others, high fearlessness, high resilience, the strong urge to be the center of attention as well as high persuasiveness and charm.

In the past ten years after the great real estate and financial crisis, the concept of psychopathy made a career in the North American and Anglo-Saxon business press. The greed and unscrupulousness of the psychopaths in the top echelons of business, banking and politics (the "snakes in suits"), who were only oriented towards short-term success, were stylized as the real cause of the global financial collapse.

Study answers questions about psychopathic personality

A meta-analysis, i.e. an empirical summary of all previous studies on the connection between psychopathy, professional performance and antisocial behavior, however, showed only minimal connections, which, while pointing in the expected direction, were practically hardly different from zero. The psychopathy construct therefore requires a more differentiated approach in order to be able to adequately assess its effects.

In order to resolve the apparent paradox of the psychopathic personality, the American psychologist David Lykken distinguished between two factors of psychopathy more than 20 years ago, which are now known as fearless dominance and egocentric impulsivity. The egocentric impulsivity includes the aspects of deficits in self-control (low impulse control), Machiavellian egoism (unscrupulousness), careless planlessness (present rather than future orientation) and rebellious willingness to take risks. People with a high degree of self-centered impulsiveness as a personality factor should therefore show a strong tendency towards anti-social and criminal behavior.

High self-control despite fearless dominance

According to Lykken, the factor of fearless dominance is characterized by fearlessness, stress immunity and persuasiveness. Recent research has shown that the two factors of egocentric impulsivity and fearless dominance are independent (orthogonal) of each other. This means that you can have high, medium or low values ​​on one factor regardless of whether you have high, medium or low values ​​on the other factor. So it is possible, and it happens more often, that people have high scores on the fearless dominance factor, but still have a high level of self-control, successfully practice delayed reward and can constructively integrate themselves into social structures.

The orthogonality of the two factors is an important reason why the aforementioned meta-analysis on professional performance and antisocial behavior showed only zero effects: apples and pears were mixed up, so that in the end only puree came out. Had one examined egocentric impulsiveness separately, its negative behavioral consequences would probably have come to light.

Similarities Between Antisocial Criminals and Socially Renowned Personalities

Lykken developed yet another hypothesis, namely that both antisocial felons and persons with outstanding socially recognized achievements are both different branches of the trunk of the same personality trait, namely fearless dominance.

The difference is due to the level of intelligence and the more likely successful socialization as a result. High fearless dominance and low intelligence led to poor socialization success and thus to an increased likelihood of antisocial behavior. High intelligence, on the other hand, facilitates socialization success with high fearless dominance, which is reflected in higher educational success.

Personality: the importance of socialization

From the point of view of society, successful socialization manifests itself in the fact that people know and apply the rules of interpersonal dealings and also accept them to a greater extent. To put it in a picture: a not very intelligent, unsuccessfully socialized person with high fearless dominance does not shy away from banging his head through the wall. She does not achieve her goals as a result. An intelligent, successfully socialized person with a high fearless dominance, on the other hand, finds the right door, knocks, presents their ambitious concerns persuasively and with charm and thus achieves their goals relatively often.

In our working group, we tested this Lykken thesis empirically for the first time in the world of work. 161 employed persons from a wide range of professions as well as two respondents from the direct professional environment of the target persons at the workplace (colleagues, employees or superiors) took part in the study. The promised data protection for the study participants resulted in undistorted self-reports and external assessments of behavior in the workplace.

The target persons reported their highest educational qualification (the possible answers ranged from "no school leaving certificate" to "doctorate") and worked on a personality questionnaire, which was used to measure the various factors of psychopathy. The two respondents described the behavior and appearance of the target person at the workplace in a structured manner, so that assessments of work performance and anti-social behavior at the workplace (e.g. yelling at others, drug consumption, disclosure of confidential information to unauthorized third parties) could be reliably derived.

Qualities for top performance at work

It was shown that the higher the psychopathy factor of egocentric impulsiveness was pronounced, the respondents also reported increased antisocial behavior of the target persons in the workplace. Furthermore, we found that the higher the psychopathy factor of fearless dominance was, with a simultaneous low level of education, the respondents also reported increased antisocial behavior of the target persons in the workplace.

Finally, it was confirmed that with a high fearless dominance and high educational success, the respondents estimated that the target persons were completely unremarkable antisocially, but at the same time showed top performance in their work. The cold-hearted aspect turned out to be distinct in relation to both egocentric impulsiveness and fearless dominance.

Take a differentiated look at psychopathy

Overall, our research results show that a more nuanced view of psychopathy is better able to uncover the dark sides of this personality construct without simultaneously overlooking its possible adaptive dimensions. The protective value of cognitive intelligence and successful educational socialization both for the individual and for the social environment of these people becomes clear.