Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review--"The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success"

First thought on reading the title: You...Have...Got...To...Be...Kidding...Me.
From Smithsonian Magazine:

The Pros to Being a Psychopath 
In a new book, Oxford research psychologist Kevin Dutton argues that psychopaths are poised to perform well under pressure
When most of us hear the word “psychopath,” we imagine Hannibal Lecter. Kevin Dutton would prefer that we think of brain surgeons, CEOs and Buddhist monks. In his new book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, the Oxford research psychologist argues that psychopathic personality traits—charm, confidence, ruthlessness, coolness under pressure—can, in the right doses, be a good thing. Not all psychopaths are violent, he says, and some of them are just the sort of people society can count on in a crisis.
To further his psychopathic studies, Dutton is seeking participants for his Great American Psychopath Survey, which he says will reveal the most psychopathic states, cities and professions in the United States. Try it for yourself at
“Psychopath” is a term that gets thrown about a lot in our culture. Are psychopaths misunderstood?
It’s true, no sooner is the word “psychopath” out than images of your classic psychopathic killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer and a whole kind of discreditable raft of senior politicians come kind of creeping across our minds. But actually, being a psychopath doesn’t mean that you’re a criminal. Not by default, anyway. It doesn’t mean that you’re a serial killer, either.
One of the reasons why I wrote the book in the first place was to debunk two deep-seated myths that the general public have about psychopaths. Firstly, that they’re either all “mad or bad.” And secondly, that psychopathy is an all-or-nothing thing, that you’re either a psychopath or you’re not.

What is a psychopath, anyway?
When psychologists talk about psychopaths, what we’re referring to are people who have a distinct set of personality characteristics, which include things like ruthlessness, fearlessness, mental toughness, charm, persuasiveness and a lack of conscience and empathy. Imagine that you tick the box for all of those characteristics. You also happen to be violent and stupid. It’s not going to be long before you smack a bottle over someone’s head in a bar and get locked up for a long time in prison. But if you tick the box for all of those characteristics, and you happen to be intelligent and not naturally violent, then it’s a different story altogether. Then you’re more likely to make a killing in the market rather than anywhere else....MORE
And on reading the review:  I've served with psychopaths. I know psychopaths. Psychopaths were friends of mine. Dutton, you don't know psychopaths.
(apologies to the ghost of Senator Bentsen)