Thanks to the diabolical serial killers and manipulative con artists scattered throughout big-screen thrillers and TV procedurals, many assume that all psychopaths are dangerous individuals with evil motivations. But from a psychological standpoint, these traits don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. Psychopathy’s official definition involves an antisocial personality disorder characterized by a lack of empathy and guilt, along with a propensity for manipulation. These qualities can contribute to violent behavior, many diagnosed with a psychopathic or psychopath-adjacent disorder live perfectly normal lives, complete with careers to support themselves.
Business Insider recently did some research on psychopathy and how it relates to certain jobs, culminating in this list of ten professions most likely to be held by people with psychopathic tendencies.
While not exactly surprising, the tendency of psychopathic personalities to gravitate toward careers in public service can inspire concern. Is it in the best interest of a nation to have individuals without empathy or the capacity for guilt in positions of leadership or government support? According to Business Insider’s report, government officials in the UK certainly thought so; in 2014, the UK government discussed the possibility of specifically recruiting diagnosed psychopaths for open positions, claiming that people with psychopathic tendencies “no feelings for others, nor moral code, and tend to be very intelligent and logical,” therefore making them “very good in crises”.
Because chefs need to excel in high-stress situations, a psychopath’s lack of concern for the opinions of others and ability to focus on his own personal success prove positive. Business Insider points out that the majority of psychopaths aren’t prone to violence, so there’s no need to worry about a chef’s easy access to knives and open flames. Good to know.
Psychopaths frequently seek out scenarios that put them in positions of attention and esteem, so a career as a religious leader fits that criteria. Business Insider cites a Psychology Today article by FBI profiler Joe Navarro, who believes that clergy’s ability to directly reach (and potentially manipulate) people makes it an appealing option to those with psychopathic personalities.
Like chefs and politicians, police officers need to thrive under stressful circumstances, and the psychopath’s capacity for emotional detachment makes her a solid fit for such careers. To ease the suspicions of burgeoning conspiracy theorists, Business Insider mentions that psychopaths don’t necessarily have ulterior motives for their behaviors, so it shouldn’t be assumed that police officers with this particular condition are on the force for nefarious purposes.
Journalists, known for their inquisitive nature and self-motivated independence, possess some of the positive traits often associated with psychopaths: focus, proactiveness, and charm. Business Insider refers to a study performed by British psychologist Kevin Dutton, in which Dutton points out that the aforementioned psychopathic qualities often result in a successful journalistic career.
Since psychopaths are generally known for an inability to empathize, putting scalpels in their hands and entrusting them with the lives of others sounds questionable...until you consider the level of stress associated with these powerful medical jobs. According to the Royal College of Surgeons in England, surgeons scored higher on tests of psychopathic personality traits than the general populace, which could prove helpful to doctors who need to make quick and hugely consequential decisions on a daily basis.
The charm factor plays a major role in the psychopath’s potential for success in sales. Business Insider also frames the psychopathic competitive drive and inclination toward aggressive self-promotion as a powerful motivator for salespeople.
A narcissistic view of the world and the ability to stay calm under pressure seem like necessary elements to life as a public figure, which is why Business Insider includes actors, TV anchors, and radio DJs as prime candidates for psychopathic disorders.
Lawyers need to be natural scene-stealers and comfortable with a certain degree of deception in order to serve their clients effectively. According to M.E. Thomas, a licensed attorney and the author of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight, her unique psychological framework helped her excel in her profession. While the distinctions between sociopathy and psychopathy are hotly debated in the psychiatric community, enough similarities exist to place the two conditions on equal footing in this matter. This estimation is shared by lawyer Ruth Lee Johnson; in Psychology Today, Johnson asserts that high self esteem, an egocentric perspective, and plenty of charm can create a formidable attorney.
And now for the job most likely to be held by a psychopath: the CEO. Many of the aforementioned qualities contribute to a psychopathic mind’s suitability for this high-pressure role: the ability to handle significant stress, the self-confidence, and the capacity for manipulation. Business Insider claims that psychopaths also have a tendency to create chaotic situations in order to make themselves look better by comparison, a habit practiced by more-notorious CEOs. So if you aspire to be a head honcho one day, a psychopathic personality disorder could help you on your path.