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by
Helen Smith

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September 3, 2011 - 2:49 am

I was reading an article over at CNBC entitled “Think Your Boss Is a Psychopath? That May Be True.”

In a recent study of more than 200 executives, nearly 4 percent scored at or above the traditional cutoff for psychopathy using the Psychopathy Checklist, which researchers regard as the “gold standard” for assessing this personality disorder, said Paul Babiak, one of the researchers who conducted the study and co-author of the book, “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work.”

By contrast, just 1 percent of the general population is categorized as having psychopathic tendencies. Admittedly, it’s just one study, but it suggests that business leaders could be four times as likely to be psychopathic than the average person….

In fact, he often uses the phrase “parasitic predator” to describe corporate psychopaths. “They are parasitic in that they are looking for a host to support them,” he said. “A big company is an easy place in which to hide.”

I have to wonder about this study and the way that CNBC presented this article. It makes it sound like business leaders who are psychopaths are a dime a dozen. Why are they picking on business leaders and the corporate world? Is it because the study authors or CNBC have it in their own minds that corporate bosses are corrupt, kind of like the author of this kooky article entitled “Capitalism: A System Run By and For Psychopaths”?

I have taken a continuing education course from Robert Hare, the co-author of the book mentioned above and in the course, he told us that it is a very dangerous thing to diagnose someone with psychopathy. We dealt in the course with adults and juveniles who were jailed for violent and other crimes. Often times, Hare and his colleagues would warn us to be very careful in our diagnosis, lest someone who was charged with a crime end up being discriminated against because of the psychopathy label if untrue. Shouldn’t his co-author, Paul Babiak, use the same good advice? Should he use a study of only 200 people to make such a generalization?

Why business leaders? Why not study SEIU members or liberal politicians? Where is that study?

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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