Psychopaths are dangerous people because they are human predators.
Some are violent criminals and serial killers. Many others are not, but are upstanding pillars of the community, found in reputable professions, especially CEOs, politicians, lawyers, journalists, and most alarmingly, clergy. (More on these occupations later in this post.)
The hallmark attributes of a psychopath include a lack of empathy for others, selfishness, lack of guilt, and a superficial charm that manifests exclusively to manipulate others. It should be noted that those attributes, except maybe lack of guilt, also characterize pathological narcissists or the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Psychopathy is not a binary, either/or attribute, but displays itself as a spectrum of more or less. We are told that as many as 5% of people may possess psychopathic tendencies.
A recent study by Dr. Ryan H. Murphy, a research assistant professor at Southern Methodist University’s School of Business, in Dallas, Texas, found that Washington, D.C., is the most psychopathic of all of United States.
Published as a 14-page online working paper, titled “Psychopathy by U.S. State,” Murphy employed the Big Five personality traits as a measure to estimate the level of psychopathy for each of the contiguous 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
The Big Five personality traits are:
Psychopathy is loosely correlated with low extraversion, very low agreeableness and conscientiousness, very high neuroticism, and moderately high openness. In other words, psychopaths are introverted, very disagreeable, very unconscientious, highly neurotic, and moderately open.
Each of the Big Five personality traits receives a T-score centered on a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10. Extraversion enters positively, while neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness enter negatively.
Using Renfrow, et al.‘s data for the Big Five personality traits for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, Murphy created a raw score for each state by subtracting its scores for neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness from its score for extraversion. The raw score is then converted into a standardized z-score. The 48 states and D.C. are then ranked in accordance with each state’s z-score, from most psychopathic to least psychopathic.
Rentfrow, et al.‘s data are from:
- Rentfrow, P. J., Gosling, S. D., Jokela, M., Stillwell, D. J., Kosinski, M., & Potter, J. 2013. “Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social, and Health Correlates.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 105 no. 6: 996–1012.
- Rentfrow, P.J. and M. Jokela. 2016. “Geographical Psychology: The Spatial Organization of Psychological Phenomena.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 25, no. 6: 393-398.
Murphy found that areas of the United States measured to be most psychopathic are those in the Northeast and other similarly populated regions. The least psychopathic are predominantly rural areas, Wyoming being a curious exception.
The top five in psychopathy are the District of Columbia, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, New York & Wyoming (tying for #5 rank).
The states that are the least psychopathic are West Virginia, Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico.
Here is the list, beginning with D.C. as the most psychopathic:
- District of Columbia, with a z-score of 3.58. Murphy wryly observes: “The presence of psychopaths in District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture found in Murphy (2016) that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere.”
- Connecticut: 1.89
- California: 1.21
- New Jersey: 1.09
- New York: 1.01
- Wyoming: 1.01
- Maine: 0.99
- Wisconsin: 0.95
- Nevada: 0.89
- Illinois: 0.73
- Virginia: 0.67
- Maryland: 0.66
- South Dakota: 0.61
- Delaware: 0.56
- Massachusetts: 0.46
- Arizona: 0.45
- Florida: 0.40
- Iowa: 0.30
- Colorado: 0.28
- Texas: 0.25
- Ohio: 0.22
- Utah: 0.09
- Arkansas: 0.00
- Idaho: -0.05
- North Dakota: -0.06
- Michigan: -0.07
- Alabama: -0.08
- Pennsylvania: -0.12
- Rhode Island: -0.14
- Louisiana: -0.17
- Kansas: -0.19
- Georgia: -0.11
- Minnesota: -0.28
- Missouri: -0.33
- Washington: -0.43
- Kentucky: -0.51
- Nebraska: -0.53
- South Carolina: -0.64
- New Hampshire: -0.79
- Oregon: -0.81
- Indiana: -1.01
- Mississippi: -1.10
- Montana: -1.10
- Oklahoma: -1.29
- New Mexico: -1.39
- North Carolina: -1.55
- Tennessee: -1.48
- Vermont: -1.66
- West Virginia: -2.11
Murphy hypothesizes that the level of psychopathy of a state has to do with at least these two factors:
- Rate of urbanization (and therefore, population congestion).
Murphy writes on page 5 that:
- The “most disproportionately psychopathic” occupations are CEO, lawyer, media, salesperson, surgeon, journalist, police officer, clergyperson, chef, and civil servant (or politician).
- The least psychopathic occupations are care aide, nurse, therapist, craftsperson, beautician/stylist, charity worker, teacher, creative artist, doctor, and accountant.
Religious clergy are among the most psychopathic occupations! I am reminded of what the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, M.D., wrote: what better place for evil to hide than in the church, by camouflaging themselves as good.
The District of Columbia is measured to be far more psychopathic than any individual state in the country, a fact that can be readily explained either by its very high population density or by the type of person who may be drawn [to] a literal seat of power…. Additionally, Wyoming is an odd data point, ranking very high in psychopathy given its lack of population.
To find out if you’re a psychopath, go to “Are you a psychopath” and take the test!
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