Discovering a new trait about our personalities is usually a positive step forward in developing a sense of who we are. There are some traits hidden away that may not be something we want to realize that are a part of us. There are so many people in the world that we interact with for such a short period of time that it is difficult to have any insight into what a person is really like. After reading a story on National Public Radio’s Snap Judgement, and comparing it with some other studies that I have come across during my time in school, it made it obvious that not only is everyone in the world unique, but there are more predators lurking in society than we realize.
Julia Dewitt did an interview with Dr. James Fallon, a neuroscientist that also teaches at UC Irvine in California, which exposed his journey of self-discovery as a psychopath. In these scans, it was easy to see the difference in brain activity between psychopathic and non psychopathic brains. Dr. James Fallon talks in his interview about how he was using these PET scans to find the pattern of little to no activity in parts of the serial killer brains he was studying. His plan was to use his own brain as a sort of control however, when his scan came back he was astonished to see that his brain was mapped out similarly to those of the serial killers. Shown in this photo are the PET scans of a control brain and Dr. James Fallon’s psychopathic brain. The question now is, what does being a psychopath mean? If Dr. Fallon was in fact a serial killer, there is no doubt he would have kept this discovery about himself a secret. That leaves us to realize that there are psychopaths amongst us that we do not know about or think of in that way because they are able to blend in convincingly with the rest of society.
Psychopaths are considered predators because they do not have empathy and emotion clouding their decisions, so they tend to have no difficulties in getting what they want, by any means necessary. There is a way to measure behavior on a scale of adaptive to mal-adaptive behavior; those falling under the far left of adaptive behavior blend into society well and do what is expected of them, but no more. On the far right of the scale are those that behave in a mal-adaptive way; like psychopaths. The middle of the line are the over-achievers, or maybe even those who win the Nobel Prize for their accomplishments; while their behavior is not considered normal it is also not disruptive to society as psychopathic behavior tends to eventually do. Psychopaths are predators by nature and so they can take from their environment the tools and knowledge to blend in even better than those who do not have this kind of awareness. When Dr. James Fallon discovered he was a psychopath, he placed himself on the far right with all of the psychopathic serial killers, but what differentiates his behavior from theirs if he is labeled as mal-adaptive as well? Dr. Fallon, as does the rest of the so-called “functional psychopaths”, know their place in society and realize that what they want lies within the realm of the law so they can live out their psychopathic tendencies. In Dr. Fallon’s case, he can be the best neuroscientist and psychiatrist because he considers everything in an “academic” way as he mentions in his interview but can never see beyond that which leads to his self-centered decisions.
Looking at society now leaves us to wonder who else out there is a psychopath. To potentially label someone as a psychopath we could begin at using something simple such as Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. (You can reference this checklist at http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Hare-Psychopathy-Checklist.html). This provides a list of characteristics of a typical psychopath and the higher a person scores, the more likely they are to be a psychopath. Former president Bill Clinton scores very high on the psychopathy checklist, although he is considered one of the best leaders and presidents that America has had. The madness of the presidential race today, offers a few candidates that could also score highly on the checklist. I compared some of the currently running presidential candidates to the list and found that there are a few who meet all of the categories at least once. You can look at this checklist yourself and decide if any of the candidates may have a psychopathic tendency. Given that those who score highly on the list, and have no history of violence, such as Dr. James Fallon, can be simply high-achievers it is not impossible that a few of the presidential candidates are psychopaths. This observation further supports the idea that psychopaths can exist without being serial killers. It is totally up to the person how they channel their psychopathic tendencies, but we know that through at least Dr. Fallon it is possible to be psychopathic and maintain a healthy, mostly normale lifestyle.