Hey, remember that time there was a mass murder and the media blamed it on the shooter's autism? Or all those serial killer movies where the murderer is driven by hallucinations and/or schizophrenia? For some reason our society has decided that the mentally ill are all ticking time bombs, when statistically they're no more dangerous than everyone else. But you know who should scare you?
If you thought "psychopath" was just a general term for "crazy person," you're way off. The reason psychopaths are terrifying is that they're strikingly normal -- but with streaks of impulsiveness, fearlessness, and a cold lack of empathy due to a largish chunk of their brain having come unplugged. And where a sociopath is someone who's out of control enough that you can often spot them, the defining trait of psychopaths is they can walk invisibly among us (think The Joker vs. Patrick Bateman).
Sure, some of them are serial killers. The vast majority are not. If you find that comforting, well, read on ...
You've Probably Crossed Paths With A Psychopath Today
While your chances of living to (briefly) regret showering in some rundown motel as your lifeblood washes down the drain in glorious black-and-white are somewhat less than probable, the odds that you've encountered an honest-to-goodness psycho in your day-to-day activities are pretty much a sure shot. In fact, he might be the dickhole who made you work that extra shift last Saturday.
When we say that psychopaths walk undetected among us, that's because not even experts know how to spot them -- it's not like they're always whistling down the sidewalk with a cloak of human skin draped over their shoulder. The gold standard exam for psychopathy literally requires the testee to be imprisoned, and the next-best test is a long questionnaire that requires a trained professional to properly score. As such, science's best guess places the number of psychopaths in the general population at around one in a hundred.
One in 10 if you live here.
That means that if you live in an average-sized city, you probably bumped into a couple psychopaths the last time you ran out for tacos. Where the numbers get really crazy, though, is when you examine people in certain careers -- that is, middle-management and above -- because that's when the number suddenly quadruples. It seems that those with psychopathic tendencies are genetically pre-wired to become other people's bosses.
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