Prisoners and corporate executives display the same rate of psychopathic personality traits, a new study finds.
Around 20% of all corporate executives exhibit clinically significant characteristics of psychopaths, according to researchers at Bond University.
Forensic psychologist and study author Nathan Brooks found that 21 percent of 261 corporate professionals exhibit these significant signs.
The characteristics include an inability to empathize, superficiality and insincerity, all of which are associated with the complex condition.
Brooks said that he believes businesses should not screen applicants based solely on their skills, but also on their personality traits.
The “successful psychopaths” who may be inclined to conduct business in an illegal or unethical manner can rise to the top ranks of a company because firms hire in a particular way.
Katarina Fritzon of Bond University and Simon Croom of the University of San Diego joined Mr Brookes in presenting the study at the Australian Psychological Society’s annual meeting in Melbourne.
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“We’ve looked at around 1,000 people, and the supply chain management tudy that involved 261 corporate professionals was the most interesting,” he told ABC news.
The figure “shared similarities to what we would find in a prison population,” Brooks said.
The general population has a psychopath percentage of around 1 per cent, although some studies put that figure as high as 4 per cent.
Scott Lilienfeld, from Atlanta’s Emory University, said that psychopaths “are over-represented in certain occupations: poitics, business, high-risk sport. The research on that is in the preliminary stages.
“Being a psychopath might predispose someone to short-term success. They tend to be charming and flamboyant, which makes it easier to be successful in the short-run, although that may be purchased at expense of long-term failure.”
This is not the first time that psychopathic tendencies in corporate executives has been the subject of scrutiny. Bret Easton Ellis’ book, American Psycho, caused a firestorm of controversy in 1991 when it depicted a Wall Street yuppie who has trouble coming to terms with his murderous nature. The image of a relatively put-together corporate executive who is also a psychopath stuck in the American narrative with the Christian Bale film version of the book.