by Jason Bennetto
September 04, 1996
Politicians and stockbrokers share many of the same characteristics
as criminal psychopaths.
The only difference is
that career high-flyers usually stay within the law. Some could be
defined as "successful psychopaths", according to Lisa Marshall,
a psychologist at Glasgow's Caledonian University.
In a three-year research project (The
Childhood Experiences of Psychopaths - A Retrospective Study of
Familial and Societal Factors) that involved interviewing 105
long-term offenders in Scottish prisons, she discovered that
upbringing appeared to be an important factor in whether a child
became a psychopath, as well as genetic make-up.
To discover which offenders were psychopaths she questioned them and
compared their answers to a widely used list of 20 characteristics
of a psychopath, the annual conference of the British Psychological
Society's criminological and legal division were told.
To be considered a
psychopath, they needed to display a number of the 20 core
Ms Marshall added that
people in some high-powered careers, such as stock-broking and
politics - she did not rule out journalists - had enough of the 20
characteristics to be defined as psychopathic.
psychopaths included people with careers such as stockbrokers,
where a lot of action was happening and where they had a lot of
"They have to be
quite cold and callous. You could say a politician. [They] might
be in control and have power. They are risk-takers.
They have the
characteristics of psychopaths but without the criminal intent."
She added that
psychopaths made good fraudsters.
Of the sample of 105 inmates, 50 were psychopaths - including
murderers and rapists - and the remainder were "normal" criminals.
By questioning them about their childhood and checking the answers
with official records, she discovered that psychopaths had similar
experiences when young.
Her results showed that
most of them had parents who disciplined their children poorly and
were inconsistent in the way they treated them.
For example, they would
severely beat them for bunking off school on one day and laugh about
it the next.
"The children never
knew where they stood," said Ms Marshall.
Parents were often,
hostile towards their children who, in return, were negative about
Neglect was also common.
School was found to be a boring and
bad experience for most psychopaths.
Is the person next to you a psychopath?
Tick as appropriate.
Glib and a con
Fails to accept
responsibility for actions
Has high sense of