Psychopaths on Wall Street?
Is your boss egocentric, charming, manipulative and lacking in empathy? Take heed. According to a BBC documentary which aired last night, they could be a psychopath who has found their “perfect environment”.
From the page”‘Are you good or evil’, a BBC Horizon documentary which aired last night, examined what makes humans liable to violence.
The programme charts the research of criminal psychologist Professor Robert Hare, who developed the Pyschopathy Checklist, which is used to diagnose cases of psychopathy and to ascertain the likelihood of violent behaviour, and neuroscientist Professor Jim Fallon.
The two main factors in ascertaining whether an individual is liable to become a psychopath, according to the programme, are: the existence of the so-called ‘warrior gene’, the Monoamine oxidase A enzyme, and a violent childhood.
At this point, the TV cameras scanned to the New York skyline, with the narrator rather dramatically telling viewers: “Scientists could be looking for psychopaths in a place near you.”
Dr Paul Babiak, an industrial and organisational psychologist, is then filmed walking out of Wall Street station, later telling the camera that he met his first psychopath 25 years ago, not in a prison, but in a company in which he was a consultant.
He said: “When I talked to people about it, half thought he was a wonderful leader, the other half of the team members felt quite the opposite, and felt he was the devil incarnate…I called [Professor] Bob Hare, and at the end of the conversation, i’ll never forget it, he said: ‘Yes, you’ve got one'”.
Babiak went on to outline the concept of the “successful psychopath”, explaining that “the very things we’re looking for in our leaders the psychopath can easily mimic.”
While often considered charismatic leaders, the performances of these individuals are often dismal, according to research. He went on to construct his own survey to find out how many of these “successful psychopaths” had infiltrated big business: the answer, according to the narrator, is almost four times as many as the general population.
Babiak said: “They are thrill seekers, they are easily bored. What better place to work than a place that is constantly changing. It is a perfect environment for psychopaths.”
The final word went to Robert Hare.
“The psychopath can actually put themselves inside your skin intellectually, not emotionally. They can tell what you’re thinking, in a sense, they can look at your body language, they listen to what you’re saying, but what they don’t really do is feel what you feel. What this allows them to do is to use the words to manipulate and con and interact with you, without the backage of this ‘I really feel your pain'”.