Psychopath. No sooner is the word out than images of murderers, rapists, suicide bombers and gangsters flash across our minds.
But unlike their box-office counterparts, not all psychopaths are violent, or even criminal. Far from it. In fact, they have a lot of good things going for them. Psychopaths are fearless, confident, charismatic, ruthless and focused – qualities tailor-made for success in twenty-first-century society.
In this groundbreaking adventure into the world of psychopaths, renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton reveals a shocking truth: beneath the hype and the popular characterisation, psychopaths have something to teach us.
Many of us harbor an inner psychopath and perhaps those who don't, should, says Dutton (Split-Second Persuasion), a Cambridge University research psychologist. Through a series of studies and anecdotes, he demonstrates how for every psychopathic stigma there is a comparably compelling virtue: psychopaths often have a greater capacity for focusing, creativity, and even empathy and altruism. All of this information challenges the idea that psychopaths dwell exclusively at society's outskirts; indeed, Dutton finds psychopathic tendencies in everyone from saints to Secret Service agents to the fictional hero James Bond. Dutton is admirably capable of rendering complicated research into readable and engaging prose. Yet there are times when his repeated use of studies most conducted in a university or laboratory setting detracts from his broader analysis of psychopaths within our society. And Dutton's definition of "psychopath" is a little too malleable, often used to refer to a collection of personality traits as opposed to a devastating disorder. We may all possess the potential for the pathology, but our psychopathic paths to success however fascinating are still unclear. B&W illus.