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Psychopathy need not be a disadvantage

Date:
June 3, 2016
Source:
Universität Bonn
Summary:
Persons with marked psychopathy are considered callous, cold, unrepentant, dishonest, and impulsive. At work, therefore, they can endanger the success of their entire team – at least that is the popular conception. But some people with psychopathic traits can also be different, research shows, because not all "psychopaths" are the same. Instead, at least two different facets of personality come together in psychopathy. They can occur together, but do not have to.
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Persons with marked psychopathy are considered callous, cold, unrepentant, dishonest, and impulsive. At work, therefore, they can endanger the success of their entire team -- at least that is the popular conception. But some people with psychopathic traits can also be different; this is shown in an analysis by scientists at the University of Bonn. Because not all "psychopaths" are the same. Instead, at least two different facets of personality come together in psychopathy. They can occur together, but do not have to.

"We speak of independent personality dimensions," explains Nora Schütte of the Institute of Psychology of the University of Bonn. "The first is referred to as fearless dominance. People with this character trait want to get their way, have no fear of the consequences of their actions, and can withstand stress very well. We also speak of primary psychopathy. The second dimension is self-centered impulsivity: Persons with high values here lack an inner brake. Their self-control is thus weak, and they therefore do not have any consideration for others. They are referred to as secondary psychopaths."

Cooperation and helpfulness also possible with psychopaths

Schütte was able, together with her doctoral supervisor Professor Dr. Gerhard Blickle, to show that fearless-dominant employees can be completely inconspicuous in the social area. The study included 161 persons. Among other things, they answered questions about their personality, their social skills, and their work performance. In addition, they were supposed to name two colleagues who in turn would assess the performance of the respective participant and the participant's behavior in the workplace.

Result: Participants whose questionnaires indicated a high level of fearless dominance were nevertheless sometimes described by their colleagues as helpful, cooperative, and pleasant associates. "But that was true only when these primary psychopaths also had marked social skills," says Nora Schütte. "Above all that included skills that are generally important at work -- such as the gift of making others feel well."

For employees with great self-centered impulsivity, the study showed a completely different picture: Their colleagues consistently described them as destructive in their dealings, not very helpful, and weak in performance -- regardless of their social skills. "These persons with high values in secondary psychopathy thus really do have the postulated negative effects upon their work environment," emphasizes Schütte. "And to a much greater degree than when we examine both groups together."

"Schütte and Professor Blickle therefore plead for a differentiated view of the personality disposition "psychopathy." "Even persons with marked psychopathic traits do not necessarily exhibit antisocial behavior," says the occupational psychologist. From her perspective, even the term "psychopathy" -- meaning something like "disease of the soul" -- is misleading. Professor Blickle adds: "Persons with a high degree of fearless dominance can even be selfless heroes in everyday life, such as life-savers, emergency physicians, or firefighters."


Story Source:

Materials provided by Universität Bonn. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. Schutte, G. Blickle, R. E. Frieder, A. Wihler, F. Schnitzler, J. Heupel, I. Zettler. The Role of Interpersonal Influence in Counterbalancing Psychopathic Personality Trait Facets at Work. Journal of Management, 2015; DOI: 10.1177/0149206315607967

Cite This Page:

Universität Bonn. "Psychopathy need not be a disadvantage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160603071957.htm>.
Universität Bonn. (2016, June 3). Psychopathy need not be a disadvantage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160603071957.htm
Universität Bonn. "Psychopathy need not be a disadvantage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160603071957.htm (accessed May 26, 2017).

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