Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The psychopath test

Psychopaths are not (necessarily) serial killers, unlike what we're used to hearing in the news. Psychopathy is the personality trait of someone who lacks empathy. This can translate in the present as a disregard for other individuals and what happens to them. But it can also translate in the future as a lack of guilt and remorse for acting in a way that is hurtful, abusive or damaging to others.

Being a psychopath is not a purely bad thing. Well, it is with respect to interacting with other humans, and establishing a balanced relationship in which everyone treats others as they would want to be treated. But the sheer disregard for other people's hurt is beneficial in some situations like doing what's needed to reach a goal or firing an employee or any kind of situation where someone else could be overwhelmed and paralyzed by emotions. When you compare corporations with people (but I'm not discussing Citizens United today), they display all the traits of a psychopath. And real psychopaths are rewarded for being cold-hearted and/or throwing other people under the bus to promote themselves.

One very basic test to evaluate if you might be a psychopath yourself, is the following question. In a hospital, there are 5 patients, all of whom have 1 failing organ (different organ from patient to patient) that will lead them to death if they don't get a transplantation. Would you think it a good idea to take 1 healthy man and sacrifice this healthy man's life in order to save the life of the 5 patients? This is a conflicting question and that's all the difficulty of this test: making a difficult choice, trying our gut feeling against a dilemma where there's no good outcome... or rather where the right choice is the one with the worst outcome. If your choice was to sacrifice the healthy man's life, you very well might be a psychopath.

But there are various degrees to psychopathy. And I found the Levenson test interesting because it is quick but still probably rich enough to derive a somewhat accurate evaluation. And it will will tell you how your results compare to the rest of the population.
My score was on the bottom-right edge of the green area, so: i'm your average Joe


  1. The first patient who Die let me save one other patient. The second patient who Die let me save the last patient.
    And I ask no thing to the healthy man. Let him enjoy a healthy life!

    1. With this reasoning, the first patient to die allows us to save all the others.

      But evidently, this circumvents the question which is not meant to test our intelligence at solving medical problems but rather forcing us to take a moral or ethical stand.


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