“Are you a psychopath? Have I got the career for you!”

They may be click bait, but articles listing professions said to attract the most psychopaths are very popular. At least I couldn’t help myself when I saw the latest from AlterNet, by Kali Holloway, summarizing a now oft-repeated list:

  • CEO
  • Lawyer
  • Media (television/radio)
  • Salesperson
  • Surgeon
  • Journalist
  • Police officer
  • Clergy
  • Chef
  • Civil servants

The origin of this list is psychologist Kevin Dutton’s The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success (2012). According to Holloway, Dutton:

…believes that psychopathy can actually be advantageous in some careers. Using (not the most scientific) survey, he compiled a list of careers in which psychopaths are overrepresented. Mostly, they’re fields where the hallmarks of psychopathy allow people not just to get by but to thrive and succeed.

similar 2013 piece by Kelly Clay in Forbes.com adds more from Dutton:

Dutton has said that ”a number of psychopathic attributes [are] actually more common in business leaders than in so-called disturbed criminals — attributes such as superficial charm, egocentricity, persuasiveness, lack of empathy, independence, and focus.”

For what it’s worth, three occupations on the list surprised me: Journalist, clergy, and chef. (Off the top of my head, I would substitute certain categories of university administrators, but that’s for another post, possibly after retirement.)

In any event, it’s especially distressing that all of these occupations play important roles in our society, and some wield considerable power and influence, both individually and in the aggregate. Even if Dutton’s list is only sort of accurate, this adds up to a lot of damaging behaviors visited upon many unsuspecting targets.


5 responses

  1. To address your surprise and comments, I would say that clergy and school administrators are “Social Servants” but I think they deserve their own group since they outnumber and morally are supposed to outweigh others. Sadly, when there is a flock and a “moral” implication, and an underlying assumption that one has greater something than the flock, it is a set up for bullying. That is why, as a society, we are shocked at seeing bullying – which occurs across the professional spectrum- in some professions more than others, and in fact the most shocking are where it is most rampant. Logic is the enemy of the target.

  2. Dutton’s list of attributes and my experience in higher education leads me to suggest adding Deans and perhaps even presidents of colleges and universities to the list. The big, private, so-called non-profit university where I worked for 26 years migrated consistently toward these qualities as the entire structure became increasingly corporate. The idea that it was a place of high minded pursuit of knowledge increasingly seemed a fiction superimposed on the true pursuit of status and money. Of course, there were many good scholars, professors, and staff but the culture at the dean level and up increasingly reflected Dutton’s description.

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