Monday we linked readers to an opinion piece in The New York Times by former Yale professor and literary critic William Deresiewicz. Deresiewicz’s essay and our post led with the claim that 10 percent of Wall Street employees are clinical psychopaths. It looks like that claim is unsubstantiated.
Dr. John Grohol, editor-in-chief of Psych Central, contacted Dr. Robert Hare, the renowned psychologist responsible for much of our current understanding of psychopathy. Hare is the man to whom the trail for the 1-in-10 figure supposedly led. He said his study, which looked at a sample of “corporate professionals” that was not representative of Wall Street, did not produce the figure.
Hare did indeed co-author a paper that examined “corporate psychopathy,” with colleagues Paul Babiak and Craig Neumann (2010). It did not look at the financial services industry specifically. The research used a sample that consisted of 203 corporate professionals from 7 different companies, selected by their companies to participate in management development programs from all areas of industry.
I did what any journalist writing about a famous researcher should do before saying he said something that seems a little “out there” — I contacted Hare to ask him about this data. Here’s his response to the claim that 1 in 10 (10 percent) of financial industry employees is a “psychopath:”
I don’t know who threw out the 10% but it certainly it [sic] did not come from me or my colleagues.
The article to which you refer describes a sample of “203 corporate professionals selected by their companies to participate in management development programs.” The sample was not randomly selected or necessarily representative of managers or executives, or of the corporations in which they work.
The approximately 4% who had a PCL-R score high enough for a research description as psychopathic cannot be be [sic] generalized to the larger population of managers and executives, or to CEOs and the “financial services industry.”