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Ear to the Ground

1 in 10 Wall Streeters Is a Psychopath: Unconfirmed

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Posted on May 15, 2012
smoothdude (CC BY 2.0)

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.

We apologize for the error and thank Truthdig reader Mairead for bringing it to our attention. —ARK

Dr. John Grohol at Psych Central:

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.”

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment

parasitic lifestyle, that is.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, May 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm Link to this comment

One of the characteristics of this personality disorder noted on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist is parasitic life.  Sounds like every Wall Streeter there ever was!

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By Maani, May 16, 2012 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt:

Wow!  Thanks.  Actually, I’m shocked it repeated, because usually when I hit the submit button twice, I get a message telling me it has already been submitted.  Never got that message this time…

Peace.

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By gerard, May 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

“Psychopathy…is a personality disorder characterized by:
  “a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others”—as illustrated in many TD comments
  “and the rules of society” made clear by their frequent use of gutter language
  “Psychopaths have a lack of empathy and remorse, and have very shallow emotions”—ditto on TD, especially the trolls
  ” They are generally regarded as callous, selfish, dishonest, arrogant, aggressive, impulsive, irresponsible, and hedonistic”—most of the time, especially the gringos
  “Despite this, psychopaths are often superficially charming and can be highly adept at manipulation”—fur shure!
  “There is at most only a weak association between psychopathy and high IQ.”
  Unfortunately, the more I think about it, these things are also true of most Tea Partiers, most of my relatives, most of the people I know, and a few others including President Obama, Chris Hedges and
Robert Scheer. Maybe even I (sometimes) ... ?

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, May 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment

Maani you are accidentally repeating yourself here. I’ll bet it is because of the delay. I’ve found to just wait because pressing it more than once will cause duplication. And to be sure copy it just in case it doesn’t.

Thank you Kay Johnson I know of the book but haven’t yet read it. I will see the movie.

Now where did the number come that there are “4X as many psychopaths in Wall St. than the general population which is between 4% and 6% from just people randomly walking in and being tested?

Where was the information taken that shows that when a psychopath is in charge they do nothing for the business but they are very good at selling themselves? So your company collapses and they walk away with millions of dollars.

If you step back and look at what is given to us as positive is that of the psychopath. You see they want us to act and think like them. There are a certain number of people who are amendable to what the psychopaths say.

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By Maani, May 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

diamond:

Right you are.  Here is the definition of “psychopathy.”  I dare anyone to tell me it does not apply to 10% (or more!) of Wall Streeters:

“Psychopathy…is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others and the rules of society. Psychopaths have a lack of empathy and remorse, and have very shallow emotions. They are generally regarded as callous, selfish, dishonest, arrogant, aggressive, impulsive, irresponsible, and hedonistic. Despite this, psychopaths are often superficially charming and can be highly adept at manipulation. There is at most only a weak association between psychopathy and high IQ.”

Yes, Night-Gaunt, it probably also applies to many corporate titans, and, yes, gerard, even to some journalists.  But based on the definition, it is almost scary how perfectly it applies to the “Wall Street mentality.”

Peace.

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By Maani, May 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

diamond:

Right you are.  Here is the definition of “psychopathy.”  I dare anyone to tell me it does not apply to 10% (or more!) of Wall Streeters:

“Psychopathy…is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others and the rules of society. Psychopaths have a lack of empathy and remorse, and have very shallow emotions. They are generally regarded as callous, selfish, dishonest, arrogant, aggressive, impulsive, irresponsible, and hedonistic. Despite this, psychopaths are often superficially charming and can be highly adept at manipulation. There is at most only a weak association between psychopathy and high IQ.”

Yes, Night-Gaunt, it probably also applies to many corporate titans, and, yes, gerard, even to some journalists.  But based on the definition, it is almost scary how perfectly it applies to the “Wall Street mentality.”

Peace.

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By Maani, May 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment

diamond:

Right you are.  Here is the definition of “psychopathy.”  I dare anyone to tell me it does not apply to 10% (or more!) of Wall Streeters:

“Psychopathy…is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others and the rules of society. Psychopaths have a lack of empathy and remorse, and have very shallow emotions. They are generally regarded as callous, selfish, dishonest, arrogant, aggressive, impulsive, irresponsible, and hedonistic. Despite this, psychopaths are often superficially charming and can be highly adept at manipulation. There is at most only a weak association between psychopathy and high IQ.”

Yes, Night-Gaunt, it probably also applies to many corporate titans, and, yes, gerard, even to some journalists.  But based on the definition, it is almost scary how perfectly it applies to the “Wall Street mentality.”

Peace.

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By Sean2009, May 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment

1 in 10? Obviously an underestimate.

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By gerard, May 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

What, then, is the percentage of journalists who are psychopaths?  And so on and on, till you get down to kindergartners? Keeps the psychologists busy and provides ways to bar people from this or that by labelling them “sick” whereas you, of course, are not.
  Let that be a lesson to all who vote by polls, who run for Congress, who go to law school or business school to learn how to skew figures and lie with “truthiness” such as “The Devil made me do it!” or “God told me what whom to choose!” or “History proves that wars are inevitable.”

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Katie Corbet's avatar

By Katie Corbet, May 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm Link to this comment

The reason it’s “unconfirmed” is because the american populace mostly agrees
with the psychopaths’ motives. If at your core you are part of those that agree
with that approach to society, then of course it will follow that it is
“unconfirmed.” The US since (or soon thereafter) it’s inception was always a
selfish, opportunistic, me-sim, “fuck the other” society. Any one who thinks
otherwise is either delusional or has not looked at the historical record of the
founding fathers. ALL major struggles and victories in the US were very hard
fought and continue to be.

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By Mondo Bizarro, May 16, 2012 at 10:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dr Grohol is as “lazy” as the journalists he attacks in his article. After making
his case that those journalists who claimed that research showed 1 in 10 wall
street employees are psychopaths were not doing their homework, or
misrepresenting the research, Grohol makes the exact same mistake just a few
paragraphs later with the following bold (literally) statement:

“So to be crystal clear here, one out of every ten wall street employees is NOT a
psychopath. At least not according to any actual scientific research.”

No Dr. Grohol, let’s be crystal, crystal clear. The most you can claim here is that
there is no empirical research you are aware of that establishes the incidence of
psychopathy (either research or clinical) among wall street employees. There is
no evidence whatsoever to establish that the number of psychopaths among
wall street employees is 10 percent, or any other percentage. It could even be
higher than ten percent.

We just don’t know, and we includes you.

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By 3am mystic, May 16, 2012 at 5:05 am Link to this comment

Thanks, Diamond.  An “unconfirmed report” does not change just how sick many of the minds are that are running the capitalistic institutions of this country.

But what is even sicker are the working people in this country, usually those who vote Republican, who turn a blind eye to the ugly and diabolical that make up the core of these institutions.  The only thing I know to compare them to are abused children who try to make their abusers love them.  There is something in their mindset that craves to be loved by the rich and powerful, that listens to and is terrified by the stores of the “socialistic boogy-man” that the corporate mob claims to protect them from.

In the Bible the writer James asks the common Christians, “Are not rich people the ones who oppress you?”  We who call ourselves progressive should stop being afraid of the spiritual.  It is time to turn the prophets lose to call out and expose those whose greed is destroying the soul of this country, and to wag the finger of shame in the faces those who offer their backs for them to walk on.

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By Kay Johnson, May 16, 2012 at 4:37 am Link to this comment

For anyone who is interested, this book is worth reading:

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, written by Paul Babiak, Ph.D. and
Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.

Also, if you haven’t already watched the documentary, The Corporation, the film is
a must see! The website is recently updated:

http://www.thecorporation.com/

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, May 15, 2012 at 8:41 pm Link to this comment

Well some of us here like facts over just hyperbole. But some prefer to spread smears. But taking the easy road is well, easy. Maybe they should of instead looked at the upper echelons of some corporations like GE etc.

So there hasn’t been a comprehensive look at psychopathology in Wall St.? They should since they act like one. They like action, excitement and making more money.

I see we need to have professional reporter again. But so many places have gutted their news rooms you almost get the idea they don’t want anyone competent in what remains of their news rooms.

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By OzarkMichael, May 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

I thought the article was about the Occupiers of Wall Street.

An honest and quite understandable mistake.

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By diamond, May 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

Oh, yes, that makes sense. Quibble while Rome burns and even apologize for saying something that is staring everyone in the face. Who else but psychopaths would have invented derivatives in the first place? Who else but psychopaths would pay themselves obscene amounts of money to drive the global economy off a cliff and then pay themselves more obscene amounts of money so they can tiptoe away from the wreckage and live like princes? Have some spine, for God’s sake.

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