Posted by: John Vandivier | October 3, 2013

Psychopaths, Sociopaths, Politicians and Businessmen

This article covers an application of psychology to economics and politics.

Politicians and certain kinds of economists, investors or businessmen are often cast as cold-hearted psychopaths or sociopaths, but is that fair and accurate?

I think it is and isn’t to some degree. This article can help us understand precisely what degree. The article makes the case that the brain of a psychopath does not register empathetic suffering. This applies both to economics and politics.

In economics I think psychopathy relates more to theft and information corruption than to financial investment. Theft would be a great opportunity for economic benefit if it weren’t for the fact that it hurt someone else. Information manipulation can be used to inflate the perceived value of a good or service beyond the true value by a salesperson or marketer, resulting in an extra benefit at the cost of misinformation to someone else. We should expect to see psychopaths engaging in theft and information manipulation more often than others.

In politics the finding on psychopaths lends itself to polarization and factions. A psychopath would adopt a very “us vs them” mindset because hurting “them” doesn’t register empathy pain. On the other hand, a normal person would “feel the pain” through empathy with the others who may be hurt by a proposal, even someone else very different from him or herself.

In both political and economic situations such as trade, psychopathy can be seen as antithetical to teamwork and cooperation. Given the current political climate of gridlock and partisanship, one might wonder whether there is a predisposition by psychopaths toward pursuit of political power. Maybe the common perception is not too far off.



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