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February 28, 2012

The Dehumanizing of "The Other" Continues Apace. [krakatoa]

Canadian Psychologist Robert Hare says 1 percenters are more likely to be psychopaths.

He claims that while psychopaths are represented by 1% of society in general, people in the financial service industry are 10% more likely to be one.

NOTE: I prefer the term "sociopath" to "psychopath", but in the interest of brevity and keeping things simple, I'll use Hare's term herein.

ALSO: I am making some assumptions about what is actually in the source paper. [sarc] Like all good science, this paper is only available to those who pay to see it. [/sarc]

"Taken to the extreme, some traders become compulsive gamblers. The behavior is often latent--neither they nor anyone else knows they have this propensity. They hide small losses and keep doubling their position to try to eliminate them. When those trades turn sour, they dig themselves into a deeper hole and deny ay wrongdoing or failure. They rationalize by telling themselves that poor investment decisions are an occupational hazard. They lie to family members or others to conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling and commit forgery, fraud, theft, and embezzlement to support their habit.

These "financial psychopaths" generally lack empathy and interest in what other people feel or think. At the same time, they display an abundance of charm, charisma, intelligence, credentials, an unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, adn manipulation, and a drive for thrill seeking."

My comments on this aren't from the perspective of a shrink - I certainly am not one. Didn't even stay in a Holiday Inn last night.

However, I do have the advantage of not being a practitioner of a quasi-science, nor an academic whose grant money relies on delivering results that can help briefly mute the cacophonous cognitive dissonance tolling incessantly in the brain-pans of the elite. And neither am I the coiner of the term "psychopath" with a vested interest in getting it recognized as a valid psychological diagnosis like, say Robert Hare is.

And perhaps most critically: I'm not a Canadian.

There is a world of difference between someone exhibiting situational psychopathic behavior, and someone who is truly a psychopath.

The former can be found in virtually any competitive environment. For example: Athletes, politicians, even academic grant applicants are trained either by experience or directly via mentors that empathizing with your rivals reduces one's competitive edge. Those who are best at their particular profession tend to be able to exclude emotion as a critical component of their decision-making processes.

The author of the study claims his subjects' psychopathy is "latent". I can't help but suspect that the author wanted to find psychopaths in the 1% (contra the mythological 99% coined by the Occupy hordes), and ignored data suggesting the situational-specific behavior was learned and in some cases and not at all unexpectedly, part of that behavior leeched into the non-professional aspects of their lives. Short of brain trauma however, it is vanishingly rare for someone to lose all sense of empathy for others, which is the hallmark of a psychopath.

Evidence against these assertions is that these "financial psychopaths" are coming to a shrink in the first place. A true psychopath needs absolution from neither priest nor psychologist.

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posted by Open Blogger at 03:44 PM

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