Am I A Psychopath? I Put Myself To The Test With The Help Of Two Online Personality Inventories
You guys? I fell down a hole lined with personality disorders and I'm finding it a little hard to climb out of. After Tuesday's experiment with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, I started asking myself all sorts of other wacky questions — including this one: Am I psychopath? I mean, I'm pretty sure I'm not… but I could be and not know it. Stranger things have happened, right?
OK, to be fair, my curiosity about personality disorders didn't just show up overnight. I've always been interested in psychology in general and personality disorders in particular; I studied the subjects in college, and my bookshelf is still lined with volumes like Snakes in Suits and Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test . I don't mean to minimize any of these disorders, either; they're serious things, and our mental health system definitely needs work in order to adequately treat them. At the same time, though, sometimes I find myself doing what we all probably do when we practice armchair medicine: I start wondering about whether or not I've got tendencies towards any of the things I've been reading about. Call it WebMD Syndrome, if you like.
Psychopathy, which is also sometimes referred to as sociopathy, is typically characterized by antisocial behavior, diminished empathy, lack of remorse, and often lack of inhibitions. It's kind of a huge, sweeping label, though, so it's not easy to define neatly; I'd recommend picking up The Psychopath Test as an introduction to it all. But in the name of… well, not exactly science; this experiment definitely wasn't the most scientific of ventures. It's more like curiosity: In the name of curiosity, I decided to see how I measured up on two different psychopath tests.
As always, proceed with caution and don't try to self-diagnose. The Internet can be both fun and informative, but when it comes to things like your mental or physical health or well-being, you're better going to the pros instead of Google. Also, I am not an expert; as such, if you want to know more about these two tests or about psychopathy in general, go talk to someone who specializes in this stuff.
That said, though, here's what two different psychopath had to say about me:
The Hare Psychopathy Checklist, or the PCL-R, is used as a diagnostic tool to determine whether or not someone is a psychopath. It's pretty closely guarded; non-medical folk can't easily get a hold of it, unless — as Ronson did during his research for The Psychopath Test — you sign up (and pay for) one of Hare's workshops. As such, the version I took isn't the official one; it's described as being “based on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist and has been converted into a multiple choice format.”
What I do know about the PCL-R is this: It consists of 20 items, each of which is scored on a three-point scale. However, the scoring doesn't depend on self-reported answers — a trained professional uses a combination of file information and interviews with the subject to arrive at each item's score. If your total score is above 30, there's a strong chance you're a psychopath.
The self-reported variation I took is obviously not going to be anywhere near as reliable as a properly administered PCL-R. It was still kind of interesting, though; it consisted of 40 statements and asked me to answer whether I considered them “true” or “false." Here's a sample of the sorts of questions I answered:
1. Do You Ever Get Tongue-Tied?
Oh, goodness, yes. I get tongue-tied all the time.
2. How Often Do You Get Bored?
I learned early on that I'd pretty much never be bored as long as I had something to read nearby. It's a habit that's stood me in good stead over the years.
3. How Emotional Are You?
I'm actually not super emotional, but yeah, I do tend to feel all the feels sometimes.
4. Are You Prone To Impatience?
Yes. Yes I am. I'm trying to work on it, though.
5. How Sympathetic Are You?
This is probably my greatest sin: If someone who has behaved badly in some respect gets their comeuppance, I don't usually feel bad for them. If I were a better person, I would think, “Gee, I know that person hasn't always been the nicest, but they didn't deserve that.” Instead, I tend to think, “Ha. Hahahahahaha.” At least I usually keep my mouth shut about it, though.
6. Would You Enjoy Being A Criminal Mastermind?
I would probably feel guilty about it.
I scored a seven, so phew — I likely don't have psychopathic tendencies. Apparently 5.5 percent of people score higher than 30, though, so five or six out of every hundred people you meet might have them. For the curious, here's what the general curve looks like:
Most people seem to score somewhere between 10 and 20. Good to know.
The LSRP was developed in 1995 by Michael R. Levenson. Like the Narcissistic Personality Inventory we looked at the other day, though, it wasn't created as a diagnostic tool; rather, it's meant for research only. It measures takers on two different scales: Primary psychopathy, which has to do with the affective aspects of it (how much empathy you feel for others, etc.); and secondary psychopathy, which deals with the antisocial aspects of it (rule breaking, whether you put effort towards socially rewarded behavior, etc.).
The LSRP asks you to rank 26 statements on a scale of one to five, with one being “Strongly Disagree” and five being “Strongly Agree.” Although the form is different than PCL-R variation I took, there were still a few similarities: Questions about how prone to boredom you are, whether you regularly manipulate other people, and so on. In the interest of spicing things up a bit, though, here are some of questions that didn't have an analog to the ones I answered on the previous test:
1. Are You A Planner?
Oh goodness, yes, I am a planner. I plan everything in advance.
2. Do You Lie?
I'm a terrible liar, so I wouldn't flat-out fib; I might, however, lie by omission. It depends how much I feel like I'm “supposed” to sell whatever it is I'm selling.
3. What's Causing Your Problems?
No… no, my problems are usually my problems. I can't blame my own screw-ups on other people; I'm the one who screwed up, so duh, of course it's my fault.
4. Do You Worry About “Higher Values?”
Ethics usually play a huge part in why I make the decisions I do; I also think they're something everyone should consider, although I know that that would only happen in an ideal world.
5. How Single-Minded Are You?
Once I start something, I'll keep going with it until it's finished. I get super focused at whatever tasks I have at hand — which has its pluses and minuses. On the one hand, I'm incredibly efficient most of the time; on the other, however, I sometimes accidentally ignore people who try to talk to me while I'm working. I'm not doing it on purpose — I promise — I just get so into things that I tune out everything else. Sorry, everyone I have inadvertently ignored over the years. My bad.
6. How Do You Feel About Scammers?
This is probably why I loved the BBC show Hustle so much. However, if you scam someone in real life, I may think you're clever… but I'll probably also think you're a terrible person. Do with that what you will.
I feel like I scored much, much more highly on the LSRP; although my score for secondary psychopathy was only higher than 2.78 percent of people who have taken it at this particular website, I scored a whopping 35.37 percent higher on primary psychopathy. That's… a little concerning. I have been trying to work on some of my more misanthropic impulse, though, so maybe all is not lost. And I mean, hey — 1.8 is still well below the median, so at least there's that. Here's the overall distribution:
Again, I have to stress that no test you randomly find online should be used for diagnostic purposes. But at the same time, it's kind of interesting to see how you measure up, both on your own and in relation to everyone else who has taken whichever test you've found. I know that I'm a little grouchy and crotchety — and with my results from these two tests underlining it? Well, let's just say that it's a reminder for me to be a little kinder and cut people a little more slack. Life's more fun when you're not pissed off all the time, anyway.