Beautiful Minds

Musings on the many paths to greatness.

Psychotic Is Not the Same as Psychopathic

The difference between psychotic and psychopathic
Dave Niose
This post is a response to Why Corporations Are Psychotic by David Niose

In his recent interesting blog post, "Why corporations are psychotic", David Niose  writes:

Corporations are psychotic. If corporations are indeed "persons," their mental condition can accurately be described as pathological. Corporations have no innate moral impulses, and in fact they exist solely for the purpose of making money. As such, these "persons" are systemically driven to do whatever is necessary to increase revenues and profits, with no regard for ethical issues that might nag real people.

Niose makes a common mistake by conflating psychotic with psychopathy. Unfortunately, this only adds to erroneous and dangerous stereotypes about people who have psychosis. Not all stereotypes are true, and this one certainly is not.

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Psychosis is an umbrella term to describe the mental state of losing touch with reality. A number of things can cause psychosis, from schizophrenia to depression to sleep deprivation.

Psychopathy, is a personality disorder which consists of a lack of empathy, impulsivity, recklessness, scrupulousness, callousness, and lying.

Based on the content of his article, I think a more appropriate title would be "Why corporations are psychopathic".

As I have mentioned before, there are a lot of inaccurate perceptions of psychotic people as immoral people. This is simply not true. While some bad people such as serial killers have psychotic episodes (and those are the ones that end up on the news), the vast majority of psychotic individuals are not immoral. In fact, many people who are psychosis-prone contribute positively to society. Without psychosis, art would suck and imagination would run dry. Psychosis says nothing about morality, whereas psychopathy does.

This is one of the shortest blog posts I've ever written, but I felt this had to be said, before inaccurate stereotypes are further perpetuated.

***UPDATE*** I appreciate Leon Seltzer's reply to my reply, in which he comes up with a very reasonable middle ground between my position and Niose's. However, in one of his notes, he objects to my statement about the linkage between psychosis and art and remarks that losing touch with reality is not a rerequisite for art and saying so is insulting to artists. I clarify what I meant here.

© 2011 by Scott Barry Kaufman

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Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. is a cognitive psychologist at NYU interested in intelligence and creativity development. He is the author of forthcoming Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined.

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