The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

How to Spot a Psychopath

Do you know anyone who fits these traits? To my great relief, I realize, I don’t

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I love finding—or inventing—ways to categorize people. I agree with philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who observed, “Every classification throws light on something.”

I’ve devised several of these, and of the ones I’ve come up with myself, my favorites are the Abstainer/Moderator distinction and the four Rubin Tendencies.

Because of this interest, I was intrigued to come across the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, a personality test for traits  associated with psychopathy.

I think that we can all agree that one thing that does not contribute to a happy life is a relationship with a psychopath. But what traits are associated with psychopaths?

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The test seeks to measure:

Social influence — a tendency to seem charming, persuasive

Fearlessness — a tendency to embrace risk without fear or anxiety

Stress immunity — stays cool in difficult circumstances

Machiavellian egocentricity — a tendency to consider only personal needs

Rebellious nonconformity — a tendency to neglect of social conventions and regulations

Blame externalization — a tendency to assign blame for problems or obstacles to other people

Carefree lack of planning — limited willingness to make future plans

Cold-heartedness — no guilt or remorse

People throw around the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” quite frequently, but these are technical terms with very specific meanings. That said, if there’s someone in your life who seems to show many of the above traits, it might be useful to reflect on that.

Do you know anyone who fits these traits? To my great relief, I realize, I don’t.

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Also ...

  • In my research for Before and After, I've identified eighteen strategies for changing habits, and one of the most well-known and popular is the Strategy of Monitoring. If, like me,  you get a kick out of monitoring yourself, check out Quantified Self--"self knowledge through numbers."

  • Want to volunteer as a Super-Fan? From time to time, I'll send you a little extra something, or ask for your help--nothing too onerous, I promise. Sign up here.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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