When we think of a psychopath, we tend to think of movie characters like Hannibal Lecter or Dexter. But in reality most psychopaths are not violent criminals at all. They live among us, undetected, even next door. Experts believe that up to 2 percent of the male population are psychopaths. The successful and undetected psychopath could be your neighbor, in the workplace, or even your partner.
“Psychopaths are every bit as rational as any human being, if not more so, because they don’t have the noise of human emotion,’’ says Dr. Stephen Porter, Professor of Forensic Psychology at the University of British Columbia. “Psychopaths do know right from wrong in the ‘cognitive’ or rational sense, and even do as well on moral-reasoning tasks in the lab setting as the rest of us.” Psychopaths are masters at mimicking normal human emotion, they use charisma, manipulation and intimidation to fulfill their needs. No wonder they are so hard to detect.
Ironically, the ruthless winner-take-all ethos of North American culture nurtures and rewards psychopathy. Charming, manipulative and ruthless, these are the snakes in suits who don’t rob the bank, but instead become a director of it. Those successful psychopaths — the ones who attain prominent positions in society — may be over-represented in certain occupations, such as politics, entertainment and business.
The Psychopath Next Door is a chilling account and provocative examination of those in our midst who act without conscience.