Q: What's the difference between a politician and a psychopath? A: None

Politicians and stockbrokers share many of the same characteristics as criminal psychopaths. The only difference is that career high-flyers usually stay within the law. Some could be defined as "successful psychopaths", according to Lisa Marshall, a psychologist at Glasgow's Caledonian University.

In a three-year research project that involved interviewing 105 long- term offenders in Scottish prisons, she discovered that upbringing appeared to be an important factor in whether a child became a psychopath, as well as genetic make-up.

To discover which offenders were psychopaths she questioned them and compared their answers to a widely used list of 20 characteristics of a psychopath, the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's criminological and legal division were told. To be considered a psychopath, they needed to display a number of the 20 core characteristics. Ms Marshall added that people in some high-powered careers, such as stockbroking and politics - she did not rule out journalists - had enough of the 20 characteristics to be defined as psychopathic.

She said: "Successful psychopaths included people with careers such as stockbrokers, where a lot of action was happening and where they had a lot of power. "They have to be quite cold and callous. You could say a politician. [They] might be in control and have power. They are risk-takers.They have the characteristics of psychopaths but without the criminal intent."

She added that psychopaths made good fraudsters.

Of the sample of 105 inmates, 50 were psychopaths - including murderers and rapists - and the remainder were "normal" criminals.

By questioning them about their childhood and checking the answers with official records, she discovered that psychopaths had similar experiences when young. Her results showed that most of them had parents who disciplined their children poorly and were inconsistent in the way they treated them. For example, they would severely beat them for bunking off school on one day and laugh about it the next. "The children never knew where they stood," said Ms Marshall.

Parents were often quite hostile towards their children who, in return, were negative about them. Neglect was also common. School was found to be a boring and bad experience for most psychopaths.

Is the person next to you a psychopath?

Tick as appropriate.

o Selfish

o Callous

o Remorseless user of others

o Pathological liar

o Glib and a con artist

o Lacking in remorse

o Shallow

o Fails to accept responsibility for actions

o Has high sense of self-worth

o Is chronically unstable

o Is anti-social

o Has socially deviant lifestyle

o Needs constant stimulation

o Has parasitic lifestyle

o Had childhood problems

o Was juvenile delinquent

o Is irresponsible

o Has unrealistic goals

o Promiscuous

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Surveyor

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Support

£9000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence