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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935