Horrible Bosses
Horrible Bosses

Fantasising about killing your boss is normal, psychologist says

And it turns out it's a positive thing

Katie O'Malley
Friday 07 June 2019 11:02
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If you've ever thought about murdering your boss, fear not, as not only is it more common than you think but it’s actually a good thing, a leading psychologist claims.

According to Dr Julia Shaw, an honorary research associate at University College London, more than half of people have at one time or another imagined killing a person they know.

However, the criminal psychologist said that fantasising about the details of murdering a boss isn’t entirely a negative process as the thought alone makes employees feel empathy for their superiors.

Dr Shaw made the claims at the Cheltenham Science Festival, saying: "Popular targets are your boss, ex-partners – the list goes on, you can picture where your fantasies might go."

“Now, of course most of us don’t engage in murder ever, luckily," she added.

Dr Shaw described murder fantasies as an empathy exercise, describing the process: “You think things through, you imagine what the consequences would be like, you imagine what it might be like to actually go through with it — and guess what your decision generally is?"

“'I don’t want to do that, because those are not the consequences I would like'."

The expert said that human beings have evolved intelligence that enables them to plan and predict outcomes that can arise from specific behaviours.

"Fantasies and empathy exercises are critical to making good decisions, particularly in situations where you don't have much time. While things are pretty good – that's the time to do empathy exercises.

"Now is the time to wrestle with your morality and do a health check, because you don't know what the future brings and you don't know what kind of quick decisions you might make later."

According to the NHS, a psychopath is someone considered to have a severe form of antisocial personality disorder that can result in impulsive, irresponsible, and often criminal behaviour.

Two businesspersons talking in the office

Psychopaths are thought to make up as much as roughly one percent of the general population.

Meanwhile, a 2011 study from the University of Denver suggested that psychopaths are thought to constitute up to a quarter of the prison population.

The study’s findings also suggested that psychopaths are four to eight times more likely to violently reoffend compared to non-psychopaths, and are resistant to most forms of treatment.

Dr Shaw also argued that it is wrong to describe most murderers as “evil”, saying that some commit the crime as a result of a loss of control or unintentionally.

The expert explained: “It’s a cop-out, it’s lazy — calling someone evil is saying, 'I’m done with this conversation, this person is subjectively bad, I don’t need to empathise with them, I don’t need to understand them I don’t need to figure out why I might be similar to them in any way'.”

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Dr Shaw’s claims come weeks after a leading psychologist claimed that children should be screened for “psychopathic behaviours” when they come into contact with support services.

Dr John Marshall, head of forensic clinical psychology at the NHS State Hospital in Scotland, made the comments after assessing Scottish 16-year-old Aaron Campbell, who was jailed for life in March for Alesha MacPhail’s murder.

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