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The Times: American psycho on path to power

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Research suggests that both Trump and Clinton have ruthless traits – but don’t panic.

For Trump supporters it is not exactly unalloyed good news: a psychological study has claimed that their candidate is more psychopathic than Hitler. However, Hillary Clinton voters cannot take too much comfort. The research argues that the Democratic candidate is marginally more psychopathic than Nero — an emperor who gained erotic pleasure by dressing as a wild animal, roaring like a beast and then savaging young women tied to posts.

Kevin Dutton, from the University of Oxford, has produced a league table of psychopathy among leaders, from Gandhi to Henry VIII, taking in the presidential candidates along the way.

While it may not seem a great comment on the state of the West that whoever leads the free world for the next four years will be, for instance, significantly more psychopathic than Oliver Cromwell, the academic said that the results were not as bad as they seemed.

“When most people think of psychopaths they think of Ted Bundy, Hannibal Lecter,” he said. “We are referring though to a distinct subset of traits in a specific context.” These traits include Machiavellianism, coldheartedness, fearlessness and a disregard for social norms.

Dr Dutton, who has written a book The Wisdom of Psychopaths, said: “None of these traits is necessarily problematic in themselves. At the right levels in the right context they can be useful. Certain jobs and professions by their very nature require them higher than average, and politics is absolutely one of those professions.

“Take the skill set needed for a world leader. You have to make tough decisions under a lot of pressure. You face crises ranging from the threats posed by rogue nations to natural disasters, and you’ve got to be prepared to send young people to war in the knowledge they will lose lives. All the while you have to be able to feign empathy with voters that you don’t have, and have supreme self-confidence.”

For his league of historical psychopaths, he enlisted help from biographers and actors who played them on stage or screen, and asked them to fill in a survey, called the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, on their subject’s behalf.

For the US presidential candidates, he got help from a famous news anchor — who has to remain anonymous — who has met the contenders and reported on them for a decade.

Read on for the full article on The Times


By Tom Whipple, Science Editor, The Times

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