Scientific American Blog
To what degree do the modern candidates for President resemble psychopaths?
That is the question Oxford University psychologist Kevin Dutton examined for the September/October issue of Scientific American Mind. Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths among other books, shows that the eight qualities that define psychopathy in the psychological literature are commonly found in top politicians. And some of them are quite useful.
In his article for Mind, Dutton compared Trump, Clinton and runners-up Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders to 16 historical leaders in terms of their scores on the short revised form of the Psychopathic Personality Inventory–a standardized assessment of psychopathic traits. The form was completed on behalf of the candidates by a seasoned political reporter and, for the historical figures, by biographers or other scholars.
[The study] reveals each subject’s scores for psychopathy’s eight component traits. The first three traits—social influence), fearlessness and stress immunity, known collectively as the Fearless Dominance traits—tend to be strong in successful leaders. The next four qualities, collectively called Self-Centered Impulsivity, can be more problematic: Machiavellian Egocentricity, Rebellious Nonconformity, Blame Externalization and Carefree Nonplanfulness. The eighth trait is Coldheartedness, which can be helpful in making tough decisions such as sending a nation’s youth to war but is dangerous in excess.
While there is no set score that officially renders someone a psychopath, it’s revealing to see who scores in the top 20 percent of all people who have been evaluated with the PPI-R.
The verdict on the candidates: Trump, Clinton and Cruz all scored in the upper quintile in Self-Centered Impulsivity and Coldheartedness. Trump landed in the top 20 percent across the board on psychopathy traits, with a total score that placed him between Idi Amin and Adolf Hitler.
A table of scores can be found here