How can you tell your partner, neighbor or family member is a psychopathic serial killer waiting to happen? Well, according to one 'genuine psychological test' developed by 'a famous American psychologist,' it could be as simple as asking them one relatively basic riddle.
This psychological test involves a story about a girl, and depending in your answer, it will apparently reveal whether you, or someone else, has psychopathic tendencies. It goes like this:
A girl is at the funeral of her own mother and she meets a man who she does not know or has met before.
She immediately falls in love with the man, believing him to be her dream partner. However, a few days later, the girl kills her own sister.
Question: What is her motive for killing her sister?
According to the originators of the apparent test, there is one answer that is always given by serial killers and psychopaths. Have a think about your own answer and then hit the spoiler tags below for the 'serial killer answer.'
Answer: She was hoping the man would appear at her sister's funeral too.
Is This Test Accurate?
This 'test' appeared on the internet around 2002 and since then has done the rounds on various paranormal and pseudo-psychology websites. However, as is probably clear to many of you, there is no actual proof that this test can identify serial killers or psychopaths.
Alarm bells should always start ringing when the names of individuals, such as the 'famous American psychologist,' are not provided as sources. But apart from that, the test is also based on a fallacy - that serial killers and psychopaths have different problem-solving skills than the rest of us.
According to snopes.com, most sociopaths and psychopaths would find this question and answer as illogical as a mentally healthy person, and would usually provide better alternatives to seeing the man again (asking family members, talking directly to the man, etc.). Furthermore, their answers to the question would likely be the same as any mainstream individual (she thought her sister was involved with the man, love rivalry, etc.). Kevin Dutton, the author of a comprehensive book on the minds of psychopaths, actually asked some real psychopaths this question, one replied: "I might be nuts but I'm not stupid."
In fact, Dutton discovers that psychopaths actually have a lot in common with some of the most celebrated members of society. Their lack of empathy, limited emotional range and extreme focus are often benefits to those who work in situations in which death is common - including soldiers and brain surgeons. Moreover, he suggests the very attributes which make up a psychopath are also those which make a successful capitalist. According to a Guardian review of his book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths:
"Dutton draws on a 2005 study that compared the profiles of business leaders with those of hospitalized criminals to reveal that a number of psychopathic attributes were arguably more common in the boardroom than the padded cell: notably superficial charm, egocentricity, independence and restricted focus. The key difference was that the MBAs and CEOs were encouraged to exhibit these qualities in social rather than antisocial contexts."
Generally, as a society, it is claimed we are also becoming more 'psychopathic' and 'sociopathic' - often as a result of desensitization to suffering. Modern mass media, in particular news reporting, may have rendered Western audiences unimpassioned observers or spectators. For example, academic and politician Michael Ignatieff, claims Western reactions to the 1990s war in Kosovo was not much different to the watching of sport, stating that the citizens of the West:
"...were mobilized not as combatants, but as spectators. The war was a spectacle: it aroused the emotions in the intense but shallow way that sports do. The events in question were as remote from their essential concerns as a football game, and even though the game was in deadly earnest, the deaths were mostly hidden, and above all, someone else’s."
A study by Dr. Sara H. Konrath, Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta-Analysis, also claimed the rise of social media and personal technology also had a role in decreasing empathy, most notably by increasing and rewarding narcissism. Konrath's editorial on Genius.com states:
For example, in a 2006 survey, 81% of 18- to 25-year-olds said that getting rich was among their generation’s most important goals; 64% named it as the most important goal of all. In contrast, only 30% chose helping others who need help (Pew Research Center, 2007).
That is around a 48% decline since 1979.
Ultimately, however, Dutton concludes that society needs it's share of psychopaths to function properly - around 10% to be accurate. Emotional detachment can often be an important asset, perhaps not personally, but professionally.
In any case, if you did provide the 'serial killer answer' to the question above, don't section yourself in an asylum for the criminally insane just yet.