Although they comprise only 1% of the population, our fascination with psychopaths in the media confirm that they are indeed a big deal.
And from the Joker to Hannibal Lecter, to John Doe and Anton Chigurh, Hollywood is rife with psychotic serial killer storylines that show individuals who lack empathy and have an impulsive desire to hurt others. Christian Bale's character Patrick Bateman in American Psycho is a formidable example:
Yet do you know what actually makes a psychopath tick in the first place? Brush up your knowledge with the following facts:
1. Psychopaths can't recognize fear
Due to a dysfunction in the brain, amygdala that controls the fear response, these individuals cannot recognize fear. Additionally, research claims that a psychopath's brain also produces more dopamine—a neurotransmitter—than a normal person.
It's believed that this is behind the the reason why they are obsessed with getting their own way at the expense of others.
2. They may, or may not, have an empathy switch
While some are able to keep their empathy switch on, others may suffer from any feelings of remorse altogether.
3. A certain list of professions attract psychopaths
According to research, these include those working in the police force, as lawyers or as surgeons. Yet, you'll be shocked to find out that above all, psychopaths are attracted to top positions in business.
In fact, in a 2010 study, 1 in 25 executives in management programs were found to be full-on psychopaths. So next time your boss gives you a hard time at work, this is something that you might want to consider...
4. Internet trolls are considered to be psychopaths
A survey conducted in Canada revealed that people who send malicious messages on the Internet, otherwise known as "trolls," show a similar number of characteristics to people who have been diagnosed with psychopathy.
In particular, they bear a resemblance to the "Dark Tetrad," a dangerous combination of four personality traits such as sadism, Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy. These people also enjoy inflicting pain on others and have a lack of remorse.
5. They have a weakened sense of smell
Psychopaths have lower levels of functioning in their orbital cortices, which affects the ability to detect smell.
6. Psychopaths tend to speak in a similar way
For example, they often slip up when they first open their mouths to speak and say "uh" and "um" a lot to appear more normal. And many of their sentences include subordinate conjunctions such as "because" and "so that."
Interestingly, when in prison, whilst most prisoners would speak about their families and needing to satisfy their religious beliefs, psychos are usually more focused on basic needs such as food, drink and money.
7. They also tend to have a similar set of characteristics
Some of these include having a rather superficial charm, being very attracted to nature, being highly sexual and keeping exceptionally clean.
Interestingly, most also believe they are smarter and more powerful than the majority of the human race.
8. You don't always have to be dangerous to be a psychopath
In fact, there is such a thing as a "social psychopath." These are people who have a psychopath's genetic make-up but who behave within the accepted norms of society.
Neuroscientist James Fallon identifies himself as one of these people, having a psychopath's brain and a troubling family history of seven murderers, including being a distant relation to axe serial killer Lizzie Borden.
However, despite accepting his genetic make up, Fallon uses his behavior to achieve positive things. For example, he takes on leadership positions in his community, is overly competitive at work, and goes out of his way to help others. He says:
“I get a buzz from look-what-I-can-do-for-the-world as opposed to being a real good guy.”
Despite this though, he admits he can be incredibly manipulative and has trouble with empathy. For example, he claims that he feels the same way about his little granddaughter as he does about random passers-by on the street.