Psychologists in focus; Kevin Dutton

Dutton takes the view that we often miss what should be the obvious anomaly sidelined by the charm – But is it all smoke and fingers?

Kevin Dutton is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford.  He is specialises in the study of Psychopaths, but rather than the traditional forensic route Dutton takes interest how the ‘symptoms’ of psychopathy can have an advantage in a modern world that is fraught with stressors.  The psychopath often described as  having a selection of specific traits such as cunning and manipulativeness, lack of remorse or guilt, callousness and lack of empathy, charm, grandiose estimation of self, need for stimulation and pathological lying.  Not the best characteristics to put on a C.V.  It is included in the DSM under the classification of Antisocial Personality Disorder.   However in his book The Wisdom of Psychopaths Dutton discusses how these traits are rewarded in society particularly as resistance to stress where others feel the pressure, psychopaths are able to thrive. Self doubt and fear can impair decision making, the psychopath is arguably resistant to this – but would you want one as your boss?  Dutton is clear that this is far from the glorification of violent psychopaths (stating only a small minority of psychopaths are violent) rather acknowledging that the ‘spectrum of psychopathy‘ which all people can be measured and the right characteristics in the right circumstances can be a force for good – hence his term ‘the good psychopath‘.

Here is a quote from Dutton’s book the Wisdom of  Psychopaths, from James Geraghty cited as one of the UK’s leading neurosurgeons.

I have no compassion for those whom I operate on. That is a luxury I simply cannot afford. In the theatre I am reborn: as a cold, heartless machine, totally at one with scalpel, drill and saw. When you’re cutting loose and cheating death high above the snowline of the brain, feelings aren’t fit for purpose. Emotion is entropy, and seriously bad for business. I’ve hunted it down to extinction over the years.”

Do we need people like this in such high stakes roles where emotion maybe a hindrance rather than a help?  Or is compassion an essential characteristic that allows a surgeon to consider the long term impact of their work?

In fact jobs that Psychopaths are believed to flourish in are;

Kevin Dutton

1. CEO
2. Lawyer
3. Media (Television/Radio)
4. Salesperson
5. Surgeon
6. Journalist
7. Police officer
8. Clergy person
9. Chef
10. Civil servant

here’s the list of occupations with the lowest rates of psychopathy:

1. Carer
2. Nurse
3. Therapist
4. Craftsperson
5. Beautician/Stylist
6. Charity worker
7. Teacher
8. Creative artist
9. Doctor
10. Accountant

At what age can psychopathy develop?  A recent study in the journal of abnormal child psychology argues that reliable cues of psychopathy can be observed as young as the age of 3 and in some cases younger.

 “We essentially found that preschoolers that show impaired development of conscience are deficient in how they process emotions, similar to what we find in older adolescent and adult populations with the same problems. These children are poorer at recognising other people’s emotional expressions, and images depicting others in distress don’t capture their attention like it does for typically developing children as young as age three,” Dr Kimonis

Read an article reviewing the ideas here from the Independent.  

Could you spot a Psychopath?  Take the test here.

An online study with over 2 1/2 million British participants found the following results relating to psychopathic tendencies.


Dutton discusses how Psychopaths process ethical dilemmas differently.

Follow Kevin Dutton on twitter


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