In the show, Brain Games, the writers provide a simple six question test that has been scientifically proven to help point out if someone has psychopathic tendencies or not. Talk about a fun party game to do. Here’s the test:
Do you believe the following statements are true?
- Success is based on survival of the fittest.
- When I get frustrated, I release my anger by blowing up.
- Love is overrated.
- For me, what’s right is whatever I can get away with.
- I really admire a clever scam.
- I tell people what they want to hear so that they’ll do what I want them to.
Here is how it’s graded:
- 1-2 you show high levels of compassion
- 3-4 borderline of showing psychopathic tendencies
- 5+ you’re more inclined to harbor psychopathic tendencies
In the demonstration, they asked these questions to a small group and two people scored five or more, one male and one female. The writers of the episode pointed out that this didn’t mean these two people are dangerous maniacs, but it did mean they had decreased activity in the part of the brain responsible for compassion (The supramarginal gyrus, which is part of the cerebral cortex). They also said that people in the psychopath category have superficial charm, impulsiveness, a need for stimulation, a lack of guilt or remorse, and a lack of empathy. The implied message to this, however, is if you have these tendencies, you can be difficult to deal with on a personal level: (spouse) “Don’t you feel bad you had an affair?” (other spouse) “Why? It felt good at the time.” Fortunately, this person who is impulsive and doesn’t feel remorse can also see that having an affair would be counterproductive to them having a charmed life.
I once had someone in my youth group who said to me they never felt bad for anything they did, which was my first taste of someone who had psychopathic tendencies. I’d known them for awhile and they were a decent person. I asked why they didn’t do more terrible things and they simply said “Because it’s not right.” They still understood right from wrong and if they agreed to the rules, they were happy to follow them. It was really interesting because ultimately, we should all be doing things because it’s the right thing to do and not just for fear of guilt. It also proves we can be a decent person without ever feeling bad. Can you imagine how freeing that would be, to never feel bad? Considering my wife says, “I feel bad for (fill in the blank),” almost every day for something, if I had a choice between being her or this other person with psychopathic tendencies, I think I’d rather be the latter.
This idea of not acting out of fear of punishment follows Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development, which I summarize as:
- You do things out of fear and/or to gain something
- You do things because it’s the right the to do
- You see the purpose of the rule, which follows the idea taught in law: There is a difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.
This third stage where we consider the spirit of the law is why Martin Luther King Jr. and his team fought against racism. They saw that the laws that separated peol based on colour were wrong and worked to change them. This third level is why I believe in the Ten Commandment to not murder (a natural idea to follow), but I’m also okay with euthanasia since you’re ending someone’s life because it’s better for the person suffering. The letter of the law says don’t murder, but the spirit is about not hurting people. This third level has been very helpful for me to not feel the level of guilt I used to have, which means I may not have psychopathic tendencies, but like the person in my old youth group, I’m not as held back as someone stuck living in fear of guilt.
The good news is psychopath or not, we all need to continually learn to love better and act accordingly.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)