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Are you a psychopath? (statwing.com)
54 points by glaugh on May 3, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

I always have problems with tests like this, and I imagine they work poorly for highly-analytical people. Take this question: "Looking out for myself is my top priority."

I know if I put "strongly agree," it'll be more likely to call me a psychopath. At the same time, I'm thinking, "I look out for people I love - sometimes at risk to myself - but ultimately that's only because they matter to ME. Looking out for others is undeniably motivated by what matters to me."

Aside from the false dichotomies, surely any psychopath with even a shred of intelligence could answer strategically and defeat the test's intended purpose. And they use this in prison hearings?

A few years back I was tangentially involved in a very clever study involving the executive ethics that was designed to address this concern.

Some of the questions were routine business questions, others were general questions about the material they read, and, the meat of the questions were ones on the moral consequences of executive decisions. It was expected that executives would answer all the questions correctly. Instead, the study scored based on how long it took them to answer the moral questions as opposed to the general questions. These scores were then compared against respondents from a control group of non-executives.

EDIT: Gosh! I hope I'm representing her study accurately... "Business Experience and Moral Awareness: When Less May be More", Jennifer Jordan (2005)

So what happened? Citation? I'd like to read the study too.

Its a trick - hes seeing what type of responses he gets based on his waiting for a set amount of time. We are being tested!

Jesus! Cliff hanger of the week!

More info needed ASAP.

OP here, totally agree with this. That question is almost "How honest are you with yourself?"

Takes a bit of scrolling down the page of results[1], but people are actually pretty honest on that one, the mode response is "Agree somewhat" (this finding is from our initial, seed sample).

Also agree about the ease of getting around this. Particularly if you're a psychopath, and are therefore good at being manipulative. The version of this test used in parole settings[2] deals with this by having professional interviewers who use the person's history and records to make assessments, in addition to the interview. (Note that I'm not actually defending that process; part of the point of this and NPR's recent discussions about psychopathy is to stimulate thinking about whether stuff like this should actually be used for important decisions like parole)

[1]: https://www.statwing.com/open/datasets/6beda395392cc4b0115e0...

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist

edit: clarified that results from [1] are from initial seed sample of respondents, not the HN sample.

> Aside from the false dichotomies, surely any psychopath with even a shred of intelligence could answer strategically and defeat the test's intended purpose. And they use this in prison hearings?

Psychology is a science, just like pizza is a vegetable.

But...congress said so? Why would you ever doubt anything a group of highly functioning psychopaths say?

It does have tomato...

The thing is, the way you deal with those questions is part of the test. You say that you look out for other people because they matter to you. But just by saying that, you give away a very important piece of information: other people matter to you. They matter enough that sometimes you'll even take risks for them. That's a reasonably strong indicator of non-psychopathy in and of itself.

I would argue that the intent of the question is asking what matters to you, and on that basis I picked "disagree somewhat".

Of course I'm still just not-executing-my-nonexistent-utility-function, but the point is that said utility function cares about people other than myself. In aggregate, more so than myself.

> I enjoy manipulating other people's feelings.

I've had this exact same thought before. I love manipulating people's feelings in certain ways. I like making people have fun. If you're in a bad mood and someone goes out of their way to try and put you in a good mood they have intentionally manipulated you.

I suspect you enjoy it when other people are enjoying themselves, and that you don't get your enjoyment out of the manipulation itself.

At their expense is usually assumed.

I got 22 out of 48, but I think that's because I almost never use "Strongly" levels, at least not on general statements like that.

That apparently puts me in the 9th decile. Weird, because I usually come up as neutral or chaotic good on alignment tests.

I'm not sure chaotic good is incompatible with psychopathy.

Best comment/game reference ever. :D

The test has less nuance than D&D alignments, that's for sure. Feels like the 'right' answers are all Lawful Good.

I find these profiles amusing because it doesn't matter which way the results turn out, you'll be happy.

Psychopath's don't care what the world calls them. They see it as an advantage. So if you tell a non-psychopath that he isn't a psychopath he is relieved, if you tell a psychopath that he is a psychopath he is also relieved.

So the only way this test can change someone's paradigm is if it is erroneous.

If you actually worry about the possibility of being a psychopath, then you almost certainly are not.

Good point. Although some people might be worried of having some traces of it. Self-knowledge is important.

I believe the original quote to that effect was by Robert Hare and the basic premise of it is that if any part of you worries you might be psychopathic, you're probably not psychopathic enough to worry about it. The worryingly psychopathic don't see psychopathy as something to worry about.

Everyone places somewhere on the spectrum, the question is only where.

Why do you think so?

One of the defining characteristics of being a psychopath is an inability to feel shame or empathy. If you feel bad about being a psychopath, then a.) you care what some online test thinks about you and b.) you are capable of feeling shame, thus by definition you are not a psychopath.

The one exception is if that test or diagnosis makes it impossible for you to achieve your goals. For example, if somebody broadcasts to the world that you're a psychopath and that means you get turned down from jobs or the government starts a manhunt for you, then a psychopath would feel bad. But on a self-report questionnaire on the Internet? That has no consequence on your actual life? If you feel bad about your psychopathy score there, you're almost certainly not a psychopath.

Psychopaths are notoriously difficult to treat. Most of the reason for this is that, by and large, they simply don't want to be cured. This isn't to say that they're enthusiastic about being psychopaths, but they don't see it as being problematic enough to be worth the trouble of changing. In other words, while they may not necessarily want to be psychopaths, they don't particularly want to be not-psychopaths either.

If you're actually worried about being a psychopath, then clearly you want very badly to be a not-psychopath. If it's that important to you, then you're missing one of the critical markers of psychopathy.

So you are giving a DSM 4 diagnosis based on a self evaluation ?

I read the questions (Iphone vs Android? Is that a demographic question??? Really?) and I had a good laugh.

Regardless of the actual accuracy (which I doubt), what exactly is the interest of the result for a person with enough instropection (fancy word for self awareness) to care enough and take the test in the first place?

Those questions made me worry for a moment whether this was some social engineering thing.

I don't think they would collect some dangerous info on those who do the survey, but, for instance, it could be an effort to provide targeted ads to my IP address.

Just want to be really clear that we're not doing any diagnosis, and no matter what you responded we'd never say "That's it, you're a psychopath."

Also perhaps 'demographic' is probably the wrong word on our part, point taken :)

The phone question is a complete non-sequitor...or maybe owning a Windows phone makes someone a psychopath?

All the questions that aren't part of that first big bunch are just fun things we can cut the data on later. In retrospect we weren't terribly clear on that.

Yeah, I was confused when I got to the phone and language questions as well, and was expecting the result to be a joke or something that completely ignored the first set of questions and called me a psychopath for using Android and writing Clojure.

I loved the footnotes to the first statement.

> Complete the scientifically validated test below to see how psychopathic you are relative to others who have taken the test.

The validation given is the Wikipedia page on Psychopathy. Best laugh all day.

First link of that footnote was just to describe the scale, via the Wikipedia article.

Second link (on the word 'validated') was to this article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10497804

I like how it asks what type of phone I use on a scientifically validated test.

Oh boy. Can't wait to see things from the results like "Android users are more psycopathic" or "Ruby developers are less psycopathic than Java developers".

Or the blog post citing it as proof that you really must be crazy to use PHP...

Can someone please explain why one's favorite programming language would have any bearing on whether they're a psychopath?

Maybe it's not, but they would like to see the correlation between psychopathy and programming language.

That's the question they're asking -- albeit in a flawed way, IMO. "Is there a relationship between psychopathy and programming language, phone selection, sex, age, etc?"

They've packaged some pretty standard questions (probably) based on DSM IV criteria that they think will tell them how psychopathic the survey responder is, then they're going to correlate that data with the demographic information at the bottom to say: "Look, Android/iPhone users are, on average, eleventy percent more psychotic than iPhone/Android users!"

It will be dumb, and only people who repost stupid text-on-image-wisdom stuff to their Facebook wall will believe it has any bearing on reality.

Because blog views.

I don't think it does, it's probably being stored for later demographic analysis.

I'm not sure about psychopathy, but could you say with a straight face that you can know that someone's favorite language is brainfuck, and simultaneously not know whether or not they are insane?

I like metalanguages more than I like languages, and I guess that fits nicely with me having a schizoid personality disconnected from reality, as my mental health specialist says. So yes, there could be a link.

Self-diagnosis, especially of mental illness, will always lead to a poor result.

"Do you have a heart condition? Take this online questionnaire and find out!"

the problem i have with these inventories (even the real ones) is that they never ask about degree. the questions are binary and the 'response' is a gradient, when it should be the other way around.

but then again i'm no doctor, i'm just some guy... who always scores really high on these things. (top 5% in this one).

For introspection purposes, I'd rather be given scenarios that I'd have to imagine being through, and then try to feel what I'd honestly do. Then I could possibly enjoy listening to some method of pinning down my internal tendencies. "Imagine yourself with a child on a boat. You have to kill the child for survival, or sacrifice your life for the child..." And then monitor my heartbeat, and possibly do me an fMRI. Sorry if this is a ramble.

I think that the terms psychopath and sociopath are overhyped by media. It's not even recognized by DSM-IV. I've read Hare's book about sociopaths and my impression was that we simply don't have a very clear idea of what constitutes a sociopath. IMHO, normal people can start behaving like sociopaths in certain environments (Stanford prison experiment, members of SS in Nazi germany, etc.).

This feels like clickbait to get people to fill out the details about your job at the bottom.

Test put me as "a little psychopathic." I think this is bogus. The answers to most of those questions were along the lines of "it depends on the specific situation or persons involved" to some extent. Like where it asked if I

Huh, some of those questions have built-in assumptions that are just ... wrong.

Alternatively, just read the first line of Wikipedia's page on psychopathy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy

Great way to mine a bit of data from the HN crowd - the section on programming languages and so forth.

Unless... I hope my choice of "Java" doesn't make me more psychopathic.

So I got [number], but I don't really know if it's good or bad. There is a percentile but no scale of where the psychopaths begin and end. Pretty pointless.

Here's Robert Hare, the expert on this stuff:

"We refer to individuals with a very high concentration of these features (perhaps 1% of the general population) as psychopaths" [1]

So there's no clear cutoff, it's not a bimodal distribution, but if you are in the top 1% (of a professionally administered version of this test) you might be considered a psychopath.

[1] http://www.psychopathysociety.org/images/hare%20commentary%2...

I saw top 5% and did not know how to interpret that either.

Me too! Let's go chop up some people! Hehe J/K... or am I? DUN DUN DUN!

After seeing the results, that must be wrong because women have more psychopathic minds.

Few if any will answer this honestly, and given that smartphone choice was oddly put in there people will game it to make other camps look bad.

Psychopaths know that their driving traits are not perceived well, and they will consciously veer away from such overt questions.

I made the top 5% of respondents. I am a psychopath...

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