Being A Psychopath Can Have Advantages, According To A Study

The tendency to lie, manipulate and not empathize can have positive effects for oneself.


When we talk about people with a high degree of psychopathy, we often think of individuals who are prone to crime and destroy everything they touch. However, traits linked to a preference for manipulation of others may have been an evolutionary advantage.

In fact, recent research has found evidence that psychopathy is reproductively positive in certain settings. After all, what serves to perpetuate genes does not have to mean that society improves.

Psychopathy as an advantage

Psychopaths tend to be seen as people with a mental disorder, individuals in whom there is something that “does not work well.” However, as a behavioral pattern, whether something works or not works depends on whether it fits the context and, although we can decide whether something is appropriate or not depending on its morality, there is another possible criterion: does it help to survive and reproduce?

Psychopathy may be expressed through undesirable actions, such as lying, emotional manipulation or even abuse, but the harsh truth is that, in theory, this does not have to mean that you will live less, as you would expect someone who has a serious illness or, as it is commonly understood, a personality disorder.

Greater possibility of having offspring?

If psychopathy is an evolutionarily adaptive trait, that means that the variants of the genes that cause it to appear (the alleles of psychopathy) are treated favorably by natural selection, at least in some contexts.

For this research, a sample of 181 inmates from prisons in Serbia was used, and they were administered psychological tests to measure psychopathic traits (among the prison population, these characteristics tend to be more present than among the rest of humanity).

The results obtained showed a curious trend: the prisoners with the highest scores in psychopathy were more likely to have more sons or daughters. Specifically, the psychological characteristics that seemed most advantageous when transmitting genes were the tendency to manipulation and inflated self-image, while insensitivity and coldness were only so in men who had lived in harsh contexts and with a lot of competition .

Why can it be advantageous?

This result does not indicate that being a psychopath is a good thing or that it helps to find a partner and have more children, without more. From the point of view of evolution, the value of a personal characteristic always depends on the place where you live and the type of relationships you have with other individuals.

Just as large and strong animals do not survive in a place with little food, in some places psychopaths will have more trouble adapting. The question is to know if, in practice, the most frequent is that the contexts that give privileged treatment to psychopathy are more or less frequent.

It must be taken into account that, in current contexts, most people in Western countries live in places where cooperation and non-aggression pacts prevail.

Thus, there is reason to believe that in general terms, people with high psychopathy should not have it easier to spread their genes (and, specifically, those linked to the propensity to develop these behavior patterns).

Create more collaborative partnerships

This study serves to draw attention to an important fact: what seems morally undesirable to us does not have to be “punished ” by nature.

If we do not create societies in which cooperation or good behavior is rewarded, manipulation, deception and individualism may be one more option to live through, something as valid as altruism. That is why we must do our part to make, together, that being collaborative is worthwhile.

There is no automatic mechanism that leads to punishing bad behavior, but there are ways to create contexts in which we all take care of each other. If the human being is famous for modifying the environment to adapt it to his needs, he should also be famous for changing the context in which he lives to modify the very society in which he lives.

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