Trump Isn’t the First Psychopath in the Oval Office (and He Probably Won’t Be the Last)

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Today is January 20th, 2017. The first day of Donald Trump’s presidency and for most, the first day of the end of the world. We’ve constantly seen him belittle others on Twitter, condone sexual assault, and exert such grandiose assertions about multiple things (having the most diverse cabinet, bringing back jobs that have nothing to do with his position, and declaring himself so charming, that Mexico will listen to him to build a wall costing billions for no good reason, to name a few instances) that it is no wonder most label the “politician” as a psychopath. In fact, many psychologists are exercising their professional opinions, calling Trump not agreeable, neurotic, and unusually aggressive, many traits of psychopathy (you can read one such account here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/the-mind-of-donald-trump/480771/). So how did we actually elect a psychological monster to lead our country? Well it turns out we have done it before.

Researchers from Emory University began a study in 2010 delving into the psychopathic traits of 42 past presidents (up until and including George W. Bush) with the notion that some aspects of psychopathy (fearlessness, interpersonal dominance) can actually be beneficial to the leader of our country.

“Despite the lengthy research tradition linking psychopathy to unsuccessful behavior, a consistent strand of clinical lore has tied psychopathy, or at least certain features of it, to socially successful behavior across a variety of domains, including the business world, politics, and everyday life,” cites Scott O. Lilienfeld, first author of the paper. “These important results raise the possibility that psychopathy, or at least some features of it, are associated with certain aspects of adaptive functioning in workplace settings, although they may also be associated with certain aspects of maladaptive functioning.”

To test whether the presidents in fact shared traits consistent with psychopaths, researchers handed our surveys to the biographers of every US president, people who know the actions and personalities of the presidents best. Instead of answering the questions about themselves, they were asked to compile answers on behalf of their biographical subjects to questions taken from the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, PPI for short. The PPI consists of two factors: fearless dominance (social potency, stress immunity, and fearlessness) and self-centered impulsivity (careful nonplanfuless, impulse nonconformity, Machiavellian egocentricity and blame externalization). The psychologists also asked historians for ratings on presidential performance, leadership, persuasiveness, crisis management skills and Congressional relations to determine if certain traits on the PPI were correlated with a successful presidency.

Without further ado, here are the top psychopathic presidents according to the research:

1.      John F Kennedy

2.      William Clinton

3.      Andrew Jackson

4.      Theodore Roosevelt

5.      Lyndon B Johnson

6.      Franklin D Roosevelt

7.      Chester Arthur

8.      George W Bush

9.      Ronald Reagan

10.   Richard Nixon

11.   Andrew Johnson

12.   James Polk

13.   John Adams

14.   John Tyler

15.   Martin van Buren

16.   Woodrow Wilson

17.   Warren Harding

18.   William Harrison

19.   Benjamin Harrison

20.   James Earl Carter

21.   Zachary Taylor

22.   George Washington

23.   Thomas Jefferson

24.   Ulysses S Grant

25.   John Q Adams

26.   Dwight D Eisenhower

27.   Gerald Ford

28.   Abraham Lincoln

29.   James Garfield

30.   Harry S Truman

31.   Herbert Hoover

32.   Franklin Pierce

33.   James Madison

34.   Calvin Coolidge

35.   George H Bush

36.   Grover Cleveland

37.   James Buchanan

38.   William Taft

39.   Rutherford Hayes

40.   James Monroe

41.   Millard Fillmore

42.   William McKinley

jfk.jpg

The face of a real psychopath

If you are wondering how the hell Nixon didn’t clench the top spot, it boils down to the fact that some aspects of psychopathy are associated with being a better leader. The researchers found that higher levels of fearless dominance were associated with higher approval ratings, better leadership, and more initiative in starting projects. John F. Kennedy scored especially high here for his revolutionary work in the civil rights movement, while more forgettable presidents such as Van Buren scored lower.

In contrast, impulse antisociality ratings were negatively correlated with presidential success. Conversely, they were associated with Congressional impeachments, unsavory character and tolerating unethical behavior. It is no surprise that Bill Clinton snagged the highest rating in this category due to him impeachment and overall “discretions”.

Psychologist Kevin Dutton echoed the results of the study saying “Both great and terrible leaders score higher than the general population for psychopathic traits, but it is the mix of those traits that determines success.”

So how would our sparkly new President do if he were given the PPI? Recently Dr. Dutton took it upon himself to find out, while also contrasting our leader with infamous dictators, monarchs, and conquerors from history. Here is his list:

  1. Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq (with a score of 189)
  2. King Henry VIII, former King of England (178)
  3. Idi Amin, former President of Uganda (176)
  4. Donald Trump (171)
  5. Adolf Hitler, former fuhrer of Nazi Germany (169)
  6. William the Conqueror, former king of England (165)
  7. Saint Paul, apostle (157)
  8. Jesus, son of God (157)
  9. Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of England (155)
  10. Napoleon Bonaparte, French military leader (153)
  11. Hilary Clinton, former Presidential candidate and hope for the future (152)

Yes, you read that correctly: Trump is more psychopathic than Hitler, especially on the traits of social influence and fearlessness. This is especially ironic given that Trump recently stated that the media treats him as if he were living in Nazi Germany:

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Donald may actually be right about something

But if Jesus was enough of a psychopath to make the list, surely it is not all doom and gloom for the incoming administration. Dutton explains that it is all about how these traits work together, stating that “someone who scores highly for being influential, fearless and cold hearted could be a decisive leader who can make dispassionate decisions. If those traits are accompanied by a high score on blaming others, they might be a genocidal demagogue.”

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On second thought, I am going to invest in a bomb shelter after today.

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22823288

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-psychopath-researcher-oxford-university-kevin-dutton-a7204706.html

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3 thoughts on “Trump Isn’t the First Psychopath in the Oval Office (and He Probably Won’t Be the Last)

    • Thanks for your comment! Dutton has a whole advice book on how to utilize the good traits of being a psychopath called the Wisdom of Psychopaths.Many successful businesspeople, lawyers, and journalists have the same personalities as psychopaths. Hopefully he can use these traits for the better good.

      Liked by 1 person

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