Is Batman a Sociopath?

Let's give Bruce Wayne the antisocial personality disorder test.

Flickr / Cooey2ph

The following is an excerpt of The Science of Superheroes and Space Warriors published by HowStuffWorks.

We’ve taken a look at the two main supertechnologies that make Batman go; now let’s look at the man behind the mask. For years, citizens of Gotham City have relied on the masked avenger known as Batman to protect them from the schemes of numerous madmen, including the Joker, the Scarecrow, and Mister Freeze. But Batman’s efforts to defend the city haven’t been without controversy. Critics have accused him of everything from endangering the populace to behaving like a madman. Is it possible that Gotham’s greatest champion is a sociopath, like so many of the inmates he’s sent to Arkham Asylum?

To properly speculate about whether Batman suffers from antisocial personality disorder, you must first look at his basic behavior.

  • Batman costumes himself and engages in vigilante activities to control the Gotham criminal element.
  • He often uses physical force and weapons to subdue those he deems lawbreakers, but he doesn’t fatally injure the people he apprehends.
  • Batman is extremely secretive and generally operates alone, though he’s rumored to have worked alongside the Gotham City police department.
  • Batman shields his features to avoid identification and is most likely a resident of Gotham City himself.

That said, do Batman’s activities make him a candidate for antisocial personality disorder (APD)? Let’s take a look at the criteria from the American Psychiatric Association and see how Batman relates. (Note: He must meet three criteria in order to be diagnosed with APD.)

  • Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest: CHECK. While Batman often works alongside the Gotham City police department and is rumored to have direct communication with Police Commissioner James Gordon, his vigilante acts are technically illegal. While there is no warrant out for his arrest, Batman is not a licensed law-enforcement officer of Gotham City and routinely ignores laws pertaining to vigilante justice.
  • Deceitfulness as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure: NO. Batman simply uses his disguise to conceal his identity, not to benefit maliciously at the expense of others.
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead: NO. Batman displays the opposite tendency: He is a master tactician and doesn’t appear to act on impulse, but rather employs careful strategic planning to confront an issue or situation wherever possible.
  • Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults: CHECK. Batman is reported to have assaulted scores of individuals in his pursuit of information related to criminal activity. He shows heightened aggression with those he deems criminal, using both his body and external weapons to subdue or incapacitate his targets.
  • Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others: NO. Batman has ceased pursuit of a target numerous times to prevent endangering the lives of others. Also, while he constantly places himself in dangerous situations, he never does so in a reckless manner.
  • Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations: NO. Batman’s efforts to thwart the criminal underworld have been consistently strong. Also, while it’s not clear if he has steady employment in his civilian life, he certainly does have a steady stream of income.
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another: NO. Batman has no record of theft. While he will use force and cause pain when apprehending criminals, he is not indifferent to their future well-being, as he doesn’t use more excessive force than necessary.
  • Insensitivity to pain: NO. Batman is extremely sensitive to the pain of Gotham City’s citizens and constantly works to ease the oppression of upright citizens by the underworld. He appears to be driven to help those who cannot help themselves.

By applying these guidelines to the information that’s readily available on Batman, it appears that he exhibits only two symptoms of the disorder. In other words, he doesn’t meet the criteria to be called a sociopath. Of course, without the knowledge of his civilian identity and the cooperation of Batman himself, it’s impossible to validate the accuracy of this profile. Regardless of whether the Batman persona is a sociopath, his secret identity may be.

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