A gutsy study that made the round this year cast leery glances toward Washington, D.C., already the source of so many of this year’s troubles. In an early version of a paper by Southern Methodist University economist Ryan H. Murphy that went public in June, the United States capital topped the list of the states and territories with the highest concentration of psychopaths.
The paper pulls together the data from a study of “Big Five” personality traits per state, published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2013, and another, unpublished study showing how to estimate psychopathy from those traits.
“I was not expecting the degree of Washington, DC’s outlier nature to manifest itself so well in the data, despite my earlier research,” he told Inverse when the paper was released. Murphy’s previous work, together with the work of others, has suggested a disproportionately high level of psychopathic behavior among politicians.
This is #5 on Inverse’s list of the 25 Most WTF stories of 2018.
Psychopathy, as it’s defined by psychologists (it’s often portrayed incorrectly in pop culture), is a “constellation” of specific traits. Here’s how one group of psychopathy researchers put it:
Psychopathic personality (psychopathy) is a constellation of personality traits encompassing superficial charm, egocentricity, dishonesty, guiltlessness, callousness, risk taking, poor impulse control, and, according to many authors, fearlessness, social dominance, and immunity to anxiety.
Murphy’s list of states with high and low concentrations of people with some or all of these traits (the data he used measured psychopathy on a sliding scale) was damning. Washington, DC, topped the list, followed by Connecticut, California, and New Jersey, with a tie between New York and Wyoming for fifth. The lowest density of psychopaths was apparently in West Virginia, followed by Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico.
“I also did not expect West Virginia to be “best” (least psychopathic) since it is almost never ‘best’ in various rankings of states,” said Murphy.
Though Washington, DC topped the list, its connection to psychopathy doesn’t come down to any specific political party, said Murphy, pointing out that previous research has shown a link between psychopathy and politicians in general. The trend that stands out from the data is that psychopaths tend to congregate in major cities — which the top five states are full of.
“This follows from theory,” said Murphy. “Psychopaths prefer both opportunities for power and the anonymity that a city can offer.” As he further refines his research over the next year, all we can do is hope that DC doesn’t give him any more evidence to prove him correct.
As 2018 draws to a close, Inverse is counting down the 25 stories that made us go WTF. Some are gross, some are amazing, and some are just, well, WTF. In our ranking from least to most WTF, this has been #5. Read the original article here.
Watch the full 25 WTF countdown in the video below.