Hitler

Adolf Hitler was probably one of the most evil figures in history. Yet, most psychiatrists believe that he was not a psychopath.

Thus, Dr. Fritz Redlich, a neurologist and psychiatrist, published the book titled “Hitler: Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet” in which he concluded that even though the Nazi leader had many psychiatric symptoms, such as extreme paranoia, narcissism, anxiety, depression, hypochondria and many more, he most likely was not really mentally ill.

Dr. Redlich wrote that Hitler’s paranoid delusions “could be viewed as a symptom of mental disorder, but most of the personality functioned more than adequately.”

US Presidents

A 2012 study looked at 42 US presidents up to and including George W. Bush, seeking for psychopathic tendencies and examining their link with successful political leadership. The results were curious. What do you think, who was the biggest psychopath among the US presidents?

Look at the list below to find out (the higher the score in brackets is, the higher the presidents’ psychopathic tendencies are):

  1. Theodore Roosevelt (1.462)
  2. John F. Kennedy (1.408)
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1.079)
  4. Ronald Reagan (.912)
  5. Rutherford B. Hayes (.824)
  6. Zachary Taylor (.671)
  7. Bill Clinton (.569)
  8. Martin Van Buren (.554)
  9. Andrew Jackson (.516)
  10. George W. Bush (.391)

So, it turns out that Theodore Roosevelt and JFK had the highest psychopathic tendencies among the US presidents. At the same time, some of the American less-effective leaders are among the least psychopathic, such as Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush. Interesting.

The study

More precisely, the study was only focused on one aspect of psychopathy – the so-called fearless dominance. It is something like a “bright side” of being a psychopath and includes a number of traits, such as charm, stress immunity, the absence of fear and boldness.

Self-centered impulsivity, the other (and more negative) aspect of psychopathy, was not taken into account in this study as it showed no correlation with presidential performance. This group of psychopathic traits is mainly based on the lack of empathy towards others and the detachment from considering the consequences of one’s actions.

To measure the link between fearless dominance and political leadership, the researchers looked at factors such as the presidents’ intellectual brilliance, war heroism, the need for power and how long they were in charge. The results of this analysis showed that the ‘greatest’ presidents had higher levels of fearless dominance.

These findings indicate that the boldness associated with psychopathy is an important but heretofore neglected predictor of presidential performance, and suggest that certain features of psychopathy are tied to successful interpersonal behavior,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2012.

So, it seems that having psychopathic tendencies doesn’t equal to being evil, and vice versa. Yet, in order to make a successful political career, some psychopathy is a must.

Why don’t psychiatrists examine the psychopathic tendencies of modern politicians? I’m sure they would find many individuals with the full spectrum of psychopathic traits, especially egocentricity and the lack of empathy. What do you think?