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Politicians, psychopaths not-so-strange bedfellows?

`Politicians lie for a purpose,' U.K. psychologist says

Reuters - Sept. 5, 1996

LONDON - Politicans and criminal psychopaths share some important behavioral characteristics, a leading British psychologist said yesterday.

"Psychopaths lie easily," said David Cook, a lecturer at Glasgow's Caledonian University. "They get pleasure from duping people whereas politicans lie for a purpose."

Cook and graduate student Lisa Marshall presented the findings of a three-year study on the causes of psychopathic behavior to the British Psychological Society's annual conference in York, in northern England.

They interviewed 105 repeat offenders in Scottish prisons and found a combination of social and biological influences contributed to psychopathic behavior.

"Difficult childhoods tended to be a common thread," Cook said.

He said the purpose of the study was not to discover if politicians were psychopaths, but to understand what triggers the behavior.

"To say politicians are psychopaths is a bit of distortion," Cook said, but he acknowledged that the two groups appear to share some similar behavior patterns.

"Psychopaths tend to be grandiose, they don't feel remorse, they don't feel guilt and they don't maintain stable relationships."

Marshall said people in high powered careers such as politics and stockbroking share enough of those characteristics to be defined as psychopathic.

"They have the characteristics of psychopaths but without the criminal intent," she told the conference.

Cook believes it will be difficult to scientifically prove that to be a successful politician or stockbroker a person needs to be a psychopath.

"The trouble is there just isn't any data," he said. "Politicans and stockbrokers don't like to be studied."

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