Q: What's the difference between a politician and a psychopath? A: None
Politicians and stockbrokers share many of the same characteristics as criminal psychopaths. The only difference is that career high-flyers usually stay within the law. Some could be defined as "successful psychopaths", according to Lisa Marshall, a psychologist at Glasgow's Caledonian University.
In a three-year research project that involved interviewing 105 long- term offenders in Scottish prisons, she discovered that upbringing appeared to be an important factor in whether a child became a psychopath, as well as genetic make-up.
To discover which offenders were psychopaths she questioned them and compared their answers to a widely used list of 20 characteristics of a psychopath, the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's criminological and legal division were told. To be considered a psychopath, they needed to display a number of the 20 core characteristics. Ms Marshall added that people in some high-powered careers, such as stockbroking and politics - she did not rule out journalists - had enough of the 20 characteristics to be defined as psychopathic.
She said: "Successful psychopaths included people with careers such as stockbrokers, where a lot of action was happening and where they had a lot of power. "They have to be quite cold and callous. You could say a politician. [They] might be in control and have power. They are risk-takers.They have the characteristics of psychopaths but without the criminal intent."
She added that psychopaths made good fraudsters.
Of the sample of 105 inmates, 50 were psychopaths - including murderers and rapists - and the remainder were "normal" criminals.