Dutton on the Wisdom of Psychopaths

men behind a window: psychopaths

Image by Niklas Asker on Scientfic American

My current villain seems to be a psychopath, and any doubts I had about writing this character were quelled by an article by Dr. Kevin Dutton in Scientific American: “Wisdom from Psychopaths?” According to Dutton,  like a strong medicine, a little psychopathy can be a good thing, where a lot is deadly (para. 4).

Dutton describes his entry to the maximum-security facility where he has an appointment to visit his psychopath interviewees: “This is the conscienceless inner sanctum of the Chianti-swilling unworried unwell—the preserve of some of the most sinister neurochemistry in the business. The Yorkshire Ripper is in here. So is the Stockwell Strangler. It’s one of the most dangerous buildings on earth.” (para. 10)

A key to understanding my villain is a differently-valued practicality: “The dagger of hard-nosed self-interest may be concealed, rather deftly, under a benevolent cloak of opaque, obfuscatory charm.” (“Winning Smiles,” para. 1).  I am seeing how the villain uses charm, nattering along while making some remarks that the others will have to admit they agreed to, even when it’s inconvenient.  The villain is charming, lying only to solve the problem, not so much as a deception as a practical and straight-forward application of ruthlessness.The question then is what happens when the others around the psychopath begin not to respond to her charm? When she does not get her way?

Therein lies the question of the book and the answer will play itself out to a life and death struggle,a  that is always the way of books and fantasy in particular. But I’m glad to know how her mind operates.

On Duttons’ “Are you a Psychopath?” quiz, I’m below average in psychopathy at 13/33. But then, I’m good at taking tests and answering what I want the tester to believe.


Dutton, K. (2013 January 4), Wisdom from psychopaths? A scientist enters a high-security psychiatric hospital to extract tips and advice from a crowd without a conscience. Mind and brain. Scientific American online. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=wisdom-from-psychopaths&WT.mc_id=SA_CAT_MB_20130109

This entry was posted in Maven II, Ultimate Blog Challenge. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Dutton on the Wisdom of Psychopaths

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.