Are Psychopaths Really More Intelligent Than the Rest of Us?
When I watched the Netflix series Mindhunter, I was teleported back to a much darker and more spine-chilling corner of the society. As the series unfolds, you are led into a twisting discovery of the behaviors of psychopaths, murderers and sexual predators.
While some praise it to be one of David Flincher’s mind-blowing flicks, others dismiss it due to its plodding and excessively verbose angle, I don’t know where it came from, but a weird thought sprang to my mind: Are psychopaths more intelligent than the average people?
Do We Truly Understand What a Psychopath Really Is?
The defining features of psychopathy shaped by most people come from what they see in movies and TV shows. While there is no denying that these are not credible sources, Norman Bates in Psycho to Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs has led to a shocking increase in people’s fascination towards psychopathic behaviors and individuals.
However, do we really understand what a psychopath really is?
It’s hard to admit the truth, but like me, many have been living with the preconceived notion that psychopaths have to be people who have or could cut anyone up with a chainsaw.
This somewhere might make up only one quarter of the truth.
Every time I come across these “beliefs”, I like to refer back to an answer given in my previous post:
“Psychopath are unemotional social predators with the ability to manipulate, using violence if necessary, to get what they want. These agents of evil possess absolutely no sense of guilt, fear or shame and will always disregard the rules of the society in which they live.”
The interesting thing about psychopathy is that there are many things at play and if I had to choose the most challenging and thrilling one, it would be their skillful manipulation.
There’s no need to go into long storytelling. It’s been proven a lot of times that master manipulators and game players. Wearing the mask of manipulation, they can use any tricks in their book – lies, cherry-picked facts, half-truths, making up “secrets” – to achieve their goals.
In a skillful manner, they can easily manipulate just anybody, playing on or feigning empathy and sympathy.
If the definition of psychopaths includes the abuse of interpersonal characteristics, that is the art of perverting, converting and subverting real meanings, facts and truths into unbelievable lies, can this prove their high intelligence response?
Psychopaths and High Intelligence
So, let’s look at this idea closely.
Language or communication – call it however you want – is a gift that if exploited to its full potential can result in unimaginable wonders. Now, the abuse of semantics by psychopaths is seen by some as a very clever trick that not many can do.
If we go more into details, you’d learn that the connection between psychopathy and intelligence was also based on a point raised by Kevin Dutton’s “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us about Success” and the Hare psychopath checklist. It was noted that CEOs are positions that can attract psychopaths.
See, a CEO can display charisma, charm, a single-minded focus and an incredible intelligence. If you think about it, it’s not impossible for psychopaths to have the same ingredients.
That leadership trait and amazing smartness found in a CEO can be a psychopathic trait.
Does that mean Hannibal Lecter could play the role of a winning CEO?
Now, let’s consider another notion.
I’ve seen this answer somewhere: “Our emotional and highly sensitive responses impair our abilities to explore the depth of our intelligent brains.”
Knowing that the emotions of psychopaths are muted – they cannot experience or feel basic emotions like love, anger, sadness, fear, remorse or happiness – is it fair to say that they are much more intelligent beings because they don’t have an overload of emotions clouding their judgment and logical side?
But, what if I tell you this picture of an evil emotionless predator being highly intelligent was only shaped by popular culture?
Is It a Myth?
Building an answer for this question on Silence of the lambs or even on highly publicized cases like that of Ted Bundy is a really terrible basis for a generalization on a topic like psychopathy.
The blame often goes to popular culture where “evil characters” were often associated with intelligence.
Interesting enough, another reason why “high intelligence” was often attached with psychopaths was all due to people’s misunderstanding of emotional coldness as a link with super intelligence.
Besides, there is not one peer-reviewed scientific study that shows a direct correlation between psychopathy and high intelligence. Yet.
From my point of view, you could say psychopaths are like all other human beings, some falling in the range of “genius” while others in the “not-so-intelligent.” But, what if I go deep into the rabbit hole and reveal that some studies even found that an average psychopath can be even less intelligent than an average neurotypical?