Friday, September 2, 2011

Quote of the day

This makes it virtually impossible to tell the difference between a psychopath and a genuinely good boss,

FLG isn't sure he buys this. For a short while, okay, maybe FLG agrees, but in the long run you'll know if your boss is a psychopath. FLG is less certain that one can determine their subordinate is a psychopath.


Withywindle said...

If a pyschopath does everything a good leader is supposed to do, why isn't he a good leader? And if he mimics decent behavior all his life, why isn't he a decent person? Any Machiavellian knows that appearance is everything.

Andrew Stevens said...

I've always found it amusing the stunning lack of empathy so many so-called "good people" have for those who lack empathy, when the latter are pretty clearly about the most pitiable people on the face of the planet.

The psychological profession doesn't even use the term psychopath any more. It is now referred to as anti-social personality disorder. It should be said that, if a no-empathy person behaves as Withywindle suggests, it is not correct to diagnose him as having anti-social personality disorder (or psychopathy if you prefer). Such a diagnosis requires bad behavior. This makes a hash of the claim that you can be married to a psychopath for 20 years and not know it. If that's the case, the person is not a psychopath, merely a low or no-empathy individual. Simon Baron-Cohen would tell us (and I agree) that often no-empathy individuals are "super-moral," using systematizing and logic to arrive at a moral system which they adhere to more consistently than normal-empathy folks adhere to theirs. Articles like this one which label all no-empathy individuals with the pejorative "psychopath" are offensive and scare-mongering. I agree with FLG - if your boss genuinely has anti-social personality disorder, he won't be able to hide it for very long from his subordinates, and the boss will not be an effective leader.

FLG said...


Your comment reminded me of Adam Smith, who argues that morality derives from our sympathy for others, and at its most basic from a very visceral sort of sympathy. It seems sort of weird to think of somebody who lacks this sort of intuition would adhere more stringently to their moral code, but it actually makes a lot of sense to me.

Andrew Stevens said...

I've never bought that particular view of the Scottish Enlightenment. Through introspection, I don't seem to be using emotional responses when I engage in moralizing or moral reasoning, but I could be unusual in that regard. I would argue that emotions are an evolutionary proxy for moral behavior, perhaps useful, but the intellectual moral sense is superior. In general, people have more empathy for puppies than they do for their peers merely because puppies are cuter. Our intellectual moral sense is what tells us this is wrong. In one study, researchers showed that after seeing an interview with a sick child, people were more willing to move her up a waitlist for treatment above needier people (some of them also children), while the control group, whose empathy was not engaged, were less likely. Again, it is our intellectual moral sense which tells us this is wrong. Empathy seems to preference in-groups over out-groups. And so forth.

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