Thu
Sep 28 2017 12:00pm

Are YOU a Psychopath?

Are you a psychopath?

Dr. Evelyn Talbot, the psychiatrist heroine of my suspense series—which began with Hanover House and Her Darkest Nightmare and now continues with Hello Again on October 3—studies psychopaths at a remote facility in Alaska. Creating this unusual prison where so many inmates are serial killers has been a fascinating project for me, probably because Evelyn’s desire to know why these people do what they do—and why they are so difficult to detect and treat—mirrors my own. Although I don’t have Evelyn’s education in psychology, I have done a great deal of research in order to help me create believable characters with this personality disorder.

Psychopaths are almost always portrayed as sadistic monsters, so you might be surprised to learn that some are “subclinical,” meaning they don’t kill people or get in trouble with the law. They are prone to wrecking lives in more subtle ways, however (i.e., using people, sabotaging people, manipulating people, blaming people, etc.), and there are a lot of them out there. Statistics indicate that psychopaths comprise about 4% of the population. That means, if you live in the United States, you have a greater chance of being a psychopath than of getting colon cancer! 

Here are six criteria that might indicate whether you have at least some antisocial traits.

1. Do you take your coffee black? 

Do you take your coffee black?

A study from the University of Innsbruck in Austria found that people who like their coffee black are more likely to have psychopathic tendencies. Actually, the study tested “bitter foods” like coffee, but out of the 1000 people tested, there was a strong correlation between those who exhibit antisocial personality traits and those who prefer strong bitter flavors (such as coffee, beer, tonic water, and radishes). Earlier studies seem to back this up. A dislike of bitter tastes is linked to greater emotional sensitivity in humans and rats. 

2. Do you show lower levels of activity in the prefrontal regions of your brain? 

Josh Buckholtz, associate professor of psychology at Harvard University, mapped the connections between the ventral striatum and other regions of the brain in 49 psychopaths. He found the connections between the striatum and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex were much weaker in people with psychopathy.

“We need the prefrontal cortex to make prospective judgments on how an action will affect us in the future—if I do this, then this bad thing will happen... If you break that connection in anyone, they’re going to start making bad choices because they won’t have the information that would otherwise guide their decision-making to more adaptive ends.”

He claims this is why psychopaths commit an astonishing amount of crime—they lack the ability to make good decisions.

3. To what extent, on a scale of 1 – 7, do you agree with this statement, “I am a narcissist.” (1 being that you aren’t very narcissistic and 7 being that you are very narcissistic.) 

If you answered that you are very narcissistic, you’re probably right. According to Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University and the author of a study that claims to be able to determine whether you are a psychopath from only the above question: 

“People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact. You can ask them directly because they don’t see narcissism as a negative quality—they believe they are superior to other people and are fine with saying that publicly.”

I am a narcissist.

Extreme narcissism is definitely one of the defining traits of a psychopath!

4. Are you a CEO, lawyer, salesman or surgeon? 

According to an article published in Forbes Magazine, psychopaths “display a fearless dominance over other people,” so they are perfect for these careers. The ones I’ve already named might not surprise you, but journalist, chef, and even clergyman made the list of top ten careers that attract the most psychopaths!

5. Were you a callous and unemotional child? 

Dr. Eva Kimonis, a psychologist from the University of New South Wales, led an international research team who evaluated more than 200 children between three and six years old for these traits. The results, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, revealed that 10 percent of the children tested showed signs of CU traits, including lack of empathy, affection, and remorse. According to Dr. Kimonis:

“We essentially found that preschoolers that show impaired development of conscience are deficient in how they process emotions, similar to what we find in older adolescent and adult populations with the same problems. These children are poorer at recognizing other people’s emotional expressions, and images depicting others in distress don’t capture their attention like it does for typically developing children as young as age three.”

6. Can you turn your empathy on and off? 

For quite some time, it was believed that psychopaths felt no empathy. This was proven to be the case through brain imaging. In one study, 24 convicted psychopaths were transferred to a Dutch forensic clinic where activity in the part of the brain that registers empathy was measured while they were shown movies of people hurting each other. Their scans revealed much less empathy than that of the normal control group. But when the psychopaths were asked to identify with the people who were being hurt, the activity level in this part of their brains rose to the point that it became difficult to tell their scans apart from that of the controls. In other words, psychopaths can feel empathy if they choose to engage in that way. It just isn’t their default.

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you might be a little worried. But if that’s the case, you’re probably not a psychopath. Psychopaths don’t feel the same worry, anxiety, and fear as normal people, which is why it’s so easy for them to do such terrible things.

Also, many of these studies have their critics. Just because you like your coffee black might not indicate anything. Not only do tastes change over time, “bitterness” is subjective. And if you have lower levels of activity in the prefrontal regions of your brain? Brain activity can vary widely within normal people. We certainly aren’t at the point where we can look at someone’s brain scan and claim, on that evidence alone, that they are or will become dangerous. 

Still, the research in this field is fascinating, and I hope you’ll find Evelyn Talbot’s work with the serial killers in Hanover House just as intriguing. In Hello Again, she must match wits not only with a new inmate aptly nicknamed the Zombie Maker but she might have to contend with the serial killer who nearly took her life when she was only sixteen (hence the title).

Read an excerpt from Hello Again!

 

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

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Brenda Novak is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of sixty books. A five-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Silver Bullet. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.6 million.

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111 comments
John Quiring
1. kamandi
Sounds interesting, I'd love a copy to check out.
Gordon Bingham
4. gordonbingham
Having supervised on probation a number of clinically diagnosed psychopaths I found this a reminder of that career. Look forward to this title.
Sally Schmidt
9. bigcootie
I think the answer is no, ha ha ha. Can't wait for this one to be released, couldn't put down the first 2 in the series.
Christine Smiga
10. ceecee76
Thank you for the chance to win this book.
13. smitten
Another great read!!
16. Mama2
Would make a good little buzz quiz. The career path characteristic was interesting though.
Sharon Haas
17. kazul
That check list was a little too close to home!
Lori Provenzano
19. Mountainesque
Glad that (usually) liking my coffee black isn't causative or definitive.
Michael Carter
20. rubydog
I think I'm safe.
Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Thanks!
Barbara Bibel
21. bbibel
Definitely not a psychopath but I have undoubtedly encountered a few among the many library patrons that I havr assisted.
Gwen Ellington
22. mamadonie02
I need to read this because I love bitter tastes!
Joy Isley
23. JOYE
Interesting list. I do like black coffee but did not meet any of the other criteria.
yeah
L
25. LStirling
I have the first two books and would really love to get the third. I may not be a pyschopath, but I definitely find them very interesting.
Paula Francisco
27. Pjf
Ok, I'm a lawyer who takes my coffee black! I guess if you look hard enough anyone can be anything. Interesting article though, can't wait to read the book!
30. fritter
Like her books a lot.
32. Rebecca B
This sounds like a good read. And the list of tendencies for psychopaths is disturbing!
Peter W. Horton Jr.
33. mosaix
I am a winner! Not a Psychopath??? Yes!
Esther Whatley
34. ewhatley
I'm OK but now I wonder about a couple of my friends.
Esther Whatley
34. ewhatley
I'm OK but now I wonder about a couple of my friends.
Carol Lawman
35. juju2cat
Say what?? I love strong coffee and I'm a bit on the quiet side although not really anti-social and I'm hoping I'm not harboring any psychopathic tendencies....but maybe you never know....haha~
Tracy Gibson
36. tracygib
I'm very intrigued by this. I have been a Brenda Novak fan for a long time, and have always been fascinated in psychopathic behavior. Can't wait to read! And I passed the test, luckily. (I like a LOT of sugar and creamer in my coffee. lol)
pearl berger
40. beach
Thanks for this fascinating book giveaway.
Gloria Walshver
45. glorywa65
Anxious to read Brenda's new book, she is a terrific writer
ellie lewis
47. italia
Great author and captivating feature.
susan beamon
48. susanbeamon
I failed the phycopath test. That doesn't make me feel better.
Jackie Wisherd
49. JackieW
Woukd love to read this book. Miss Novak is a great writer.
Deb Philippon
51. DebP
Interesting. But the most psychopathic person I*ve ever worked with had a major sweet tooth.
Kiera Thomas
52. Elderwand
This is a cool test, but I don't think I'm a psychopath lol. Anyways, Novak's book looks like an awesome mystery!
Kimberly Dull
55. kimdulina
I look forward to reading this. I've read her stuff before and enjoyed it.
56. Jennifer L.
Can't wait to read this.
Kris Kaminski
59. kjkski
Oh great failed another test! wait that's good right!
Kris Kaminski
60. kjkski
Oh great failed another test! wait that's good right!
Anita Yancey
64. rosewood780
I love Brenda's books, and this is one I really want to read. Thanks for this chance.
Kay Zarrugh
65. mskayz
Unfortunately I think we all kniw people who fit into this category. I once read that 1 in 30 people are psychopaths. They just don't all act out in harnful ways that get noticed by authorities.
66. Becky Kinard
This sounds like another great book by Brenda Novak! Thank you for the giveaway.
Becky Kinard
67. beckykinard
This sounds like another great book by Brenda Novak! Thank you for the giveaway.
Olivia Farr
68. onemused
This sounds like a fascinating book! Looks like I'm not a sociopath- interesting article!
Marjorie Manharth
71. mmanharth
Fascinating. Wish I'd stayed with my first love - psychology.
Marjorie Manharth
72. mmanharth
Fascinating. Wish I'd stayed with my first love - psychology.
73. Karen Dandurant
Not a psychopath myself, but as a news writer, I definitely have encountered a few.
Sandy Klocinski
74. attea2d
Sounds awesome! I look forward to reading this. Thanks for the opportunity to win
Vernon Luckert
75. vl4095
I am definitely not a psychopath - well, maybe a have a few tendencies in that direction. OK, more than a few. Maybe I could be. Alright; I am a psychopath, but only on weekends and never on a full moon. On a full moon I am a werewolf.
Tiffany Teachout
79. tiff1113
Good to know... I am NOT a psychopath. Thanks for the opportunity giveaway opportunity.
Karen Oliver
80. washington62
I Love Brenda Novak! I would love to win the giveaway!
Toni Manning
81. Jenizarie
Are You A Psychopath blog had some new and interesting information about the signs of psychopathy. I would love to try Brenda Novak's book.
84. Jody
Do I need to worry? My husband prefers his coffee black, likes beer and radishes (not together).
Andrew Beck
85. queerbec
Thhis woman can certainlny write gritty stories. Good for her! And for readers who enjoy such stories (like me!)
Susan Smoaks
86. susansmoaks
i am looking forward to reading this. it sounds interesting.
88. mprimo1
Looking forward to reading this book
Yvonne Bressani
89. glraines
That makes for an interesting list.

The book also sounds like an interesting read.
Yvonne Bressani
90. glraines
That makes for an interesting list.

The book also sounds like an interesting read.
Sheryl Jeffries
91. sheryl123
I would love to read this book it sounds great. I'm extremely happy that I flunked the psychopathic test!
92. Priscilla P.
I love these kinds of stories. They give me the woolies!
Priscilla Pursell
93. pp9cf7
I love these kinds of stories. They give me the woolies!
Karen Hester
94. rosalba
Interesting list of signs of psychopathy
Ed Nemmers
95. saturdaynightfever
I would like to read the work of Brenda Novak.

theyyyguy@yahoo.com
Jerry Marquardt
99. versatileer
I cannot wait to read this! I would like to give thanks for all your really great writings . I wish the best in keeping up the good work in the future.
100. Stephanie Liske
I'm sure this would confirm my thoughts that my husband is a narcisist.
Buddy Garrett
103. garrettsambo
It's an interesting subject. The book sounds like a great read.
Carl White
104. CarlWhiteEntry
Are YOU a Psychopath?

Of course, I am watching you now.
Tracee Imai
106. Arf2-D2
@CarlWhite
ha ha ha

Since you are not a psychologist, do you worry that you may not have done enough research?
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