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Snakes in Suits

When Psychopaths Go to Work

By Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare
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Snakes in Suits by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare

Snakes in Suits (2006) examines what happens when a psychopath doesn’t wind up in jail, but instead puts on a suit and gets a job. The book outlines the tactics these predators use, how they damage companies and how you can protect yourself.

Key idea 1 of 9

Not all psychopaths are violent serial killers.

For most people, the mention of the word “psychopath” evokes images of serial killers and evil villains from movies, like the disturbing character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. But how accurate of a depiction is that, really?

Some one percent of the general population fit the criteria of the personality disorder known as psychopathy. We will dive into the traits of such individuals soon, but first we must acknowledge that there is some truth to the Hollywood image: psychopaths do tend to be more violent and prone to criminality than the general population.

Though they represent only one percent of the general population, they are responsible for over half the serious and violent crimes that occur in society. Their violence is especially chilling since it tends to lack any emotional component; rather it's usually a cold means to an end.

However, not all psychopaths are violent criminals and, in fact, the definition and diagnosis of psychopathy is a complicated and difficult matter. Perhaps the best description can be extracted from a diagnostic tool called the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R).

The checklist states that psychopathic behavior is exhibited as abnormalities in four domains of personality. In each domain, the specific psychopathic traits can be identified as follows:

In the interpersonal domain, psychopaths are superficial, deceitful and grandiose.

In the emotional domain, psychopaths lack empathy, remorse and the ability to take any responsibility for their actions.

In the lifestyle domain, psychopaths tend to lack life goals and act in a very irresponsible and impulsive way in general.

Finally, in the antisocial domain, psychopaths typically have a history of lacking behavioral control, evidenced by delinquency in adolescence and adulthood.

These traits paint a compelling picture of remorseless, impulsive predators who take what they want and care little for the rules of society.

However, a word of caution: readers should not jump to conclusions about themselves or someone else being a psychopath based on these criteria, as only qualified professionals can make such diagnoses, and even perfectly normal people may exhibit several of these traits.

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