The fearless dominance associated with psychopathy may be an important predictor of U.S. presidential performance.
On the Medical Xpress website, Carol Clark relates the following story: "After a gunman shot him in the chest in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt went ahead and delivered a scheduled speech, blood leaking onto his shirt. 'Friends,' he began, "I don't know whether you fully understand that I've just been shot. But it takes more than that to bring down a Bull Moose.'"
Psychological analysis reveals that the boldness often associated with psychopathy may confer advantages over a variety of occupations involving power and prestige, from politics to business, law, athletics and the military.
Clark quotes psychologist Scott Lilienfeld as saying, "Certain psychopathic traits may be like a double-edged sword. Fearless dominance, for example, may contribute to reckless criminality and violence, or to skillful leadership in the face of a crisis.
"The way many people think about mental illness is too cut-and-dried," Lilienfeld says. "Certainly, full-blown psychopathy is maladaptive and undesirable. But what makes the psychopathic personality so interesting is that it's not defined by a single trait, but a constellation of traits.
"A clinical psychopath encompasses myriad characteristics, such as fearless social dominance, self-centered impulsivity, superficial charm, guiltlessness, callousness, dishonesty and immunity to anxiety. Each of these traits lies along a continuum, and all individuals may exhibit one of more of these traits to some degree.
"You can think of it like height and weight. Everyone has some degree of both, and they're continuously distributed in the population."
According to psychologists, Theodore Roosevelt ranked highest in fearless dominance, followed by John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Rutherford Hayes, Zachary Taylor, Bill Clinton, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson and George W. Bush (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to these shows).