Significantly More Female Psychopaths Go Undetected Due to Male-Centric Definitions of Psychopathy

When we hear the word psychopath, subconsciously, we tend to think about characters from movies such as Hannibal and American Psycho, amongst others. Of course, what these two movies share in common is that the main characters of those movies, who also happen to be the antagonists, are males. Whether we like to admit it or not, subconsciously, we’ve been conditioned to believe that psychopaths are mainly males. While the media has certainly played its role, some studies have placed the ratio of male to female psychopaths at 6:1, with some other studies placing the proportion as high as 10:1.

Psychopathic Woman

Psychopathic Woman

A recent study by Dr. Clive Boddy, however, is challenging the current trend and belief. Dr. Clive Boddy is currently a staff at the Anglia Ruskin University, England, and is a research methodologist, focusing mostly on corporate psychopathy and the effects of toxic, psychopathic managers on the corporate world and society at large since 2005. This study, which Dr. Boddy will be presenting at the University’s Cambridge festival later this month, argues that studies may be failing to identify female psychopaths because those studies were largely based on the profile of criminals and male psychopaths. While this new study may appear somewhat like a new idea in the scientific community, another study has previously explained that the reason for the current trend of having such a disproportionate ratio of male to female psychopaths in current scientific data is that most methodologically sound studies have involved more males than females.

A sneak peek into the paper

Dr. Clive Boddy argues that female psychopaths are more manipulative than their male counterparts, using different methods that are not typically associated with psychopathy to achieve their desired aim; this includes deceit, sexually seductive behavior, and so on. These kinds of behaviors are usually not seen as psychopathic when, in reality, these female psychopaths utilize them to their advantage. He explains that the reason for the underreporting of female psychopaths is because of gender bias and that when women display the more typical psychopathic traits such as lack of empathy, insincerity, and aggressiveness, society tends to look the other way. He also argues that when you focus on the core elements of psychopathy, the real ratio between male and female psychopaths becomes 1.2 to 1, which is about five times higher than previously suggested.

According to him, what this all suggests is that women psychopaths tend to express their psychopathic traits atypical from the usual male psychopathic behaviors that we know, so when one designs measures to detect psychopaths while using the typical male psychopathic traits as parameters, it may prove to be difficult identifying female psychopaths. The implications that this has is that females tend to bypass these measures easily and are therefore assumed to be more trustworthy in society, which can have far-reaching consequences.

Clinical significance

Understanding that the proportion of male-to-female psychopaths is almost equal can help us to become aware of subtle psychopathic traits that we tend to overlook because of gender bias, which in turn can help us to realize when we’re being manipulated. This study also has potentially significant importance for organizations around the world because it is vital to recognize that female psychopaths act atypically. As such, those subtle parameters that test for female psychopathy should also be utilized during general assessments of employees and job applicants.

Conclusion

The general belief is that there are more male psychopaths than there are female ones. This trend has been propagated not only by the media but also by actual scientific research. However, this study by Dr. Clive Boddy might just challenge that trend. He argues that one of the reasons for the current trend in the available studies is that the parameters used were heavily biased towards male psychopathic profiles while ignoring female psychopathic traits.

Dr. Clive Boddy will be presenting his research at A.R.U.’s Cambridge campus on March 16 to throw more light on his study.

References

Anglia Ruskin University. (2024, February 27). Female psychopaths ‘more common than we think’. ARU. Retrieved March 11, 2024, from https://www.aru.ac.uk/news/female-psychopaths-more-common-than-we-think

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