New York and New Jersey are among the most psychopathic states in the country, according to a new study published on the Social Science Research Network. Those living in the Midwest will be gratified to know that they are surrounded by fewer psychopaths (also fewer economic opportunities, which is probably not a coincidence).
Psychopathy is defined as a constellation of disinhibition, boldness, and meanness, so the authors merely had to figure out which states are the most mean, most bold, and least inhibited. Sounds like New York and New Jersey, doesn’t it? Prior studies had already broken down more innocuous personality traits by state — “low neuroticism and high extraversion” corresponds to boldness, for instance — so ranking U.S. states by levels of psychopathy was simply a matter of finding personality data for each state, and then translating that into a psychopathy ranking.
Interestingly, the District of Columbia took home the prize for most psychopathic state, a finding that may tickle those frustrated by U.S. politics. But the authors maintain that psychopathy in D.C. is, well, predictable. “The presence of psychopaths in District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture…that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere,” they write. Consider the fact that boldness, disinhibition, and meanness are at once the telltale signs of psychopathy, as well as the hallmarks of a savvy politician. (D.C. also has the most journalists per capita, a data point that the psychopaths at Fatherly are choosing to ignore).
Rural areas fared better on the psychopathic spectrum, with the glaring exception of Wyoming. In fact, Wyoming is such an outlier that the authors suspect it may be the product of a statistical error. “One possibility is that the sample size in Wyoming was the smallest of the 49 regions…and this data point is simply incorrect,” according to the study.
Meanwhile, it is important to stress that the authors view psychopathy as a spectrum. These findings do not mean that everyone in New York and New Jersey is a psychopath, or even that D.C. has more psychopaths than West Virginia. Experts now understand that psychopathy is a spectrum—and that the more bold, disinhibited, and mean a person is, the closer he or she may be to bonafide psychopathy. The rankings, then, are not diagnoses. But they do provide an interesting glimpse at the rates of various psychopathic tendencies in various regions.
“While a very small percentage of individuals in any given state may actually be true psychopaths, the level of psychopathy present, on average, within an aggregate population is a distinct research question,” according to the study.