You can feel a lot of empathy but be a psychopath and decide to ignore it.

You can feel a lot of empathy but be a psychopath and decide to ignore it.

Empathy, the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others and that the sufferings of others end up being almost our own, is a skill that psychopaths can also exhibit. The difference is that they decide to ignore these signals .

People who score high on the personality traits Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy may empathize, but generally lack the disposition to do so, according to a recent study. In other words, pursuing psychopaths to be more empathetic would not have much of an effect.


The study , published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences , was based on a survey of 278 participants affiliated with the human resources field .

The results showed that people who scored high on the "dark triad" personality traits tended to agree with statements such as "sometimes I don’t feel very sorry for other people when they have problems" and "other people’s misfortunes. people generally don’t care too much for me. "

To assess whether these people had the ability to empathize, all participants completed the test multifaceted empathy (Multifaceted Empathy Test), in which they observed pictures of people expressing different emotions and had to identify which emotion each person was experiencing. Those who scored high on psychopathic traits did as well as everyone else.

But these people express a much lower willingness to help, possibly because it often does not allow them to achieve their goals. The results also showed that cognitive ability was positively associated with the ability to empathize .

The prevailing notion had been that psychopaths are insensitive individuals, incapable of feeling emotions for themselves and therefore incapable of feeling emotions in others. This work, however, suggests that the situation is not that simple. They don’t lack empathy, but they have a switch to turn it on and off . By default it appears to be off.

This leads us to wonder if some treatment could convince psychopaths to keep that switch "on" . New questions are also being raised about what exactly empathy means: Just because psychopaths’ brains can light up similarly when viewing facial expressions, or simply because they can identify certain emotions, it doesn’t mean that they are actually experiencing empathy normally. Or maybe yes.