Human Characteristics: To What Extent Can We Learn From Psychopaths?

First off, you have to answer this question:

  • There is a train going at full speed. It is going towards a group of people. Exactly 5 people. Press the button and it will not kill them, but the train will then change track towards one person and kill that person. What will you do?

This question was presented by the late philosopher Philippa Foot

Now back to the thesis. Human Characteristics: To What Extent Can We Learn From Psychopaths?  Before I try to figure out if we can learn anything from psychopaths I will first go through the agenda.



First the question #1 after that, an simple explanation about what a psychopath is, and then going into depth on what we can learn from them like happiness and success. The two last things on the agenda is another question #2 and then the conclusion.


So what is a psychopath?.



A good example of a cannibalistic psychopath is the fictional character Hannibal Lecter.                                                

Well a psychopath is basically a person with a personality disorder. They are usually antisocial, not like an introvert or in a extrovert manner, but that they tend to go against social norms. For example doing something illegal.

The reason why they tend to be antisocial is because it is like a characteristic to them. They are ruthless, fearless, focus, charisma, coolheaded under pressure and they have a special charm to them. All these characteristics makes a psychopath.

All lot of people think that a person is either psychopath or not, and that there is no middle ground, but there is. Psychopaths normally have no empathy, but you can train you’re self to be able to have a conscious empathy, and that basically means that you can control when to feel emotion (does not include pain).


How can a psychopath possibly learn you to be happy, when they are not empathetic? This is where the conscious empathy comes in. By learning some of the characteristics that psychopaths have, we normal people can actually learn to be happier.

We all have heard Nike’s slogan, “Just do it”. Not a lot of people actually know that the slogan is inspired from a psychopath called Gary Gilmore. The thing about psychopaths is that they are fearless, which makes them do things normal people would not do or would be to afraid to do.

An example is that we might want to ask our boss for a raise, but we would be afraid to ask, because he might declined. A person with the characteristic of fearless would have not hesitated at all. An other example is to ask out the girl you like, but you do not because you are afraid that she will say no.

A other thing psychopaths are able to is to live in the moment. By being fearless and focused, they are able to forget about things in the past and focus on the present and the future. People normally think about things they have done in the past, that has had an negativ effect on them or other people. Like not helping someone out, when you could have.

This might seem impossible to be able to achieve without having those characteristics, but monks actually have the same mentality when meditating. When meditating they become more focused and have an increased rationality.

Being able to take away emotion from actions, will make a person be able to do things without putting feelings in to it. A lot of people procrastinate, which is really bad. It takes away your ability to be able to do work, but taking away emotion will make it really easy to do the work.


How can psychopaths be successful, when they are so violent?. Well a lot of people do not know that not all psychopaths are actually violent, but a lot of them are just like normal people and not aggressiv at all.







A lot of successful people actually have similar traits to psychopaths. If we think about it the world is actually run by a bunch of psychopaths. World leaders are charismatic and has a charm, that makes them seem different from others. Surgeons are fearless, calm under pressure and are very focused.

This is something I call a psychopath mix. Which basically means that to be able to use the characteristics that are similar to psychopaths. One will need to have some of the characteristics turned down while some are fully engaged.

If all of the characteristics are turned up, you will basically have a psychopath. When some are turned down and tuned to fit what you want, you will have someone that is better at for example being a surgeon then the rest. A surgeon that is basically a cut above the others.

Question #2

  • Same scenario, but you are standing on a bridge and instead of pressing a button you will have to push a person on to the track. What will you do?

This was question was first presented by the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson

So the second question would be harder to actually answer. The reason to why the second question is harder to answer is because it is more personal. When it is more personal, the core center of empathy, also known as the hot part of empathy is used.

The first question however uses the cold part of empathy. The cold basically decides reasoning for things and is a part of rational thought. The question in it self is impersonal because you are not physically pushing a person over to his/her death.


There is a lot we can learn from psychopaths, specifically regarding emotion, characteristics, success and happiness. By looking into how psychopaths thinks we can learn about small things that can make us happier or successful, which is interesting when a lot of people think that psychopaths are violent and scary.