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How to Spot a Psychopath

How to Spot a PsychopathI love finding–or inventing–ways to categorize people. I agree with philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who observed, “Every classification throws light on something.”

I’ve devised several of these, and of the ones I’ve come up with myself, my favorites are the Abstainer/Moderator distinction and the four Rubin Tendencies.

Because of this interest, I was intrigued to come across the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, a personality test for traits  associated with psychopathy (link to actual quiz below).

I think that we can all agree that one thing that does not contribute to a happy life is a relationship with a psychopath. But what traits are associated with psychopaths?

The test seeks to measure:

  • Social influence — a tendency to seem charming, persuasive
  • Fearlessness — a tendency to embrace risk without fear or anxiety
  • Stress immunity — stays cool in difficult circumstances
  • Machiavellian egocentricity — a tendency to consider only personal needs
  • Rebellious nonconformity — a tendency to neglect of social conventions and regulations
  • Blame externalization — a tendency to assign blame for problems or obstacles to other people
  • Carefree lack of planning — limited willingness to make future plans
  • Cold-heartedness — no guilt or remorse

People throw around the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” quite frequently, but these are technical terms with very specific meanings. That said, if there’s someone in your life who seems to show many of the above traits, it might be useful to reflect on that.

Do you know anyone who fits these traits? To my great relief, I realize, I don’t.

Take the Psych Central Psychopathy Quiz Now!


In my research for Before and After, I’ve identified eighteen strategies for changing habits, and one of the most well-known and popular is the Strategy of Monitoring. If, like me,  you get a kick out of monitoring yourself, check out Quantified Self–“self knowledge through numbers.”

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How to Spot a Psychopath

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the award-winning author of The Happiness Project, a #1 New York Times bestseller. You can also watch the one-minute book video. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central.

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APA Reference
Rubin, G. (2018). How to Spot a Psychopath. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.