Psychopathy and Interests: Implications of Psychopathic Personality for Vocational and Avocational Preferences Open Access

Nagel, Madeline Grace (2017)

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Lykken (1995) proposed that psychopathic traits can be channeled into a variety of paths, in some cases even prosocial ones. Despite scattered evidence that psychopathy is associated with engagement in leadership or high-risk occupations, such as firefighting, law-enforcement, or business (Lilienfeld et al., 2014; Falkenbach & Tsoukalas, 2011), little research has explored the possibility that psychopathic personality traits are associated with a broader array of vocational (i.e., careers) and avocational (i.e., hobbies) interests. Drawing on a community sample recruited through Amazon M-Turk (N = 426), the present study examined the relations between psychopathic traits and both vocational and avocational interests. The Boldness traits of psychopathy were moderately positively associated with all six of Holland's (1997) RIASEC model of vocational interests as measured by the O*Net Interests Profiler (Lewis & Rivkin, 1999), all ten of Lykken and colleagues (1993) combined vocational and leisure interests factors, and four avocational interests factors from the Leisure Interest Questionnaire (LIQ ; Hansen, 2002), indicating that boldness traits may be associated with a general interest in a variety of careers and hobbies. In contrast, the Disinhibition, Coldheartedness, and Meanness facets seem to indicate an interest in specific vocations and leisure activities, particularly hands-on, unemotional careers that entail little meaningful social interaction. These specific choices are ostensibly more in line with the popular psychology idea of the successful psychopath. The specificity of these findings was also assessed using general personality traits from the HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised (HEXACO-PI-R; Ashton & Lee, 2008) as well as indices of trait narcissism (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 2008). Extraversion and Openness to Experience were associated across the board with interests, while the Honesty/Humility facet was negatively associated with all of the interests. Both of the narcissism factors were also indicative of interest in all of the vocational and avocational categories. Gender differences and interactions between Boldness and Disinhibition were also assessed, although the findings were negative. Implications for the utility of these findings in the development of vocational training-based interventions for the antisocial outcomes associated with psychopathic personality were discussed, as were suggestions for future research in this area.

Table of Contents

Introduction …1

Successful psychopathy…5


Personality and interests…9

Psychopathy and interests…12

Present study…14



Participants and procedure…17


Data analysis…20


Psychopathy and RIASEC vocational interests…21

Vocational and avocational interest superfactors…21

Avocational interests…22


Gender differences…24

Interaction effects…26


Channeling models…28

Limitations and future directions…31

Therapeutic implications…32




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