6 Totally Normal Behaviors That Might Mean You're a Psychopath, According to Science

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Most people are familiar with the major characteristics of psychopathy (which is essentially the same thing as sociopathy as far as clinicians are concerned). Psychopaths don't feel empathy or remorse, are superficially charming, and prone to manipulating those around them for their own gain. However, research has found links between more out-there characteristics and psychopathy, like the kind of foods you eat or the music you listen to.

Psychopathy occurs in an estimated 1 percent of the population, but don't worry—people who have psychopathic characteristics aren't necessarily serial killers. In 2005, neuroscientist James Fallon, while studying the brain activity of psychopaths (including murderers) in the lab, discovered that his brain showed many of the same patterns.

Below are six unexpected characteristics linked to being a psychopath, according to recent studies. Take this list with a grain of salt: It's entirely possible to have several of them and be perfectly well-adjusted, and many of these studies are small. Still, it's interesting to consider the potential dark side of common traits. 

1. YOU STUDIED BUSINESS.

Different jobs attract different personality types. Most painfully shy people don't go into sales, for instance, while the job might be very appealing for someone who's extremely outgoing and extraverted. If you're a psychopath, on the other hand, you probably are drawn to business. A 2017 Danish study that analyzed how personality traits correlate with choice of undergraduate majors found that students who scored higher on measures of the "Dark Triad"—a collective term for narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy—were more likely to study economics or business than law or psychology. "The desire for power, status, and money characterizing Dark Triad individuals," the researchers write, seems to guide their choice of majors. In other words, going into the business world may not make people unscrupulous as much as unscrupulous people tend to go into business.

2. YOU DON'T CATCH YAWNS.

Being a psychopath is often linked to a lack of empathy for other people. There's more to empathy than just feeling others' pain, though. One of the theories for contagious yawning is that it's an empathy response, one found in multiple animal species. Psychopaths, however, don't catch yawns, according to a 2015 study of 135 university students in Texas. The students who scored higher on measures of psychopathy didn't yawn as much in response to watching videos of other people yawning, the researchers found. If you're impervious to the sight of yawns, you might have an empathy problem.

3. YOU'RE A NIGHT OWL.

Our internal clocks are particular beasts. Some of us will just never be morning people, no matter how hard we try, and others will never be able to go to bed early. To some extent, your circadian rhythm is genetic, though in general, it does change over your lifetime. People with antisocial tendencies, though, may be more likely to stay up late. A small 2013 study found that people on a night owl schedule exhibited greater Dark Triad traits than early risers. Seems like a useful adaptation to have if you're predisposed to doing bad deeds under the cover of darkness.

4. YOU LOVE EMINEM.

Plenty of die-hard music fans believe that their tastes speak to their soul, but in the case of psychopaths, personality might be influencing what's on your playlist. According to a preliminary study from New York University, people with higher degrees of psychopathy tend to prefer "No Diggity" and "Lose Yourself" over songs like "My Sharona." The results weren't exactly rock-hard evidence, but the findings were significant enough that the researchers are launching a larger investigation into links between musical tastes and psychopathic traits.

5. YOU'RE CREATIVE.

A desire to break the rules doesn't always result in a desire to break the law. Artists and other creatives march to their own beat, too. In 2016, Filipino researchers found that certain traits associated with psychopathy—especially boldness—were linked with scores on a divergent thinking test, a common psychological method for measuring creativity. Being a risk taker can help you think more creatively. Some people put that love of risk to work on the canvas, while other people might come up with more nefarious uses.

6. YOU'RE STILL FRIENDS WITH YOUR EXES.

Psychopaths are known for cold calculation and manipulation, and that trait may lead them to keep their exes around long after the relationship ends. A September 2017 study from Oakland University psychologists found that in a sample of more than 800 people, people with psychopathic traits tended to keep exes in their lives for pragmatic, transactional reasons, like wanting the ability to hook up with them again later or knowing they had money. "Narcissists hate to fail or lose, so will do what they can to maintain some connection if they didn't make the choice to end it," as narcissism expert Tony Ferretti told Broadly.

Scientists Find Fossil of 150-Million-Year-Old Flesh-Eating Fish—Plus a Few of Its Prey

M. Ebert and T. Nohl
M. Ebert and T. Nohl

A fossil of an unusual piranha-like fish from the Late Jurassic period has been unearthed by scientists in southern Germany, Australian news outlet the ABC reports. Even more remarkable than the fossil’s age—150 million years old—is the fact that the limestone deposit also contains some of the fish’s victims.

Fish with chunks missing from their fins were found near the predator fish, which has been named Piranhamesodon pinnatomus. Aside from the predator’s razor-sharp teeth, though, it doesn’t look like your usual flesh-eating fish. It belonged to an extinct order of bony fish that lived at the time of the dinosaurs, and until now, scientists didn’t realize there was a species of bony fish that tore into its prey in such a way. This makes it the first flesh-eating bony fish on record, long predating the piranha. 

“Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time,” Dr. Martina Kölbl-Ebert, the paleontologist who found the fish with her husband, Martin Ebert, said in a statement. “Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh, but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

Kölbl-Ebert, the director of the Jura Museum in Eichstätt, Germany, says she was stunned to see the bony fish’s sharp teeth, comparing it to “finding a sheep with a snarl like a wolf.” This cunning disguise made the fish a fearful predator, and scientists believe the fish may have “exploited aggressive mimicry” to ambush unsuspecting fish.

The fossil was discovered in 2016 in southern Germany, but the find has only recently been described in the journal Current Biology. It was found at a quarry where other fossils, like those of the Archaeopteryx dinosaur, have been unearthed in the past.

[h/t the ABC]

Could Leonardo da Vinci's Artistic Genius Be Due to an Eye Condition?

Young John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci (1513-16, Louvre, Paris).
Young John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci (1513-16, Louvre, Paris).
Christopher Tyler, JAMA Ophthalmology (2018)

Leonardo da Vinci was indisputably a genius, but his singular artistic vision may have been the result of seeing the world differently in more ways than one. A new paper argues that he had strabismus, a vision disorder where the eyes are misaligned and don’t look toward the same place at the same time. This disorder, visual neuroscientist Christopher Tyler argues, may have helped the artist render three-dimensional images on flat canvas with an extra level of skill.

Tyler is a professor at City, University of London who has written a number of studies on optics and art. In this study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, he examined six different artworks from the period when Leonardo was working, including Young John the Baptist, Vitruvian Man, and a self-portrait by the artist. He also analyzed pieces by other artists that are thought to have used Leonardo as a model, like Andrea del Verrocchio’s Young Warrior sculpture. Leonardo served as the lead assistant in the latter artist’s studio, and likely served as the model for several of his works. Leonardo was also a friend of Benedetto da Maiano, and possibly served as a model for his 1480 sculpture of John the Baptist. Tyler also looked at the recently auctioned Salvator Mundi, a painting that not all experts believe can be attributed to Leonardo. (However, at least one scientific team that examined the painting says it’s legit.)

With strabismus, a person’s eyes appear to point in different directions. Based on the eyes in Leonardo’s own portraits of himself and other artworks modeled after him, it seems likely that he had intermittent strabismus. When he relaxed his eyes, one of his eyes drifted outward, though he was likely able to align his eyes when he focused. The gaze in the portraits and sculptures seems to be misaligned, with the left eye consistently drifting outward at around the same angle.

'Vitruvian Man' with the subject's pupils highlighted
Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci (~1490, Accademia, Venice)
Christopher Tyler, JAMA Ophthalmology (2018)

“The weight of converging evidence suggests that [Leonardo] had intermittent exotropia—where an eye turns outwards—with a resulting ability to switch to monocular vision, using just one eye,” Tyler explained in a press release. “The condition is rather convenient for a painter, since viewing the world with one eye allows direct comparison with the flat image being drawn or painted.” This would have given him an assist in depicting depth accurately.

Leonardo isn’t the first famous artist whose vision researchers have wondered about. Some have speculated that Degas’s increasingly coarse pastel work in his later years may have been attributed to his degenerating eyes, as the rough edges would have appeared smoother to him because of his blurred vision. Others have suggested that Van Gogh’s “yellow period” and the vibrant colors of Starry Night may have been influenced by yellowing vision caused by his use of digitalis, a medicine he took for epilepsy.

We can never truly know whether a long-dead artist’s work was the result of visual issues or simply a unique artistic vision, but looking at their art through the lens of medicine provides a new way of understanding their process.

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