Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Great news! Engineers aren't psychopaths (but CEOs are)

You might wonder which professions have the greatest proportion of psychopaths. Well, according to one book, engineers are nowhere on the list. Until they become CEOs, that is.

2 min read
What do we think? CNET

I've been feeling a little disturbed lately. Slightly insane things are happening all around me and nothing seems to make sense anymore.

So I thought I'd seek out some information about psychopathy, in the hope of making myself feel better -- or at least understood.

Somehow, I stumbled upon an article on The Week that disturbed me even more. In casual style, it wondered which professions contained the greatest number of psychopaths and which ones had the fewest.

Honestly, I thought engineers would be somewhere near the top of the list. The ones I know are intense creatures, prone to excessive rational thought and irrational action.

They believe they can solve everything, yet don't see that in their own lives, they have solved very little.

I expected, therefore, that they would at least be higher up the psychopathic scale than, say, clergymen. I was disabused.

The data comes from a book by Kevin Dutton called "The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success."

Already knowing that engineers are not in the Top 10 of psychopathic tendencies, you might think that Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and their ilk are extremely well-adjusted beings.

You might also think that cheerleaders' uniforms are designed by Chanel.

The occupation with the highest proportion of psychopaths is CEO. Is it possible that though most engineers are middling in normality, the ones who rise to CEO are dangerously bonkers?

I fear it may be the case. Somehow, the need to grab power all for yourself might be revelatory.

It's fascinating, though, which other professions are on the list. Just behind CEOs come lawyers. The jokes do write themselves sometimes. Third on the list is media. Please, lower thy cudgel. This specifically refers to TV and radio media. We're looking at you, Sean Hannity and Jon Stewart.

Lower down we find salesperson (naturally), surgeon (they're mostly nuts), and then, well, journalist. That last one is probably a typo. Police officer, clergyperson, chef (good Lord, yes), and civil servant round out the Top 10.

Engineers don't find themselves in the Top 10 list of the least psychopathic, but I feel sure they can live with that.

This is a slightly more expected list. It features care aide, nurse, therapist (are you kidding? all the ones I know are loopy in the extreme), craftsperson, beautician/stylist, charity worker, teacher, creative artist, doctor (oh, they're so different from surgeons), and accountant (what?).

Those who try to explain such results offer that the least psychopathic professions deal with feelings and involve deep human connection. Accountants?

It is said that psychopaths are entranced by professions in which there is access to power and a distance from feelings-based actions.

Perhaps engineers, while bathing in rational action, still aren't moved by power itself. Or perhaps this data needs to be updated to reflect the new, new world and all who sail in it.