Horizon: Are You Good or Evil?

8 September, 2011

There was a fascinating episode of Horizon on BBC 2 this evening, all about psychopathy; in particular, what causes it, and how it’s possible to identify it in people who don’t fit the ‘classic’ psychopathic killer profile. The programme’s currently available on the BBC iPlayer, here.

I found the programme particularly interesting because I’ve recently read The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. I’d previously imagined that all psychopaths are highly visible deranged killers, but that’s apparently not so. Some are superficially charming, highly successful and cleverly camouflaged members of society, having recognised early on that they differ fundamentally from the people around them and learned to conceal those differences in order to avoid detection. See here for an article by Robert Hare, who created a diagnostic checklist which is widely used by psychologists to identify psychopaths.

What’s most disturbing is the frequency with which psychopaths apparently occur. Estimates vary, but it seems likely that they make up at least 1% of society. Alarming stuff, if it’s accurate.

If you didn’t watch Horizon this evening then I’d highly recommend nipping across to the BBC iPlayer in order to take a look. I recommend the Jon Ronson book too. Chilling, cautionary stuff, but absolutely fascinating.