Or perhaps your friends might be?:
At heart, Hare’s test is simple: a list of 20 criteria, each given a score of 0 (if it doesn’t apply to the person), 1 (if it partially applies) or 2 (if it fully applies). The list in full is: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of behavioural control, behavioural problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behaviour. A pure, prototypical psychopath would score 40. A score of 30 or more qualifies for a diagnosis of psychopathy. Hare says: “A friend of mine, a psychiatrist, once said: ‘Bob, when I meet someone who scores 35 or 36, I know these people really are different.’ The ones we consider to be alien are the ones at the upper end.”
I took the liberty of filling it out for one Barack Obama:
glibness and superficial charm 2
grandiose sense of self-worth 2
pathological lying 2
lack of remorse 2
emotional shallowness 2
callousness and lack of empathy 2
unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions 2
a tendency to boredom 2
a parasitic lifestyle 1
a lack of realistic long-term goals 0
lack of behavioural control 0
behavioural problems in early life ?
juvenile delinquency 2
criminal versatility 0
a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole) 0
multiple marriages 0
promiscuous sexual behaviour. 0
It’s interesting that he fits the bill on all the inner, character-driven (as in “character disorder) portions, but not in most of the behavioral ones. The adult Obama (not the adolescent one) has been marked by extremely low impulsivity and high control, as I stated here.
Call him what you will—sociopath or not—but that combination of traits is a dangerous one in a different way than for the conventional criminally-oriented sociopath. Obama can harness his energies in the conventional world to the point where he’s become president, and as such can give full vent to the first group of characteristics while in a position of great power.
Of course, you might say that the same list of traits could be answered in the affirmative for a great many other politicians, and you’d be right. I’ve never seen a politician who displayed them with such purity and intensity as Obama has, however.
But let’s get off the political for a moment. Do you have people in your life who would score high on this test? If so, beware.
[NOTE: If you're interested in a classic on the subject of sociopathy/psychopathy, read The Mask of Sanity. It's old, but it's very good.]