How to Spot a Psychopath

I just found out my friend Pam is very likely a psychopath. What a total shocker. You’d think I would have recognized this sooner, wouldn’t you? We’ve been friends since high school for God’s sake. I played softball with her all through my 20s. We were in each other’s weddings and today she’s still one of my best friends. So why didn’t I notice something was amiss?

And she looks so normal...

And she looks so normal…

I’m also a bit surprised Pam’s psychosis slipped by me because in college I minored in Abnormal Psychology. I know it’s been 40 years, but still…I’m sorta drawn to the crazy. Excuse me; I believe the  politically correct term is unstable. My bad.

You may be wondering how I discovered this personality disorder in my good friend. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying she maimed anyone and subsequently displayed no outward signs of telltale guilt because of a lack of empathy or ability to relate to others.psychopathNo, I found out Pam is a psychopath because she drinks her coffee black.cup of black coffee surrounded by coffee beansI’ll give you a second to process that, as I’m sure right about now you’re thinking I’m the crazy one. And who am I to argue? But according to Christina Sagioglou, the author of the study claiming this, people who prefer bitter over sweet tend to have psychopathic tendencies as well as display antisocial personality traits, including sadism.

Hum…come to think of it, where sadism is concerned Pam DOES push herself extremely hard with exercise. I mean really. Who runs 16 miles twice a week then jogs the hills on her “slow” days followed by weight training, yoga, biking and swimming the other days? I’m starting to think there’s a side to my black-coffee-drinking-friend that’s a bit scary, wouldn’t you agree?

After another marathon

After another marathon

Anyway, the research consisted of asking 1000 people to rate foods they liked among bitter, sweet, salty and sour. Then they completed 4 personality questionnaires measuring their aggression levels. They also completed something called Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies (CASE). So official sounding, isn’t it?

Can we trust the diagnostic accuracy of this test? Dunno. But Sagioglou’s findings reported that those who preferred bitter tastes displayed traits of Machiavellianism (meaning their goals are of prime importance and they’ll use any method to achieve them) and narcissism, among other not-so-flattering tendencies.psychopathA common denominator between those who scored high on CASE was the tendency to watch extremely violent video games (perhaps while drinking black coffee…). But as far as taste buds go, I don’t think there’s a whole lot one can do to change that. A person either likes bitter or they don’t. And apparently if you’re one of the former, you’re heading down a slippery slope, my friend.

Come to think of it, Sue, another good friend, adores dark chocolate. So now I suppose I have to group her among those who are probably flirting with an eventual prison term or prolonged asylum stay. Like Pam, Sue seems so outwardly benign but in reality she could be a scheming and sadistic psychopath who craftily hides her dark side (pun intended). Geez…and you think you know a person.

Dark-chocolate-loving psychopath?

Dark-chocolate-loving psychopath?

This is all very interesting. I, for one, now plan to watch closely anyone with bittersweet chocolate in their shopping cart or those ordering coffee sans a trace of cream and sugar. These are the people you want to avoid, if Sagioglou isn’t totally off her rocker.

Does this look good to you? I hope not...

Does this look good to you? I hope not…

Oh, and in case you’re wondering where yours truly stands on the psychopath scale, I take my coffee with cream and lots of sweet, sweet sugar.psychopath test

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