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If You Live Here, You're More Likely to Be a Psychopath, Says Study

Do people who score high on psychopathy tests prefer cities or rural areas? A study sought to find out.

All too often people can fling about the term "psychopath" as if it's synonymous with more casual terms such as "jerk," but, as the author Jon Ronson described in his terrific 2011 book The Psychopath Test, a more concise and workable definition of the term "psychopath" is essentially someone who is lacking in empathy. If you see a dead animal on the side of the road, to use one example, most people will likely feel something as a result. A psychopath? They'll feel nothing. What's more, other traits associated with psychopaths include narcissism, antisocial behavior, and a profound lack of guilt.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, another trait may be a preference for certain types of living. In fact, the researchers found that those who have "dark personality traits" and "score high on psychopathy" do indeed prefer to gravitate to certain environments. Read on to learn where you'll find a greater concentration of psychopaths, whether it's cities, suburbs, or more rural areas, according to the study. And for more psychology news as it applies to your own life, learn why Doing This One Thing Will Make You Less of a Jerk, Say Psychologists.

Do Psychopaths Prefer Cities, Suburbs, or Rural Areas?

oklahoma city

The study, conducted by researchers in the UK, surveyed hundreds of adults and asked them if they preferred to live in cities, suburbs, or rural areas. The participants also conducted other tests, including personality tests that spot psychopathic traits, as well as a test that gauged how connected they felt with nature.

"Our relationship with nature is a well-documented and timeless experience that is becoming increasing strained due to fast-paced living, hectic life schedules, and an emphasis on convenience," explained Dean Fido, MSc, a lead author on the study and a forensic psychologist at the University of Derby, to the site PsyPost. "However, what we do know about individuals with high degrees of connection with nature is that said individuals are often healthier, have better perceptions of themselves and their body, show greater levels of empathy towards others, and importantly, report fewer instances of stress, anxiety, and depression." But what about psychopaths?

They Prefer City Living

light trails on the street in Beijing ,China.

"People who feel less connected to nature tend to have heightened levels of psychopathic traits," observes PsyPost. "The study also found that individuals who exhibit more dark personality traits prefer to reside in urban areas rather than suburban or rural areas." And for fascinating facts about human behavior, see here to learn The Secret Sign Someone Is Sexually Attracted to You, Say Psychologists.

The Researchers Note That Not Everyone With These Traits Is Dangerous

Team surgeon at work in operating room

While many murderers are indeed psychopaths, Fido is quick to note that there is a big difference between a psychopath and someone who scores high on psychopathic traits.

"Even though we speak about psychopathy, this is a personality trait which everyone in the general population has to some degree—and unlike damning media representations, is not always deviant and dangerous in nature," he explained to PsyPost. "Indeed, many people who exhibit high degrees of psychopathic traits take up work in areas of medicine (e.g., surgeons) and the army owing to their ability to stay cool and calm under pressure and to make judgements that are not based on emotion."

There's One Caveat Worth Noting

A tourist girl looking mountain landscape at the sunset time

Though the researchers discovered that people scoring higher in psychopathy preferred city living, they're quick to note that it's only a preference. In fact, where they actually lived told another story. "Measurements of [the respondents'] postal codes since the age of 18 did not indicate actual residency in areas of greater population density," noted Fido. "So, questions need to be asked as to how we explain the disparity between preference and actual lifestyle."And for more science news, know that If You Have This Body Shape, People Think You Crave More Sex, Says Study.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more about William
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