According to new research, U.S. presidents who have been successful in the White House possess some personality traits that are similar with psychopaths. In fact, they tend to be “more like psychopaths than the general population.” And here we thought the wrong party taking office was our biggest concern.
Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, hundreds of historians and biographers studied presidential performance ratings and personality assessments. What they found was that those who performed the best in office shared a key psychopathic characteristic: fearless dominance.
Fearless dominance is a personality trait defined as boldness with a lack of resiliency, according to Scott Lilienfeld, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at Emory University:
An easy way to think about it is as a combination of physical and social fearlessness. People high in boldness don’t have a lot of apprehension about either physical or social things that would scare the rest of us. It’s often a kind of resilience because you don’t show lot of anxiety or frustration in the face of everyday life challenges.
But fear not, our presidents don’t possess all the traits of psychopaths (regardless of what we may think from time to time). According to the study, this same trait in psychopaths is also associated with callousness, indifference to negative consequences and impulsive antisocial behavior–things that would be of definite concern for any president to possess, but luckily, they don’t.
Even though President Obama wasn’t included in the study because there wasn’t enough data available yet, they listed the ones who did top the list in fearless dominance: Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
If having a psychopathic trait isn’t worrisome enough, Lilienfiield reassures us that there is a bigger predictor of success in the White House: luck.
Probably the biggest determinant of presidential success is luck.
OK, now we’re officially worried.