Psychopathic boldness tied to U.S. presidential success

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | Sep. 10, 2012

Story image

Andrew Jackson, shown standing on a parapet during the Battle of New Orleans, earned the nickname "Old Hickory," due to his toughness and aggressive personality.

The fearless dominance associated with psychopathy may be an important predictor of U.S. presidential performance, suggests an analysis published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Certain psychopathic traits may be like a double-edged sword," says lead author Scott Lilienfeld, a psychologist at Emory University. "Fearless dominance, for example, may contribute to reckless criminality and violence, or to skillful leadership in the face of a crisis."

In fact, fearless dominance, linked to low social and physical apprehensiveness, appears to correlate with better-rated presidential performance for leadership, persuasiveness, crisis management and Congressional relations, the analysis showed.

Theodore Roosevelt ranked highest in fearless dominance, followed by John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Rutherford Hayes, Zachary Taylor, Bill Clinton, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson and George W. Bush.

Full story at eScienceCommons >>