Do psychopaths have higher IQs? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do psychopaths have higher IQs?” and explore the various dimensions of psychopathy and the traits, behaviours and tendencies of psychopaths to help understand the answer. 

Do psychopaths have higher IQs?

No, psychopaths do not have higher IQs. The following are 3 insights into why psychopaths do not have higher IQs –

  • Psychopaths appear to be below-average thinkers.
  • The Hannibal Lecter myth.
  • Psychopaths scored much worse on intellect tests on average.

These 3 insights into why psychopaths do not have higher IQs will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at who a psychopath is.

Who is a psychopath?

A “psychopath” is someone who is ruthless, unemotional, and morally twisted. The word is commonly used in professional and legal settings, despite the fact that it is not a recognised mental health condition.

While psychopathy is not a diagnosis in and of itself, it shares many of the characteristics of antisocial personality disorder, a broader mental health disease characterised by people who regularly act out and defy regulations. 

Psychopaths, on the other hand, make up a small fraction of those who suffer from antisocial personality disorder.

Common Traits of Psychopaths.

Psychopathic conduct differs widely from one person to the next. Some are serial killers and sex criminals. Others, on the other hand, may be effective leaders. It is entirely dependent on their characteristics.

It’s critical to distinguish between psychopaths and persons who exhibit psychopathic characteristics. It’s possible to have multiple psychopathic characteristics without really becoming a psychopath.

People with psychopathic characteristics don’t always act psychopathically. Psychopaths are defined as those who have psychopathic features and also engage in antisocial conduct.

Psychopathic traits include –

  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Narcissism
  • Superficial charm
  • Impulsivity
  • Callous, unemotional traits
  • Lack of guilt
  • Lack of empathy

According to one study, around 29% of the general population possesses one or more psychopathic traits. Only 0.6 per cent of the population, however, meets the definition of a psychopath.

Signs of a Psychopath.

Psychopathic characteristics can appear in childhood and worsen with time. Some of the most prevalent indications of a psychopath are listed below.

Superficial Charm.

On the surface, psychopaths appear to be likeable. They’re typically skilled conversationalists who tell stories that make them appear attractive. They might also be witty and charming.

Need for Stimulation.

Psychopaths thrive on the thrill of the chase. They want a steady flow of activity in their life and usually desire to live in the “fast lane.” Their demand for excitement frequently entails breaching rules. 

They may relish the excitement of getting away with something, or they may relish the possibility of being “caught” at any time. As a result, they may find it difficult to stay interested in tedious or repeated jobs, and they may be irritable with routines.

Pathological Lying.

Psychopaths lie to make themselves appear nice and stay out of danger. They also lie to cover up their earlier deceptions. 

They occasionally have trouble keeping their stories straight since they forget what they’ve stated. When confronted, they simply alter their tale or modify the facts to suit the scenario.

Grandiose Sense of Self-Worth.

Psychopaths have a distorted self-perception. They consider themselves to be powerful and entitled. They frequently feel justified in following their own set of rules, believing that the laws do not apply to them.


Psychopaths are masters at persuading others to do what they desire. They may take advantage of a person’s remorse while lying to get someone else to complete their task for them.

Lack of Remorse.

Psychopaths are unconcerned about how their actions affect others. They may forget about an offence or believe that others are overreacting when their feelings are wounded. 

Finally, they have no remorse for inflicting misery on others. In fact, they frequently explain their actions and place blame on others.

Shallow Affect.

Psychopaths aren’t known for displaying many emotions, at least not authentic ones. They may look cold and emotionless for long periods of time. When it serves them well, though, they may present a theatrical exhibition of emotions. These tend to be short-lived and shallow.

They may, for example, display fury to scare someone or display melancholy to influence someone. However, they do not actually feel these feelings.

Lack of Empathy.

Psychopaths have a hard time comprehending why someone else could be fearful, unhappy, or nervous. They are unable to read people, thus it makes no sense to them. Even if it’s a close friend or family member, they’re entirely unconcerned about others who are suffering.

Parasitic Lifestyle.

Psychopaths may have sob tales about their inability to earn money, or they may frequently claim to have been abused by others. 

Then they take advantage of others’ generosity by becoming financially reliant on them. They take advantage of individuals to obtain everything they can, regardless of how they may feel.

Poor Behavioral Controls.

Psychopaths frequently struggle to obey rules, regulations, and policies. Even if they want to obey the rules, they rarely do so for very long.

Promiscuous Sexual Behavior.

Psychopaths are more prone to cheat on their relationships since they don’t care about the people around them. They could have unprotected intercourse with random strangers. They might also use sex to acquire what they desire. For them, sex is not an emotional or loving act.

Early Behavioral Problems.

The majority of psychopaths have behavioural issues from a young age. Cheating, skipping school, vandalising property, abusing narcotics, or becoming aggressive are all possibilities. Their misdeeds tend to worsen with time and are more significant than those of their peers.

Lack of Realistic, Long-Term Goals.

A psychopath’s ambition might be to become wealthy or famous. However, they frequently lack the knowledge necessary to make these things happen. Instead, they insist that they will obtain what they want without having to put out any effort.


Psychopaths react to situations based on how they feel. They don’t take the time to consider the dangers and advantages of their decisions. Instead, they desire instant pleasure. 

As a result, individuals may quit a job, terminate a relationship, relocate to a new location, or purchase a new automobile on the spur of the moment.


Promises have no meaning for psychopaths. They aren’t trustworthy, whether they vow to return a debt or sign a contract. They may neglect to pay child support, go heavily into debt, or forget about their responsibilities and commitments.

Psychopaths refuse to take responsibility for their own issues. They believe that their problems are always the fault of others. They typically play the victim, and they like telling stories about how others have used them.

Many Marital Relationships.

Psychopaths may marry because it is advantageous to them. They could desire to spend a partner’s money or share their debt with someone else, for example. However, their behaviour frequently leads to divorce as their spouses come to see them from a more realistic perspective.

Criminal Versatility.

Psychopaths typically see rules as recommendations and laws as impediments to their progress. Their illicit activities might be quite diverse. 

Criminal offences such as driving infractions, financial violations, and acts of violence are only a few instances of the wide range of crimes that may be committed. 

Of course, not all of them end up in prison. Some people may run shady enterprises or participate in unethical behaviour that does not result in an arrest.

Revocation of Conditional Release.

When psychopaths are released from jail, they usually do not follow the terms of conditional release. They may believe that they will not be caught again. Alternatively, they may find methods to justify their actions. They could even blame others for “being caught.”

What are these 3 insights into why psychopaths do not have higher IQs?

Psychopaths appear to be below-average thinkers.

Manipulative, dishonest, and lacking empathy are just a few of the characteristics that define a psychopath. But, contrary to popular belief, they aren’t as cunning as they appear in movies and television shows. Psychopaths, on the whole, appear to be below-average thinkers.

You’ve almost certainly encountered a psychopath at some time in your life. According to Brian Boutwell of St Louis University in Missouri, they make up around 1% of the population. 

If a person achieves a particular score on a test of psychopathic qualities, such as callousness, impulsivity, violence, and a feeling of grandiosity, they are categorised as a psychopath. “Not all psychopaths will breach the law or harm someone,” adds Boutwell, “but the chances of their doing so are higher.”

The Hannibal Lecter myth.

People have thought psychopaths had above-average intellect because they are charming and manipulative, according to Boutwell. The “Hannibal Lecter myth,” as it is known among psychologists, refers to the fictitious serial murderer, cannibal, and psychiatrist from the novel and film The Silence of the Lambs.

Boutwell, on the other hand, was not convinced. He claims that psychopaths are impulsive, has run-ins with the authorities, and frequently injure themselves. “This prompted me to believe they aren’t particularly bright.”

Psychopaths scored much worse on intellect tests on average.

Boutwell and his colleagues looked into it by analysing the data from 187 published research on IQ and psychopathy. There was a study on psychopaths in jail as well as those with high-flying occupations in these studies. They also contained a variety of intelligence tests.

Overall, the researchers discovered no indication that psychopaths are smarter than non-psychopathic persons. In reality, the connection went in the other direction. Psychopaths scored much worse on intellect tests on average.

Iowa State University’s Matt DeLisi expects that the findings may help dispel the idea of Hannibal Lecter. “The persona promoted the idea that psychopaths were very brilliant, and there were genuine offenders who embodied this, like Ted Bundy,” DeLisi explains. 

“However, I’ve interviewed thousands of criminals, some of them are really psychotic, and I’ve discovered the exact reverse,” says DeLisi.

Conclusion – 

This blog post ventured into answering the question, “Do psychopaths have higher IQs?” and reviewed the various dimensions of psychopathy and the traits, behaviours and tendencies of psychopaths to help determine if psychopaths have higher IQs. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

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