A new study ranks US states in order of psychopathy

A particularly northeastern trait.
A particularly northeastern trait.
Image: AP Photo/MGM Home Entertainment
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Sometimes, it can feel like there are psychopaths everywhere. If you live in the United States, it’s now possible to move to less psychopathic environs, thanks to new research ranking 48 contiguous states by psychopathy.

Connecticut wins the dubious award of most psychopathic state in the US, followed by California in second, and New Jersey third. New York and Wyoming tie for joint fourth place, followed by Maine. The least psychopathic state is West Virginia, followed by Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico. The full list of psychopathic states is below:

The psychopathy evaluation for each state is an estimate, notes Ryan Murphy, professor at Southern Methodist University and author of the study, published on Social Science Research Network (SSRN.) The calculation is based in part on previous research that established the levels of big five personality traits (extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience) in each state.

Earlier research shows that psychopathy is composed of disinhibition, boldness, and meanness, and a forthcoming paper shows that these characteristics can be translated into the big five traits: “Boldness corresponds to low neuroticism and high extraversion, meanness corresponds to low agreeableness, and disinhibition corresponds to low conscientiousness,” explains Murphy. This finding allowed the researcher to translate analysis of personality in US states to a score for psychopathy.

The paper has been prepublished on SSRN, meaning it hasn’t yet been published in a journal or gone through peer review. Murphy also included the District of Columbia in his research, and found it had a psychopathy level far higher than any other state. But this finding is an outlier, as Murphy notes, as it’s an entirely urban area and cannot be fairly compared with larger, more geographically diverse, US states. That said, as Murphy notes, “The presence of psychopaths in District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture found in Murphy (2016) that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere.”

Wyoming’s high psychopath rate is another interesting data point. The state came in joint fourth, whereas its neighboring states came in far lower: Montana is 42nd, Idaho 23rd, Colorado 18th, and Utah 21st (the District of Columbia is excluded from all these rankings.) Murphy notes that the survey of Wyoming was based on the smallest sample size and the data point could simply be incorrect, though the result is still based on a considerable sample size of 3,166.

Murphy notes that the findings are estimates and further data by state is needed to corroborate the findings. But his current survey, which suggests the northeast of the US is the most psychopathic region in the US, will ring true to anyone who’s been stuck on the New York subway.