Have you ever wondered if someone you know might be a psychopath?
Ask them to solve one of these two riddles, and you just might have your answer.
According to Psychology Today, psychopaths have an inflated grandiosity and a pervasive pattern of taking advantage of other people. Psychopaths are unable to feel empathy or remorse, which leads to an indifference to what is right or wrong.
In fact, some psychologists think that most everyone has a few psychopathic traits, which makes this disorder even harder to define.
These two riddles were developed to test a person’s moral judgment to link their answer to whether they might be a psychopath.
The first riddle goes like this:
“While at her own mother’s funeral, a woman meets a guy she doesn’t know. She thinks this guy is amazing — her dream man — and is pretty sure he could be the love of her life. However, she never asked for his name or number and afterward could not find anyone who knows who he was. A few days later the girl kills her sister – but why?”
Apparently, you think like a psychopath if you know the correct answer as to why she killed her sister. Here is the answer:
If her sister dies, she’ll have a chance to meet the man again, because he will probably come to her funeral.
The second riddle was from a questionnaire that was used in a study conducted by Daniel Bartels, Columbia Business School, Marketing, and David Pizarro, Cornell University, Psychology. They found that people who believed that an action was morally correct if it produced the best result, tended to have psychopathic and Machiavellian personality traits.
“A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people, and you are standing on a footbridge next to a large stranger; your body is too light to stop the train, but if you push the stranger onto the tracks, killing him, you will save the five people. Would you push the man?”
With this question, if you said that you would push the large man onto the tracks it makes you more of a psychopath. This is because you committed murder, even if you thought it was justified because the action would save more people.
Bartels and Pizarro found that “people who endorse actions consistent with an ethic of utilitarianism (the view that what is the morally right thing to do is whatever produces the best overall consequences) tend to possess psychopathic and Machiavellian personality traits.”
If you happened to get the questions right, don’t freak out just yet. The problem with these riddles is that the personality disorder of psychopathy falls along a spectrum and can’t be defined by answering just one question.
The first riddle about the girl at her mother’s funeral has been debunked, and no one is sure where it came from, to begin with.
While the second riddle has been used in scientific studies, no one would ever state that just one question can reveal that someone is a psychopath. Questions such as these may give researchers an idea as to how psychopathic someone might be from their answers, but you cannot expect just one question to diagnose someone with psychopathy.
Columbia Business School even points out that diagnosing a psychopath isn’t that easy.
“Although the study does not resolve the ethical debate, it points to a flaw in the widely-adopted use of sacrificial dilemmas to identify optimal moral judgment,” said Daniel Bartels
“These methods fail to distinguish between people who endorse utilitarian moral choices because of underlying emotional deficits (like those captured by our measures of psychopathy and Machiavellianism) and those who endorse them out of genuine concern for the welfare of others.”
So, just because you can come up with a calculated decision that may result in the death of hypothetical people doesn’t mean that you are a psychopath.
Giving the correct answer to these riddles requires critical thinking and coming up with the answer might just mean that you are a good problem solver. Besides, just because you know the answer doesn’t mean that you would ever perform the actions.
Psychopaths only make up about 1% of the human population, and most people don’t even recognize that someone is a psychopath when they first meet one. One single question cannot prove that someone has this personality disorder, but their cold, calculated ways and lack of empathy and remorse are some good clues.
How many of our readers correctly guessed the answer, or have tried the riddle out on some of their peers? We’d love to hear your results or thoughts on this, after all, it’s a fascinating subject since everyone has different thought processes.