As he notes in a paper released today in Paulhus and his colleagues have enumerated four different kinds of self-centered and socially offensive people who most of us encounter in our day-to-day lives: Narcissists, Machiavellians, Nonclinical Psychopaths, and Everyday Sadists.Paulhus notes that psychologists often confuse these types of individuals, who all share a tendency to score especially high on measures of Callousness (or lack of empathy for other people).Each of these types also tends to be extroverted and sociable, so often make good first impressions, before going on to make life miserable for those who are exploited by them.
Paulhus is not saying, incidentally, that all law enforcement personnel are sadistic, but simply that their ranks may have a higher than average number of everyday sadists (who, as noted by a police official interviewed recently on NPR, can do great damage to police-community relations). I have a sister that is clearly a narcissist/sociopath.
If you read Paulhus's paper, you might start to wonder about its author – why would anyone be drawn to research on narcissism, psychopathy, and sadism? I really wish there was more publicity about this behavior back in the 60s and 70s.
I have known Paulhus for at least two decades, and enjoyed many conversations with him during long walks around Vancouver (usually after dark, because he is a night owl). My sister was a master manipulator, knowing exactly how far to push things to have everyone she needed wrapped around her finger.
He is anything but a narcissist or a psychopath, it turns out. She seemed adept at knowing where to focus her energies and what to say to whom at the right time.
Their impulsiveness makes them less adept at white collar crime of the Bernie Madoff variety, and often inclines them towards violence when others get in their way.