The Psychology of Dictators

The UK arm of Amnesty International has launched a series of weekly vodcasts called Amnesty TV. In a preview of this week’s vodcast published by the Guardian online, psychiatrist Dr Philip Hodson explores the psychology of dictators through the ages from Julius Caesar to Hosni Mubarak. The vodcast echoes the findings of Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, which we’ve written about several times before. Hodson states that dictators tend to have several traits in common: sadism, paranoia, narcissism, anti-social behaviour, and split personality. “If you put this simply, it means they enjoyed being cruel, they had massive egos, they cared little for human suffering, had no genuine friends, believed everyone was plotting against them and rewarded nearly all acts of treachery with death.”

Hodson goes on to refer to the famous 1971 Stanford prison experiment, which divided the test subjects randomly into guards and prisoners in a simulated prison. The ‘guards’ became so abusive that the experiment was abandoned after only several days. The outcome of the experiment suggests that, given the right conditions, most human beings are capable of committing unconscionable acts.

Related posts