60-Second Science

Don Corleone: Not a Nice Guy but No Psychopath

Mafiosi incarcerated in Italy scored lower than the threshold level for psychopathy on a standard test whereas half the run-of-the-mill inmates qualified as psychopaths. Allie Wilkinson reports


Mobster. The word conjures images of someone who has no problem giving an enemy a pair of cement shoes and throwing them in the river—and doing so without remorse. In other words, a psychopath. But it turns out that many mobsters are actually less psychopathic than other criminals.
Researchers interviewed 30 Mafiosi incarcerated in Italy, and another 39 prisoners who were not involved in organized crime. The inmates’ responses were then rated against a standard psychological test, called the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised.

None of the Mafia members scored higher than a 30, the generally accepted threshold for psychopathy, and only 10 percent had scores that would classify them as moderately psychopathic. Meanwhile, more than half of the non-Mafia men rated as either moderately or severely psychopathic. Mafia membership was also associated with low substance abuse and high family commitment. The study appears in Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health. [Adriano Schimmenti et al, Mafia and psychopathy]

The researchers say the findings point to new hope for resocializing convicted mafia members. So that they might permanently “leave the gun…take the cannoli.”
—Allie Wilkinson
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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