When Murphy matched up the “constellation of disinhibition, boldness and meanness” that marks psychopathy with a previously existing map of the states’ predominant personality traits, he found that dense, coastal areas scored highest by far—with Washington dominant among them. “The District of Columbia is measured to be far more psychopathic than any individual state in the country,” Murphy writes in the paper. The runner-up, Connecticut, registered only 1.89 on Murphy’s scale, compared with the overwhelming 3.48 clocked by the District.
What’s going on? There’s one big structural reason: There tend to be more psychopathic personalities in denser areas, and the District of Columbia is denser than even the densest state, so it makes sense that it would top the list. But even when you correct the rankings for density, Murphy says, Washington still ranks first.
This, Murphy hypothesizes, is because psychopaths are attracted to the kinds of jobs Washington offers—jobs that reward raw ambition, a relentless single-mindedness and, let’s admit it, the willingness to step over a few bodies along the way.
“Psychopaths have an awfully grandiose way of thinking about themselves, and D.C. has numerous means of seeking and attaining power,” he wrote in an email. The television critics who dismissed Netflix’s “House of Cards” as cartoonish and unrealistic—surely nobody could be that villainous—may have a few apologies to make. “The presence of psychopaths in the District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture … that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere,” Murphy writes in the paper.