New Study : Psychopaths Have Poor Sense of Smell. Does it Matter?

September 21, 2012

A new study released from Macquarie University in Australia indicates that psychopaths — people who have a severe personality disorder marked by “lack of empathy, antisocial behavior and callousness” — seem to have an impairment in smelling.

The trial studied 79 individuals, aged 19-21, who were not criminals and who lived in the community. They found that the participants had difficulty identifying particular smells such as coffee, orange, and leather, and also had trouble discriminating them against other smells.

Hmmm, interesting. Should we put the olfactory-challenged on the potential psychopath list?  Hardly. The list would be quite long I suspect as sense of smell can be present in people suffering with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

So, why is this important? Does it matter?

I believe it does and here’s why. Psychopaths have been shown to be so manipulative that they can even beat lie detector tests. According to this study, because performance expectancies are not clear in smell tests, they are less susceptible to manipulated responses. In other words, it’s difficult for a psychopath to beat a smell test.

This may have value in identifying psychopathic people. Equally important and a hoped-for outcome, in my opinion, is early detection of potential psychopaths. It’s been long and widely known that little to no effective treatment for adult psychopaths exists; however, a recent study I read in Scientific American Mind magazine indicated that given the right treatment, some improvement can be made with juvenile psychopaths. There is also a strong genetic factor in antisocial personality disorder.

Perhaps the smell test can be utilized on young offenders and young people with a known genetic link to a psychopath, and followed up with proven treatment. Psychopaths can be highly disruptive in families, communities and the workplace. Their high-conflict behavior is marked by a fear of being dominated, so they are driven by a need to dominate those around them. Developing empathy and reducing their dominating behavior would benefit everyone around them – at home, at work and around town.

About Unhooked Books and Megan Hunter

unHooked Books is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. We’re not just an online bookstore. I opened unHooked Books after seeing a need for one place for people to find the best and most current information available on personality disorders and borderline personality disorder in particular, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. After 15 years in divorce and child support law in a county prosecutor’s office and the Arizona Supreme Court, I co-founded High Conflict Institute which helps people in high-conflict disputes of any kind. This bookstore stemmed from the needs of the people who contacted us out of desperation. Our books are written by people who are experts in their fields. I’ve personally met and worked with most of them, and those who I haven’t met, come highly recommended by those whom I have met. Enjoy perusing our bookstore and contact us with questions or comments. Thanks for stopping by! Megan Hunter unHooked Books
Megan Hunter and Life Unhooked

As founder and CEO of Life Unhooked, we provide a fresh perspective and approach to help you identify and overcome the damaging behaviors of HCD’s – whether they are employees, customers, vendors, board members, or anyone in your life. Most importantly we help you ‘unhook’ from these peoples’ behaviors so that you can make the right, next decisions – cleanly and clearly. With over 10 years of consulting and training experience in the area of high conflict, she has developed programs that help you understand workplace disruptions, and make more informed and better decisions to bring your company into alignment with your mission, vision and goals. This information will catapult you ahead of competitors because they are dealing with these disruptive employees, too. In addition to being a speaker, trainer, consultant and CEO at Life Unhooked, Megan the CEO of Unhooked Books and HCI Press. She is also the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute launched in 2007 with Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., an internationally renowned expert in High Conflict Personalities. She has been the recipient of several awards including the President’s Award by the Arizona Family Support Council (2005), the Friend of Psychology Award by the Arizona Psychology Association (2006) and the Outstanding Contribution Award by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (2010). She is a volunteer in several organizations including a member of Tanzania Project and Vice President of Personality Disorder Awareness Network (PDAN). She holds a BA degree in business from Chadron State College and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. To contact Megan about speaking engagements or to gather more information, email


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