Psychopathic traits in nursing and criminal justice majors: a pilot study

Psychol Rep. 2007 Apr;100(2):495-8. doi: 10.2466/pr0.100.2.495-498.


Prior findings suggest presence of psychopathic personality traits may be prevalent outside of the criminal sphere, such as in the business world. It is possible that particular work environments are attractive to individuals with higher psychopathic personality traits. To test this hypothesis, the current study investigated whether psychopathic personality scores could predict students' choices between two university majors, criminal justice or nursing (N= 174; 53 men, 121 women). Nursing education espouses nurturance and care, while criminal justice education teaches students informal and formal social control. Given these two educational mandates, it was predicted that students who scored higher on a scale of psychopathy would tend to enter criminal justice rather than nursing. Using logistic regression, results showed students with higher overall scores on the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, specifically higher scores on the subscale Machiavellian Egocentricity, were more likely to have chosen to major in criminal justice than nursing. Effects were generally weak but significant, accounting for between 5% to 25% of the variance in choice of major. Furthermore, this finding was not due to sex differences.

MeSH terms

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Criminal Law / education*
  • Criminal Law / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Pilot Projects
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*
  • Students, Nursing / statistics & numerical data*