It's not a joke. Our nation's capitol really is full of psychopaths - and your state might be as well, according to a new working study from Southern Methodist University.
The new analysis, which has not gone through full peer review but was published to the Social Science Research Network, ranked the 48 continental states and the District of Columbia by the psychopathic personality markers — or "traits" — of their residents.
“These results are the first estimates we have, to the best of my knowledge, on the degree of psychopathy found in each state," Ryan Murphy, author of the study, told Newsweek.
Murphy computed each state's ranking by building on a previous study that ranked each state based on each of the "Big Five" personality traits: agreeableness, extraversion, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism.
This was done by analyzing the results of personality surveys given to thousands of residents in each state. People tended to have different levels of each of the "Big 5" traits depending on where they lived.
That previous study, which was published in 2013, aimed at separating the United States into broad regions of personality. The states in the mid-Atlantic and northeast were classified as "temperamental and uninhibited." Those in middle America were "friendly and conventional," while those in the west coast, Rocky Mountains, and Sunbelt region were "relaxed and creative."
Psychopaths tend to be extraverted and charming yet "largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love," according to Scientific American. They do things purely for their own interests, have shallow relationships and place blame on others when things go wrong, according to the magazine.
Murphy used the data on personality from the previous study and used it to calculate a new score based on personality traits that indicated psychopathy, according to Quartz.
After all the number crunching, what was the top psychopath hotspot? Washington D.C.
"The top five observations in psychopathy are the District of Columbia, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, and a tie of New York and Wyoming for fifth. The states that are least psychopathic are West Virginia, Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico," Murphy wrote.
Murphy wrote that people should take the capitol's top spot with a little bit of skepticism. The D.C. area is small, and entirely urban, so it is inherently different than comparing a state, which has a more diverse geography and population, he wrote.
Still, Murphy said in his study that the finding is consistent with a different study that found "psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere" and could be tempted to work in the "literal seat of power."
In general, Murphy writes that areas of the northeast are the most psychopathic, while rural areas are the least psychopathic, and that D.C. appears to be "far more" psychopathic on its own than any state in the country.
“My own speculations would be that the urban/rural distinctions drive a lot of the variation, and the historical distribution of cultures within the United States have a lot to do with it as well,” Murphy told Newsweek.