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What does your job say about you and psychopathic tendencies?

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Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012 11:38 pm | Updated: 12:09 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — My wife will be relieved to learn that I scored “low” on “The Psychopath Challenge,” a test on the website of a new nonfiction book, “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success,” by Kevin Dutton.

The Collins Dictionary defines “psychopath” as “a person afflicted with a personality disorder characterized by a tendency to commit antisocial and sometimes violent acts and a failure to feel guilt for such acts.”

Dutton cites research showing that some people gravitate toward or away from certain professions based on how much human contact and dealing with feelings are involved, as well as potential power inherent in the work and other considerations.

Psychopaths are especially attracted to careers as CEOs, lawyers, media, salespersons and surgeons, while they’re least likely to be nurses, therapists, craftspeople and beauticians. Psychopaths are also drawn to being chefs, civil servants and clergy, while teachers, creative artists, doctors and accountants are at the other end.

Call me a skeptic, but I believe startling stories like these often cherry-pick facts and research to create the biggest splash, or “accitation.” 

“Accite” was included on a website I recently visited called “Common Archaic Words in Shakespeare,” and in his day it meant “to rouse, excite.” Other amusing old-fashioned expressions include “addle: rotten, in reference to an egg,” “atomies: tiny creatures,” and “gasted: frightened, terrified.”

I vainly searched the list for “feck: worth, value, amount,” meant, but some other “f-words” caught my eye, but not the one you’re thinking. I refer to “eftest: easiest, best,” and “eftsoons: in a moment, presently.”

Acciting may be archaic, but writers use it to grab readers’ attention, like during political campaigns. President Obama’s re-election was seen likely by some experts weeks before it was decided, but that sort of news doesn’t sell newspapers, so the media stressed the race’s closeness. I studied the skeptic philosophers back in college and took a most useful course: “Lying with Statistics,” which showed the many ways a set of numbers can be spun, depending on the desired outcome.

A great example of that was last summer’s Stanford University study purporting to show that there’s little difference between organically grown and nonorganic produce. The Stanford researchers reported they “did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks of pesticide exposure.”

“Not only is that debatable,” the L.A. Times responded, “but it fails to get to the reason most people spend extra for organics. The Stanford researchers found studies showing that 38 percent of conventional produce contains pesticide residue, compared with 7 percent of organic produce.”

Agriculture professor Chuck Benbrook from Washington University noted that the Stanford team monkeyed with their statistics, and that there’s “an overall 81 percent lower risk or incidence of one or more pesticide residues in the organic samples.” Moreover, the Stanford study didn’t differentiate between a single pesticide trace in a food and multiple traces, nor between light traces and heavier ones.”

The “cocktail effect” of multiple pesticides on a single apple, bell pepper, or other susceptible produce is a growing concern among unbiased researchers. Worse, according to Infowars.com, “one of the key co-authors of the study, Dr. Ingram Olkin, has a deep history as an ‘anti-science’ propagandist working for Big Tobacco,” working for decades to “prove” cigarettes aren’t harmful. 

A similar kerfluffle erupted last summer that involved librarians. Forbes.com reported that advanced degrees in library science are the very worst, “based on salary and employment outlook.” Here in the Information Age unimaginable amounts of documents and data are being cranked out. Who can doubt the value of professional librarian skills for acquiring, organizing, protecting and delivering information?

In addition, Maureen Sullivan, the president of the American Library Association, pointed out in response, “It is true that many librarians are not paid for the full value of their work. The profit-centered, corporation-based measures valued by Forbes suggest that pay rate and growth are the only valid reasons for selecting a career … for librarians the primary motivation is job satisfaction derived from the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of others.”

That’s feck enough for me.

Greg Hill is director of Fairbanks North Star Borough libraries.

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