Around one in five corporate bosses are psychopaths - a proportion similar to that among prisoners - according to research conducted by forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks at Bond University.
Characteristics such as an inability to empathise, superficiality and insincerity are all associated with the condition.
He found 21 per cent of 261 corporated professionals had clinically significant psychopathic traits. Mr Brookes says that figure "shared similarities to what we would find in a prison population".
A type of “successful psychopath” who may be inclined to unethical or illegal practices has been allowed into the top ranks of companies because of the way firms hire, according to Mr Brooks.
Scott Lilienfeld, from Atkanta’s Emory University, has told Australian news site news.au: “Psychopaths are over-represented in certain occupations: politics, business, high-risk sport. The research on that is in the preliminary stages. “Being a psychopath might predispose someone to short-term success. They tend to be charming and flamboyant, which makes it easier to be successful in the short-run, although that may be purchased at expense of long-term failure.”