Library After Hours: What Makes a Dictator

Charles County Public Library




Library After Hours: What Makes a Dictator

By Charles County Public Library

Join us as we dive into the science behind what drives dictators, with Dean Haycock, neurobiologist, former instructor at Brown University, and author of both Tyrannical Minds and Murderous Minds.

Not everyone can become a tyrant. It requires a particular confluence of events to gain absolute control over entire nations.
First, you must be born with the potential to develop brutal personality traits. Often, this is a combination of narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism, paranoia and an extraordinary ambition to achieve control over others.
Second, your dangerous personality must be developed and strengthened during childhood. You might suffer physical and/or psychological abuse.
Finally, you must come of age when the political system of your country is unstable. Together, these events establish a basis to rise to power, one that Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Qaddafi all used to gain life-and-death control over their countrymen and women. It is how the leaders of the Islamic State hoped to gain such power.
Though these men lived in different times and places, and came from vastly different backgrounds, many of them felt respect for each other. They often seemed to recognize their shared, “dark” personality traits and viewed them as strengths. Only in rare cases did they show signs of mental disorders.
“Getting inside the heads” of foreign leaders and terrorists is one way governments try to understand, predict, and influence their actions. Psychological profiles can help us understand the urges of tyrants to dominate, subjugate, torture and slaughter.
Dean A. Haycock is a science and medical writer living in New York.
A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Association of Science Writers, he is the author of Tyrannical Minds: Narcissism, Personality, and Dictatorship, Murderous Minds, Exploring the Criminal Psychopathic Brain: Neurological Imaging and the Manifestation of Evil, The Everything Health Guide to Adult Bipolar Disorder, 2nd and 3rd editions, The Everything Health Guide to Schizophrenia, and Overcoming Complications of LASIK and Other Corrective Eye Surgery (with Ismail A. Shalaby, M.D., Ph.D.) and Characters on the Couch, Exploring Psychology Through Literature and Film.
His clients have included WebMD,, Annals of Internal Medicine, The Lancet Neurology, Drug Discover and Development, The American Health Consultants’ biotechnology daily newsletters BioWorld Today and BioWorld International, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newton’s Apple, Current Biology, BioMedNet, The Gale Encyclopedia of Science; the National Institutes of Health’s Environmental Health Perspectives and NCRR Reporter; The Copley News Service, The American Chemical Society’s Reaction Times; Upstate New Yorker magazine, and other magazines and newspapers. He has consulted for The American Institute for Research in Washington, D.C., and Integrated Strategic Information Services Inc. in California.
He earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brown University and conducted research The Rockefeller University and for Sterling Winthrop/Sanofi Pharmaceutical Company.
His research has been published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Brain Research, Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and other academic journals.

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