Chances are, you will encounter a psychopath somewhere on the Fraser Coast today.

It might be your next-door neighbour; it could be your boss.

Psychopaths walk freely among us and most of us don't even realise it.

When people think of psychopaths, most think of mass murderers or serial killers.

But most psychopaths will not become serial killers - and most appear to be charming, intelligent and completely normal.

Many psychopaths are high achievers, drawn to positions of prestige, which means the psychopath you know could be found in a boardroom or in government.

A study conducted by New York psychologist Paul Babiak suggested that one out of every 25 business leaders could be psychopathic.

Mr Babiak said a person could live with someone and be married for 20 years and have no idea that person was a psychopath.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder which describes an individual who has shallow emotions and may display a number of different characteristics.

Some of the attributes of psychopaths include superficial charm, a lack of remorse and a lack of compassion.

According to author and psychologist Robert Hare, men are about seven times more likely to be psychopaths than women - but that doesn't mean the traits are any less pronounced in women.

Those who manage to pursue successful endeavours and stay out of trouble, despite their lack of remorse or compassion, are called "successful psychopaths".

Often those "successful psychopaths" have learnt to mimic emotions so they do not stand out or so they can please others and often create relationships that are beneficial to them.

According to Mr Babiak: "A psychopath can actually put themselves in your skin, intellectually not emotionally".

Extreme psychopathic behaviour seems to fascinate society, judging by the popularity of television shows such as Dexter.

Books which tell the tales of serial killers such a Jeffery Dahmer, Richard Ramirez and Ted Bundy are also among the bestsellers.