Sociopathy is formally known as
Antisocial Personality Disorder.
It is defined as "a mental health condition
in which a person has a long-term pattern
of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the
rights of others."
The exact cause of sociopathy is not
However, it is believed to result from
complex interaction of genetic and
environmental factors (e.g. child abuse,
alcoholic parents).
Sociopathy is much more common in men
as compared to women.
Though sociopaths comprise between
1 to 4% of the population (depending on
different metrics), high-functioning
sociopaths tend to rise to positions of
power and authority.
30-40% of the prison population are
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM IV-TR) lists these traits:
A) Pervasive pattern of disregard for and
violation of the rights of others occurring since
age 15 years, as indicated by three or more of
the following:
Failure to conform to social norms with respect to
lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly
performing acts that are grounds for arrest .
Deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use
of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or
Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead.
Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated
by repeated physical fights or assaults.
Reckless disregard for safety of self or
Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by
repeated failure to sustain consistent work
behavior or honor financial obligations.
Lack of remorse as indicated by being
indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt,
mistreated, or stolen from another.
B) The individual is at least age 18 years.
C) There is evidence of conduct
disorder with onset before age 15 years.
D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is
not exclusively during the course
of schizophrenia or a manic episode.
High Functioning Sociopaths
High functioning sociopath is term used to
describe people with sociopath traits that also
happen to have a very high intelligence quotient.
They are likely to be highly successful in the field
they endeavor (politics, business, etc.).
They plan very meticulously and the presence of
sociopathic traits like lack of empathy, lack of
remorse, deceptiveness, shallow emotions, etc.
makes it very difficult for "normal" people to
compete with them.
How to Spot a Sociopath
1. Sociopaths typically don't small talk about themselves
as much as normal people do. They will direct the
conversation back to the new acquaintance as much as
they can.
2. A sociopath will reveal "personal" details about himself
strategically, i.e. for the purposes of misdirection or a
false sense of intimacy/trust. Revelations of actual truths
are very rare and may be perceived as a small slip of the
3. Sociopaths frequently hesitate before responding. It
will be unclear to you whether they are bored, annoyed,
lying, or all three.
4. No strong reactions to illogical hotbed political/social topics (e.g.
Octomom or Catholic priest child molestation).
How to Spot a Sociopath (cont.):
5. Monotone voice.
6. A tendency to take things too literally or
otherwise not respond appropriately to small
emotional cues.
7. Cold indifference to one or more family
8. Seemingly a different person when
How to Spot a Sociopath (cont.):
9. Disconnect between what the sociopath says and
does, e.g. seems charitable but does not give money to
homeless or vice versa.
10. Never shows signs of embarrassment. Easily wins
over large crowds with confidence. "Poise" in this case =
lack of nerves.
11. Does not fit stereotypes for gender, race, ethnicity,
religion, age, sexual orientation, or career. Could seem
foreign, bisexual, older or younger, pious, wealthy or
poor, but may also just seem unplaceable.
12. Can flip flop between keeping a very low profile (the
observer) to being the life of the party (the actor).
“Confessions of a Sociopath”
Audio Version on NPR
“Inside the Mind of a Sociopath”