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The Sociopath Next Door

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Who is the devil you know?

Is it your lying, cheating ex-husband?
Your sadistic high school gym teacher?
Your boss who loves to humiliate people in meetings?
The colleague who stole your idea and passed it off as her own?

In the pages of The Sociopath Next Door, you will realize that your ex was not just misunderstood. He’s a sociopath. And your boss, teacher, and colleague? They may be sociopaths too.

We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.

How do we recognize the remorseless? One of their chief characteristics is a kind of glow or charisma that makes sociopaths more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They’re more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. Fundamentally, sociopaths are different because they cannot love. Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they are indifferent to others’ suffering. They live to dominate and thrill to win.

The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know—someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for—is a sociopath. But what do we do with that knowledge? To arm us against the sociopath, Dr. Stout teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game.

It is the ruthless versus the rest of us, and The Sociopath Next Door will show you how to recognize and defeat the devil you know.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Martha Stout

9 books269 followers
Author and Ph.D. in psychology.

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Profile Image for John.
49 reviews6 followers
January 7, 2016

What I liked about this book: It is very well written. Dr. Stout’s ghostwriter is exceptionally gifted and the book has a delightfully brisk pace, very clear language, and (mostly) smooth transitions.

Its substance, however, is cartoonish pop psychology masquerading as information. It draws its popularity from the same source as the The Da Vinci Code, under-informed, uncritical readers with a penchant for sensationalism; mostly [redacted]. In the hands of its intended audience, it is pure mind poison.

So here’s what I did not like about the book:

(1) It invites readers with no professional training to set out on a scavenger hunt to unearth a very subtle psychiatric condition amongst their friends and acquaintances and to label, publicly “out,” and ostracize them as “sociopaths.” This book sells itself partly as a kind of witch-hunt manual, helping the reader hunt down the evil sociopaths next door (invariably people who have wronged you or whom you don’t like) and expose them and expurgate them from your life and human society.

(2) It invites readers to see themselves as victims of an invisible class of evil people and to put anyone who cheats, or hurts, or manipulates them into this class of secret evil victimizers. This evil class is partly bred by American tradition and society because they reward people for being competitive and individualistic and then helps the evil sociopaths hide. Thus, the reader is indirectly victimized even by the institutions of American culture. But this book gives you the easy steps you need to survive the evil, so buy a copy for your friends—your non-sociopath friends, that is.

(3) The book’s promulgation of the revolutionary notion that all crime and anti-social behavior, which are not the product of extreme hardship or extreme emotional distress, are perpetrated by sociopaths. The book literally divides the human race into two groups, those with a conscience, who never do anything really bad unless they are starving or out of their mind with rage, and “them,” the conscience-free sociopaths, who do all the remaining evil with a cool head.
Thus, all con men are sociopaths. All non-starving burglars and thieves are sociopaths. Art thieves, sociopaths. Insider traders, sociopaths. Leaders who start wars are sociopaths (Jefferson Davis? Sociopath. He promoted slavery too, so he’s a double sociopath—twice the evil in one conscienceless evil man.) Your ex who lied to you and manipulated you? Sociopath. A friend lies to you three times—only probably a sociopath.
This idea is so bad, it is amazing it made it into print. Notice how perniciously it dovetails with a reader’s own emotional frailties. So your ex isn’t just your ex now—he or she is a sociopath, which explains why he or she never really loved oh-so-lovable you. One can see why the book finds a market.

(4) The book’s reckless and unexplained attribution of sociopathy to a range notable figures in politics and history. Conspicuous examples include former U.S. President George W. Bush, whose sociopathy as a cause of unnecessary wars is tediously and ham-handedly alluded to over and over; and Napoleon Bonaparte (whom I never have a kind comment for, but who’s loyalty and affection for his family is well-documented); Genghis Khan, Jochi Khan (only because he had too many wives—sociopath), Kublai Khan, Mussolini, and every other cheap target that no one would want to defend. The book then implies that most politicians and successful business people are probable sociopaths.

(5) Obviously, part of the problem is the book’s (and the profession’s) vague factors for determining who is a sociopath. The books recommends tests such as: Has the person lied to you three times? Probably a sociopath. Has the person hurt you more than once and asked for mercy? Definitely a sociopath. And similarly half-witted tests that really only make sense if you buy into the book’s core doctrine that, barring extremis, only sociopaths do bad things. However, even the constellation of factors from the DSM is embarrassingly non-specific: (a) failure to conform to social norms; (b) deceptiveness; (c) impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead; (d) irritability and aggressiveness; (d) reckless disregard for personal safety or the safety of others; (e) consistent irresponsibility in work or financial matters; (f) lack of remorse for misconduct. Sounds like most high school students. Thus, the mean old woman next door who has a trust fund and fights with her neighbors over trifles and who puts a rock over a groundhog hole in her own yard is a sociopath. The perpetually indolent new husband who doesn’t care at all about his wife or new son and has a transient interest in lithographs is a sociopath. You can find a sociopath wherever you want to—with the help of this book.

(6) I can hardly do better to illustrate the sensationalist, cartoonish, and genuinely anti-social nature of this disservice to books than to quote the publisher’s marketing snippet:
“Who is the devil you know? Is it your lying, cheating ex-husband? Your sadistic high school gym teacher? Your boss who loves to humiliate people in meetings? The colleague who stole your idea and passed it off as her own? In the pages of The Sociopath Next Door, you will realize that your ex was not just misunderstood. He’s a sociopath. And your boss, teacher, and colleague? They may be sociopaths too.”
And so on. They have judged their audience well.

(7) Since suspicion must now necessarily fall on me, let me say, for the record, I am NOT a sociopath. I have a conscience. I feel guilty all the time, often for things I shouldn’t. I am not a sociopath denier. I believe in sociopathy. I believe it is fairly common. However, I don’t believe this book’s practical recommendations allow ordinary people to determine who is a sociopath. If a person lies to you, or hurts you, or cheats you, you should drop them because that person did bad things to you, not because a book says the person has a psychiatric disorder that makes them a member of an invisible evil society of the congenitally amoral that you can only see with included decoder glasses. The main fallacy of the book is that it begins by saying sociopaths are hard even for professionals to detect, but then claims that this book can let anyone do it. This is accomplished because the book makes the remarkable conclusion that everyone who persistently does bad things is a sociopath. Thus, repeated bad behavior – rage or poverty = sociopathy. Believe it if you want to, but I say it’s nuts.

So what value is the book? It is mainly good at one thing: Making money for Martha. Beyond that, it is also very thought provoking as an exemplar of what can pass for legitimate publishing these days. Even so, the book asks many good questions. It provides much serious-sounding analysis containing some sound and even highly intelligent components, but then goes on to provide simplistic and twisted “answers” that are little more than attractive fodder for simple minds. The books gets one star, not because it is all bad or badly executed. There are innumerable quality chunks in it. However, the cumulative effect of the book is, in my opinion, as dangerous and anti-social as the activity of any sociopath. "Warning" people that those who do bad things are "sociopaths," invites people, who now see themselves as victimized members of a good class, to label nearly everyone around them as a semi-human sociopath or suspect semi-human sociopath. This pernicious effect of the book is not only terrifically obvious, but far outweighs any claim that the book, in its present form, is valuable as a "warning" or "tool" for people to protect themselves with. The book wantonly maximizes these anti-social and sensationalist effects and embraces them as a path to the best seller list and to big money. The complete absence of conscience from the author's decision-making is all too palpable. How ironic.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.2k followers
August 27, 2019

An entertaining and informative book, the thesis of which is that the conscienceless among us are not restricted to the serial killers, CEO's, lawyers and politicians among us, but may also be teachers, doctors, nurses, clergy--anyone who is impervious to the bond of love and cares about nothing but power and the ability to manipulate other people.

They are but 4% of the total population--1 in 25--and the principal comfort the rest of us can take is not only that we outnumber them but also that we are happier than they because their apparent freedom--which stems only from a lack of restraint--can end in nothing but boredom and bleakness, for they know nothing of community and love.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68k followers
March 2, 2022
The Solipsistic Gap

[There is a terminological issue in this book’s title that might be disciplinary in origin. The author is a clinical psychologist and considers sociopathy the equivalent to ‘anti-social personality disorder’ as per the definition in the manual of the American Psychiatric Association. But sociopathy is not a diagnostic category for mental disease in that manual, while psychopathy is. So with due deference to the author’s professionalism, I have chosen to use the term psychopath rather than sociopath in my comments. The modifier ‘narcissistic’ seems redundant in use with either term since it is implied by both. I don’t think my change in terminology significantly affects the authors conclusions... or mine. But apologies to her for any resulting infelicities]

Psychopaths are living solipsisms. Not in the sense that they don’t believe other minds exist - they are acutely aware they do exist, if only as inferior to their own. They are solipsistic because the rest of us believe that psychopaths have minds similar to our own. They don’t. They wear the “Mask of Sanity” which hides a significant absence of human wetware. Specifically, they lack conscience, that component of mind/spirit/humanness which limits the pursuit of one’s own will.

The non-psychopath cannot really conceive of the existence of this mental state. It is almost beyond comprehension to allow the idea of a flesh and blood robot to exist outside of science fiction or horror fantasy. The existence of such an actual entity brings into question the very definition of the category ‘human’. And indeed, there is a species-like gap between psychopaths and the mere neurotics of the world. And psychopaths know how to exploit that gap for fun and profit.

As Martha Stout points out, “your very mind is not the same as theirs.” And psychopaths are right, their. minds are in fact superior in a very specific, if unfortunate, way. They experience no guilt, remorse, regret, or responsibility. But because they look like other human beings, they pass unnoticed. As Stout explains “Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.”

Consequently psychopaths are the natural winners in evolutionary competition. They have a “huge and secret advantage, [coupled] with the corresponding handicap of other people.” So just as wealth tends to attract more wealth, psychopaths attract (and indeed create) other psychopaths in their quest for domination at every level of society. In short, the amorality of psychopathology ‘works’ quite well for the afflicted individual.

But unfortunately “Such people are insane, dangerously so,” as Stout says. What she has found through her own practise is that when it comes to other people, “the damage caused by the sociopaths among us is deep and lasting, often tragically lethal, and startlingly common.” It seems likely that only a few of the most unfortunate psychopaths ever get nicked. Even so they may constitute up to a quarter of the prison population.

And unlike your average neurotic who might be helped by drugs or psychotherapy, the psychopath has a “noncorrectable disfigurement of character” They might consume an endless supply of pharmacological and psychiatric resources, but they will remain unchanged. They have no mind to repair. In fact they will attempt to exploit the professional attention directed toward them in the same way that they attempt to exploit the rest of the population.

Psychopaths are what Scott Peck almost forty years ago called the “People of the Lie”. Both his book and Stout’s consist mainly of case studies about the same phenomena. Peck found psychopathology comparatively rarely in his psychiatric practice. But either because he was lucky or because the world has changed for the worse, that rarity is no more. Psychopaths are everywhere. Literally. Stout quotes studies unavailable in Peck’s era which estimate that psychopaths constitute 4% of the population (other research, however, shows two or three times that level). Psychopaths are also multi-talented:
“What differentiates a sociopath who lives off the labors of others from one who occasionally robs convenience stores, or from one who is a contemporary robber baron—or what makes the difference between an ordinary bully and a sociopathic murderer—is nothing more than social status, drive, intellect, blood lust, or simple opportunity.”

The details of Stout’s case studies are frightening and commensurately varied. Obviously they are evidence of an important public health issue. But psychopaths also constitute a philosophical and moral issue which I have tried to summarise in the title to this piece. They are not just qualitatively different, they are truly alien. How should any society deal with those who are constitutionally committed to destroying as much as they can within it? There is no way to close the solipsistic gap. Can this gap somehow be institutionally recognised? If so, it would go a long way toward improving live on earth.
Profile Image for Petra left her heart in Miami.
2,405 reviews34k followers
May 6, 2015
Somehow or other this review lost it's original story. I don't know how, so I'm putting it in. Not so much because it is a review of the book (it isn't) but because I never want to forget it, I want to set it down. Living next door to a sociopath is terrible, one of the worst things you an imagine. I want to remember it properly and this was the story.

The part of the review that remains is the end story that led up to the finale as it were, that I wrote at the time it was happening. So I've left it at the bottom.

I can't remember exactly what I wrote but essentially the neighbour had lived in the building when it was two apartments, the landlady had built two more upstairs and that pissed her off. She told the landlady the builder was stealing materials. The apartments are set in quite a lot of land and require a gardener, the neighbour wanted to arrange that and also the letting and collecting of rents as the landlady lives on another island. She wanted there to be a high turnover of tenants so she scratched cars, picked locks or otherwise got into apartments, disconnected the gas, drained the cisterns, complained about them etc. People left.

She pretended to be my friend for a year or so because her best friend was a very long-time good friend of mine. When I had to leave my apartment (because the landlord wanted to rebuild it), she found me this place. She told terrible lies about her life, maybe I was meant to know she was lying, maybe not. Because of that she popped my car tyres - three times in a week once, which led the tyre lady who fixes them to do it for free, interfered with the radiator and scratched the car. She did a lot of stuff in my place and around it. She killed my cat.

The mistakes she made were that the builder, who was my next door neighbour at the time, is a very decent person and he was building it up for free for the landlady because her husband had died and she needed security and the families were very close. So the builder couldn't steal what was his! The neighbour knew none of this.

The second mistake she made was that I lived next door to the builder for fifteen years so they knew me. They knew I wasn't a troublemaker.

The third mistake was that although the policeman who dealt with it, and who was a friend, couldn't devise a method to catch her. She disconnected the electricity when she bust into my house so the cameras didn't work. Although he couldn't do it, he did support me and on the day when he was away that her boyfriend threatened me and my son with the rock, and he phoned the police station to complain, he got an officer whose father and my grandmother were close friends. He said the right things...

And that was the end of that. Then the update.

Terrible story eh? Two and a half years of that. Oh and my close friend doesn't speak to me. She said that the (ex) neighbour wouldn't stand for her still being friends with me so... sorrry. There you go. Our kids grew up together.


Original review with a lot missing, hence the story above
I'm on page 50 of The Sociopath Next Door. Its like my mind goes blank faced with any kind of self-help book. Perhaps, even with my appalling criminal neighbour I'm beyond redemption. I cannot finish this book. Hell, I can hardly start it. Its sitting in my kitchen window so if the psychopathic neighbour decides to break in again she will see it :-)

I'm giving it another go.

Missing bit


I wrote this when it was happening

Update: My only way of annoying my neighbour (I'm neither a criminal nor a psychopath) was revving up my jeep outside her window for a minute or two and it drove her insane. :-) Eventually her boyfriend came out and threatened to throw a rock through the windscreen and when my son objected to his behaviour he picked up a bigger rock and told him he would fuck-him up if he went to the police. We had the police up within the hour. A stupid man he phoned the landlady to complain and she told him that since he didn't live there or pay rent there he had no right to complain. The landlady then phoned the neighbour who presumed I had complained, the boyfriend not having wanted to confess his ignominous dismissal by the landlady, and said it was all a lie, I had made it up. She also quite gratuiously told the landlady that the only reason she had taken my cat was that I put it in the back of her car and it woke up eight miles later and scratched hell out of the boyfriend so they threw it out of the car! (Anyone with a cat knows the cat would have scratched them to death by the bottom of the drive). The landlady said that it was the boyfriend, not me, who had phoned her and that she was a liar and gave her notice to leave.

That was back in November. She's still there. Hides her car and pulls her blinds down in case a lawyer comes to serve her papers. The landlady says she has a lawyer but since she lives on a different island she hardly ever comes over to see what is going on. I don't care, the neighbour is so frightened she hides behind her pulled-down blinds and restricts her mischief to keying mine and another neighbour's vehicles. I could live with it.

It took more than a year for the landlady and lawyers to get her out. Since then I've had nice neighbours.

Original review was written 28 April 2009, but most of the story was missing, so I rewrote it 5 August 2013
Profile Image for Matthew.
31 reviews12 followers
February 11, 2008
If given the opportunity to read a text about sociopathy and its prevalence, don't bother reading Stout's work. Instead, read "Without Conscience" by the psychologist Hare. Hare's work on sociopathy is notable in the field, and after reading it, you will be shocked to notice that entire sections of "The Sociopath Next Door" appear to be lifted from "Without Conscience," slightly reworded, and placed into the text. "The Sociopath Next Door" is still an interesting book, but it is at best a 'see spot run' version of Hare's only slightly longer book.
Profile Image for Bob.
101 reviews11 followers
July 30, 2008
This book has sparked more re-evaluation by me than any other book I've read for quite some time. The good news is that 96% of people have a conscience. The bad news is that 4% don't, and they can be a real problem, especially because their destructiveness may go undetected for some time. The author postulates that conscience is based on the ability to have emotional attachment to other people. Sociopaths are incapable of such attachments. They see other people as objects which are to be dominated or manipulated. Sociopaths are capable of simulating positive emotions when it suits their manipulative purposes. The classic example is the abuser who tries to get the victim to pity and forgive the abuser: "I am so tormented by tormenting you!" -- NOT. In fact, a constant appeal to pity and sympathy is put forward as one of the most telling signs that one is dealing with a sociopath.

This is all complicated by the fact that sociopaths are often quite charming (manipulation, remember?) Unlike people with attachment disorder who are incapable of charm. But a sociopath can be ruthless when it serves their interests and they think they can get away with it. So, a sociopath may be well-liked in public and hated by those in private life who are toyed with to satiate the sociopath's relentless crusade against being bored. The sociopath doesn't feel bad about the victims, unlike a narcissist who feels bad if other people don't like the narcissist as much as the narcissist does.

Since starting to read the book, I've been looking at all of my friends and family (and myself) as if with new eyes. That some people who I know are sociopaths would go a long way to explain some of the behavior I'd otherwise be at a loss to explain. I might have considered the possibility sooner had I known that sociopathy occurs so frequently.

The book contains much interesting info, including how to recognize and deal with a sociopath. The only part of the book that dragged for me was The Origins of Conscience, but luckily it only drones on for fifteen pages. The rest of the book I found to be very interesting.

Okay, now that I'm on guard against sociopaths, the next book I need to read is how not to be paranoid!
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,183 followers
January 28, 2012
There's a whole lot of fear mongering going on here.

The Sociopath Next Door, I'd give it 2.5. I keep going back and forth between 2 and 3 stars. According to Martha Stout, just about everyone knows a few sociopaths.......DUH. I know two people for sure that I used to work with....they were chilling. I may even be related to one. But the author gets a little dramatic. Yes, these people are ruthless, they don't care about anyone's feelings (they really don't have many of their own). But if you keep your eye's open, hopefully you can spot them and avoid them. If you can't avoid them, then just don't get caught up in their games....because us folks with a conscience are just game pieces to them. But the author makes it sound as if we are all doomed and we must prepare ourselves for the Sociopath Apocalypse (a better title for this book).

I found a site that lists a Sociopath tendencies.....

symtoms of Sociopaths

Remind you of anyone? Sure does to me.....you betcha don't ya and also too.

Sociopaths suck. They are the mean people. But their existence must suck for them. So good, thanks Karma.

There were some good stories in this book and the descriptions of the sociopath were well done. As I was reading, I had a few moments of...."Oh, so that was the deal with THAT asshat!"
Profile Image for Caroline .
410 reviews558 followers
October 29, 2022

Two aspects of this book are noticeably fitting from the start: its cover design and its title. The cover’s zoomed-in focus on three pairs of eyes has significance that's unclear until many pages in, a significance that no doubt will startle and intrigue. As for the title, it might sound somewhat melodramatic, but it underscores one of Stout’s most important points. If there’s one thing she wanted to make very clear it’s that sociopaths (sometimes called “psychopaths”; psychiatrists seem divided on whether these terms are one and the same), are veritable experts at hiding in plain sight. The majority aren't crazed shadowy figures lurking in alleyways. They’re more charming and charismatic than the average person, and they take exorbitant pride in fooling everyone around them by lying, manipulating, feigning the empathy they naturally lack, and playing the pity card.

People like reading about people. Stout knew this and smartly interspersed her narrative with captivating non-fictional anecdotes (and the occasional fictional anecdote) to illustrate her to-the-point explanations about this terrifying disorder. Such a set-up keeps interest high while making the subject very accessible to the lay reader. This isn't a tedious psychiatric work that feels like homework to read.

The Sociopath Next Door is probably ideal to read in combination with (and preferably after), Dr. Robert Hare’s more academic Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. Hare, being the foremost expert in the field of psychopathy, approaches the subject even more thoroughly, but Stout’s book is direct and gripping from page one. Readers searching for a quality book about sociopathy will be pleased with this choice.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,290 reviews120k followers
October 19, 2008
The author asks “Why have a conscience?” She argues that being truly human entails having one, and warns the majority of us about the four percent of people who are sociopaths. This is a chilling book. I have met people who fit her description. One need not be a serial killer to be a sociopath. One needs only to be immune to caring about the humanity of others.

P 3
It chafes to be so free of the ridiculous inner voice that inhibits others from achieving great power, without having enough talent to pursue the ultimate successes yourself. Sometimes you fall into sulky, rageful moods caused by frustration that no one but you understands.

But you do jobs that afford you a certain undersupervised control over a few individuals or small groups, preferably people and groups who are relatively helpless or in some way vulnerable. You are a teacher or a psychotherapist, a divorce lawyer or a high school coach. Or maybe you are a consultant of some kind, a broker or a gallery owner or a human services director…Whatever your job, you manipulate and bully the people who are under your thumb, as often and as outrageously as you can without getting fired or held accountable. You do this for its own sake, even when it serves no purpose except to give you a thrill. Making people jump means you have power—or this is the way you see it—and bullying provides you with an adrenaline rush. It is fun…Maybe you cannot be a CEO of a multinational corporation, but you can frighten a few people, or cause them to scurry around like chickens, or steal from them, or—maybe best of all—create situations that cause them to feel bad about themselves. And this is power, especially when the people you manipulate are superior to you in some way. Most invigorating of all is to bring down people who are smarter or more accomplished than you, or perhaps classier, more attractive or popular or morally admirable. This is not only good fun; it is existential vengeance. And without a conscience it is amazingly easy to do.
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,562 reviews263 followers
July 13, 2020
“Sociopathy is the inability to process emotional experience, including love and caring, except when such experience can be calculated as a coldly intellectual task.”
― Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door

I Just could not get into this book or rather maybe I should say could not take this book as seriously as I expected I would.

I also feel it is a bit dangerous. This book is giving readers information that may not be accurate in my view.

The book is about..well..Sociopaths. And what makes one a Sociopath. But the qualifications listed and the judgments made are in my opinion, quite misleading.

I am from a family of psychologists and if there’s one thing I know you don’t do, is to throw around labels easily. Reading this book was a little surreal to me. The qualifications listed as to what makes one a Sociopath could describe literally dozens of people I’ve met most of whom are not sociopaths. The characteristics are very general and ignore the fact that there are other personality disorders that are also lethal like borderline and narcissistic personality disorder.

Not everybody who displays the characteristics described here are sociopaths and many people who do NOT display all these characteristics are in fact sociopaths. This book is so general. It is black and white thinking and I do not like the message it gives to readers.

Writer uses some examples..some of the people she describes most likely ARE sociopaths, one in particular. I am not a psychologist myself so I really cannot say for sure. But that is not what gets me. It is the info she gives to readers that bothers me.

For example..if a person lies so and so many times..chances are they are a sociopath. I just..could not believe that. There are plenty of reasons people lie and not all of them would be given such a dire prognosis. Also plenty of people DO NOT lie who may in fact be sociopaths. These blanket generalizations, in my view, are not healthy to throw around.

At the end of the day I felt that the information was much to general(that's an understatement) and did not tell me anything I didn’t already know and much of what it told me I didn’t necessarily buy into.

The topic of sociopathy and personality disorders in general is a very complicated and in-depth subject matter and requires a lot more than a short books such as this to really understand it. At the end of the day I was disappointed with this book.
Profile Image for Abel.
23 reviews49 followers
July 27, 2017
A weird byproduct of listening to this book (a Daily Deal, well worth it) was a conscious undercurrent of pitting myself against the composite sociopaths depicted. I kept thinking, I hope it's not me. Or, It can't be me. Then that led to, Only a sociopath would see himself in a book about sociopaths. So ultimately I decided that I'm a narcissist with sociopathic tendencies. See? This is exactly why I don't read side-effects of medications, or delve too deep into Zen Buddhism--koans? Get the hell outta here, those break my fragile mind, cause cosmic vertigo--or follow any campaign trails. Some things, while enlightening, taint a neurotic. So what'd I do about rekiltering my autodiagnosis? I bought a book about narcissism. And of course I'll find myself in there. (Review soon!) I will have to cleanse the palate with something after all this mental disorder, maybe Seuss.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
2,928 reviews1,166 followers
April 5, 2019
Note: I read the Chinese translation of the book.

4% in the human population are sociopaths, meaning: they have (1) anti-social personality or (2) they don't have this thing that we call conscience.

So what should we do with this knowledge?

Here are a few hints:

(1) Sociopaths do not feel remorse on behalf of other people, nor can they be affected or restricted by conscience and/or sense of guilt.

(2) Sociopaths cannot feel real emotion and connection with other people--yes they may manage to have lovers or spouses or even children, but these spouses and children are more like possessions to them than real human beings.

(3) Sociopaths need lot and lot of excitement and sense of victory to fill the emptiness in their lives---that's the reason why winning and controlling other people (e.g. family members, coworkers, relatives etc) seem to be so important to them.

(4) Sociopaths cannot be cured, there is no known cure for anti-social personality. Plus most of these sociopaths do not admit they have any problem.

(5) NOT every sociopath would become serial killers or criminals, in fact many of them are ordinary people who have never broken any law, some of them even manage to become successful businessmen or politicians.

(6) Even though many if not most sociopaths have never physically killed or maimed anyone, but they can do just as much damage if not more.

(7) It is not correct to believe everyone has a conscience, some people (the author claims there make up 4% of the population) simply don't have one, and these people think and function in a way which is fundamentally different from us.

(8) In the mind of the sociopaths, everyone who obeys morality, laws and orders are fools. Plus in their mind, everyone expects themselves are only game pieces on the board for them to manipulate and move around.

(9) Last but not least, people who were born with the basic sense of conscience, also aren't above doing crime and hurting other people. Because it isn't uncommon for conscience to be misdirect or blurred away. For example, people can think like this: killing people is immoral, but since People of Colors/sex workers/homeless people etc are not people, so killing them is not immoral.

Well, some reviewers dislike the author Martha Stout for singling out and labeling people as 'sociopaths'. However, as a layman, I have to ask: 'why fool ourselves with the fantasy that everyone has a heart when it is obvious that some people just don't? Why shouldn't we be taught to recognize the typical traits of predators and psychic vampires before they can hook their claws on us?'

I will be honest, the first 70 pages of the book do not tell me anything I didn't know, but the rest of the book is a lot more enjoyable.

PS: talking about sociopath, do all the typical traits mentioned above remind you of a certain someone named Trump?
Profile Image for Laura.
385 reviews505 followers
March 1, 2009
You know that neighbor of yours who ignores you when you say hello to him in the hall? Well, he might not be just a garden-variety jerk -- he may be A SOCIOPATH!! In fact, four percent of the United States' population is composed of sociopaths. You know what this means, don't you? TROUBLE!!

That might as well be the flap copy of Martha Stout's book, which doesn't seek to enlighten so much as to inflame. Stout throws out a lot of scary-sounding statistics cobbled together with some vaguely philosophical maundering about the nature of conscience, presents a bunch of unpleasant characters purportedly drawn from real life, and informs us that sociopaths are freely interspersed among us, trying as hard as they can to ruin our lives. All is not lost, though, as Stout also gives us a list of 13 rules we can use to thwart the sociopathic horde -- some of which, such as "The best way to protect yourself from a sociopath is to avoid him, to refuse any kind of contact or communication," might be of limited use if the person you're dealing with is, say, your boss (a likely scenario, if you take Stout's thesis seriously). She then ends the list with "Living well is the best revenge." Uh, what?

To make matters worse, a glance at the end notes reveals that Stout bases her conclusions on statistics gathered from old studies -- the book was published in 2005 and a lot of the source materials are dated 1997 and earlier -- which makes you wonder about the basis of her conclusions. Stout doesn't help her argument by using composite characters, at least one of whom (the aforementioned nasty neighbor) appears to be completely fictional. Another supposed case study, while perhaps based on a real person, is obviously mostly fictional, as Stout purports to tell us what exactly what the person was thinking when she did so and so a terrible thing to such and such an innocent victim. The reader is left wondering why, if this problem is so widespread, Stout couldn't have presented her audience with some real people.

The most interesting and enlightening parts of the book are Stout's recounting of other studies -- for example, the famous Milgram experiment. Stout also presents an interesting discussion of the difference between sociopathy and narcissism. But these brief glimmers of interest provide nowhere near enough basis to slog through this whole book.
Profile Image for David.
Author 17 books333 followers
December 28, 2014
This is a good, though somewhat light (being intended for the pop-psych crowd) description of just what a sociopath is, what makes them tick, how to recognize them, and how to avoid them. It's not full of gruesome crimes or case studies, because Stout's key message is that sociopaths, for the most part, are not psychotic serial killers. They are seemingly ordinary people who can live ordinary lives fooling most everyone around them. And if you do realize that someone is a sociopath, there isn't much you can do about it if they aren't actually doing anything criminal. Sociopaths all play dominance games and view other people -- even their own families -- as objects to be manipulated and used, so the only thing you can do is disengage, even if the sociopath is your own parent or child. The scariest and most heartbreaking thing about them is that they are completely incurable.

Stout's lengthy explanation of conscience is sometimes interesting, though full of a lot of speculation, blending as she does viewpoints from every field from religion and mysticism to evolutionary psychology. She tries to address questions like "What causes sociopaths?" and "What evolutionary advantage could there be in having no conscience?" (and conversely, "What evolutionary advantage is there in having a conscience?"), but like anything treading the murky waters of evpsych, it's mostly speculation. The fact is that (according to Stout) 1 in 25 Americans is a sociopath, and this crosses all economic and social strata. Contrary to what you might assume, sociopaths don't seem to be produced by abusive or traumatic childhoods. She tries hard to argue that sociopathy is a combination of innate and environmental factors, and clearly there is no gene for sociopathy, but it does seem to be the case that sociopaths are pretty much born, not made. If there is any way to detect early warning signs that a young child might have sociopathic tendencies and correct it before it's too late, psychology does not yet seem to have figured it out.

Stout claims (without a lot of evidence, I thought) that sociopathy is more common in Western society. Obviously sociopaths have always existed in every society, but she argues that Western society encourages sociopathic behavior by giving rewards to "winners" even if they win through ruthless and unscrupulous means. I find this questionable; not that sociopaths can rise high in the political or business world (obviously they can) but that any other society is better at filtering out people without a conscience. There's plenty of ruthlessness and corruption in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and even small tribal societies, so I really doubt sociopaths thrive less there than here in the U.S.

Stout ends the book with an attempt at a reassuring message that sociopaths really don't win in the end; that they mostly live hollow lives of perpetual unfulfillment and can never even appreciate what they are missing. This may be true, but I suspect a lot of sociopaths feel pretty darn self-fulfilled when they get what they want. Nice guys may not always finish last, but if you're competing with a sociopath, it's going to be an ugly race, and the evidence around us suggests we are competing with a lot of them.
March 24, 2017
Let's get this out of the way - I find the idea of sociopathy (some call it psychopathy, others call it anti-social personality disorder) infinitely fascinating. The fact that some people can go about their lives with the inability to love, the inability to form emotional attachments and a pure and total lack of empathy for their fellow man is as interesting as it is terrifying.

In practice, sociopathy is a scary thing. I have a feeling I have crossed paths with more than one sociopathic person in my life, and you probably have too. This book helped shed some light on exactly why I might have felt that a certain person was a little off when I first met them, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

This book does give hints and tips about pin pointing the sociopaths in your life, but it is weighed down so heavily in overly wordy, scientific language that at times I thought I was back in high school falling asleep while trying to read my psychology text book.

If you're into a lot of references, heavily researched hypotheses and the occasional case study, then this book is for you. I much preferred the case study chapters and they were the only thing that kept me going throughout this book. As it is, this took me a month to read. This shit is dense.

However, having said that, this book is filled with truth bombs. The reflections of society as a whole, flashbacks to studies about human nature and hypotheses about the evolution of conscience as our seventh sense are equal parts enlightening and horrifying.

This was a mixed bag, the case studies were incredible but I wish there were more of them.

Overall, I feel like I learnt a lot and will hopefully be able to more effectively identify sociopaths in the wild, now.

I will probably read more from this lady, she certainly knows what she's talking about. Or does she? Perhaps she's a sociopath herself and we'll never know, unless we use her tricks against her! Now I'm just being paranoid. Or am I?


3 Stars

I originally picked up this book because this amazing podcast mentioned it in passing. If you like true crime, you should be listening to them. And if you are already, let me know! I'd love to know if you're a fellow murderino.
Profile Image for Negin.
594 reviews151 followers
February 21, 2021
Since I have known a few sociopaths, this book was eye-opening for sure. Most sociopaths are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They’re difficult to spot, are walking around among us, and often destroying the lives of others.

Sociopaths (about four per cent of the population) usually exhibit the following:
lack of guilt and remorse
lack of empathy
lack of conscience
inability to form emotional attachments to others
constant lying and unreliability
using people easily
chronic boredom
ignoring social norms
inability to accept responsibility
devoting themselves to winning, “domination for the sake of domination”
desire for pity – this, by the way, is the one possible tell-tale sign that she mentions. It’s also when others often start to excuse the sociopath’s behavior.

The topic fascinates me, but I didn’t care for the writing style or presentation. The case studies were the most interesting parts, as well as the practical advice. The one possible tell-tale sign is the call for pity. This is when others start to excuse their behavior.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

4 Percent
“About one in twenty-five individuals are sociopathic, meaning, essentially, that they do not have a conscience. It is not that this group fails to grasp the difference between good and bad; it is that the distinction fails to limit their behavior. The intellectual difference between right and wrong does not bring on the emotional sirens and flashing blue lights, or the fear of God, that it does for the rest of us. Without the slightest blip of guilt or remorse, one in twenty-five people can do anything at all.”

Body Obsession
“The absolute self-involvement of sociopathy creates an individual consciousness that is aware of every little ache and twitch in the body; every passing sensation in the head and chest, and ears that orient with acute personalized concern to every radio and television report about everything from bedbugs to ricin. Because the concerns and awareness are geared exclusively toward himself, the person without conscience sometimes lives in a state of hypochondriacal reactions hat would make even the most fretful anxiety neurotic appear rational. Getting a paper cut is a major event, and a cold sore is the beginning of the end.”

“Sociopaths sometimes use their hypochondriasis as a strategy to get out of doing work. One moment they are fine, but then it is time to pay the bills or look for a job or help a friend move to a new apartment, and suddenly they have chest pains or a limp. And imaginary medical concerns and infirmities often secure special treatment, such as the one last chair in an overcrowded room.”

Covetous Sociopaths
“Sociopaths do not always have a covetous nature – some are very differently motivated – but when lack of conscience and covetousness occur together in the same individual, a fascinating and frightening picture emerges. Since it is simply not possible to steal and have for oneself the most valuable ‘possessions’ of another person – beauty, intelligence, success, a strong character – the covetous sociopath settles for besmirching or damaging enviable qualities in others so that they will not have them, either, or at least not be able to enjoy them so much.”

Desire for Pity
“I am sure that if the devil existed, he would want us to feel very sorry for him.”

“If … you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100 percent that you are dealing with a sociopath.”

“After listening for almost twenty-five years to the stories my patients tell me about sociopaths who have invaded and injured their lives, when I am asked, “How can I tell whom not to trust?” the answer I give usually surprises people. The natural expectation is that I will describe some sinister-sounding detail of behavior or snippet of body language or threatening use of language that is the subtle giveaway. Instead, I take people aback by assuring them that the tip-off is none of these things, for none of these things is reliably present. Rather, the best clue is, of all things, the pity play. The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.”

Domination for the Sake of Domination
“Why are all sociopaths not in positions of great power? … Why do they not win all the time? … most of them are obscure people, and limited to dominating their young children, or a depressed spouse, or perhaps a few employees or coworkers. Not an insignificant number of them are in jail, … or in danger for their careers or their lives. Very few are fabulously wealthy. Even fewer are famous. Having never made much of a mark on the world, the majority are on a downward life course, and by late middle age will be burned out completely. They can rob and torment us temporarily; yes, but they are, in effect, failed lives.”

Effect on Society
“The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth. Yet surprisingly, many people know nothing about this disorder, or if they do, they think only in terms of violent psychopathy – murderers, serial killers, mass murderers – people who have conspicuously broken the law many times over, and who, if caught, will be imprisoned … We are not commonly aware of, nor do we usually identify, the larger numbers of nonviolent sociopaths among us, people who often are not blatant lawbreakers, and against whom our formal legal system provides little defense.”

“People without conscience experience emotions very differently from you and me, and they do not experience love at all, or any other kind of positive attachment to their fellow human beings. This deficit, which is hard even to ponder, reduces life to an endless game of attempted domination over other people.”

“Sociopathy is the inability to process emotional experience, including love and caring, except when such experience can be calculated as a coldly intellectual task.”

“And sociopaths are noted especially for their shallowness of emotion, the hollow and transient nature of any affectionate feelings they may claim to have, a certain breathtaking callousness. They have no trace of empathy and no genuine interest in bonding emotionally with a mate. Once the surface charm is scraped off, their marriages are loveless, one-sided, and almost always short-term. If a marriage partner has any value to the sociopath, it is because the partner is viewed as a possession, one that the sociopath may feel angry to lose, but never sad or accountable.”

Lack of Commitment and Follow-Up
“Sociopaths sometimes exhibit brief, intense enthusiasms – hobbies, projects, involvements with people – that are without commitment or follow-up. These interests appear to begin abruptly and for no reason, and to end the same way.”

“For their own reasons, sociopaths sometimes marry, but they never marry for love. They cannot fall genuinely in love, not with their spouses, their children, or even a pet. Clinicians and researchers have remarked that where the higher emotions are concerned, sociopaths can ‘know the words but not the music.’ They must learn to appear emotional as you and I would learn a second language, which is to say; by observation, imitation, and practice.”

“As a counterpoint to sociopathy, the condition of narcissism is particularly interesting and instructive. Narcissism is, in a metaphorical sense, one half of what sociopathy is. Even clinical narcissists are able to feel most emotions are strongly as anyone else does, from guilt to sadness to desperate love and passion. The half that is missing is the crucial ability to understand what other people are feeling. Narcissism is a failure not of conscience but of empathy, which is the capacity to perceive emotions in others and so react to them appropriately. The poor narcissist cannot see past his own nose, emotionally speaking, and as with the Pillsbury Doughboy, any input from the outside will spring back as if nothing had happened. Unlike sociopaths, narcissists often are in psychological pain, and may sometimes seek psychotherapy. When a narcissist looks for help, one of the underlying issues is usually that, unbeknownst to him, he is alienating his relationships on account of his lack of empathy with others, and is feeling confused, abandoned, and lonely. He misses the people he loves, and is ill-equipped to get them back. Sociopaths, in contrast, do not care about other people, and so do not miss them when they are alienated or gone, except as one might regret the absence of a useful appliance that one has somehow lost.”

Question Your Tendency to Pity Too Easily
“Pity … should be reserved for innocent people who are in genuine pain or who have fallen on misfortune. If you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100 percent that you are dealing with a sociopath.”

Rule of Threes
“When considering a new relationship of any kind, practice the Rule of Threes regarding the claims and promises a person makes, and the responsibilities he or she has. Make the Rule of Threes your personal policy.
One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding instead. Two may involve a serious mistake. But three says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of conscienceless behavior. Cut your losses and get out as soon as you can.”
Profile Image for Shell.
141 reviews
July 21, 2011
Let me begin by saying, I'm not a psychologist and honestly, I know very little about it. I took two psychology classes in college years ago and that's about the extent of my knowledge. I did, however, love this book. It was comprised mostly of case studies and Dr. Stout's 25 years of experiences dealing with clients who have been affected and harmed by sociopaths in their lives. It discusses how manipulative, deceitful, charming, personable and fake a sociopath can be and the lengths one would be willing to go to get what they want. Whether it be the power of getting others to respond and do as they wish, dominating another, controlling another or getting good people to doubt themselves. Whatever the case may be, a sociopath does it with a plan in mind. He or she knows what they want and what will give them a moment of feeling power over another.

I've always believed that there is a little good in everyone. At some point in everyone's life they did at least one good deed. Maybe they smiled and said hello to an old woman who was feeling particularly lonely one day, or made a child laugh, or comforted a dying parent. I still believe that, despite the knowledge that it may not be true, because some actions are not about how it made the person doing it feel, but how it made the other person who received the action feel. Even a sociopath could unknowingly make someone's day.

This book discussed how 1 in 25 people is a sociopath. 1 in 25! That's a number far greater than I would have assumed had I been asked how many sociopaths I thought there were in the world before reading this book. Sociopaths are individuals without a conscious, ones with the ingrained inability to do what many of us do naturally, to love. Dr. Stout also gives examples and ways in which those with a conscious can recognize the sociopaths they come into contact with and protect themselves against them.

After reading this, I've discovered two things. One, I'm lucky and very grateful to have a conscious, to be able to love, to enjoy just listening to my child laugh or hearing my husband snore (What? It's cute!), or being able to derive pleasure from a simple conversation with a good friend. The second thing I learned is that regardless how much it is said that you should not pity a sociopath, because pity is one of the major tools used against those with a conscious, I still do. To live a life without ever really caring? Without ever really being able to love? What would be the point?
Profile Image for Julie.
64 reviews4 followers
May 9, 2008
Wow--4% of those around us are...sociopaths! Don't read this book if you have a tendency to be paranoid. I'm now looking around me now wondering, "Is SHE a sociopath? Is HE?"

A sociopath is someone without conscience (in short, they cannot love or attach value to other living things). One WITH conscience cannot fathom what this might even be like, and "sociopath" seems like such an extreme label, so the non-sociopaths rarely identify sociopaths as sociopaths ("we" make excuses for their questionable behavior, because how on earth could someone actually be doing what this looks like they're doing?). That makes them dangerous. A couple quick giveaways (in addition to your intuition that "something's wrong with this person") is: they are charming as hell, and, weirdly enough, they want your pity.

Rule of thumb: dump a person if they lie, break promises, or lame out on a responsibility 3 times. Do not play their game (you won't win), and cut them out of your life.

See? I'm paranoid!
Profile Image for Kristina.
259 reviews28 followers
April 23, 2020
This book provided an excellent psychological perspective on conscience. I am used to approaching conscience from a religious angle as I (love to) teach Catholic morality to eighth-graders. This analysis of sociopathy was fascinating and informative and gave much insight into the different types of sociopaths, the vital nature of conscience and empathy, and the knowledge gained from years of morality research. A worthwhile investment of time, I think everyone could benefit from this glimpse into the darker side of psychology.
1 review1 follower
February 24, 2011
A familiar stranger came into my life last year... he pulled one after another of the power games Stout details in her book... at first I could not even open this book, recommended to me by my physician, because it was eerily and creepily too real for me. Once I did though, I couldn't put it down. Martha Stout describes this kind of person (and the individual I knew) so thoroughly that it is altogether frightening. I did not believe such people exist... now I know first hand that they do. Reviewers who pan this book have clearly never been taken in by a sociopath (or they haven't realized it), or they would realize how chillingly cunning and methodical the remorseless are in their games. Ultimately the book is hopeful, giving us two things: the tools to recognize the sociopaths among us (beware crocodile tears that seem to be turned on and off at will, and the overplaying of the "pity" card), and the comfort that the numbers and actions of those who do have a conscience by far outweigh the numbers of the conscienceless.
Profile Image for Bojan Tunguz.
407 reviews145 followers
April 21, 2014
For many years we’ve been friends with this guy whom I’ll call Steve. Steve is an upstanding member of the community, has a picture-perfect All-American family, a respectable job, and a wide circle of friends. He comes across as charming and very friendly, and seems to be very eager to help and please those around him. However, after getting to know him just a little bit better all these aspects of Steve’s life appear to be an act. Steve is in fact extremely competitive even over the dumbest things, scheming, and manipulative. The more I got to know him, the less I wanted to know about him. His constant scheming was eventually too much to handle, and we were forced to cut all personal ties with him.

All along I was wondering what is it that made Steve act in the way that he did. A few years ago I came across an article on Wikipedia on psychopathy, and that’s when things finally started making sense. It turns out that psychopaths/sociopaths are actually very common in the society at large. Most of them are not Hannibal Lectors of Hollywood’s imagination. They are not serial killers, nor are the majority of them necessarily physically violent. All of them, however, have one main thing in common: they wreak havoc on almost all lives that they touch. Most disturbingly, there are surprisingly many of them around: one to four percent in the US, depending on how rigorous your classification criteria are.

“The Sociopath Next Door” is in many ways the best book on sociopaths/psychopaths that I’ve read. What distinguishes it from many other similar books is its very practical and applied approach. Furthermore, Martha Stout is an excellent writer in her own right and this is an eminently readable, even literary, book. Book’s a pleasure to read, and were the subject matter not this serious and frightening, this would make a great pleasure read.

There are three main things that I loved about the book.

1. Stout reduces psychopathy/sociopathy to just one most salient feature: lack of conscience. She argues, quite persuasively, that all other features of sociopaths are secondary. This insight alone can explain why sociopaths come in so many different guises.
2. Stout provides a very easy and counterintuitive way of identifying sociopaths. One thing that really gives them away is the “pity play”: all of them to various extents tap into their victims’ compassion in order to manipulate them.
3. Stout provides an excellent and very effective thirteen-point list of ways in which we can deal with sociopaths. Unfortunately there is no way of “curing” these people, so the best we can hope is to try to reduce their effects on others. I have been practicing pretty much all of the recommendations on my own to begin with, and I can assure you that they are very, very effective.

So if this is such a wonderful and useful book, why did I give it only four stars? Because I fear that Stout had overreached. If this had been only a book about individual sociopaths, who they are, and how to deal with them this would have been a wonderful and self-contained book. However, it seems that one of the main motivations behind writing this book had been to denounce wars, and the wars waged by the United States in particular. I have no doubt that many politicians and World leaders are in fact sociopaths, including some US presidents. Nonetheless, reducing all of warfare and a pretty big chunk of international relations to psychological defects of a few individuals, without providing a single concrete shred of evidence for such a claim, is at best intellectually questionable. I am afraid that this other underlying theme has a potential to seriously undermine Stout’s main points and insights about sociopaths. Fortunately, this part of the book can be to a large extent ignored.
Profile Image for Grace.
58 reviews44 followers
February 12, 2017
The Sociopath Next Door
by Martha Stout

A few months ago I was given the opportunity to read “The Sociopath Next Door” and before doing so I chose to look it up on Goodreads, to see what my fellow readers thought of it. The reviews were not encouraging. I looked elsewhere for something to read. Then, a few days ago a family member bought the audio book version (from iTunes), and I had nothing else to listen to while gardening. I’m deeply glad that fate intervened.

I can completely understand why people who saw the cover, and read the blurb on this book would be dissatisfied with it. I’m sad to say that it seems clear that the publisher and author of this book did not communicate well. This is not a book about sociopaths, so much as a book about conscience, and why selfishness is so utterly destructive. It is a celebration of human nature, and the fact that we feel and love. It is a warning against the small percent of people who do not, and would pray on you if they could.

I would not call “The Sociopath Next Door” unscientific, but it is certainly more abstract than most books on similar topics. The ideas explored, while well researched, are not easy to put labels to. This book moved me, unexpectedly and completely. There is such a great love of people as a whole in Mrs. Stout’s writing, and such a depth of compassion without ever crossing out of the realm of scientific inquiry.

“The Sociopath Next Door” is a book you should read if you wish to learn more about sociopathy, to understand the human conscience, to learn how to recognize and protect yourself from the influence of a sociopath, or if you simply wish to have a new appreciation for the goodness in humanity and the beauty that is our ability to love each other.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,896 followers
November 1, 2019
4.4 stars

I have a sister who is a sociopath and a malignant narcissist, so I studied this book carefully and took lots of notes. But really, it turns out that if you encounter a sociopath, the best thing to do is completely eliminate them from your life, if possible. They have no conscience and are irredeemable. If you continue to associate with them, they will never stop using and victimizing you. They need it like we need air. Hurting others and getting away with it is their only true pleasure in life. It makes them feel smarter and more clever and superior to everyone around them.

The tricky thing about sociopaths is that their victims are the only ones who know how evil they are. They are very skilled at appearing to be normal and can be quite charming. And they are master-level gaslighters, so they can convince people that they aren't really seeing what is right in front of them.
Profile Image for Audrey.
110 reviews
May 17, 2008
I wish that every mood, developmental, personality and every other kind of disorder catalogued by those wonderful folks over at the DSM had a book written about it the way sociopathy does. I'd like to read like a billion page DSM where every single disorder had a nice book like this under its heading. First on my wishlist would be borderline personality disorder. Then Aspberger's.

In fact this book, writing-quality-wise, is sort of on the level of a stretched-out Newsweek article, maybe. Yeah, a cross between a stretched out Newsweek article and a stretched-out DSM article. It's a really easy read and isn't necessarily bursting with new insights on every page. But it's so fun! It made me want, overall, to be reading easier books.

I read this book on successive trips to a Barnes and Noble, which I found to be very enjoyable.

Profile Image for Lara.
53 reviews17 followers
January 4, 2019
I read this quite awhile ago maybe 15 years ago.. I read it at a time where I was trying to understand a man who had been living in my basement.. someone whom I told my friends might be the one to throw my body in a lake or bury me in my own backyard.
Charming, incredibly farm boyishly handsome, clean good looks, mussels to die for, smoooith skin, gap toothed grin, made me laugh till I fell over on the street while we were walking, smooth talker,
Come to find out he had about 2 or 3 too many girlfriends...hidden here or there. Two of them pregnant u found out not long after he asked me to marry him...
I had to ask him how many other women he had proposed to that week.

Dang and he would not leave. Had to shoehorn him out and then chase him down on his way out of town to retrieve some of my stuff. Impossible to track the dude down, no past, said he came from the Boundary waters...
My big little sociopath! No more mine praise someone!
Profile Image for Darth J .
417 reviews1,247 followers
April 7, 2013
I found this book to be fascinating. I originally picked this book up as part of my research for a novel, but I didn't expect to be so entertained by it. It's a sad truth that statistically one in 25 people you will meet in life is a sociopath (per the book), and I have found that to be somewhat accurate as I've met two truly conscienceless people in my life. While I wouldn't say this is the only book on the subject, it definitely made for an engaging read.
Profile Image for Emily.
70 reviews4 followers
September 27, 2016
Uh I'm quitting this book. A lot of it is just very "no duh." Maybe I'M a sociopath but I don't give a shit about this book anymore
Profile Image for Emtiaj.
236 reviews89 followers
September 14, 2016
সামারি টাইপ, পুরোটাই স্পয়লার। এই বই পড়ার ন্যুনতম আগ্রহ থাকলে এটা পড়বেন না।

“What is important to you in your life? What do you want more than anything else?” I thought he might say “getting money,” or “staying out of jail,” which were the activities to which he devoted most of his time. Instead, without a moment's hesitation, he replied, “Oh, that's easy. What I like better than anything else is when people feel sorry for me. The thing I really want more than anything else out of life is people's pity.”

শহরতলীর এক হাই স্কুলের প্রিন্সিপল হানার (Hannah) বাবা, চমৎকার মানুষ, সবাই তাকে ভালো বলেই জানে, হানা আর তার মা তো ভালো জানেই, মাই-ডিয়ার লোক, উদার। সেই লোকই হঠাৎ একদিন খুন করে বসল, তাদের বাসাতেই। লোকটা ছিল অনুপ্রবেশকারী, হয়তো চুরি করতেই এসেছিল। দীর্ঘ আইনী প্রক্রিয়া শেষে তার জেল হয়ে গেল। যাকে খুন করা হয়েছে সে যদিও নিরস্ত্র ছিল কিন্তু সে ছিল চিহ্নিত অপরাধী, ড্রাগ এডিক্ট, সর্বোপরী খুন হওয়ার আগে জানলা ভেঙ্গেই ঘরে ঢুকেছিল। অতএব হানার বাবার তার পরিবারকে রক্ষা করতে খুন করাটা কি যুক্তিসঙ্গত নয়? চারদিকে প্রতিবাদের ঝড় উঠলেও কিন্তু শেষমেশ রায়ের পরিবর্তন ঘটেনি।

হানা, যে কিনা মেডিকেল স্টুডেন্ট, এসমস্ত ঘটনায় খুবই ডিপ্রেসড। লেখকের কাছে এসেছে রোগী হিসেবে, কিন্তু বলেছে, দেখ, আমি কিন্তু চিকিৎসা নিতে আসিনি, আমি শুধু কথা বলতে চাই। প্রতি সপ্তাহে কথা বলতে বলতেই বেরিয়ে আসলো, তার বাবাকে সে এতদিন যেভাবে চিনে এসেছে আসলে সে যে তা নয় সেটাই সে বুঝতে পারেনি। ছোট্টকালে একবার পরীক্ষায় খারাপ করেছিল বলে কয়েকদিন কথাই বলেনি। যদিও বলেছে, দেখ তুমি যদিও ছেলে না কিন্তু সব স্বাধীনতাই ভোগ করবে, আমি অন্যদের মত এত রক্ষণশীল না, কিন্তু দেখা যায় নিজের সিদ্ধান্তই সে তার উপর চাপিয়ে দিয়েছে, যেমন তার ডাক্তার হওয়া। তার মা একবার নিউমোনিয়ায় আক্রান্ত হয়ে হস্পিটালাইজড হলেও একবারের জন্যও তাকে দেখতে যায়নি, বরং আসার পর বলেছে, তুমি আর কখনোই তোমার আগ��র রূপ ফিরে পাবে না। নিজেকে খুবই ছোট মনে হচ্ছিল যখন সে বলছিল, আমার বাবা একবার তার ক্লাসের এক মেয়েকে বলেছে, নিশ্চয় আজও ব্রা পরোনি, একা পেয়ে এক ছাত্রীকে জড়িয়ে ধরা, তার ক্লাসের আরেক মেয়েকে কু … এই যে বাবার সম্বন্ধে এসব বলছে তার পরও কিন্তু সে বলছে নিশ্চয় তুমি আমাকে খারাপ ভাবছো?

হানার মায়ের কাছে বিচিত্র সব ফোন কল/মেসেজ আসতো, যেগুলোতে তার বাবাকে ড্রাগ ডিলার হিসেবে অভিযুক্ত করা হতো। সত্যিই কি তাই? হানা জেলে দেখা করতে গিয়েছিল। জিজ্ঞেস করেছিল, বাবা সেই লোকটা কী খুঁজতে এসেছিল? এভাবেই বেরিয়ে আসলো, মোটেই সে অনিচ্ছাকৃতভাবে খুন করেনি, এর আগেও সে খুন করেছে এবং স্যোসিওপ্যাথ হিসেবে তার যে বৈশিষ্ট্য থাকা দরকার তাও আছে। আপাত দৃষ্টিতে সমাজের কাছে ভালো একটা মানুষ কিন্তু এবিউজার, খুনী, ড্রাগ ডিলার, এবং এ সমস্ত কাজের জন্য তার কোন অনুশোচনা নেই। বহু বছর পরে হানার বাবা-মার বিচ্ছেদ হয়েছিল, উনিশ বছরের তারই সাবেক ছাত্রীর সাথে যৌন সম্পর্কের কারণে। আর হানা যদিও ডাক্তার হয়েছিল কিন্তু যেহেতু এটা ছিল তার বাবার ইচ্ছা, সেজন্য সে পরে ল’ স্কুলে ভর্তি হয়েছিল।


সিডনি, একজন পারফেক্ট academician। কখনো ভাবেনি সে বিয়ে করবে। কিন্তু তাই করে বসল। সিডনি বলছিল লেখককে, কে এটা বিশ্বাস করবে লুক তাকে বিয়ে করেছে একটা বড় সুইমিং পুলের জন্য! সিডনি ভাবতে পারেনি তার প্রেমে পরবে কেউ। নিজেকে সে সুন্দরী বলে না, তার উপর তার জীবনটা হচ্ছে গবেষণাময়। তো, পাইলাম পাইলাম, আমার টাইপ ছেলে! বিয়ের কিছুদিন পর সে বুঝতে পারল সে মা হতে যাচ্ছে। আমার মধ্যে নতুন একটা জীবন, ওয়াও। মোটামুটি এ সময় থেকেই তার জীবন অতিষ্ট হয়ে গেল। লুক (Luke), সিডনির মত এত উত্তেজিত ছিল না, আরে তোমাকে তো বিশ্রী দেখাচ্ছে, ম্যাঁ। সে চাকরি ছেড়ে দিল, বলল, ডিপ্রেশনে ভুগছে। সিডনি অন্যদের বলায় তারা বলল, হয় এরকম হয়, হবু বাবারা অনেক সময় ডিপ্রেশনে ভুগে। এসময় সে তার প্রিয় পুলে সময় কাটাত, টিনেজদের মত কম্পিউটার গেইম খেলত, বিচিত্র এক শখ হয়েছিল তখন, লিথোগ্রাফ সংগ্রহের, একসময় ফুরিয়েও গেল। বাচ্চা হল, কিন্তু লুক তার দিকে ফিরেও তাকায় না, বাচ্চা এত কাঁদে কেন, এই শান্ত কর তো। যথারীতি ‘জ্ঞানী’ মানুষেরা জ্ঞান দিল, আসলে মাঝে মাঝে দেখা যায় নতুন বাচ্চাদের সাথে বাবাদের দুরত্ব তৈরী হয়, আসলে তারা ঠিক কমফোর্ট ফিল করতে পারে না শুরুতে, চিন্তা করো না, সব ঠিক হয়ে যাবে। [এসব ব্যাপার যদিও সত্য, কিন্তু এক্ষেত্রে প্রযোজ্য না আরকি।] লুক বন্ধুদের সাথে ঘুরে বেড়াত, সাতার কাটতো, ম্যাগাজিন পড়ে সময় কাটাতো। বেবিসিটার অবাক হয়ে সিডনিকে বলেছিল, এ কেমন বাবা? অবস্থা আরো খারাপ হওয়ায় একসময় বিয়ে বিচ্ছেদ হল। কিন্তু লুকের কী অবস্থা? সে কিন্তু ঠিকই পুলে এসে বসে থাকতো, সিডনি নিষেধ করলেও না, এমনকি সে ছেলের সাথে কিছুটা সময়ও কাটাত। সে কি আসলেই তার ছেলে ভালোবাসতে শুরু করেছিল? উঁহু, .... এটা হচ্ছে অন্য মাত্রার উপেক্ষা, স্ত্রীকে তো বহু আগে থেকেই চুড়ান্ত মাত্রায় অগ্রাহ্য করতে শুরু করেছিল।

তো লুকও কিন্তু একাডেমিক লোক ছিল, সিডনির সাথে বিয়ের আগে সে কোন বিয়েও করেনি, এবিউজারও ছিল না, ক্ষমতা বা সম্পদের প্রতি লোভও ছিল না, কিন্তু সে সামাজিক সম্পর্ক ব্যাপারটাই বুঝতো না, নৈতিকতা কী তা তার ধারণাতেই ছিল না, সে তার স্ত্রীকে ব্যবহার করেছে নিজের নিরাপদ জীবনের জন্য, পরবর্তীতে বাচ্চাকেও করতে চেয়েছে।


বইয়ে স্যোসিওপ্যাথদের মোকাবেলা করার জন্য তেরটা নীতি আছে। কয়েকটা উল্লেখ করাই যায়।

১. প্রথমেই স্বীকার করে নিতে হবে যে, কারো কারো মধ্যে নৈতিকতার কোন ধরণের বালাই থাকে না।

২. লোকের সামাজিক মর্যাদা কি রকম, সে ডাক্তার নাকি শিক্ষক, তা নিয়ে খুব বেশি চিন্তা না করে নিজের স্বহজাত প্রবৃত্তি দিয়ে তার মূল্যায়ন করা উচিৎ।

৩. যেকোন ধরণের সম্পর্কে জড়ানোর ক্ষেত্রে খেয়াল রাখতে হবে, একবার যদি মিথ্যা বলে বা প্রতিশ্রুতি ভঙ্গ করে বা দায়িত্বে অবহেলা করে, তবে সেটা ক্ষমাসুন্দর দৃষ্টিতে দেখাই যায়, কিন্তু দুইবার একই ভুল করলে সেটাকে সিরিয়াসলিই নিতে হবে এবং তিনবার যদি করে তবে সম্পর্কচ্ছেদই কাম্য। [রুল অব থ্রিজ]

৪. দেখা গেছে, দশজনের মধ্যে ছয়জনই অন্ধভাবে কর্তৃপক্ষের হুকুম মেনে নেয়। এ কাজ করা যাবে না, সংশ্লিষ্ট জনকে জেরা করতে হবে, বিশেষত তাদেরকে যারা মনে করে নৈতিকতাকে পাশ কাটানোই সমস্যা সমাধানের উপায়।

৫. প্রশংসা অবশ্যই ভালো বিষয় কিন্তু অতিপ্রশংসা/চাটুকারিতাকে সন্দেহের চোখেই দেখতে হবে।

৬. এতকালের শ্রদ্ধেয় ব্যক্তি খারাপ কাজ করলে তা মেনে নিতে অনেকের কষ্ট হয়। কিন্তু প্রয়োজনে শ্রদ্ধাবোধের পুনর্মূল্যায়ন করতে হবে।

৭, ৮. স্যোসিওপ্যাথের পরিকল্পনার অংশ হওয়া যাবে না। এড়িয়ে চলে নিজেকে রক্ষা করাই শ্রেয়।

৯. খুব বেশি সহানুভূতিশীল হলে তো সমস্যা!

১০. যখনই বুঝতে পারবেন উদ্দিষ্ট ব্যক্তি একজন স্যোসিওপ্যাথ, তখন নিজেকে বোঝাবেন, যা হওয়ার নয় তা নিয়ে অযথা কষ্ট করা কেন?


এই বইয়ে স্কিপ, ডোরিন, লুক, হানার বাবা, টিলি, এই পাঁচজনের কাহিনী আছে। স্কিপ ছোটবেলায় ব্যাঙ মারত, প্রথমদিকে ধরে ধরে কাঁচি দিয়ে, পরবর্তীতে আতশবাজী দিয়ে, নৃশংস পদ্ধতিতে। বড় হয়ে মানুষ মারেনি তবে কর্পোরেট শার্ক হয়েছে। বিয়ে করেছে প্রভাব-প্রতিপত্তি বাড়াতে, স্ত্রী/বাচ্চাদের প্রতি কোন দায়িত্বই অনুভব করেনি, বিশ্বাসযোগ্যভাবে মিথ্যা বলতে পারত, মানুষকে খুব সহজেই প্রভাবিত করতে পারত, ক্ষমতার জন্য যেকোন কিছুই করতে পারত। ডোরিন একজন সাইকালজিস্ট। নিজেকে সেরা মনে করত। শুধুমাত্র ‘ওটার একমাত্র যোগ্য আমিই’/সহকর্মী যাতে হীনমন্যতাবোধে ভোগে সেজন্য একজন রোগীর জীবন বিপন্ন করতেও সংকোচ বোধ করেনি, মিথ্যা বলে শিক্ষানবিশকে হয়রানি করতেও না। এখানে একজন নন-স্যোসিওপ্যাথ জো’র কাহিনীও আছে। একটা মিটিং এর জন্য কয়েকদিনের প্রস্তুতি নিয়েও শেষ পর্যন্ত যায়নি, ফিরে এসেছে, তা নাহলে যে তার কুকুর দুইদিন ধরে না খেয়ে থাকতো। আর ডোরিন? টিলি? টিলি বলেছিল তার প্রতিবেশীকে, তোমরা চুল্লিতে কাঠ জ্বালাবে না, আমার এলার্জির সমস্যা আছে, প্রতিবেশী তার বাড়ির সামনে গাড়ী পার্ক করেছে বলে পুলিশের কাছে অভিযোগ করেছে, আর বেচারা গ্রাউন্ডহকের ব্যাপারটার কথা কি বলবো!

তো এই লোকগুলো দেখতে-শুনতে সাধারণ মানুষের মতই। হলিউডি মুভির মত এরা শুধুমাত্র খুন/ধর্ষণ/ডাকাতি করেই বেড়ায় না। পরিসংখ্যান মতে আমেরিকার 4% স্যোসিওপ্যাথ, যারা কি না এন্টিস্যোশাল পারসোনালিটি ডিজঅর্ডারে ভোগে। Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV মতে নিচের সাতটা বৈশিষ্ট্যের অন্তত তিনটা থাকলে APD আছে বলে সন্দেহ করতে হবে।

১. সামাজিক আদর্শ/নীতি মেনে না চলা।

২. প্রতারণাপূর্ণ আচরণ করা, নিজের উদ্দেশ্য সাধনে যেকোন কিছু করা।

৩. কোন ধরণের পরিকল্পনা না করে আবেগ বা ঝোঁকের বশে কাজ করা।

৪. খুব সহজে রেগে যাওয়া, আগ্রাসী মনোভাব।

৫. নিজের বা অন্যের নিরাপত্তার ব্যাপারে গা-ছাড়া ভাব।

৬. ধারাবাহিক দায়িত্ববোধহীনতা।

৭. কাউকে আঘাত করে বা কারো সাথে খারাপ আচরণ করার পরও কোন ধরণের অনুশোচনা বোধ না করা।

কিন্তু এটাই কি শেষ? তা হলে তো পৃথিবীর সবাই ডাক্তার হয়ে যেতে পারতো। :D এই বইয়ে আরো অনেক কিছু আছে। নৈতিকতা কি, কিভাবে উদ্ভব হল, বিবর্তনীয়/সাইকোলজিক্যাল ব্যাখ্যা, নানা ধরণের সাইকোলজিক্যাল পরীক্ষণগুলো চমৎকার লাগে পড়তে। অ্যাটাচমেন্ট ডিজঅর্ডার নাম���র একটা ব্যাপার জানলাম। যথারীতি ভয়ঙ্কর। লেখক বেশ চমৎকার ভঙ্গীতে গল্প করেছেন। গল্পের ফাঁকে ফাঁকে নিজের আলোচনা, একটু-আধটু বিজ্ঞান। বইটা ��মৎকার, ধুমধাম পড়ে ফেলার মত। [যদি মাঝে অন্যকোন বই না পড়েন :3] তবে একটা কথা, লেখক যেভাবে নিজকেন্দ্রিকতাকে উপস্থাপন করেছেন, ওয়েস্টার্ন কালচার ভালো না তেমন, এজন্যই ওখানে স্যোসিওপ্যাথ বেশি, অ্যাম্বিশাস লোকদের স্যোসিওপ্যাথ হওয়ার সম্ভাবনা, তা তেমন ভালো লাগেনি। টিলির ঘটনাটা লেখকের বানানো, এইজন্যই পুরো অধ্যায়টাই কেমন জানি। টিলির মত মানুষ অহরহ আছে মনে হয় ;) । এবং যুদ্ধ/গণহত্যা সম্পর্কিত নৈত��কতা নিয়ে যা পড়েছি তা দিয়ে গণহত্যার অপরাধীদের মানবিক চোখে দেখবো নাকি চিন্তা করছি। ;)

কাল থেকে মনে হয় শুধু স্যোসিওপ্যাথ দেখবো। ;)
Profile Image for Lisa.
104 reviews23 followers
November 26, 2018
Absolutely fascinating!!! Everyone should read this book!!! We all have sociopaths in our lives. . . But we may not know it. This book helps us better recognize him or her. 4 % of our population are sociopaths. . . The science and stories (composites of Dr Stouts past patients) are so interesting. Seriously, I could not put this book down!!

On a personal note, a lot of us have been very hurt by sociopaths. Dr Stout validates mixed feelings we may have towards them, especially if it’s someone we love/ed. Our mixed feelings are 100% normal, as 96% of the population are empathic and compassionate. But those 4% who roam our country with NO conscience whatsoever (it’s lower in some non western cultures and Dr Stout explains why), wreak havoc on the rest us.

A great read , highly recommend!!!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,907 followers
June 20, 2013
I had read this years ago but just recently thought about it because it was referenced in the book I'm currently reading. I thought then, as I think now, that it could very well be true. Give me a good schizophrenic any day over a sociopath or a psychopath, please. They have much better dreams, too.

Seriously though, it does come to my mind that if there are that many people without the spark that gives them empathy, it does explain the bankers.
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