This book is a must for anyone who deals with people - so basically everyone who doesn't have a degree in psych.
I have been a follower of Ms. Stout for years, she has done some groundbreaking work. I have several sociopaths in my family and I married one. If only the book were written before my marriage, I believe I would have seen the big picture.
The past is the past, I see things from a different perspective and highly recommend this book!
These days, with the abundance of books, movies, and television programs available on demand for instant entertainment, our knowledge tends to be informed by popular culture rather. Because of this,our intake of the dramatic simplification of most topics is outweighed drastically by factual representation.
With this in mind, it is no wonder that most of us envision dangerous people as wild-eyed lunatics noticeable a mile way, disheveled madmen that are encountered far and few between.
As Martha Stout demonstrates in The Sociopath Next Door, there are people capable of unimaginable atrocities all around us, and not only do they appear like everyone else, but they might even be less conspicuous than one would hope.
If Good and Evil are opposites of the same coin, and Good people are those who care and feel for others, then it stands to reason that evil exists as people lacking the ability to care or love. These people exist, cold and calculating sociopaths unfettered by the restrictions of guilt or conscious, and they do so in alarming numbers reaching epidemic proportions. 4% of the US population are afflicted with Sociopathic Personalities, far greater than those afflicted with cancer. Meaning one out of every twenty-five people you meet feel no remorse or regret, and are capable of anything.
Martha Stout's book strikes an elegant balance between clinical facts and anecdotal examples, making this book an easy read that manages not to come off as either a fluffy fear-mongering diatribe or a stuffy jargon-laden medical tome. The examples created from personal case studies perfectly illustrate the points of each chapter, but don't detract from the factual or philosophical topics discussed.
Despite chapters warning of the realities of the sociopaths among us, such as their alarming ability to blend in and even charm us into their confidence, her tone never reaches an alarmist level. This is a book that informs and prepares, with instilling false hope or blind panic in its audience. Also, while this topic is heavy with emotion, Stout never descends into supermarket tabloid prose. Apart from a slight detour into 9/11, which almost has no bearing on the topic at hand, the examination of the origins and ramifications of the human conscious remain informative and exploratory without becoming preachy. Especially interesting is the chapter that delves into the nature vs. nurture debate, in which she examines the genetic, environmental, and cultural influences that can help create or subdue a growing child's sociopathic tendencies.
If you have ever witnessed someone behaving extraordinarily ruthlessly or cruelly, and have wondered how someone could even bring themselves to act in such a manner, this book will go a long way towards satisfying your curiosity.
While not the most evocative writing, and while the book is about 15 pages of content crammed into 218 pages of text, still, the message is important enough that I think this is a great book.
Sociopaths (which the author says make up about 4% of the population, or 1 in 25 people, with cites to 1997 and 1998 studies, although the stat bandied about the internet is 1% of females and 3% of males, but no matter, they're out there) live among the rest of us. Most are not killers or bank robbers, but the live with absolutely no sense of conscience, no remorse over any action of theirs.
Imagine you had no guilt over any action of yours, and no emotional attachment to anybody in your life. What would you do? Stop and think.
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There are people out there doing that. Scary, huh? So, you know, the book says here are clues to watch for, and how to protect yourself. And don't feel guilty about it. The sociopath will feel nothing emotionally.
OK, so, having gotten that out of the way, which is all you need to say this book's message is important, I have to wonder - what is the prevalence of sociopathy (which wikipedia says is an obsolete term for Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD))? The book, and most places on the internet, agree it's hard to diagnose because sociopaths can imitate people with consciences pretty well.
Also, the book presents it as pretty binary. Intuition tells me that every other aspect of human behavior, and even physical traits, exist along a continuum, and therefore possession-of-conscience probably does too. How little conscience does one need to be a sociopath? There are probably people who wouldn't flinch about keeping money they found, even if there were means to try to find the owner, but who wouldn't injure somebody else because it's wrong. Probably not a sociopath. What about somebody who might injure somebody to get what they wanted, but wouldn't kill because the guilt would haunt them? Is that a sociopath? Don't know.
I wish the book had gone into stuff like that, but no matter, really. If a person is willing to injure you or steal from you without remorse, and the only thing keeping that person at bay is the likelihood of punishment or sheer effort required, I may as well act as though that person is sociopathic. And whether it's 1% or 4%, you and I are going to encounter these people in our lives. So, if I may, I recommend a reading of this book.
Interesting, but also disturbing. Something like 1 in 25 people is a sociopath. They have no conscience, empathy, sympathy, or pity. They can pass themselves off as normal human beings, but at any point they are capable of hurting others (not necessarily by physical force) to gain what they want. They're cold, calculating, and devious. A fascinating look at people among us who aren't necessarily murderers. People hear the word sociopath and think of serial killers, but not all sociopaths get to that point though they always have that innate ability. The best parts of the book had to do with recognizing a sociopath and what to do if you have to interact with one. Not a book I want to keep, but it was worth reading.
Very interesting pointing out what makes a sociopath, how to figure out if someone is one, etc. The only thing I didn't like about the book is the same problem I have with every book on psychology/sociology I've ever read and with each of the handful of therapists I've talked with face-to-face: they never really tell you anything very helpful (or anything at all) as to what to do about these problem people! For instance, in this book, the author says to avoid the sociopath as much as possible. Ohhhhkay...what if the sociopath is an immediate family member, has no means of financial support, and you live in a state where aid/welfare is not given out if the person needing it has family who can take care of him/her? (In this state, they won't even lock up people who hallucinate any more unless the person is literally hallucinating 24/7. If they have even a mere 30 seconds a day of rationality? They cannot be committed unless they agree & somebody in the family can pay for it.)
So these books always promise on the dust jackets blurbs that they'll tell you how to deal with these psychological problems or problem people but they never really do. And it's probably not the authors' fault; I bet the publishers make the false promises in the blurbs to sell more books. Too bad, though. I wish they'd just admit that there's no solution for some of this stuff.
One in 25 Americans is a sociopath, according to Dr. Stout. Easily comprehensible for the layperson, Dr. Stout explores the various manifestations of sociopathy and examines the reasons for some people's lack of conscience.
Its been a while since I read this book, but I remember parts very clearly. It is a book that gives you a whole new view of the people around you. The book describes sociopaths as having no conscious. Manipulators at all levels of society exist who steal, manipulate, and kill for love, money, or whatever they want without remorse or feeling. Over 10% of the people around you are like this; at work, at events, at church, maybe even in your home. The book tells you how to identify and avoid these people because, avoiding them is the only way to escape their trap. The book left me with valuable new knowledge and a very creepy feeling about some people that I have run across.
I'm giving it 4 stars because it is a great, engaging read. And if the material is actually true, I would give it 6 out of 5, because the book's conclusions are far-reaching and profound. Conversely, if the book's assertions are false, then there is a great deal of danger that people will, on their basis, falsely judge others.
This is one of those books that all people should be required to read. The content is of universal value to anyone who is not a sociopath, which is about 96% of us in the Western world (yes, it depends on where you live how prevalent they are - read the book to find out why!).
The author lays out the simultaneously horrifying and fascinating (in a train-wreck way) reality of the minority of people who are unable to love due to a brain defect. This defect results in the existence of a person who has the potential to commit any of the acts that we consider truly "evil" without the tiniest twinge of regret or remorse, simply because they are physically unable to have any positive feelings about other human beings (to say nothing of animals or the environment). These are the iron-fisted dictators, the torturers, the terrorist leaders, the rapists, the animal abusers, the child abusers, the wife-beaters, the warmongering politicians, the CEOs of massive destructive corporations, the "doctors" who practise with no license, and the garden-variety sadistic individuals who love to torment, take advantage of, and manipulate other people for fun.
Chances are you've met one of these toxic people. If you recognised their behaviour you will have found them repellent, but you may also have met one without knowing it because these people are masters of charm. They use their charisma to convince fools to happily do their bidding, all the while thinking only about how they can extract what they want from other people, which is typically material wealth and/or a sense of having dominated everyone around them.
They have no attachment to any other person, ever, except in a parasitic way. Once the host has stopped providing "nourishment", the parasite moves on, uncaring.
It is very important that all people who possess a conscience (people who are not sociopaths) learn to recognise these people for what they are because they are extremely dangerous not only to individuals, but to society as a whole (especially due to their tendency to become politicians). They are predators in the very truest sense of the word, and will not hesitate to prey on anyone who who happens to be in harm's way.
The author of this book is a very astute and perceptive individual and presents the information in her book in an easily digestible way, gradually introducing new layers of meaning for the reader to consider, rather than laying it all out at the beginning for shock value. The scope of this book is massive and has implications for all aspects of private and public life, but you won't feel overwhelmed as you read, due to the thoughtful writing style.
Important book that should be read again and again to keep the picture of the scariest predator of them all fresh in our minds, so we can keep ourselves and our world safe.
A fascinating, important book about what makes good people good and bad people bad, and how good people can protect themselves from those others."~~ Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
I don't know what it is exactly that annoyed me about the writing style.
It was a little bit patronizing and a lot over-simplified.
Also not a lot in it about empathy even though the working definition of sociopathy is lack of empathy. She also doesn't seem to know the difference between empathy and conscience.