*Confessions of a Sociopath*

by on June 16, 2013 at 7:42 am in Books, Education, Medicine, Philosophy | Permalink

I suspect nothing in this book can be trusted.  Still, it is one of the more stimulating reads of the year, though I have to be careful not to draw serious inferences from it.  Does its possible fictionality make it easier to create so many interesting passages?:

I can seem amazingly prescient and insightful, to the point that people proclaim that no one else has ever understood them as well as I do.  But the truth is far more complex and hinges on the meaning of understanding.  In a way, I don’t understand them at all.  I can only make predictions based on the past behavior they’ve exhibited to me, the same way computers determine whether you’re a bad credit risk based on millions of data points.  I am the ultimate empiricist, and not by choice.

The author argues that sociopaths are often very smart, have a lot of natural cognitive advantages in manipulating data, and are frequently sought out as friends for their ability to appeal to others.  It is claimed that, ceteris paribus, we will stick with the sociopath buddies, as we are quite ready to use sociopaths to suit our own ends, justly or not.  It is claimed that for all of their flaws, many but not all sociopaths are capable of understanding what is in essence the contractarian case for being moral — rational self-interest — and sticking with it.  Citing some research in the area (pdf), the author speculates that sociopaths may have an “attention bottleneck,” so they do not receive the cognitive emotional and moral feedback which others do, unless they decide very consciously to focus on a potential emotion.  For sociopaths, top down processing of emotions is not automatic.

We even learn that (supposedly) sociopaths are often infovores.  It seems many but not all sociopaths are relatively conscientious, and the author of this book (supposedly) teaches Sunday school and tithes ten percent to the church.  It just so happens sociopaths sometimes think about killing or destroying other people, without feeling much in the way of remorse.

I can also recommend this book as an absorbing memoir of a law professor and also of a Mormon outlier.  It is written at a high level of intelligence, and it details how to get good legal teaching evaluations, how to please colleagues, how to evade Mormon proscriptions on sex before marriage, and it offers an interesting hypothesis as to why sociopaths tend to be more sexually flexible than the average person (hint: think more systematically about what abnormal or weakened top-down processing of emotions might mean in other spheres of life).

The author argues that sociopaths can do what two generations of econometricians have only barely managed, namely to defeat the efficient markets hypothesis and earn systematically super-normal returns.  What does it say about me that I find this the least plausible claim in the entire book?

Here is a useful New York Times review.  Here is the author’s blog, which is about being a sociopath, or about pretending to be a sociopath, or perhaps both.  Here is the book on Amazon and note how many readers hated it.  I say they just don’t like sociopaths.

One hypothesis is that this book is a stunt, designed as an experiment in one’s ability to erase or conceal an on-line identity, although I would think a major publisher (Crown) is not up for such tricks these days.   An alternative is that a sociopath — not the one portrayed in the book — is trying to frame an innocent person as the author of the book (some trackable identity clues are left), noting that the book itself discusses at length plans to destroy others for various (non-justified) reasons.  Or is it a Straussian critique of the Mormon Church for (supposedly) encouraging sociopathic-related character traits in its non-sociopath members?  Or all of the above?

You will note that the book’s opening diagnosis comes from an actual clinical psychologist in the area, and the Crown legal department would have no interest in misrepresenting him in this manner.  So the default hypothesis has to be that this book represents some version of the truth, at least as seen through the author’s eyes.

Some version of the author, wearing a blonde wig it seems, appeared on the Dr. Phil show, to the scorn of Phil I might add.

I cannot evaluate the scientific claims in this book, and would I trust the literature on sociopaths anyway, given that the author claims it is subject to the severe selection bias of having more access to the sociopathic losers and criminals?  (I buy this argument, by the way.)  It did occur to me however, that for the rehabilitation of sociopaths, whether through books or other means, perhaps they should consider…a rebranding exercise?  But wait, “Sorry, I could not find synonyms for ‘sociopath’.”

If nothing else, this book will wake you up as to how little you (probably) know about sociopaths.

1 dan in philly June 16, 2013 at 8:19 am

An interesting idea: sociopaths are common, but not identified except the ones who are the “losers and criminals.” I think most intelligent people could see some of their own characteristics in the description provided, and given the reputation of sociopaths as high level manipulators and basically more clever than others, its quite flattering to think one is part sociopath.
Another idea, highly intelligent people are part autistic. Has that been verified or discredited yet?

2 dan1111 June 16, 2013 at 10:46 am

The two methods of human self-justication are quite evident here:

1) “I’m no different than anyone else.” (everyone is part sociopath)

2) “Other people are worse than me.” (I don’t go around murdering, unlike THOSE sociopaths)

3 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 6:53 am

I see the drug war, drone strikes, airport security, NSA wiretapping (everything the government does now to some degree?!?), etc. as a kind of societal sociopathy. The whole anti-drug war stance is basically predicated on the assertion that they didn’t really do anything to the rest of us. However, society is willing to ruin many lives for almost no reason other than we can’t even tolerate the idea of other people doing their own thing- much like a toddler would squash a bug just for being within stomping range.

4 mpowell June 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm

You’d be fooling yourself. There is somewhat of a continuum, but it’s not that hard to notice whether you feel empathy or not.

5 dearieme June 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

I confess that I don’t know the difference between “sociopath” and “psychopath”. Could anyone here enlighten me, preferably at some non-Wikipedia level?

6 Me June 16, 2013 at 10:50 am

Think of it as a means-end situation.

Psychopathy lies along a spectrum and we all have some traits. The difference is that the psychopath and sociopath don’t have a conscience – there is no remorse or guilt for what they do and for whom they harm.

A narcissist is simply self-absorbed. They promote themselves all the time, but don’t necessarily adversely affect others in the process. The sociopath has an end, which, similar to the narcissist, is about self-promotion, and they will do whatever it takes to achieve that end. They will lie, steal (academic and corporate psychopaths and sociopaths often steal ideas from other people and promote them as their own in order to receive the accolades), con, manipulate and even destroy someone to obtain this end of self-promotion. The psychopath destroys simply because to them it is fun—it is an end in itself.

I also recommend looking up gaslighting since the psychopath often engages is that behavior.

7 Rea June 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I remember the difference being that psychopaths are born–from birth on their brains show abnormal responses to stimuli on MRIs that normal human brains don’t– while sociopaths are made. But the terms seem to be used interchangeably. Taking this a step further, you can also say that sociopaths could actually be cured if they wanted to whereas psychopaths can’t change the way they are because they’re simply wired differently.
And reading the other response, I would say that the DSM-V tends to have things like Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline listed as a subset of Psychopathic Personality Disorder, since they’re all cluster B disorders and all have lack of empathy (my mom has NPD, non-diagnosed because nothing is wrong with her, it’s everyone else on the planet).

8 Pshrnk June 17, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Doctor Baron-Cohen’s work explains the empathy deficits commonalities and differences among these very wel.

9 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 6:54 am

“Could anyone here enlighten me, preferably at some non-Wikipedia level?”

Below Wikipedia level?

10 Dan Weber June 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Friends who are psychologists say the terms are the same.

Informally, I think of “sociopath” as “not caring about other people” and “psychopath” as “wanting other people to be wiped from existence,” and that seems to serve me pretty well.

11 Marie June 16, 2013 at 9:33 am

Oh, good.
So, once pure selfishness was considered evil.
Then it became a mental illness.
Now it’s something to aspire to, as long as we work it out that everyone else can aspire to it also.
We’re all sociopaths now — except the dumb ones. Are we eedgits stuck having to love people and only use things, instead of loving things and using people? Seems really unfair.
And bad for the economy.

12 Me June 16, 2013 at 9:40 am

I never thought there was true evil in the world until I got into academics. I have now worked with at least three psychopaths, two who seek to sabotage careers and the last who sought to totally destroy people psychologically. I can understand why people don’t like the book and don’t want others to read it.

I recommend watching just the first thirty minutes of the documentary linked to below. After about the first thirty minutes it veers off into some income inequality junk.

Like Tyler seems to be here, and like many were with Steve Jobs (not to say that Jobs was a psychopath, but he certainly exhibited all the traits of one), people are enamored with this personality type, of course until you’re targeted by one. Look for people with glib and superficial charm (they are very charismatic and outwardly friendly, but believe me, they have no loyalties and will try to destroy you in a minute), a grandiose sense of self-worth (often dubious academic credentials and promoting themselves as worthy of a top appointment), conning and lying, deceitful.

One of the three I am referring to above is a GMU alumnae.


13 dan1111 June 16, 2013 at 9:53 am

Steve Jobs was exactly like a psychopath and is a perfect illustration of how people respond to psychopathic personalities, but you are not calling him a psychopath.

14 Claudia June 16, 2013 at 10:24 am

Me, that was an interesting video (with goofy microphones). I was struck at about 25 min mark how researchers were surprised to find successful corporate employees whose psychopathic tendencies should have “doomed them to fail.” This goes back to my concern about labels. If people are functional, despite their quirks, should we care what their quirks are. In some setting low empathy is actually an asset, in others a liability. And a lot of the lessons in this work apply across the spectrum.

15 Me June 16, 2013 at 10:43 am

“If people are functional, despite their quirks, should we care what their quirks are.”

And I have found that if you look at their spouses you can tell a lot. For all three that I noted above, their spouses were extremely dysfunctional or, in the case of the worst, a zombie. There was no there there with her. She simply cowered under his arm and parrots everything he says. Those he has conned think he’s brilliant.

16 Claudia June 16, 2013 at 10:51 am

A ‘con game’ takes two sides. I have been gently reprimanded for getting upset about something said to me by an “everyone knows he’s a jerk” type. And I have learned not to listen to his jerkiness and it’s much more pleasant. It’s part of life to figure out how to interact with people unlike yourself. Some are harder to filter (or communicate with) than others.

17 Pshrnk June 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm

They should have failed in the sense that it would have been good for society had they failed. Shame on us that they “succeeded”.

18 derek June 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Sociopaths will thrive in environments where there is no consequences. I’ve run into a few in business settings, but they don’t last. They come, screw over a few people, then no one will have anything to do with them. They move on. But in government employ, I worked for one for a couple of years, they can’t be gotten rid of. In that instance they created a position in a small town and moved him there where he could do his harm. I can see in academic settings someone like this playing the game very skillfully then getting tenure. There would be no limiting forces to keep a lid on the nastiness from then on.

19 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 6:56 am

It is a virtual requirement. Not kidding.

20 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 7:23 am

My bewilderment is why I can’t even get the victims to believe this is a systemic problem. I have a friend who had to change their advisor. I couldn’t even imagine. Yet they attribute their ultimate success to their own hard work. “Yahbut…but…but!!!” What about the 99 out of 100 other people who wouldn’t be able to survive that? Thank god they had a good guy there to take them up. I call this luck plus hard work. It is the good guys perhaps who are victimized the most as they become the go-to nomad advisee groups. Luckily, being rejected by the sociopaths contains no true signalling value.

Think about it. This isn’t rocket science. At least if you are a rocket scientist you largely get judged on your rockets. Academia is one of the most highly evolved systems for individual assessment. And you are in a shark tank where you are judged largely on how well you help others with their individual appraisal. Anything and anyone who works for anything other than their own CV (and the powerful in their department who control their access to the tools and connections that support individual success) is extinguished. Being taken advantage of is the baseline. What do we think we’d get? It would be nice if they could figure out how to balance that obvious bug, but to them it’s a feature. They simply aren’t interested. If they are they don’t survive.

On the bright side, maybe all it takes for people to behave better is proper feedback mechanisms. We are a learning institution after all (sic). So, maybe if they start penalizing and stop rewarding for the behavior then we’d magically observe fewer sociopaths. For example, what if you just tallied the grad student “churn” for all the professors. Heck, just stop lying to prospective students. But then, how to MAKE them stop lying?

21 Writer June 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Sorry if this is a bit melodramatic:

Ultimately Derek, the only limiting factor would be that psychopaths die just like everybody else.

Society tries to contain and quarantine anti-social or “toxic” people but all that does is put them “out of the way”. While there is some evidence that psychopathic personalities are better at making “the hard choices” and handling extreme situations, in the deliberately boring day-to-day existence we have created for ourselves, these people simply have a reduced ability to function alongside the rest of society. So, many seek positions where they can self-promote, become wealthy or attain positions of power over others – either for self-protection, power’s own sake or the ability to amuse themselves by ruining the lives of others.

So, when and where there is evidence that psychopath’s break the law – we lock them up

Where someone is a complete and utter asshole – we ostracize or “socially quarantine” them

And we thank our lucky stars that one day, they’ll die just like everybody else. So that we don’t have to do it ourselves. Because otherwise – we would.

22 Claudia June 16, 2013 at 9:46 am

from Amazon review:

“As Thomas argues, while sociopaths aren’t like everyone else, and it’s true some of them are incredibly dangerous, they are not inherently evil. In fact, they’re potentially more productive and useful to society than neurotypicals or “empaths,” as they fondly like to call “normal” people.”

Every time I see “neurotypical” (or the non form) I cringe … seems the new normal is abnormal. This book is in a long string of books, including from TC, romanticizing mental differences. I suspect that more intensive focus on our internal wiring may really muck up our external actions. Labels are harmful most of the time, and in rare instances helpful. From my research on risk aversion, I do believe there are stable types that vary across people, but there’s a lot within person variation across situations over time. We are social creatures, so our interactions with others and our environment looms as large as anything in our own heads.

Still I bet this book is a great read.

23 Anonymous June 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm
24 Steve June 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

“sociopathy and psychopathy are often used interchangeably, but in some cases the term sociopathy is preferred because it is less likely than is psychopathy to be confused with psychoticism”

25 dearieme June 16, 2013 at 10:35 am

Thank you. Is there a difference of kind, a difference of degree … or just a confusion in labelling, or a weakness for euphemism?

26 Willitts June 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm

“Psychopathy” is falling out of favor in the psychiatric profession. They prefer less generalized diagnoses. You ask a good question, and I’m afraid there isn’t a satisfactory answer. If anyone gives you a distinction, they probably just made it up.

27 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 6:12 am

The behavioral black box approach is probably wrong on a few levels. The ability of sociopaths to fake it is evidence. Let’s get to which brain pathways and are disrupted from normal.

28 Steve June 16, 2013 at 10:41 am

Once you know what to look for you see psychopaths everywhere (approximately 1.2% of the population given a typical cutoff on instruments designed to detect the behavioral pattern). I would go so far as to say they are over-represented at the top of organizations. Check out research on the dark triad – psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism.

Research also indicates the psychopathy loads on 2 (or 3) factors. Factor 2 is more anti-social behavior while Factor 1 is your self-interested actor (see below).

Whether this is a successful “life strategy” is an interesting question. I like to think of it in terms of a hawk-dove game in evolutionary game theory. In this game, V is the payoff from winning a round and C is the cost. Doves share V without incurring C, will not fight, and hawks will always fight. If V>C then hawk (psychopath) is the dominant strategy. In a mixed population, the evolutionary stable strategy has V/C hawks and 1-V/C doves. An interesting question is whether social norms change over time thus changing the payoffs. Arguably, our social environment may have become more conducive to hawks.

Factor 1
Facet 1: Interpersonal
Glibness/superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying
Facet 2: Affective
Lack of remorse or guilt
Emotionally shallow
Callous/lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Facet 3: Lifestyle
Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Parasitic lifestyle
Lack of realistic, long-term goals
Facet 4: Antisocial
Poor behavioral controls
Early behavioral problems
Juvenile delinquency
Revocation of conditional release
Criminal versatility

29 Jonathan June 16, 2013 at 11:08 am

Sounds fascinating. E-commerce question. I clicked on your link to the book, and then clicked to actually purchase the Kindle edition. Does MR still get credit? It wasn’t clear to me from the string of digital babble at the end of the link, even though “Marginal Revo” showed up clearly in the dead-tree version.

30 TGGP June 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I remember coming across the blog (probably via the Hoover Hog) and not thinking it was by a real sociopath because I didn’t notice any description of unusual behavior (as opposed to thoughts). A related book folks might be interested in is Barbara Oakley’s “Evil Genes“, which was not written by a sociopath but someone who claims to have had personal experience with one (and access to the late alleged sociopath’s diaries).

31 asdf June 16, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I think Tyler’s fascination is telling.

32 spandrell June 18, 2013 at 6:16 am

Maybe if we were all sociopaths mainstream economics would actually apply. It surely doesn’t work with normal people.

33 Jay June 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm

“*Confessions of a Sociopath*”

Reading the title I was expecting quotes from Paul Krugman to follow. Oh, wait. I got it backwards. Everyone who disagrees with Krugman’s faith-based beliefs is a sociopath.

34 Skip Intro June 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

That was deep. Thanks for sharing.

35 Bryan June 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Writing a “confession”, even a self-justifying one, might seem to betray a level of conflicted-ness odd for a true sociopath.

36 John June 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm
37 Anonymous Coward June 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

My law school experience overlapped with hers. From reading an excerpt of the book, I believe that is she.

38 DK June 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Not likely but certain. It’s actually her on “Dr. Phil”. Her only mistake (if it was a mistake) was to come out before she got tenure.

39 Scoop June 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

My questions, after reading an excerpt in a magazine at the bookstore:

1. If you don’t care about others, what’s the motivation for wanting to manipulate them or win at their social games? What pleasures do you have beyond physical ones: a great meal, orgasm, drugs? Why not just stay home in your underwear or kill yourself?

2. The excerpt opened with the author getting so angry at a subway employee who yelled at her that she not only fantasized about killing him but began to follow him when she left the station. How does that square with emotional flatness and a feeling of distance from the rest of humanity? I don’t get mad at a dog that barks at me. I just don’t care, because it’s a dog. Its judgement does not matter to me.

3. I don’t buy the whole “the feel no emotions but can fake them expertly” thing. Emotions are really hard to fake. Actors study for years and work with scripts, music, lighting, editing and camera work all designed to lend credibility to their efforts and only a very few consistently convincing. If you doubt this, go watch a play at a good regional theater. The people on stage will, for the most part, have made a living as actors for years and years and most of them are utterly unconvincing. And they’ve all felt, at some point, the underlying emotions they’re supposed to be feeling. The notion that some guy who has never felt any of it will fool people over long periods seems dubious.

40 Rea June 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I think you’re overlooking two things that appeal to sociopaths: control over other people and the idea that they themselves are perfect. If someone yells at you for doing something wrong and you didn’t do anything wrong, don’t you feel a little angry or at least annoyed? With these types of people, it’s EVERYTHING. Every little criticism is you attacking them and being cruel and they have to get you back so that you know that 1) you were wrong and 2) They are perfect.

41 eddie June 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Re 3: Theatrical acting is different from social pretense. Actors on stage aren’t trying to convincingly emulate an emotion. They’re creating an artistic portrayal intended to provoke a reaction from the audience, but not the same kind of reaction that a social faker wants to provoke from someone they are interacting with in person.

In fact, it’s quite easy to be insincere in your emotions in a social interaction. Most people learn how to do this in their adolescence and continue to get practice doing it every day.

42 Willitts June 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Interesting way to frame things, and I think framing is what sociopaths concentrate on the most.

Sociopaths are probably of above average intelligence in the sense that they actively pursue ways to seem smart; hence, they expend more effort than the average person. By “intelligent” here I mean as a repository of information and not necessarily higher cognitive function, the latter I generally consider the definition.

Sociopaths dwell on people’s behavior, attributes, and attainment and constantly measure it against themselves. Hence they “know” people and can predict their actions fairly well. They have shut down their attention to other things like the taste of the food or the beauty of the music. Sociopathy is very much a SOCIAL condition. Again, they are better at it because they specialize in it.

Sociopaths do tend to accumulate admirers because they behave like people to be admired. They do control people because they seek to do so. They can understand emotions because they have tuned out the noise. This might make them better at manipulating people who aren’t on guard. The sociopath mistakes this manipulation as superior skill.

I too immediately dismissed the idea that they are better at capturing alpha. While they might be extremely good at predicting behavior of individuals, it is a fallacy of composition to claim to understand how many people, including those the sociopath never met, will react to a particular piece of information.

The interesting thing about sociopaths is that they know themselves quite well but they lack compunction. They commit fundamental attribution error in perceiving their own inadequacies as a function of their situation and others’ as a function of their character or inabilities.

And like the sociopath, the more we try to define them, the less well we understand them. As the author says, most do not commit “evil” acts if we define evil as felonies. But they are objectively evil if we define the word as wishing or performing ill deeds or events on others. It is just like a sociopath to recognize all the others but to miss the one in the mirror. The sociopath is the person in power who still sees himself/herself as a victim during a conflict.

43 Willitts June 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Don’t overlook the suffix “pathy” which indicates abnormality. The reason we seem to recognize so many of these traits in ourselves and others is because the traits themselves are normal and widespread. Many people are tone deaf to the emotions or needs of others. Many people overestimate their own prowess. The sociopath exhibits these traits at the core of their being, all the time in every situation. Like most other pathologies, they lack the normal cycles of responding to stimulus. This is also a self selected state of mind that grows beyond and actively.resists treatment. The rate of degradation determines the escalation of antisocial behavior into what used to be called psychopathy.

44 Axa June 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I’d call it great stagantion in books. Book genre such as memoirs/confessions to have a little credibility should come from the letters or journals from dead people. Or at least old people. For fictional sociopaths, I’ll reread all Henry Miller before giving my money to this guy or the marketing team behind him.

45 Pseudo Register June 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

“So the default hypothesis has to be that this book represents some version of the truth, …”

My initial reaction was to think that it had to represent some version of the truth because the author’s blood test came back reactive for psychopathy antibodies.

But professor Cowan qualifies his statement: “…at least as seen through the author’s eyes.”

Just so.

Where is the empirical evidence that such behaviors represent a disease state? Is it that hard to imagine a culture where such behavior gets one acclaimed chief, or king, or high priest, or First Citizen? Do the behaviors then cease to imply the presence of disease?

46 KPres June 16, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Evidence? The entire thing is a modern pseudo-scientific witch-hunt designed by the emotional basket-cases out there (the so-called empaths…the kind of people who get into psychology) to target those that have opposite, though perfectly legitimate, personality traits from themselves. The irony is that it’s a defense mechanism orchestrated out of their own self-interest…only they, not being rational or capable of self-honesty (which is why they’re basket-cases in the first place), aren’t aware of that fact.

47 Claudia June 16, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Come on, empaths have their own set of stigmatized pathy’s or disorders. I am about four chapters in the book … actually more balanced than I expected. One interesting claim is her lack of anxiety or fear and how she has adapted to that missing governor. For example, she doesn’t use knives since can’t be careful with them. Self awareness can go along way toward functioning, at least in low stress environments.

48 Bradley Evans June 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Scott Adams’s Dilbert on lying: http://www.dilbert.com/strips/comic/2013-06-16/?Page=3

49 Me June 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm
50 Joe Smith June 16, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I’ve worked with a number of sociopaths. Of the two I had the longest and closest association with – one is personally successful but is toxic to co-workers he believes to be vulnerable and the other is his own worst enemy constantly screwing up his career. Another, younger, sociopath destroyed a very promising and lucrative career by committing a number of minor frauds.

A sociopath will look you in the eye and lie to you about anything and everything, become angry when you catch him in the lie and then make up a new lie and be angry when you remind him he said something different five minutes earlier.

Sociopaths are to be identified and avoided. They have no redeeming qualities except if you need someone you can send to kill strangers. The “Dirty Dozen” is an example of the limited circumstances under which sociopaths may be useful.

51 Alvin June 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Joe, I agree completely and you just described the sociopath I worked with at my last job: clever, Ph.D. in engineering from Ivy League school, pathological liar (Bill Clinton has nothing on this guy), backstabs everyone including his pussy boss, non-productive, superficial charm, no remore or guilt, office bully (even bullies the interns), asshole, insecure to say the least, interferes in other peoples’ affairs, and his wife (to respond to a comment above) never looked happy – was zombie-like. Of course, he will never leave – works at a public university – and who else would be stupid to hire him? Oh, and he attends church every Sunday and was part of a man’s group at church.

So I got tired of it and let him have it a few times in a very forceful manner…and like every sociopath/office bully, he ran to the boss and tried to make it look like I was the problem even though everyone hated him. At the end, the sissy, useless boss took his side, even though the boss supported my actions to let him have it. The boss couldn’t do it herself. I got out and now work in a much more professional environment.

52 pipeline June 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Yes, I’ve endured dealings with a similar type. PHD in something, a fraudster to the last, conniving, duplicitous, very insecure, and on and on. A very adept liar who has mastered the use of half truth. I think the playing victim tactic is a favorite among these types. It allows them to deny responsibility for their actions and potentially cause harm to someone which is high satisfaction for them.

53 Alvin June 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Not to dwell, but here’s a good one. The sociopath I described above – the one I worked with – would go into other people’s offices when they were momentarily out (not gone for the day) and turn off their lights. He would even turn off the boss’s lights…there was a bigger VP that had an office in our building, so I think the sociopath wanted to make it look like we cut out of work early for the VP to notice. I remember when the President of the University along with certain senators/congressmen came to visit one day and had a meeting in our conference room – while our boss had stepped out for an hour – and the asshole turned off the boss’s lights with the President there.

The sad thing is the boss knew it too, but wouldn’t do anything about it. One day – before I quit – I saw him sneaking into the boss’s office to turn off her lights. As he was about to turn it off, I yelled “hey, what are you doing?” And without hesitation, he said “I was looking for a coupon she left for me.” And I said, “oh, I thought you were going in to turn off her lights.” Pissed him off, and then he turned mine off for a second and back on and angrily walked away. Later that day, I asked the boss if she had left a coupon in her office for him. She said no, that she had personally handed it to him in the morning. He was lying.

54 Alvin June 17, 2013 at 6:43 pm

…and he didn’t turn off lights for energy savings or other benign purposes, because he never turned off his own lights when he stepped out.

I can share dozens of examples like the one I just gave. And now that I think about it I can probably write my own book: “confessions of a sociopath’s co-worker”

55 pipeline June 18, 2013 at 12:20 am

I’d assumed there were more serious issues at hand. The guy is probably a shitheel but does that light thing rise to the level of sociopath? “angrily walked away” –

Does academic life shelter one so effectively? It’s a serious question.

56 Alvin June 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm

More serious than being a sociopath? You tell me what it could be.

57 Rich Berger June 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I gotta give the Democrats some credit. They figured out that a sociopath is a good presidential candidate and they got two two-termers from that discovery.

58 uffy June 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm

It seems pretty obvious that many strategies employed by sociopaths to achieve “success” may “work” but with huge externalities. Hence, humans of libertarian mood affiliation should not support such behaviors.

59 Alan June 16, 2013 at 5:44 pm

One reason I read MR is to glean some understanding of the personality defects that lead to libertarianism. This topic is one of the most useful I’ve seen.

60 asg June 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm

HO HO HO zing! libertarians are psychos! I get it!

61 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 5:20 am

Hey Alan, at least we aren’t ruining the country.

62 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 6:02 am

The NSA-Gate denial-creep continues apace with my oft-stated observation of how others (all the non-sociopaths I guess) always say “of course not…of course not…of course not…of course they are!”


The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls

So, Obama was not only originally misleading (FISA courts aren’t like real courts) he was completely wrong. So, which is it, liar or sociopath or just plain dumb? All of the above?

Holder gone when? All that is left is the timeline.

63 jmh June 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Neuroscientist, self-identified psychopath, and longtime Libertarian, James Fallon seems to believe that Libertarianism is a reflection of a psychopathic mind (refer at around 8:50) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx8RxRn6dWU

64 Mark Thorson June 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm

But are genuine sociopaths aware that they are sociopaths? I suspect that self-identified sociopaths are actually using the term as an excuse for their behavior. It sounds so much better than “asshole”.

65 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 5:20 am

“But are genuine sociopaths aware that they are sociopaths?”

No. See Alan above.

66 The Anti-Gnostic June 16, 2013 at 11:50 pm

More proof that American women are crazy as bedbugs.

67 Steve Sailer June 17, 2013 at 3:52 am

Here’s a long NYT profile of a genuine Mormon sociopath, Internet scamster Jeremy Johnson, who has fleeced huge numbers of poor people with two digit IQs with those “get a government grant” websites. In contrast to the author of this “Confessions of a Sociopath” book, Johnson, who is convinced of his own innocence, appears to be completely lacking in self-awareness.


68 Shane M June 17, 2013 at 3:57 am

I’m reminded of a speech by Lynn Stout that I saw on C-Span where she said we could realistically compare corporations to psychopathic actors if all they’re supposed to consider is profit maximization. Her discussion, if I recall, is that corporations are collections of shareholders with diverse interests, not just profit maximization, and that it may be wrong to see profit maximization as the sole goal of a corporation.

She asks: “What, exactly, do shareholders value?”

69 Andrew' June 17, 2013 at 5:13 am

“What does it say about me that I find this the least plausible claim in the entire book?”

I think it might be what it says about me whenever anything resembling politics shows up in a movie. It is always so infantile, amateurish, and wrong-headed (and liberal, but that is the least offensive to me) that it makes me physically revulsed. I wonder if my reaction is that we simply because I’m not an expert in all the other infantile, amateurish, and wrong-headed topics covered in movies.

70 Thomas June 17, 2013 at 9:12 am

Given the successful sleuthing on the identity of the author, any word on whether U of C has updated its slogan from “where fun comes to die” to “where sociopaths go for fun”?

71 erichwwk June 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm

‘“Sorry, I could not find synonyms for ‘sociopath’.”

Hmm…..wonders how hard one looked . Or what to conclude from that statement/


72 Paul June 17, 2013 at 7:26 pm

I’m skeptical that this is real. Would a real sociopath care about explaining the way he thinks to other people? Why would he do that?

Maybe it’s someone who wishes he was a sociopath.

73 Horndog in Chief June 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Hard to tell about the bosom from this angle…


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