Book Review: The Sociopath Next Door

I grabbed The Sociopath Next Door while it was on sale because it sounded interesting and it certainly was. The book starts by describing what sociopathy is and the mindset of one possessed with this disorder. Stout stresses that the condition has a spectrum, like most things, where the traits of the sociopath may be pronounced in one person and subdued in another. Apparently the most telling sign of a sociopath is the need to be constantly pitied.

What is most intriguing about the book are the sections where you’re guided from a first-person perspective into the heads of sociopaths in various scenarios. You get to see how they think and the decisions they would make in different contexts. In one example a corporate employee left his dog at home without enough food before embarking on a business trip. The sociopath would think something to effect of “he should be able to survive a few days without food” and proceed on the trip, whereas a conscientious person would abort the trip, or ensure the animal was properly cared for.

Near the end she touches on a theory for the evolutionary need for sociopathy. I wish she expounded on this further. The theory is that sociopathy is an adaption in the warriors of the tribe to enable them to kill their enemies without remorse. This makes a lot of sense to me and why this state has persisted. If they perhaps had guilt or second thoughts before executing a foe, maybe they wouldn’t live to survive the encounter. Being able to kill and still sleep soundly seems like it would be advantageous in a time where you never knew when a warring tribe may raze your home.

Sociopaths tend to be charming, but on the inside find everything trite. It’s a facade to gain the trust of those around them, using it as a tool to undermine those who they find a threat and destroying them when the perfect opportunity appears. They tend to kick people when they’re down. They seek status and power to the demise of everything else. They’re truly dead inside and nothing is off bounds.

Overall, I think The Sociopath Next Door has given me new tools to assess the characters of people I will meet in the future.

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