Sociopathy. I have been considering the various aspects of what it's like to be a sociopath. I did some online research, read about it, looked at the DSM manual for the clinical details. After doing this, I began to being a sociopath actually a benefit to an individual in modern society? I mean, from purely a strategic, competitive point of view. Living without empathy, ability to deceive easily, social aggression and fearlessness, if you weren't to factor in the ethical consequences of being a sociopath but to examine it from a cost-benefit perspective, looking at prospects for general life success, is being a sociopath a plus or minus in the game of life? From a materialistic, competitive, and self-interested point of view.

To clarify, I personally am not a sociopath (I did a self diagnosis based on the DSM and have no identifying characteristics). I am curious about this though, there are some articles that suggest that sociopathic traits are more common in certain high-success occupations, such as CEO and political leader and surprisingly doctors. It is observably the case that sometimes sociopaths rise high in the social ladder, and can take positions of leadership in a country, such as Saddam Hussein did in Iraq. They are often charming, and can be very manipulative if they are intelligent. So ultimately, then, in this sometimes cutthroat and brutal world that we live in, is being a sociopath an advantage or disadvantage?

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I don't think it's truly sociopathy unless you're clueless enough about morality to have no inhibition against killing, beyond getting caught.  The def I find online:  a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.  It's hard to cover up "extreme antisocial attitudes."

If we scale it back a bit, though, to include people who exhibit little or no conscience (but not necessarily antisocial attitudes) ... you get people who are happy to lie for no reason.

I can see that being useful to such people, until either those around them get a clue (and in modern life, you keep meeting new people, so there'll always be those that don't know what you're like) or those around them decide they don't care.  President Clinton got 2 terms as leader of the free world, with people saying toward the end ("in the words of an editorial cartoon"), "I think the scumbag's doing a great job."  

My experience with serial liars has been in my work.  One was a TA who put random grades on the papers (and either got let go or at least wasn't mine any more); one was a student who casually lied about showing up for work (and quit before I could fire him); one was a staffer who told his coworkers he'd made up some technobabble lie when I asked him a question and he felt too busy to answer -- rather than saying, "I'm too busy to answer."  The latter's position was years later made redundant.  I strongly suspect one more staffer, who gave rebuttals to work requests rather than doing the work, left because of her disinterest in working.

So in my own life, it looks like casual lying doesn't get you fired quickly, but it isn't great for long-term prospects.  There are obviously exceptions.

And it's not to be confused with narcissism, which seems much less disabling.

Lack of empathy, however, seems less disabling.  I recall a colleague telling me when he was a kid and went to a new school (I guess it happened a lot), he'd find some kid he could take, and bam! knock him hard.  To show that THIS new kid was not to be messed with.

This guy was hardly sociopathic, and as he told the story he seemed to be saying, The way of the world is unjust.  I hate that.  But he simulated a lack of empathy to protect himself.

I, OTOH, had empathy when I was in school.  When the game was, "Let's not play with Billy," I'd ditch the bully and say to Billy, "Let's play."  So the game was usually, "Let's not play with Will," because others had less empathy.  In my case, empathy had a down side.  I suspect it often does at that age.  Of course, it's a plus, too; it's part of what makes life worth living.  But a sociopath wouldn't get that.

According to the stats our trainer gave us when I worked in the prison system, over 75% of all inmates in federal prisons are sociopaths.

So, no, I don't see an advantage.

The media will mostly report on the sociopaths that get ahead, but that doesn't mean there aren't rational and empathetic people who succeed.    

Hmmm... I wonder, however... What percentage of lawyers and bussiness executives fit the DSM criteria for sociopathy? It would seem to be an advantageous attribute in such professions (Just as a black sense of humor is advantageous to paramedics and butchers).

I'm pretty sure that one of the owners of the private ambulance service i work for (It has three, and this is the "Money Guy") fits the description quite nicely.

This former friend and roommate I mentioned in my earlier post was working as a paramedic when I last saw him, and several people who have seen him since then report that he still works in the medical field in some capasity.

Heh. Well, i could see how that may be an advantage. Lacking empathy would protect you from some of the messed up stuff that you see... But i prefer dark humor. Heh.

I can't believe that any significant percentage of successful executives, or MD's, are actually sociopathic.  No empathy... no moral sense... antisocial behavior... no.  It would be debilitating.  As Claude's stats show, i believe.  

It's like autism.  With autism, you're blinded to some of what the rest of us see (social cues, in that case).  We can say "differently abled" if we like, but you can look in the school system to see what autism does.  It makes people less successful as well as less connected.

I'm not so sure, Will. MD's, god i hope not... But bussiness executives do require a certain degree of abscence in matters of morality and empathy, in my opinion. Being able to end someone's career or lay off multiple workers to improve profit margins, and still sleep at night, indicates the the above mentioned deficiencies in quantity. Not to say that all bussinessmen are such (Generalizations are, by definition, false), but i just wonder what the percentages look like. An interesting idea, no?

Personally, I think the notion that firing someone on the basis of profit margins being indicative of a lack of empathy is incorrect. When companies are not profitable, they risk having to close shop permanently, and leaving even more people unemployed than just the few who would have been lost in a typical lay-off. If anything, I would posit it to be a symbol of empathy and responsibility on their part.

My experience in the business world has been such that I think this kind of personality is rare. I'm sure there are a few though.

Hmmm... Basically, a form of utilitarianism, correct? Interesting! I had never really thought of that. Not entirely sure i buy it, but it's a very valid argument. Sounds like an excuse to me (No offense; it probably doesn't help that i have a deep-seated and somewhat irrational distrust of financial types. Everyone has their quirks).

Utilitarianism in a nutshell, yes. I would argue that it is much more believable that many/most/all finance types and CEOs are utilitarians rather than the kind of people who would murder you if it weren't for those pesky police who keep them in check lol.

Heh. Donald Trump, perhaps? True, i'm sure that most big-bussiness types aren't clinical sociopaths. But i would still be interested in seeing the percentage that are. Ooh! And then comparing that to the relative growth rates of their companies! That would be fascinating!


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