Lately there have been a flood of articles on what a psychopath vs sociopath is. This seems to coincide with a swell of public criticism of sociopathic behavior in both political and financial spheres. I use the term sociopath here regularly so I think it’s time to address this.
From about 2010 to about 2012, before I wrote ancient breed and started this site, I was hunting around quite a bit for more information on psychopaths. One thing I noticed right away, even in scholarly articles and books was the tendency to bounce around between sociopath and psychopath in the text. This also happened in similar but different texts with the term Narcissist. Conversely I noticed that APD or ASPD was not used in this way but stood alone. I did not really get it until I read ‘Without Conscience’ by Dr. Robert Hare.
Dr. Hare if you don’t know is sort of the Sigmund Freud of psychopathy. He plowed through the many many conflicting definitions of what a psychopath was and created a demonstrable test known as ‘the psychopathy checklist.’ or nicknamed ‘the Hare.’ This test which is used in courtrooms and jails worldwide, was used to vastly solidify the APD standard. Let me repeat that, he has accomplished a court tested body of work used to write the standard on what psychopathy officially is. He is as close as we can come to an authority on psychopathy.
The reason such a concerted effort was put into the relatively new APD definition was exactly because there was no consensus on what behaviors a sociopath, narcissist or psychopath displayed or why they displayed them. APD is a strictly defined guideline of outwardly measurable symptoms, specifically as a legally defensible platform. It is an official admission that there is no agreement on psychopath related labels.
“A term that was supposed to have much the same meaning as “psychopath” or “sociopath” is antisocial personality disorder, described in the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III, 1980) and it’s revision (DSM-III-R; 1987), widely used as the “Diagnostic bible” for mental illness” — Dr Robert Hare “Without Conscience”, 1993
- First there is no formal definition of sociopath. The DSM APD definition is used for legal identification of sociopath like symptoms.
- Psychopathy is the highest order metal illness. Many psychopaths are both highly intelligent and self aware. They are not going to make it easy to identify them.
- You could say sociopaths may not be psychopaths, but saying they are not is just a social trend and a disingenuous one.
- Psychopathy is likely (the lack of) a non-dominant gene. Any parent with any linage can have a psychopath child.
There is something strange about anyone claiming a sociopath CAN’T be a psychopath.
I strongly suggest that there will be a great many ‘diagnosed’ sociopaths who lack the civilization gene once a test is created.
Why is this important to Civgene?
APD is a strictly defined guideline of outwardly measurable symptoms. Some immutable background checking is used, but does not score high enough alone to define someone as a psychopath. This creates a problem. Some psychopaths like to hide, and an intelligent psychopath (they display the full range of intelligence) could simply read the Hare and prepare the needed answers in advance.
This is not a bad thing. In fact it’s the key to the next step. This was the pivot point by which we can extract the development of psychopaths. Outward facing symptoms indicates a lack of awareness of contextual self. This, plus a personal bout with a fit of narcissist rage helped me to realize APD or ASPD refers to the ego stage.
id -> ego -> superego
Here is the the original article. Also I wrote a follow up article here. Just like other humans in Freud’s model, psychopaths are not robots. They all display some behaviors from ALL three groups. THAT’s why the definitions are so vexing. It’s a development model. Narcissist and sociopath define social stages of psychopaths.
It very well may be, the idea that sociopaths are just the most stealthy variation of psychopaths partly originated here. With civgene. From the 2010 versions of what narcissists and sociopaths were and were not. How they all lack conscience, but display different, sometimes dovetailing behaviors.
Language is a moving target and I recognize that the ‘sociopath’ may officially move on from where it was in 2010. I have a solution. The generic self division and progression that covers both empath and psychopath (and possibly others) follows.
Wants -> abilities -> limits.
This self progression of intelligence is wholly original language to civgene and will retain it’s meaning. If the term sociopath is officially redefined from what it meant in 2010, I will cease calling the most cunning and self aware psychopaths sociopaths, and begin to call them Limits stage psychopaths or Limits psychopaths.
I don’t see why it would change and I think this would be a terrible mistake. Sociopath characterizes a subtly self serving and unrelenting psychopath determined to rise above the risk their lack of conscience creates for them, through the accumulation of power and rejection of liability, perfectly. It would be a shame to throw away decades of wisdom and framework for a trend with no new data.