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‘Logic’ of Sociopathy April 3, 2013

Posted by larry in Philosophy, Psychology.
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In a previous post, I briefly discussed and distinguished between true psychopathy and sociopathy. I will assume here that the concept of psychopathy is understood and concentrate on the concept of sociopathy, particularly as I define the term differently from Hare.

Hare defines “sociopathy” as behavior associated with a social group that is considered to be anti-social by a more inclusive group, which may consist of the entire society.

Although Hare does not explicitly mention social groups in his definition of psychopathy, the term could be defined as behavior considered to be extremely anti-social by the entire society, no matter what social role the individual is playing or what situation he is in. (Most of them are male.) According to my definition of sociopathy, sociopathic behavior is anti-social behavior carried out only in certain situations, such as work environments, or when the individual is playing certain roles, such as the role of the CEO.  No essential reference is made to any social group.

According to both our definitions, there are more sociopaths than true psychopaths. Hare estimates that around 2% of the US population is psychopathic. There is evidence to suggest that true psychopathic behavior involves neurological alterations in the brain of the psychopath not found in the normal brain. Sociopathic behavior need involve no such neurological functionality. It may be completely situationally determined, or influenced. If the latter is the case, there will be a significant cultural component involved in bringing out sociopathic behavior in certain people (e.g., general ideas or particular beliefs concerning what is appropriate).

Experiments comparing so-called normal people with those diagnosed as psychopathic show distinct differences in reactions to emotional words. Certain kinds of cruel behavior has also been found in the teenage behavior of those diagnosed as being psychopathic. I will mention again that in order to properly diagnose someone as being a true psychopath, you need an immense amount of clinical and behavioral data over a number of years. This is often available for those who have been imprisoned. It is not so easily available for the organized psychopath who is not violent. Nevertheless, it can and has been acquired. For detailed, authoritative accounts, see Babiak and Hare, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work (2007) and Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2005).

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