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  #1  
Old 06-15-2008, 07:33 PM
astro astro is offline
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Are sociopaths always going to go bad? Can't some make good in the right situation?

Aren't there some situations where a genuine sociopath could actually use their lack of empathy or compassion to make good, like being a fearless solider or spy, or does doing any kind of job require some base level of human empathic skills in order to communicate with others, and not hurt those who are on your side?

Can genuine sociopaths who would meet all the DSM metrics (ie more than just people who are professional assholes) make good in modern society?
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  #2  
Old 06-15-2008, 07:43 PM
ASAKMOTSD ASAKMOTSD is offline
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Sales
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  #3  
Old 06-15-2008, 07:57 PM
j666 j666 is online now
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Politics come to mind.

Given all the compromise necessary, only caring about keeping people happy enough to re-elect one would come in handy. I can't imagine how a person with actual ideals would survive.
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  #4  
Old 06-15-2008, 08:21 PM
astro astro is offline
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Sales and politics? I said "make good". Successful sales people and politicians require very powerful empathic skills in order to do well. If anything sales people and politicians, even if they are ethically challenged in a particular circumstance, are probably the farthest away from the sociopathic mode of thought.

Last edited by astro; 06-15-2008 at 08:21 PM..
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  #5  
Old 06-15-2008, 08:31 PM
don't ask don't ask is offline
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Business and politics are both fields in which sociopaths are successful. You are confusing the appearance of empathy with the reality of it. The fact that so many politicians are ethically challenged is an indication that many are able act in ways that people like you or I cannot. And they can do so without a twinge of guilt because all that matters to them is their own welfare.
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  #6  
Old 06-15-2008, 08:37 PM
Mr Buttons Mr Buttons is offline
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My SO has a friend that I consider to be a sociopath. She never seems to express genuine emotion, she's always studying those around her before she gives a reaction of her own. She feels very uncomfortable 1 on 1 conversations, but thrives in a group environment where she can pick up on the mood and act along with it.

I have my misgivings about her, but from all that I can tell she is doing a fine job at our local humane society. She has a bond w/ animals that she just can't quite form with people.
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  #7  
Old 06-15-2008, 08:39 PM
norinew norinew is offline
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I am watching this thread with interest, because my oldest daughter seems to be a sociopath; She just turned 21, and I'm hoping fervently that she will turn out to be something other than a welfare dependent.

The sad thing (for me) is that she's very bright. She just doesn't seem to care for anyone or anything outside herself at this very moment.
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  #8  
Old 06-15-2008, 08:49 PM
astro astro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by don't ask
Business and politics are both fields in which sociopaths are successful. You are confusing the appearance of empathy with the reality of it. The fact that so many politicians are ethically challenged is an indication that many are able act in ways that people like you or I cannot. And they can do so without a twinge of guilt because all that matters to them is their own welfare.

I don't want to hijack my own OP to Cuba, but this is relatively cartoonish view of how sales and politics operates. Successful salespeople and politicians require clients that come back to them time and again, and refer or recommend that others use them or affiliate with them. A salesperson or politician cannot afford to piss off clients or constituents by defrauding or cheating them. There are certainly some salespeople and politicians that are ethically challenged, or more often make stupid moves that get them deeper and deeper into compromised or illegal situations, but few if any of these are people who are operating successfully behind some psychologically anomic mask where the client is a simply means to an end.

Last edited by astro; 06-15-2008 at 08:53 PM..
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  #9  
Old 06-15-2008, 08:54 PM
Ranchoth Ranchoth is online now
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Well, for starters...how are we defining "sociopath"? The Dread Wikipedia, for example, has three major articles under the heading of "sociopath," including two different personality disorders, and a rather lengthy text on psychopathy. Each with at least one different symptoms checklist.

For what it's worth, I could imagine that it's possible for someone with sociopathic tendencies to at least get by in society, without automatically degenerating into a corpse raping ghoul. Like if the simply fear getting caught and punished for breaking the law, or—even more simply—they happen to find some niche in life where they're perfectly satisfied without needing to break the law. They might still be a callous, manipulative asshole, but if they, say, only want to find fame, glory, and triumph as a chess grandmaster, committing felonies might be the farthest thing from their mind.
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  #10  
Old 06-15-2008, 09:15 PM
j666 j666 is online now
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Well, how about acting, for a high-functioning sociopath? Who better at learning the social conventions of expressing emotion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by astro
A salesperson or politician cannot afford to piss off clients or constituents by defrauding or cheating them. ...
There are certainly some salespeople and politicians that ...get ... deeper and deeper into compromised or illegal situations, but few ... are operating successfully...[heavily abbreviated]
I respectfully disagree on the first point; I would argue they can not afford to get caught defrauding and cheating, and that sociopaths would be good at not getting caught.

As to the second point, many do get caught; I suspect 99% of the time TPTB find a way to keep things quiet, and so we only suffer very few of the possible scandals, and that such people can operated successfully for years. But then, I was raised Catholic.
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  #11  
Old 06-15-2008, 09:29 PM
Hypnagogic Jerk Hypnagogic Jerk is offline
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I won't link to the post so I'm sure I don't embarrass anyone, but at least one one of our members has claimed to be a sociopath in the past, and I think it would be very interesting to hear their opinion on this question. I'd like to see how their perception of the world differs from ordinary people, and what guides their actions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Buttons
My SO has a friend that I consider to be a sociopath. She never seems to express genuine emotion, she's always studying those around her before she gives a reaction of her own. She feels very uncomfortable 1 on 1 conversations, but thrives in a group environment where she can pick up on the mood and act along with it.
Could she possibly be mildly autistic?

Last edited by Hypnagogic Jerk; 06-15-2008 at 09:31 PM..
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  #12  
Old 06-15-2008, 09:31 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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I prefer the term Psychopathy myself. Sociopathy has been used for a variety of different conditions in the past, and thus can cause confusion. And there are subtle differences between the two diagnoses as they now stand.

But yes, it is possible for these narcissistic, amoral, empathyless, aggressive people to succeed. If they can obtain what they want without running afoul of the law or too many social mores, they can sometimes be found to work very hard to obtain it. These folks often avoid diagnosis for a long time, as they don't draw much negative attention to themselves.

Where many get into trouble is if they have additional personality disorders/characteristics that don't mix well with psychopathy. If they're both sadistic and psychopathic, the only thing keeping them from practicing their sadism is the fear of punishment. If he thinks he can get away with it, he'll swerve to run someone down who's walking alongside the road.

But if the psychopath isn't sadistic, he won't go out of his way to run someone down in the road because it'll be too much of an inconvenience to him to deal with the possible consequences.
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  #13  
Old 06-15-2008, 09:38 PM
astro astro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j666
Well, how about acting, for a high-functioning sociopath? Who better at learning the social conventions of expressing emotion?


I respectfully disagree on the first point; I would argue they can not afford to get caught defrauding and cheating, and that sociopaths would be good at not getting caught.

As to the second point, many do get caught; I suspect 99% of the time TPTB find a way to keep things quiet, and so we only suffer very few of the possible scandals, and that such people can operated successfully for years. But then, I was raised Catholic.
A sexual predator priest many have a bushel basket full of sexuality issues, but that does not make them, by any stretch of the imagination, a true "sociopath". Per Ranchoth's request I am defining sociopath as someone who, brain wiring wise, just does not "get" empathy. This is why all these notions about true sociopaths carving a successful swath in sales, politics, and business are absurd. You can only fake relating to other humans behind an anomic mask to a limited extent and the tendency to violate social norms will out most of them. Again, asshole, even "super-asshole", does not equal sociopath. Everyday, garden variety obnoxious assholes are generally acting out of some fetid blend of arrogance and philosophical conviction, it's not that they can't understand your perspective, they do, but they think theirs is more important. Sociopaths never "get it" to begin with.

Quote:
ICD-10 Criteria for Dissocial Personality Disorder
Specifically, the dissocial personality disorder is described by the World Health Organization by the following criteria:

Callous unconcern for the feelings of others and lack of the capacity for empathy.
Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships.
Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
Incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
Marked proneness to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior bringing the subject into conflict.
Persistent irritability.

Last edited by astro; 06-15-2008 at 09:41 PM..
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  #14  
Old 06-15-2008, 10:09 PM
j666 j666 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astro
A sexual predator priest many have a bushel basket full of sexuality issues, but that does not make them, by any stretch of the imagination, a true "sociopath". Per Ranchoth's request I am defining sociopath as someone who, brain wiring wise, just does not "get" empathy. This is why all these notions about true sociopaths carving a successful swath in sales, politics, and business are absurd. You can only fake relating to other humans behind an anomic mask to a limited extent and the tendency to violate social norms will out most of them. Again, asshole, even "super-asshole", does not equal sociopath. Everyday, garden variety obnoxious assholes are generally acting out of some fetid blend of arrogance and philosophical conviction, it's not that they can't understand your perspective, they do, but they think theirs is more important. Sociopaths never "get it" to begin with.
You misunderstood; I was simply presenting the argument that people can go for years without 'getting caught'.

I don't think anyone in this thread is conflating 'sociopathy' with 'asshole-dom'; they are narrowing on the lack of empathy, and suggesting professions and situations in which that would be an advantage.

Now, I, and others, were assuming the ability to fake empathy convincingly; "everyone" learns to do that, to some degree.

I could argue that a highly 'socialize' sociopath with clearly defined long-term goals is particularly suited to succeed in most professions. They would need to overcome two tendencies:

Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.

Ambition might be enough of a motivation to do so.
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  #15  
Old 06-15-2008, 10:17 PM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by don't ask
Business and politics are both fields in which sociopaths are successful.
If sociopaths do well in "Business" and "politics," I'm curious as to what non-sociopaths do well in. You've identified the private sector and the public sector as good sociopath careers; what other sectors are there?

Identifying "business" as a career is only slightly less generic than saying "Sociopaths are good at, you know, doing stuff."

Quote:
Originally Posted by j666
Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.

Ambition might be enough of a motivation to do so.
Sociopaths can't overcome those tendencies, not in the long run. That's what makes them sociopaths.

Have you ever known a real, honest-to-God sociopath? I did. She could fool you for a little while; but in the long run she simply could not be more than she was, and everything in her life went to shit. Sociopaths lack foresight and impulse control; they screw their lives up one way or another. She was bright, but the idea of her holding down an actual, successful career is inconceivable. It's just not within her capabilities.
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  #16  
Old 06-15-2008, 11:11 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astro
I don't want to hijack my own OP to Cuba, but this is relatively cartoonish view of how sales and politics operates. Successful salespeople and politicians require clients that come back to them time and again, and refer or recommend that others use them or affiliate with them. A salesperson or politician cannot afford to piss off clients or constituents by defrauding or cheating them. There are certainly some salespeople and politicians that are ethically challenged, or more often make stupid moves that get them deeper and deeper into compromised or illegal situations, but few if any of these are people who are operating successfully behind some psychologically anomic mask where the client is a simply means to an end.
That simply isn't true. You are confusing psychopathy with simply being an asshole. Lots of psychostats appear to be very charming on the surface including extreme examples that include serial killers like Ted Bundy Of course, not all politicians and salespeople are like that but some are. Good psychopaths can excel by taking on a superficial person in these fields to manipulate people simply for their own benefit.
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  #17  
Old 06-16-2008, 12:07 AM
Hilarity N. Suze Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Buttons
My SO has a friend that I consider to be a sociopath. She never seems to express genuine emotion, she's always studying those around her before she gives a reaction of her own. She feels very uncomfortable 1 on 1 conversations, but thrives in a group environment where she can pick up on the mood and act along with it.

I have my misgivings about her, but from all that I can tell she is doing a fine job at our local humane society. She has a bond w/ animals that she just can't quite form with people.
Here's my expertise: I have heard an expert talk about psycho/sociopaths* to a group of writers on two occasions. (Same expert.) All these are from my notes (not very good notes, but what I've got).

According to her, they can do very well and be apparently normal, and in fact they usually appear normal, although they won't have close friends and they won't have pets. Someone suggested politics--she agrees, but they can also succeed in business. Sales, not completely unlikely. Dictator, most definitely. According to her, there are more psycopaths than you probably think, but most of them will remain law-abiding citizens beneath anyone's notice.

The current thinking is that psychopaths are born, not made. A bad home environment can cause a psychopath to go bad, and a good home environment may keep the psycho (path, abbreviated henceforth as psycho) on the straight and narrow because he or she wants to remain in the good graces of his/her family.

Not all bedwetters are psychos, not all fire-starters are psychos, and not all animal torturers are psychos, but the presence of all three of these traits pretty much guarantees the person is a psycho and should be watched/treated, not that treatment is likely to do a lot of good. But the fact that the psycho knows people are onto him/her can help.

Diagnosed psychos are men by a big ratio. (Thought I wrote it down, but can't find it.) It tends to be the men who cause all the big trouble--serial killings and the like. Although I'm sure both sexes are the cause of lots of less dangerous trouble and angst.

*She said that psychologists/psychiatrists use "psychopath" and sociologists use "sociopath" but they mean essentially the same thing. She is a psychiatrist and neurologist who would like to have dissected Ted Bundy.

ETA: I originally came in to say that if someone can have a bond with animals, she probably is not a psychopath. According to this expert. I'm sure experts disagree.

Last edited by Hilarity N. Suze; 06-16-2008 at 12:09 AM..
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  #18  
Old 06-16-2008, 12:19 AM
Gorgonzola Gorgonzola is offline
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I prefer the term Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Psychopath and sociopath have both been abused as badly as the dreaded split personality and mean very different things to different people, even people who should know better. Remember there are still many mental health personnel out there who believe in the legendary effects of the full moon.

Anyway, as in other personality disorders there will always be a subset of people who are successful in traditional terms. Also, of course, the negative aspects of one's personality tend to be more in play under stress (poor health, deprivation) than when everything is going along tickety-boo. Since the vast majority of people with Anti-Social Personality Disorder wind up incarcerated, success for the remainder may be a relative term.
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  #19  
Old 06-16-2008, 02:12 AM
OtakuLoki OtakuLoki is offline
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I don't know any people who meet the definitions of the various patterns of behavior being tossed around in this thread, but there is no reason that these amoral, anempathic types can't succeed in positions such as surgery. Everyone I know has a story of a surgeon that they've met who couldn't connect with anyone. Who were often technically excellent doctors, but just were missing something on the human side.

An intelligent person may well see the intellectual need to work within the bounds of society, simply from what they'd describe as enlightened self-interest, without ever once granting those teeming masses any kind of consideration as persons in their own right.
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Old 06-16-2008, 02:49 AM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Another vote for "State what definition of 'sociopath' first". The version of "sociopath" I immediately thought of was "person without emotion"; and someone like that can't "make good" to use the OP's term. Because they simply don't care. Someone without emotion can't even play cards well, because they don't care if they win or lose. They may or may not be violent, but they are always incapable of functioning in society; lacking emotions, they are driven merely to seek out the nearest and quickest pleasurable sensation regardless of the consequences to themselves or others. I recall the example of an accountant who lost his capacity for emotion due to brain damage, and spent all his money on prostitutes and drugs despite knowing ( and having the training to know just how bad he was screwing himself, and formerly being quite prudent ) that he'd run out of money, and wouldn't even be able to get any more of the sex and drugs he was spending money on. Because concern for the future requires just that, concern, an emotion.
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  #21  
Old 06-16-2008, 08:31 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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Show business. These people make wonderful actors, and if you can do it well, show business will look the other way as long as you are not murdering people, and some people probably could get away with murder.
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  #22  
Old 06-16-2008, 09:02 AM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas
Show business. These people make wonderful actors, and if you can do it well, show business will look the other way as long as you are not murdering people, and some people probably could get away with murder.
Interestingly, the sociopath I knew (and, sigh, dated; and no, it's not bitterness, most of the women I dated were nice people) was an exceptionally talented actress.

But she never got anywhere with that because she was a psychopath. An acting career requires excellent interpersonal skills, networking, planning, and career management. She burned every bridge sooner or later.
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  #23  
Old 06-16-2008, 09:04 AM
myskepticsight myskepticsight is offline
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When I took abnormal psych, we learned "sociopaths" are commonly people with antisocial personality disorder. List of symptoms from the Mayo Clinic:

* Persistent lying or stealing
* Recurring difficulties with the law
* Tendency to violate the rights of others (property, physical, sexual, emotional, legal)
* Aggressive, often violent behavior; prone to getting involved in fights
* Inability to keep a job
* A persistent agitated or depressed feeling (dysphoria)
* Inability to tolerate boredom
* Disregard for the safety of self or others
* A childhood diagnosis of conduct disorders
* Lack of remorse for hurting others
* Possessing a superficial charm or wit
* Impulsiveness
* A sense of extreme entitlement
* Inability to make or keep friends

With psych disorders reading the DSM, you usually need a certain number of symptoms for any disorder for a certain period of time to qualify as having the disorder. So you don't need to qualify for all of these.

We spoke about two ways in which antipersonality disorder can manifest: one as a repeat criminal offender, and another as the person who fits in with society but something is "off." The latter could be the stereotypical "slick businessperson" type of sociopath that is good at faking and cunningly uses other people as means to their own ends. Sociopaths aren't always super violent or "crazy," they just don't give a shit about anyone but themselves. Anyone seen the show Dexter? How he talks about not ever knowing how to act when people around him get emotional? Because he doesn't get those types of feelings? Very few things excite him (like when teenage Dexter stands on the roof at the edge of a building with the wind blowing to try to get his heart to beat fast)? Besides his killing, he isn't a bad person really, he just doesn't understand people at a basic level.

I'd guess though that most sociopaths are:
repeat criminals whose major crimes are likely theft/robbery, assault, other property crimes
"regular" people that are not violent and can be found in many walks of life

I read that book "The Sociopath Next Door" (which got bad ratings and I haven't researched the author much) and the sociopaths discussed had regular types of lives, but they were just extreme assholes due to their lack of empathy and seeing people as tools to get what they want. I vaguely remember one example of a woman who faked her resume, lied out the ass, sabotaged coworkers, etc. to get and keep a job. Her goal was getting the job, so she did whatever she felt like to get it - including really hurting other people. And she didn't care.
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Old 06-16-2008, 10:34 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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It seems like certain areas of academia would be conducive to a person with a single-minded devotion to his or her research, with sufficient aggression to step on others in the fight for grant money, etc.

And anyone who's read Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential can envision successful psychopathy in the restaurant world.
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  #25  
Old 06-16-2008, 11:42 AM
zagloba zagloba is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j666
Now, I, and others, were assuming the ability to fake empathy convincingly; "everyone" learns to do that, to some degree.
Top salesman to new protege:
"The key to success in sales is sincerity: learn to fake that and you've got it made!"
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  #26  
Old 06-16-2008, 12:02 PM
casdave casdave is offline
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But yes, it is possible for these narcissistic, amoral, empathyless, aggressive people to succeed.
You say that like its a bad thing.

..but all that aside,

What is meant by the term 'narcisistic' because it appears to me a term that is widely bandied about, for instance to describe individuals with which the US has a certain type of disagreement.

I'm also sure that there is a public perception of what it means, but this is not really technical description favoured by proffessionals

One other term often used, if someone isn't 'narcissistic' then they will be described as being a 'Walter Mitty' character, again this seems to have been used as an attempt at political character assassination rather than any clinical meaing.

I would expect that there isn't such a thing as 'sociopathic' in the classic sense of the word, but rather there is a range of conditions, from one extreme to another, with other disorders that may be associated.

For instance, in a tribal society there may be huge concerns for ones own group, and absolutely none at all for those of another, it could be religios based, such as in Sudan.
I also think that lack of empathy can be scenario based, so that someone can be an absolute brute in one set of circumstances, and a perfectly sane and rational person in another set.
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  #27  
Old 06-16-2008, 08:42 PM
j666 j666 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay
Sociopaths can't overcome those tendencies, not in the long run. That's what makes them sociopaths.
I disagree; I think only unsuccessful sociopaths can not control those tendencies. I think there are lots of very successful sociopaths with absolutely no respect for or comprehension of the need for rules and laws and norms and the like, but obey them to stay out of prison and make good money legally (because, in the long run, it's easier than illegal money).

There are smart and ambitious sociopaths, smart enough to learn the rules, and ambitious enough to play by them to get what they want.

And there are stupid and/or self-destructive sociopaths, who get caught and studied; they are a type of self-selecting sample, who skew the results.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay
Have you ever known a real, honest-to-God sociopath? I did.
Oh, yeah. One just like yours. I still haven't recovered.

But I've run across the other kind, too; the ones with lots of 'friends', good jobs, admiring co-workers, and bosses happy to mentor them. I've watched them destroy careers, just to entertain themselves. They don't have to fool most people for long, because they keep moving; up, rather than away. They only have to really fool one person, a mentor, at a time.

They're kind of like the monster in most horror stories; they are so successful because people don't believe they exist.
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  #28  
Old 06-16-2008, 09:54 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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There are a couple of conflicting definitions of sociopathy. The layman's definition is of someone who has no inherent emotions or empathy, but the technical version is someone who is anti-social, is violent, cheats, is lazy, and is unremorseful. While it may be that the former leads to the latter, in terms of talking about official, sanctionable sociopaths (psychopaths), being bad is part of the diagnosis, so it's a given that they will "go bad."

If you want to go by the layman's definition, it's entirely possible to be anything from an a-hole to a saint, it just depends. I personally have essentially no emotions or empathy for other people, but when I grew up and observed people around me, I came to conclusions similar to the iterated prisoner's dilemma and the self-benefit of the golden rule.

Quote:
Originally Posted by astro
Successful sales people and politicians require very powerful empathic skills in order to do well.
Not really. If you're a good study of people and how to play them, it's perfectly easy to act in ways that endear them to you or your cause. If you want to believe that people are telepathic and can tell between true emotions and pretend, then I suppose that's up to you, but so far as I can tell a good actor with a good script will do better than just any blowhard venting off his emotions.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 06-16-2008 at 09:55 PM..
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  #29  
Old 06-16-2008, 10:05 PM
dre2xl dre2xl is offline
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It sounds from the posters' descriptions that the ability for empathy, and the ability to accurately predict human reaction and behavior, are intimately linked together in the brain.

If true, then there cannot be a "Data style" emotionless sociopath who can coexist peacefully in society, simply because they cannot accurately emulate, and thus predict, others finding out their own deceit, and thus they carry out lies and sabotage that an otherwise normal person would know he or she would be caught at sooner or later. It would also explain other aspects of sociopathy, such as why they seem so impulsive and cannot hold a job.
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  #30  
Old 06-16-2008, 10:57 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dre2xl
It sounds from the posters' descriptions that the ability for empathy, and the ability to accurately predict human reaction and behavior, are intimately linked together in the brain.
I'd disagree. Humans aren't random beings and the brain is a pattern detection machine at heart. Emotions and morality aren't random either. There's a history that leads up to philosophical and moral ideas that's based on an "evolution" of societal necessities and superstitions. So it's entirely possible to dissect and understand other people from a "3rd party" perspective. Now, any sociopath can and will incorrectly predict what other people will do from time to time but so will normal people. How often that happens is really something that's going to depend on the individual and their ability to pick up on and reason through what they see.

Probably a majority of people on internet dating sites are socially incompetent, but it's unlikely that most of them are sociopaths. That's just the way it goes.
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  #31  
Old 06-17-2008, 06:19 AM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat
There are a couple of conflicting definitions of sociopathy. The layman's definition is of someone who has no inherent emotions or empathy, but the technical version is someone who is anti-social, is violent, cheats, is lazy, and is unremorseful. While it may be that the former leads to the latter, in terms of talking about official, sanctionable sociopaths (psychopaths), being bad is part of the diagnosis, so it's a given that they will "go bad."
I think a lot of people are confusing being a sociopath with being a lying self-serving phoney jerk. That is not to say that there aren't very malicious and manipulative people in business, politics and other fields. They may even be suffering from other personality disorders. But working for any job requires a certain degree of toeing the line and putting up with other people's crap. I don't think sociopaths are good at that.
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Old 06-17-2008, 08:36 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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In her classic "The Stranger Beside Me," Ann Rule states that she thinks, given the right set of circumstances, Ted Bundy wouldn't have become a serial killer. However, it was her opinion that the best he could have been would be as a driven businessman, someone who rises to the top by his intelligence and phoney friendships, while getting his urges taken care of with prostitutes.

I think a good fictional example of a successful sociopath was Norman Daniels in Stephen King's "Rose Madder." The guy is a successful police officer who beats his wife, tortures suspects, and later does become a serial killer. It is fiction, but King has done his research.
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