I learned today that five percent of Americans are born sociopaths, up from 2% ten years ago.
One who is affected with a personality disorder marked by antisocial behavior.
Someone whose social behavior is extremely abnormal. Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others.
Sociopathy defines some myriad mental disorders, including psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder, and dissocial personality disorder. Psychopathy is a statistically significant lack of inhibition (“uninhibited gratification”), especially in criminal, sexual, or aggressive impulses. Antisocial personality disorder means disregard—and often gratuitous violation of—the rights and interests of others. Dissocial personality disorder rules out “conduct disorders” (like the gratuitous sexual disinhibition characteristic of antisocial personalities), and includes only that callous lack of concern for other people’s interests.
All of this is in turn different from Asperger’s disease. Asperger’s is fairly common in incentive-focused curriculum like economics, which focuses only on the “rational man” and his response to behavioral cues. Whereas the sociopathies (all three terms above are used interchangeably with “sociopath,” and the percent of sociopaths in society is much higher when you account for those other terms sometimes excluded from the first figure) describe a failure to translate cues from one’s peers, rather than a failure to perceive cues.
One in twenty is affected with one sociopathy or another. I imagine that in big, neurotic cities (and big, neurotic professions) there’s some higher number than the population at large. Even at the 5% rate, that means that approximately five people in each first year law school survey class would willingly go to inhuman means to succeed. The number seems surprising at first, but put into perspective, I have no problem believing it.
I’ll write more about this later—I’m fascinated by psychology, and considered being a psychologist until I started working at a bar and realized that it’s impossible to help someone until he helps himself—but I wanted to share those numbers and descriptions.
More fascinating was the definition of “sociopathy” I originally heard. When I heard that above statistic (incorrectly relayed to me as “one in five”), the inclusive, expansive definition that messenger conveyed was that sociopaths are those who “don’t have any real emotions, but just exist between incentives and behavioral corrections,” i.e., they don’t actually feel anything, they just pick a goal and then memorize the steps they’ll need to take to achieve that goal and go through those motions.
I had to check myself at that. I’m pretty sure I feel real emotions, but who knows? Sometimes I absolutely lose sight of what I “feel” (who the hell knows whether she’s in love, empirically? It’s not an objective emotional, a scientifically disproveable state!). Sometimes other people seem so certain. But then . . . is it possible that those are the people who have a goal (get married by 35), and then rote-perform the steps necessary to achieve that goal?
This post may sound cheesy—another woman blogging about her emotions!—but it’s fascinating to question how certainty differs across a spectrum. How we perceive feelings, how we achieve goals, etc.