You are here

The Sociopath Next Door - by Martha Stout


(25) Conscience is a sense of obligation ultimately based in an emotional attachment to another living creature (often but not always human), or to a group of human beings, or even in some cases to humanity as a whole.

(47) …what a sociopath wants…controlling others – winning - is more compelling than anything or anyone else.

(9) About one in 25 people are sociopathic, meaning, essentially, that they do not have a conscience.

(50) Instead, when confronted with a destructive outcome that is clearly their doing, they will say plain and simple, “I never did that,” and will to all appearances, believe their own direct lie. This feature of sociopathy makes self-awareness impossible, and in the end, just as the sociopath has no genuine relationships with other people; he has only a very tenuous one with himself. In general, people without conscience tend to believe their way of being in the world is superior to ours.

(63) Milgram’s pronouncement – “ A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority.” Milgram believed that authority could put conscience to sleep mainly because the obedient person makes an “adjustment of thought” which is to see himself as not responsible for his own actions.

(91) We are seduced as well by the acting skills of the sociopath. Since the scaffolding of a life without conscience is deception and illusion, intelligent sociopaths often become proficient at acting, and even at some of the particular techniques employed by professional actors. Paradoxically, the visible signs of emotion at will can become second nature to the cold-blooded…

(93) In a confusing irony, conscience can be rendered partially blind because people without conscience use, as weapons against us, many of the fundamentally positive tools we need to hold society together:

  • Empathic emotions
  • Sexual bonds
  • Social and professional roles
  • Regard for the compassionate and the creative
  • Our desire to make the world a better place, and
  • The organizing rule of authority


(107) How can I tell whom not to trust? The best clue is, of all things, the pity play. The most reliable sign, the most universal of behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.

(156+) 13 Rules for dealing with sociopaths in everyday life:

  • The first rule involves the bitter pill of accepting that some people literally have no conscience.
  • In a contest between your instincts and what is implied by the role a person has taken on – educator, doctor, leader, animal lover, humanist, parent – go with your instincts.
  • When considering a new relationship of any kind, practice the rule of Threes regarding the claims and promises a person makes, and the responsibilities he or she has. One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding instead. Two may involve a serious mistake. But three lies says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of conscienceless behavior. Cut your losses and get out as soon as you can.
  • Question authority. Once again – trust your own instincts and anxieties, especially those concerning people who claim that dominating others, violence, war or some other violation of your conscience is the grand solution to some problem.
  • Suspect flattery
  • If necessary, redefine your concept of respect. Too often, we mistake fear for respect, and the more fearful we are of someone, the more we view him/her as deserving of our respect.
  • Do not join the game.
  • The best way to protect yourself from a sociopath is to avoid him, to refuse any kind of contact or communication.
  • Question your tendency to pity too easily.
  • Do not try to redeem the unredeemable. Second chances are for people who possess conscience.
  • Never agree, out of pity or for any other reason, to help a sociopath conceal his/her true character.
  • Defend your psyche.
  • Living well is the best revenge.

(188) Sociopaths cannot love, by definition they do not have higher values, and they almost never feel comfortable in their own skins. They are loveless, amoral, and chronically bored, even the few who become rich and powerful.

Martha Stout, Ph.D Broadway Books: NY (2005)

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer