Monday, July 24, 2017

The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout (author), Shelly Frasier (narrator)

Tantor Audio, July 2005 (original publication January 2005)

The sociopaths who come to public attention are often violent criminals, but sociopaths are 4% of the population overall, and most of them aren't violent criminals.

That doesn't mean that they're nice or even non-harmful people to be around. Or that you're not likely to meet any. 4% of the population means roughly one in every twenty-five people you know will be a sociopath. They'll all be equally ruthless in pursuing what they want, but sociopaths differ as much in goals, drives, and intelligence as anyone else. They don't all want to be dictator of small nations, or captains of industry. Stout talks about the sociopaths we're likely to meet in our everyday lives, how we can recognize them, and how to defend ourselves.

She does this in part by looking at anonymized cases of real sociopaths whose behavior mostly didn't, or at least hadn't yet at the time of writing, landed them in jail. In their single-minded pursuit of what they want for themselves--desires as different as business success and the money it brings, or the ability to lounge by a pool with no effort expended--they do enormous damage to the people around them, with complete indifference. The people that in theory they should care about the most wind up feeling guilty because they think they're the ones responsible for any failures in the relationshipsame.

The other part of explaining what's going on with sociopaths is talking about what we've learned about the development of conscience and moral reasoning. Even in healthy, normal people, cultures and individuals develop moral reasoning in different ways, along different paths. Despite these differences, there are similarities and commonalities too, and we learn to negotiate our different ways of understanding.

And then there are the people who don't have those emotional connections and shared moral reasoning, and don't have consciences. Decisions that are hard to most of us are easy to sociopaths, because there's nothing nudging them to think about how these choices will affect other people,

Stout tells a compelling and readily understood story. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.