The Psychopath Test

Review – The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout.

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Yes, I gave The Sociopath Next Door a chance despite its fairly cringeworthy cover and title.  Being a huge lover of mystery fiction, I do find myself drawn to explanations of the icy cold killers and the master manipulators among us.  I discovered this book via Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, a fabulous audiobook that I highly recommend.  Audible.com noticed my interest in the so-called Madness Industry and recommended I give The Sociopath Next Door a shot.

Martha Stout does a great job of not only explaining what makes a sociopath different, but discussing what bonds most of us as humans together.  She talks about empathy as a human sense that sociopaths seem to lack.  I found most interesting her digressions into the psychology of empathy – how most humans make horrible soldiers and fail to fire their guns at the enemy unless directly ordered to, etc.

The pitch of Dr. Stout’s book is that sociopaths are rampant among us – there are more of them out there, she says, than there are schizophrenics or certain types of cancer sufferers.  We are mainly just unaware of this specific disorder as it isn’t discussed or is more debatable in the mainstream.  I’m not too concerned about meeting sociopaths in my day to day life or how to wrangle with them on the daily, but I did find Dr. Stout’s examinations of and extrapolations from the human psyche to be interesting and well worth a read.

The Sociopath Next Door at Powell’s Books