October 09, 2011
The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
The Sociopath Next Door explores the possibility of there being sociopaths all over. It tells why they are the way they are, who they could be, and why they do the things they do. The book even goes so far as to say that about 4% of the population is probably sociopathic. That's quite a large number if you think about it. The author also explores what a conscience is and why sociopaths don't appear to have one. Largely the book gives examples of a few sociopaths and their behaviors, and gives some minor details on sociopaths in general.
The book makes a lot of good points on the behaviors to look out for in a sociopath. The problem with it is that I think every person exhibits these behaviors here and there in their life (and I don't think I've just been surrounded by an exorbitant amount of sociopaths in my life). The key is finding a reoccurring pattern. She does make a good point that most sociopaths look like everyone else and to an extent behave like everyone else. Not all can be a Sadaam Hussein and instead we may not ever realize that the person we've been working with possesses no conscience. A scary thought for sure but the majority of sociopaths we come in contact with will have no effect on our lives. Or at least these are the lessons I took from the book.
The chapters are nicely separated and the writing is scientific yet still approachable for the average person. I do think that the book could create some paranoia. While there is a lot of talk about what they do, I really don't think the book is a comprehensive guide for recognizing the sociopath. It also tends to go on and on about the same topics without delving in more deeply in other important areas. There is a lot for instance about the story of one of the sociopaths, but hardly any information on how to avoid these types.
An interesting book for sure but not one that I would base any social actions on. Definitely a good read if you are interested in psychology.
The Sociopath Next Door