Friday, June 12, 2015

The Sociopath Next DoorThe Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sociopath is essentially a person who acts without conscience. The author uses anecdotes, and although such are not considered scientific evidence, they do make for a good "story" element in this book and we all know that everyone loves a freaking story. Hey, people, it's called fiction. Try it sometime. I would have rather seen this subject handed by a neuroscientist rather than a clinical psychologist. Perhaps a psychiatrist working in an institution for the criminally insane would have handled this subject better than Stout. There is a gawd awful lot of fluff and repetition in this book. All that complaining having been dutifully recorded, I will say something positive about the book.
The best thing about this book is the chapter detailing the characteristics of a sociopath. That chapter should be a PSA pamphlet. It seems to be a very decent guide for spotting the potential sociopaths in your life. Seriously. You want to stay the heck away from these people. They will jack you up! The chapter on the evolution of sociopathy is very concise and well treated. My favorite part of that chapter is as follows:

The various levels of natural selection are likely at odds with one another, particularly with respect to altruistic behaviors and emotions such as conscience. At the level of the gene and also at the level of the group, conscience is adaptive, and natural selection would favor it. But at the level of the individual creature, the absence of conscience may sometimes be even more adaptive for survival. In this way, nature would constantly be fostering conscience in most of us, while, at a different level, continually supporting a smaller percentage of individuals who thrive without the neurobiological underpinnings of emotional attachment and conscience.

If you must have some fascinating anecdote to stomach actually learning something, I suppose this is as good a book as any of that type on the market. God forbid we should learn from some concise, well written fact based book. I would love any recommendation if you've read such a book on sociopathy. Meanwhile, enjoy this one and ....... Trust No One. :-)

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