Monday, September 15, 2008

Are you one of us?

I stumbled upon this a while ago, and then the other day. "Are you one of them?" the caption reads. The article purports to present a test of sociopathy. Both times i "failed" the test (I had forgotten the answer after the first time). I guess that makes me not a sociopath. r at least not a sociopath who has been stupid enough to be incarcerated.

It got me thinking, though. I am
sort of lonely. I would like to talk a little with my peers. It'd be good if there was some real way to test if people I know are also sociopaths, like Bladerunner's Voight-Kampff machine. It's tricky though, because sociopaths are so good at remaining undetected, even to other sociopaths. And you'd want the test to be very good at excluding false positives and negatives. You'd have to sneak up on them in a way that deprives them of other cues about how to act, like sneaking up on a baby you suspect is deaf and clapping to see if he reacts.

A possible test might be something that offends all sides of the moral spectrum, like the Freakonomics argument that the crime drop in the 1990's was due to Roe v. Wade because all the babies that would have grown up to be criminals had been aborted. Because there's so much moral static regarding that proposition, and because it offends absolutely everyone with any sort of moral compass, the sociopath can't make out any one particular signal. A better analogy might something like two very loud noise sources that are directly opposed. So by the time both noises reach the sociopath, they've canceled each other out and the sociopath hears nothing.

How would you expect the sociopath to react in such a situation? When I first read the Roe v. Wade argument in Freakonomics, I cried. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever read. The reasoning was so familiar to me. I recognized the pattern of my own brain's reasoning. I felt like I belonged. So if I'm any indication of how sociopaths would react, elation, joy, feeling of belonging--these are the sorts of things you would be looking for.

Who cares about "them." Are you one of "us"?


  1. Oh, that test is actually just for the violent sociopaths. I came across it once and laughed. It was funny, because I actually didn't realize that was the actual answer at first and then it all clicked when I was told.

    However, when I told some of my friends and my mother the joke, they did not understand it. That's the funniest part, because it seems only a sociopath understands that.

    Also, , is a very rational and true argument for abortion. People are so egotistical that they are blinded to the cold truth in some manners such as that.

  2. wow. i've always considered myself totally empathic, and i feel things quite deeply. but i have no problem with the idea that you posit - that the crime rate went down because many babies were aborted. unwanted children are often neglected and abused. abused and neglected children grow up with a different set of choices and a different sense of normalcy and appropriate behavior. the behaviors they learn to deal with the environment at home is maladaptive in other environments, such as school or work. this is not cruel to say, it's true.

    i've worked with abused kids for years. i've also had an abortion. i had severe feelings of guilt about the abortion for a very long time, but still feel it was the right thing - not because i would have abused the child, but because i have absolutely no desire in any way to be a mother.

    anyway, there are many ways to point a moral compass. i think having a baby you don't want is immoral. i think raising a child in an environment of abuse is immoral. and i think notices that there might be some societal consequences to that is important.

  3. When you formulate this litmus test, I'd like to apply it to my grandmother. As she ages, I believe dementia or Alzheimer's is diminishing her ability to mimic emotion and respond to social cues as she once had...or she may just be tired of the farce(she has nothing to lose at this point but our esteem).

  4. hah i just kinda laughed and said "that's cool", after reading the abortion thingy. I don't know what to make of that

  5. Yeah, I got the right answer on that quiz right away, as did my mom, but we're not sociopaths, just ENTJ's on the myers-briggs scale. I've always noticed a bit of a cross-over between the two, along with the tiny % of ENTJ's like sociopaths...I wonder if there's a connection?

  6. I have been diagnosed with aspergers, but am told I do not fully fit the mould. When learning to drive the instructor told me, after a slightly too slow emergency stop on an empty road, "Never mind running over a random guy, you just run over the entire family" and I couldnt help but burst out laughing.
    Recently I have found that I am constantly thinking of death, scared of it, but also I embrace violence. I am trained in martial arts and just joined boxing so I can get to go for blood more often. I also am considered racist, and back at school I was considered sociopathic by peers as I never cared for people other than family, and when provoked I would fight strike without warning until the body went limp.
    But I ave the problem that they put me through so much anger management I cant lose my temper,

    how do I overcome this fear of getting in trouble etc?
    also does it sound likely that I have mild sociopathy?

  7. Freakonomics is great.

    I read, in a couple of places I think, this anecdote about business school: The professor assigns his class some horrible task, like how to reduce the crime rate with maximum efficiency. One student says, "Kill all the criminals." He gets the A, and the professor explains that one has to think that way to succeed in business.

    It's meant to be a lesson in maximum efficiency and objective-oriented thinking. It never occurred to me before that it had anything to do with sociopathy, but I guess it kind of does, LOL. I can see how people would think of business school as an initiation program for vampires or something.

    Freakonomics is just smart. Really sharp writing backed by sound theory and facts.

    When people become emotionally upset over an economic or political argument that they term "sociopathic," that's cognitive bias. It's an irrational response brought about by chemical processes in the brain--not a valid conclusion. Sociopaths just happen to be immune to some of these biases, as are professionals who've received training or have become desensitized to certain subject matter.

  8. I just want to add: There are so many political issues based entirely on "empathy." To the point that there is no other good reason to support the position. It really upsets me. I refuse to go into specific examples, because some jackass is inevitably going to show up and insult me for stating facts. The cognitive bias of "empathy" even causes people to make reading comprehension errors, so of course arguments against the correct point of view will always be flawed--so deeply flawed at times that it causes me to question the intelligence of humanity in general, which is distressing for me.

    Empathy is a skill; the skill of listening, observing, and responding appropriately to achieve your objective in any given situation. It can be taught.

    That emotional, irrational nonsense caused by cognitive bias is something else--not empathy.

  9. i agree only violent sociopaths if that because i though it was gonna be he talked to her and her sister and the sister new something and killer her cause she new n or suspected her for sexing him after words


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