Some have suggested that sociopaths are by definition criminal. Even if that were clinically true, I think it is false practically speaking. The whole study of sociopathy is junk science at worst and misguided at best. Almost all studies of sociopaths have been done with the prison population, if not all. You study the prison population, and criminality will obviously end up as one of the defining characteristics of a sociopath. This is irresponsible. It would be like studying black people only amongst the prison population and listing criminality as a defining characteristic of being black. What if we studied homosexuality only amongst the prison population and extrapolated to the entire gay community? Would we think that homosexual sex was always antagonistic, a nonconsensual way of exerting social dominance? As one sociopath reader puts it:
Having respect for property doesn't mean it's not property. People keep their yards clean, and I prefer to keep my life, and those in it, clean. I don't think a person has to be essentially malicious to be a sociopath. As a sociopath, your perceived mal-intent boils down to how you'd treat your environment. It's unfortunate there's no broader diagnosis that doesn't require a preoccupation with cruel or criminal behavior. It doesn't seem so different from using a specific diagnoses for obsessive people who have a thing for cars, without having one for obsessive people in general. If you remove the specific interest, you still have an obsessive person; though, if you were to remove the obsessive traits, you would have a normal person with a hobby. If you remove the destructive tendencies from a textbook sociopath, you still have a man without a conscience--what I believe is the foundation of the disorder; however, if you give that same man a conscience instead, what's the essential difference between him and the rest of humanity?The diagnosis of sociopathy now is just like any medical diagnosis ending in -itis: doctors generally don't care why whatever you have is swollen, they're fine using that one symptom to "diagnose" the disorder. Similarly equating us with criminal behavior, although not entirely inaccurate, is not very useful. Sure, we may sometimes commit crimes, but so do a lot of the otherwise law-abiding seeming people who haven't gotten caught and the other 80%-ish of the prison population who aren't sociopaths. And how is it that the rest of the sociopath population is not in prison? Are we all just very good at not getting caught? What a scary world that would be if all of us sociopaths were out committing heinous crimes all the time and walking amongst you. No wonder there are so many people deathly terrified of sociopaths.