Friday, March 26, 2010

Sociopaths = the good stuff

I posted this a while ago about a study suggesting that sociopaths have excessive amounts of dopamine. Another recent study done at Vanderbilt University has linked the excess dopamine in sociopaths to a hypersensitive reward system that releases as much as four times the normal amount of dopamine in response to either a perceived gain of money upon the successful completion of a task, or to chemical stimulants.

The researchers then suggest that the overactive reward system is to blame for a sociopath's impulsive, risk seeking behavior because "[t]hese individuals appear to have such a strong draw to reward to the carrot that it overwhelms the sense of risk or concern about the stick."


Apart from this conclusion seeming like a huge stretch, a blatant attempt to try to shoehorn scientific findings into one of the "known" "universal" "traits" of a "sociopath," this just seems wrong. From personal experience, I feel like my risk-seeking behavior stems from a low fear response, or a lack of natural anxiety in potentially dangerous, traumatic, or stressful situations. If I am not afraid of something, I am probably going to take more risks, just like those children who can't feel pain so end up shoving fingers in their eyes.

A hypersensitive reward system could explain why sociopaths are allegedly sex fiends, at least compared to the rest of the population. It could also explain why you'll see them at the top of their field, professionally speaking. Sociopaths are probably contributing to society in all sorts of random ways in order to trigger an enormous amount of dopamine flooding through their brain. Risk takers, though? Maybe we are, but I don't think because of this, particularly because an earlier study at Vanderbilt showed that low amounts of dopamine were highly correlated with risk taking and drug abuse. Or maybe we have to be goldilocks-esque about this and make sure dopamine levels are just right?


  1. Hi I'm curious to know what a sociopath experiences when he/she is exposed? Is it safe to assume, since they have no fear that they dont give a damn?

    So why would anyone wanting to expose a sociopath be fearful of a backlash.

    1. We are all different i'm many ways. I personally get angry and violent when exposed to people i'm trying to control. I hate losing control and learning that i'm a sociopath it's to know my greatest weaknesses, which it's how I control people myself.

  2. Interesting.

    There is also speculation that links too much dopamine in the brain to schitzophrenics.

    They also often suffer from delusions of grandeur and at times believe they can perform feats that are unrealistic to the normal person.

  3. a reward is always nice, but it's really about the challenge.

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  5. once the jig is up and they lose then they go home. once everyone knows just who a sociopath is or who is a sociopath, then the whole thing is pointless to them because the one advantage they had going for them is gone.

    that is, of course, when they are exposed. when they reveal themselves. well, that is different.

    but how they feel when exposed depends on the sociopath.

  6. oh, and again, depending on the sociopath, if you expose one, they might take it personally. which means a backlash could just be them warming up.

  7. i wonder if there would be a tendency for an S to get angry if you let them know playfully that you know who they are... not to anyone else, and not to "expose them" or anything

    there is someone I saw gazing at me in this way and I thought about if I see them again when they look at me pulling out a card that asks "S much?" (lol) kind of fast so this way only the person would see it and understand... in the spirit of fun... maybe the person wouldn't like it though, i don't know

  8. then again, maybe he already knows based on my look back the first time that i know

  9. has there been any research done with regards to serotonin levels in S?

    "a reward is always nice, but it's really about the challenge"

    I bet S will go to extents most people could not even imagine

  10. What I find facinating is when one S recognizes another S. They seem to have an uncanny ablity to "sense" each other. Like the know the others "game". Regardless of how much they seem to dislike each other, its almsot like there is a "mutual respect"...if sociopaths have such a thing...

  11. aspie

    I did find this article entitled
    'Scientists search for the seat of evil' that states re serotonin:

    "In studies reported by Harvard University this winter, several psychological and neuropsychological tests indicated neurological abnormalities in violent sociopaths. Also present in the sociopaths were low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has been associated with impulsive violence."

  12. Yeah i remember reading somewhere that S have short sleeps and wake abrubtly... plus I've read of descriptions of downtimes which sounds like an exhausted dopamine low serotonin state... is it possible that S is deficient in sero and hyper productive in Dopa. This culture is perfect for that... high caffeine (spikes D and hurts S), competition which favors the high energy dopa versus the more content and calm and restful sleep promoting Sero

    i think i read somewhere that Sero is not an easy Nt to bring into balance once it is off

    some people claim that coffee reduces empathy... maybe it is this dopa spiking sero lowering effect... maybe not

  13. I meant to include sugar and alcohol.
    On the other hand, S generally are low cortisol secretors... interesting mix

  14. aspie said...
    I bet S will go to extents most people could not even imagine

    most people live out there entire lives scurrying up and down the same few tunnels, intellectually as well as physically.

  15. they live life in habit, doing what they have done before

  16. life in total habit must be a kind of death without the actual dying part.

  17. kind of but it is still life i think
    just being in some way, but i think most have the potential to step out

  18. Pandoras:

    "Regardless of how much they seem to dislike each other, its almsot like there is a "mutual respect"...if sociopaths have such a thing..."

    This is true. I have experienced this on several occasions.

    How have you discovered it? I mean, the way you describe it sounds as if you've not experienced it but know about it. That's interesting.


    in case you see this: I guess you know the answer by now, eh? Anyway, it will probably be different for each individual. Most are probably likely to not know what you mean unless you include the whole word on that card. And since most take this word as an offense, unless you've told them how you think about it beforehand, they'll not be likely to think it's funny.

    Also, I hear the tendency to not understand humor and sarcasm easily except when we're the ones making the joke, is common (it's not just myself, I mean, it's common in others with these traits). If this is true, that's another clue to the possible outcome (and yes, it's true).

    About the Dopamine question. I'm more in favor of the 'Just right' theory. I'm not sure if it's the same pattern for Sociopaths and Antisocials, and for Psychopaths. It's a question that interests me though. I'd like to know more about it.

  19. Anon:

    "Hi I'm curious to know what a sociopath experiences when he/she is exposed? Is it safe to assume, since they have no fear that they dont give a damn?"

    There are two kinds of situations.

    In one: At first, unbound rage, it's like being a trapped animal. You feel everybody has pushed you into a corner and that they misunderstand you completely.
    It is not a pretty picture to look inside yourself at that point, and you can be prone to hold grudges for a very, very long time, being alert to any possibility of getting back at those responsible for your exposure.

    In another: You've never taken it all that serious in the first place, it was playful all along, so when you get exposed, ah well, so what. You *shrug* and move on.

    That's as honest I as I can be.

    But ... mostly life goes on. :)

  20. I suspect I married an "S"
    a white collar bowtie wearing charity doing $600,000. a year making anesthesiologist.

    My ex spouse, an anesthesiologist, 10 yrs of marriage and I think he has all the peices of an "S". I cant escape his rage and control, its gotten worse since I voiced that I suspect he is "S" or ASPD, he is boiling over being arrested too. here are the symptoms
    I noted in marriage that I didnt know were a cluster of characteristics that comprise the personality of a sociopath only until after the marriage ended. I just knew he was dangerous liar, cold calculated and gaslighting.

    When I looked at all of these traights I realized it was actually a named condition. Im not a psychologist but I can see my "ex" is "S"
    The good doctor was like this:
    lied about $, $$
    tax evaded
    he didnt smile often naturally
    he didnt respond even to our precious baby twiuns reaching to him
    he was severely internet porn addicted
    he had rage outbursts
    control obsessed
    into his image, what I wore to dr. parties
    ran my dog over said it was accident
    starved my daughters hampsters when I was on bedrest for month
    squished another hamster in his treadmill
    bruised me and told people I did it to myself.
    told people I had nervous break down when he was arrested for domestic violece
    lies to judge outright.
    starved the fish
    cut the dogs nails til bloody
    lied to me shamelessly
    didnt trust me with his emotions
    masterbated in front of daughter
    would physically hurt me by crushing me in doors or knock me down etc. and gaslight me into believing it a pure accident and that I was sick to think he was intentional
    obsessed with image.......
    alcohol and substance abuse hx.
    cold emotionally
    when I was ill he would say, "Im nort impressed by your pain"
    infuriated by other peoples anxiety
    suffered with bouts of depression
    suicidal but could go to work to give anesthesia like he wasnt just declaring he was suicidal again
    projected his feelings onto me, that was bizarre
    hated my friends and family but needed their approval by doing things for them to be known as "ghreat guy.

    his maternal uncle is schitzophrenic,
    my ex is so flat,
    rarely spoke from his heart, but gave the answer he thought I wanted. It was to an extreme.
    uses kids as pawn in divorce
    has multiple car accidents per year,
    occasionally revealed insides to me that were extremely telling
    IE: said he was planning to kill me with his anesthesia drugs
    said he intentionally totaled his car in road rage incident on trip around Queens

    He manipulates the childrens feelings, uses guilt tears to get them to be/do what he wants

    he is swtaged

  21. One would have to assume that every sociopath feels differently about his own situation so it's hard to generalize.


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