Sunday, August 4, 2013

Training the low-functioning sociopath

A reader asks how she can better interact with her lower-functioning sociopath ex for the benefit of their child:
Growing up with an extremely high functioning sociopath for a best friend, I perhaps not understand but appreciate the logical thinking that comes along with not having to consider others' emotions. I've seen the game well played, but my soon to be husband keeps shooting himself in the foot. He is now destitute, living without so much as a car and is about to lose everything he will ever make in the divorce settlement. Have you met any sociopaths who completely sabotage themselves to this degree? Is this a challenge to him, an insult to me, or a result of a game gone horribly wrong? Or am I missing the point entirely? Is there a way to encourage him to use his advantages for more productive means or am I dealing with a real chump and should call it a day?
My response:
Sociopaths are allegedly slow learners, particularly experiential learning, which I'm sure is a large part of why sociopathic criminals are very likely to re-offend. Sociopaths don't respond effectively to punishment because they don't fear punishment in the same way that neurotypicals do. Dr. Hare illustrated this in a study where participants watched a timer ticking down to a painful electric shock. Normal people would get increasingly anxious as the time for the shock approached, but psychopaths did not. Because sociopaths do not fear consequences in the same way empaths do, they are prone to making the same mistakes over and over again. Even mice can be trained to stop pushing particular buttons that lead to certain negative consequences, but sociopaths struggle. Because sociopaths are risk takers, they also tend to be overly optimistic about their chances. Finally, sociopaths are largely emotionally empty -- their lives do not have much meaning beyond the power they can acquire and gratification in which they can indulge, so they don't have much to lose.

Still, if sociopaths seem oblivious to punishments, at least the more successful ones are surprisingly sensitive to incentive systems. My personal theory is that the lowest functioning sociopath is only sensitive to immediate rewards, while the highest functioning sociopath has learned to also feel pleasure in accumulating delayed rewards. For example, low functioning sociopaths might be enticed to do an honest day's work for a honest day's pay, but are less likely to save money for retirement. For whatever reason, I am able to experience part of the pleasure today of anticipated rewards, which is probably why I managed to fund my retirement by age 30?

How would i use this knowledge to train a low functioning sociopath? I think the same way that you might train a small child or a pet -- break up rewards into small, frequent, easy to achieve increments. For instance, if he does a small task, you will let him have more time with his daughter, you will let him borrow your car, you will let him be late with support payments, whatever the small reward you want to provide is. He probably won't like thinking that you are messing with him or manipulating him, which to him will smack of a power struggle or paternalism, so try to find some natural connection between his actions and your responses to his behavior. For example, if he picks up your daughter on time, you won't have to pay the babysitter extra money to stay, so you are willing to send her out with spending money. Or his calling ahead when he cannot make his appointed visitation allows you to make other arrangements so you do not need to miss work. In economic-speak, sociopaths are rational actors, perhaps the purest form of rational actor, as that term is defined. You can always count on them to look out for their best interest, and as long as what you want is also something they want, they can act in your best interest as well.


  1. It should be obvious that money was invented by empaths.

    1. Money was invented a very long time ago, and it seems, by kings who would have then been the modern day sociopath.

  2. PostmodernSociopathJuly 6, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    @Savagelight: Care to elaborate?

    "in economic-speak, sociopaths are rational actors, perhaps the purest form of rational actor, as that term is defined. you can always count on them to look out for their best interest, and as long as what you want is also something they want, they can act in your best interest as well."

    Oh, M.E., you know just how to stroke my ego. I'm always trying to drive my acquaintances toward greater rationality and freedom from guilt, but it's so hard to break a neurotypical's habits. Probably doesn't help that it's a political philosophy, as well.

  3. Maybe he/she means money as a way of trading for something in return was invented by empaths because they believe in fairness and an equal balance, whereas a sociopath wouldn't care for the other person's behalf and would be fine with just taking? Idk though. I'm probably off.

    Haha, I can't really take the term empath seriously. It reminds me of Charmed, and seems like some supernatural character who can literally feel what others are feeling. An episode with one was just on today.

  4. old star trek episode?

  5. I wonder how do yoy know you're a sociopath. I mean, talking to a psychologist would be pure stupidity. Were you told by someone and then started to pay more attention to how different you were? Googled it? Just assumed you are one?How?Are you sure it's NOT your mind tricking you?

    1. Michael Martin PlunkettAugust 4, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      most people here just assume they are 1 because they didnt cry when their pet hamster died

    2. It's not hard to know. You always know you're different in one way or another, and when you remember that, you begin to look for more and more things that separate you from others and slowly you piece it together. Some figure it out faster than others.

  6. I'm always trying to drive my acquaintances toward greater rationality and freedom from guilt, but it's so hard to break a neurotypical's habits.

    I'm curious how you go about doing this. I wouldn't call myself an empath (except when it benefits myself, if anything I'd say I'm a narcissist), but I am ruled by my emotions. They are intense.

    I used to think this was a benefit (and it still is, though only in terms of writing music), but I've found it to become a liability as of late. It's destroying my health and my productivity.

    Sometimes I will there was a sociopath pill I could take for limited period of time.

    1. The most effective way is to experience something you find horribly traumatic over and over again and after enough time passes if you don't go into a depression you will be emotionally shut down people who have PTSD are very similar to sociopaths in some instances

  7. PostmodernSociopathJuly 7, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    @Anonymous 11:13

    You can't be sure anything isn't just your mind tricking you. You can't even really be sure if you exist, in the traditional sense. Read up on the Brain-In-A-Vat Hypothesis and similar.

    If sociopathy is just a trick of the mind, then anyone should just be able to switch off their empathy and be a sociopath at will.

    Then again, perhaps will is a trick of the mind.


    Read books on economics, logic, proof, argumentation, etc. Analyze everything, but don't overdo it. Occam's Razor and all that. Collect data, read studies, anything to give yourself a better view of anything and everything. Practice logical discourse. The more often you apply logic in the face of emotional nonsense, the more rational you'll be. You will be guided by fact and analysis instead of feelings and anecdotes.

    That said, if you have a strong intuitive moment, don't discount it, immediately. It's usually important. Examine the feeling, and determine what brought it on, if you have the time... which you do unless you're about to be harmed.

  8. I hope I can get an answer here(or lots of mochings, but I don't mind)...

    Ok, so would you help me to understand am I a sociopath or not. I have no intentions to go to a psychologist because I it would only harm me.(sorry for my English, it's not my native language).
    *I lie constantly, but only to keep my brain working, for fun or to get what I want, still I don't want to hurt anyone.
    *I like breaking law and doing things i'm not allowed to do in general.I was arrested only once.
    *I think I have loved people when I was 13-14 years old, but I feel nothing now.As you say, I use them(men and women) for pleasure or because it's useful or because I love to shock others by kissing girls. Even when I'm telling them I like them, in my head I think "Ok, I now you're mine, you poor little thing".
    *I don't hurt animal, I don't like watching cruel scenes on TV ( it's unesthetical), so this makes me wonder if I am really a socio.
    *Although I love the idea of being attacked, then I could act agressively and still apper a victim. I use drugs sometimes (mainly to seduce other people), I drink, I do very risky things.
    *I have a need to hurt others, I can't control it, but I feel bad after.
    * Also the idea of seducing other people into smth. that is dangerous or could harm them gives me that warm feeling and happyness.
    *But I cry when smth bad happens, it's so not sociopathic.
    So am I or am I not?

  9. Amelie, you're definitely not a sociopath, but you might be closely related. Scientists have recently uncovered the fossilized remains of another subspecies of human that doesn't appear to be an ancestor to most modern men and women. Since then, they've been able to match DNA samples with about 8% of the population, and these people appear to be look, feel, and act like everyone else, but brain scans show that they're wired a little differently. They aren't inherently bad like sociopaths, but the theory goes that because they think and feel so differently from your average Joe, many of them wind up feeling a deep seated resentment toward the rest of humanity that presents as a semiconscious desire to hurt other people. That's not to say that they lack a conscience or feelings of guilt and remorse, just that their psyche has been damaged so badly that these things are frequently pushed aside. I'm no scientist, but it sounds to me like you could be one of them. You should do a search for local research groups and have yourself tested.

    1. Michael Martin PlunkettAugust 4, 2013 at 4:33 PM

      i too believe amelie is a neanderthal

      would u be so kind amelie to post a pic of ur self here so we can see if u have unmistakable neanderthal features

  10. Yes. I do think I am kinda different from others. I never fit in any group... When I was young I could move things.... You gave me direction. Thank you.Or maybe I am a vampire, don't you think??? Thank you and fuck you.

    P.S. I was diagnosed with APD, just having fun :)

  11. For once, I was being serious, but scoff all you like. This is what happens when you try to help ingrates.

  12. Ok, sorry. My mistake :) And sorry for all those teenager wannabe's who are hoping to get all the answers here on how to become a socio-vampire ( ahh, those dedicated Twilight fans...) Again, sorry.I feel sooo badly, but you can't imagine how fun it was...

  13. That was fun? oh my!! all that typing was fun? There are wannabes socipaths? Please.


  14. No no, but will be:)

  15. Since my presence has been requested, I'll answer to the demand.

    I said that empaths invented money because it's true. Money was invented by the church. This is why on every dollar it says "In god we trust", empaths invented money and God. I agree calling people empath vs sociopath is probably not ideal but it does fit.

    You have one group of empaths who are emotional and irrational, and you have another group of intellectual empaths who are rational. The empaths who invent weapons are rational. the empaths who invent political and social systems are rational. These control mechanisms were invented to prevent anarchy, anarchy is the law of the jungle.

    Money allows someone to control the behavior of another without the threat of violence. Yes it's sometimes cheaper to use violence but violence carries risks while a bribe does not. Since sociopaths are very rational, the majority of sociopaths will do anything for money. Money therefore is what gets sociopathic individuals to do what they are told.

    For empaths fear gets them to do what they are told. Usually the threat of blackmail, or of death will make an empath do anything you tell them. Most sociopaths know this and use fear to their advantage. Because death threats are illegal there are other mechanisms which can be used which are completely legal, you know a secret about them that is embarrassing, they know you know it, they know you could destroy their life and reputation by revealing it, so now you have a threat as powerful as a death threat as some people would rather die than have their secret known.

    Money is a weapon. Money is also a control mechanism. It's not all that different than when the owner gives a treat to his dog for doing tricks, only the treat is money. The treat need not be money, it can be anything the animal likes. But this system of trade and training was invented by empaths. It's the animal taming system which lead to civilization. It took humanity which was once wild and tamed humanity. We call the tamed humans civilized men and women and we call the uncivilized savages.

    Everything is about control. Sociopaths aren't the only ones who know this. People who have money and who know how to use it, they know it's all about controlling the people who don't have it. Women have been known to use sex to control men, they know that it's all about control. Children blackmail other children and adults, they know it's all about control. Every interaction with another human is a contest of wills to see who will control the situation and ultimately the environment.

    Every man wants to control his space. Every woman wants to control her space. And we all fight for control using our intellect, and our resources. Those who have no control are homeless, or in prison, because they have no control over their environment and thus no control over their fate.

    It's not really about empath and sociopath. It's about rational and irrational humans. Some humans are guided by their emotions so they have no concept of doing whats in their self interest. Empathy often is in someones self interest, but having empathy for complete strangers usually isn't. Emotional energy is a finite resource which is best invested in people you know, that is my advice to any empaths reading this. If you invest your emotional resources in strangers, you'll be drained and exploited.

    1. Michael Martin PlunkettAugust 4, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      i think the answer to all worlds problems is to print more money

      u sure are obsessed with money and currency savage light

  16. It's funny but most of the people here don't seem to be actual sociopaths. The only person here who I know for sure is a sociopath is Daniel Birdick.The vast majority are empaths trying to understand sociopaths.

    If you want to be rational, don't try and be like a sociopath thinking this is necessarily rational. What you have to do is learn to be efficient at spending your emotions, and treat your emotions like a finite currency which can run out. Once you learn to invest your emotions consciously rather than subconsciously, you'll adopt correct behavior to all but the chosen few who you respect, love, or choose to protect. The point is you make the choice not your subconscious which can be influenced.

  17. Anonymous asks how to know whether or not one is a sociopath? The easier question is how to know you aren't a sociopath, when you see a child or animal being abused by a bigger child or animal do you instinctively get upset and want to protect or defend the child or animal?

    If you have these instincts you almost certainly are not a sociopath. You might have anti social personality disorder but this is not necessarily the same as ranking high on the sociopath checklist. The instinct to protect the weaker animal is empathy on the most basic level so if you have that you can be sure you aren't a sociopath.

    On the other hand if you don't feel anything when you watch the bigger animal abuse the smaller animal, this does not mean you are a sociopath but it means you probably should investigate further to see if you might be. If you match up with the symptoms on the checklist and you get a high score then you are a sociopath, but this is something you probably can figure out on your own just by looking at your own history and thinking and finding out if it matches, and also ask the people you know if you are like what the checklist says. Finally the only way to know for sure is to go under the brain scan and watch the images of animal abuse or whatever they put up there and it will determine just how much empathy you are capable of experiencing.

  18. Amelie anti-social personality disorder probably. You could only be a sociopath if you don't care what happens to your victims or if you want your victims to be hurt.

    When you are crying for your victims what emotion are you feeling? If it's not empathy why go through with the crying ritual? why not laugh instead if it truly feels good? If you want to be violent why not go into MMA and have the ability to hurt people and get paid? Why not become a soldier and have the ability to kill people and get paid?

    My guess is you are just a kid trying to figure out who you are.If you are under 21 then in my opinion you cannot and should not be diagnosed as anything as your brain is not finished growing. Lots of teenagers think just like you and then grow out of it. Who knows maybe I was one of them?

  19. Thank you Savagelight! This makes me think about my controlling behavior and me emapth. I have trouble tieing them together.


  20. @savagelight, do you consider yourself to be a sociopath? i've been reading all your comments in all the latest posts and i am fascinated with how you think.

    @martial law, it's too hard to figure out if you're a sociopath by yourself. i've never felt guilt because i've never done anything i consider to be bad enough to have to feel that way. i've stolen from friends, but stopped- maybe that's my guilt manifested? i've had many affairs with married men but i don't consider what i've done harmful in anyway, and when i found out my husband cheated on me, i never felt anything other than irritation. but i understood it, because i had done the same. i don't think i'm a sociopath at all but almost everyone important in my life is. i understand why they do everything that other people seem horrified by.

    do sociopaths rationalize things like that or do they just do it and move on? everything can be rationalized if you're smart enough.

    if i saw a kid of small animal being bullied, my first reaction would be that's nature, and my conscious reaction would probably be to intervene if the situation got bad enough, but i would probably not go through with it. like M.E. said in a newer post about wild animals wandering around town, i always feel like some situations should be left to resolve themselves.

    i don't agree with the sociopath diagnostic criteria. i think everything on there can be countered with a good explanation about why you did what you did.


  21. I think this blog is full of a lot of useful info - but the interchangeable use here of the words psychopath and sociopath keep getting in the way. They overlap but the differences between the two matter. I'm not nitpicking - I'm trying to learn how to help someone in my life and so when I start reading about something labeled to be about sociopaths and find that that what's being discussed is psychopaths - without distinction - I can't use the info, not knowing which is meant.

    And WOW does your blog ever attract some interesting brains. :)

  22. Another Nameless beingJuly 10, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    If I was in the situation previously mentioned I am certain I would not care. I have been in a situation such as that one before and I did not feel compelled to help in the slightest, I actually watched and gained pleasure from the experience. As with most sociopaths I am sadistic-even more so than your average sociopath-So it is only normal I gain vicarious gratification from others suffering.
    In all honesty I would probably torment the child/animal aswell, the satisfaction I would gain would be much greater if the suffering was at my hand; it would help quench the thirst. For as long as I can remember I have always had a need for others pain, it has become like food and water to me, it is essential if I am to live an enjoyable, content life.

    I seem to have strayed from the subject in hand...

    1. Michael Martin PlunkettAugust 4, 2013 at 4:46 PM

      have a coke

      that will quench the thirst even better

      this reply was sponsored by the coca cola company

  23. I would never waste my time trying to get anyone to change. That never
    works. What I would do is examine my reaction to the other person's
    behavior. I would see if the relationship could be continued, or if it
    needed to be terminated.
    It is not wise to be so compassionate that the other person debases you.
    You can only provide the apporiate example. It's up to the other person
    to decide whether it's in thier intrests to amend their behavior.
    The criminalogist Lonnie Athens said "There has never been a single
    recorded incident of an attack on a person taking place in view of a
    uniformed police officer."
    Many years ago, Fidel Castro released some of his most dangerous violent
    criminals to flood the U.S. In one particular instance, a madman began
    killing people with a sowrd on the Statan Island Ferry. An off duty
    police officer brandished his weapon and the "madman" promptly scurried
    under a bench to avoid being shot. Also, remember the case of the mass
    shooting in Aurora Colorado last year? Holmes would never have attempted
    that in the presence of the police. He surrendered peacefully to the
    People act in PERCIEVED self interest. Anyone who behaves even in a
    destructive way believes thier gaining something from it. No one
    delibertly hurts themselves unless they can't see it.
    Again, the ego is to blaim. There's no "you" AND other people. You ARE
    the other. When the shoots rang out in the theater, all the human beings

  24. ME wrote; "I am able to experience part of the pleasure today of anticipated rewards, which is probably why I managed to fund my retirement by age 30?"

    This made me laugh so hard. The fact that you write this blog, were so narcissistic to put your face on the dr. Phil show and trying so hard to sell a couple of books makes every 'high introspective sociopath' as myself know that your narcissistic traits makes you screw up, or 'shoot in the foot' as this person puts it (considering for a moment this 'e-mail' wasn't made up). I don't buy your 'being oh so successful' stories of making millions as a lawyer etc ... You just try to hard to convince us.

    I also made enough to fund my retirement but I spent all of it partying, knowing when I'm broke some other opportunity or loser will walk by who'll keep me going and make me enjoy my funny games. The sociopaths superiority must no be measured by regular norms of success (stable wealth). Doing so is an insult to the sociopath as you measure him by the standards of the mediocre empath. His superiority comes from the fact that most people don't live 10% of the experiences he or she lives and maybe even more important because of his or her enormous personal freedom as a result of a panoptic view and moral relativism.

    1. Looks like someone is broke and jealous.

  25. ME wrote one sentence about funding her retirement. You wrote a whole paragraph about how much you make and your superiority yet she's the one who is trying too hard?


  26. But do you actually "love" your friends and family members?
    Have been skimming through your blog, to answer several questions but one main one was this.

    Do you only care about the other person's needs up to and no further than the point where they start to annoy you?

    Are you capable of forming a strong enough emotional bond that you would allow yourself to experience pain/discomfort for the other person's sake (with no promise down the road of this providing you any benefit for yourself other than, again, the other person's wellbeing)?

  27. ME- maybe should should consider a new potential career as advisor to the newly divorced (sociopathic and otherwise). You give very savvy advice.

  28. So glad I can feel what some can't comprehend. Understanding is beyond 'some' of your grasp!!!

  29. Narcissistic sociopaths are the best to play with, sociopaths tend to believe they are all powerful masters of reasoning and destruction. I myself have been in many situations with sociopaths, i have dated them i have been the manager of them at work, I have befriended them and I have also at one stage before my experiences been manipulated by one... I have seen groups of sociopaths meddle with each other. As a result I have seen them and I have learned from them... There is one thing more dangerous and cunning then a "high functioning sociopath" and that is the empath that has had everything ripped away by one.
    Sociopaths believe they are stronger than the rest of society but you were all put hear as nothing but a tool for strengthening the will of the weak a petty little child that feels nothing but irritation and isolation.
    You think it is tough to be born with out feelings, trying having hell thrown into your head and realizing it is there.
    Sociopaths lack intuition they have only logic on there side they have no natural reaction... sure logic pends more precise results at first but honing intuition will pend faster and just as accurate results over time.
    Enjoying the suffering of others is petty... however one day each and everyone one of you will destroy someone so fully they will not fear death or the law and they WILL come for you and relish the slow demise that they cause you as they use your narcissistic impulses to destroy everyone of you.
    Patient is the scorned man and he will bide his time gain the power he needs to destroy you and execute it when the moment is right not impulsively and foolishly like a narcissist or a sociopath.
    I enjoyed turning the those bastards at each other... It was like a work of art... My only hope is that sociopaths run out of people to hurt feel the senseless void of their existence and finally kill themselves.

    Kind Regards

    1. ok ok wait. you say you have dated "them".

      wtf. if you dont like them why are so attracted? You looking for a fight. You pick fights. and thats why you are here too. what a waste of time.

      You enjoy the violent mind because you are closet violent cut the crap. there is something truly wrong with you that you point the finger in the direction of your enemy and then suck it's dick

      youre a masochist/sadist or there is sthg truly wasteful in your existence. and btw, they dont give a fuck what you think of them. so stop wasting your breath here.

  30. human beings evolved to empathically care for each other, that it what keeps our society and the world at large together, sociopaths are devolved human beings, part of their cerebral cortex is either damaged, shrunken, or non-existent.. so if you have to put up with one for an extended period of time (unfortunate baby daddy/momma or family member), just remember they are missing part of their brain or it's damaged... that will make it easier to cope with.

  31. Would it be possible that two sociopaths or psychopaths would work in a relationship

  32. Being a lower functioning sociopath myself, I'd like to get on par with controlling my impulses a bit better. I'm fairly good about not being violent (anymore) however binge gaming and a few acts that I've no problem doing that will eventually land me in jail, you can see where articles like this by M.E. would be helpful for people such as myself that recognize their inherent weakness.

  33. Watching a low functioning sociopath try to imitate emotion in response to a false cue is highly entertaining!

    Like watching someone with a cleft pallet try to play the flute


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