Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sociopathy as adaptation instead of disorder

This Bret Weinstein (evolutionary theorist) video was sent to me by a reader and I actually thought it accurately described a lot of my own experience and conception of sociopathy. He talks about how sociopathy is listed as a disorder, but for a lot of sociopaths their sociopathic traits end up being the thing that enable the sociopath to achieve high levels of success, so it is more like a superpower than a disorder. In fact, he suggests that sociopathy is just one end of a spectrum that contains all normal people.

I don't 100% track his definitions of empathy and sympathy. I think I still prefer cognitive vs. affective empathy.

His thoughts on why we think of sociopathy as a disorder, because their traits are turned inward into their own groups (as opposed to be used against opposing groups, etc.) are pretty interesting.

His solution is, instead of killing sociopaths or neutralizing them or imprisoning them or whatever, that society look to eliminate situations or societal systems that are vulnerable to exploitation -- not just from sociopaths from anyone. He suggests that the example of individuals glutting themselves on world resources to the detriment of future generations would be an example of the sorts of societal systems that allow people to profit off something that produces harm to others that needs to be rectified, primarily I believe based on his arguments by requiring people to internalize all of the benefits and harm of their actions.


  1. Perhaps sociopaths can be integrated in society. The problem is that many of these consider "the ordinary" inferior. High-end psychopaths probably do no appreciate to be talked about like harmful bacteria by people they just see as gullible and silly. If "the regular" want harmony with socios perhaps the former should treat the law abiding ones somewhat like superior beings, like oracles or sphinxes? They may not be that, but it most likely would help integration.

    1. A model based on reality will help integration and it's the only sustainable approach.

      This means:
      1. sociopathic people telling the world about their experience of the human condition
      2. People talking about their experience with others who have sociopathic traits
      3. The community collectively making sense of these experiences.

      It means being braving and stepping out of the shadow of myth.

      "To understand is to know what to do."

      Goodness me. Our species tackles any challenge it faces and invests new ones to conquer every single day. I do not think it will be long before we understand sociopathy / psychopathy in a rich and holistic way that promotes productive relating and richer lives for all.

    2. And there´s the "little" problem with sociopathic hatred of humans. If people were reserved, thoughtful, did not talk so much & always acted composed (the opposite of looking weak & vulnerable) sociopaths probably would not have this problem with humans. They don´t hate monkeys.

    3. What's the hate about? Can you describe the why? I'm interested in your viewpoint.

      I feel like they experience a compulsion to attack when the emotional person is close to home because their behaviour seems manipulative or disingenuous. At a distance, it seems like derision. Antivulnerability?

    4. Most likely it´s the same stuff that solo-living animal-predators have: they need to be aggressive to catch prey & are programmed to be hostile to all food-competitors. The psycho gets aggressive when he spots "weak prey" (persons he considers inferior) & see most people as rivals.

    5. True, humans share many traits with predators. But animal predators do not possess the cognitive abilities we do. We are able to think and respond on a much broader level.
      We have memories, thought and emotions that coincide with primal fear.
      If sociopaths hate people it is because they see themselves in others.
      It is a form of empathy i guess.
      Where some may see weakness in others and feel compassion a sociopaths is more prone to feel disgust.
      It is a coping mechanism to shield oneself from the fear of being vulnerable.

  2. An interesting video. He makes some excellent points and this is one of the more astute discussions I've seen on the topic. My reflections:

    He is right about empathy being about prediction. Absolutely spot on - I've been saying this for years.

    He nails it concerning sociopathic ability to learn visible emotions and correlations to preceding factors as opposed to understanding the complexity of deep emotional states such as grief.

    I agree regarding the opportunity lying with future generations. I completely agree with the need to construct environments that do not reward harmful behaviour. I've noticed sociopathic people respond to their environment. Where productive, collaborative behaviour is rewarded, sociopathic people function well and contribute. **-* is a good example of this. Where environments rewarded cut-throat behaviour, a sociopathic person will be the most brutal. I have also seen this.

    Bret Weinstein has presented a much more useful and practical view than Dutton. This guy needs much more air time.

    The neurodiversity movement continues to gain momentum. To take advantage of it, I recommend:

    1. Moving away from dichotomous characterisations. At the moment, culture is moving towards thinking sociopaths are either hugely successful CEOs and surgeons OR dangerous criminals. Let's get some perspective and acknowledge a range of ability to function successfully in society. Perhaps a survey of demographic characteristics, ME? I have known many sociopathic people who are moderately successful yet no one ever talks about them. The sociopath next door. Yikes, why did we forget about them?

    2. Understand that by virtue of evidential inclusive fitness, sociopathy is a valid paradigm of the human condition. The "commonality" argument in the video is spot on. We therefore need to adapt our understanding of what it means to be human so that it includes neurodiverse paradigms, including sociopathy.

    I do not regard the "we all have sociopathic traits" line whatsoever. The condition is holistic; it must be regarded as a gestalt. Lack of empathy is only part of that gestalt. Sociopathy gives rise to an entirely different framing for interpreting and responding to the environment. This framing is based on the need for self-determination: the need to determine one's own fate. This stems (I hypothesise) from reduced affect and the lack of trust and predictability that entails.

    Yes, there are experiences non-sociopathic people can relate to. We definitely should use some of the examples in which we don't feel empathy or whatever as a corollary. This is a way of making the sociopathic paradigm real and relatable to people who will not otherwise have the experiences to understand them.

    And ultimately that's a worthy goal. One needs to develop a new theory of mind to relate effectively to a sociopathic person.

    ME, if you have the chance and are interested, I recommend the following ABC Radio National All In The Mind podcast titled The Art of Neurodiversity. What interested me most was the theatre company A_Tistic. They run a training program for neurotypical actors to play autistic characters, providing them with a toolkit for understanding the autistic perceptions and patterns of response to the world.

    Imagine the day when we have enough awareness to create such a toolkit for the sociopathic paradigm?

    Won't that be a milestone. Not monsters, not heroes. People who have a different toolkit for handling social situations based on boldness and self-reliance rather than trusting relationships.

    1. why do you keep writing/talking to ME? It's not like she even reads any of this stuff

  3. Morality through fear

    1. Normalisation is the least complex, suggest bet survival strategy.

      Morality is a dream.

  4. IT seems to me that if you are to take the idea or the group known as 'sociopaths' or 'psychopaths' and stop, well, pathologizing it, you sorta want to change the name, probably, to get rid of the suffix that means 'disease'. It occurs to me.


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