Search Box

Sunday, July 20, 2014

One sure sign of sociopathy

One behavior I've witnessed among sociopaths, and sociopaths alone, is finding it hilarious when someone gets hurt.

We all feel schadenfreude. We certainly feel it vis-a-vis our enemies. And we may even be secretly gratified when a successful friend gets knocked back a peg or two (even though it may make us doubt our own decency). But we don't find it funny.

And we certainly don't find it funny when we witness a stranger have an accident resulting in, say, stitches. (Where is the humor there? Where is the irony, the unexpected ending, the subtle satire, the taboo truth?)

But the sociopath will find that hilarious. He'll cackle as you or I would if someone had just made an extremely funny joke.

If you call them on it, they'll say, I'm just laughing 'cause the guy was so stupid. Or something to that effect.

But it's a very distinctive sociopathic trait. Non-sociopaths simply don't find this kind of thing humorous.

There's a great scene in Cape Fear where the sociopathic Max Cady, played by Robert DeNiro, picks up Ileana Douglas in a bar. She starts to tell a joke: "An unmarried woman meets a guy, and he tells her he’s just got out of prison. 'What did you do?' she asks. 'I hacked my wife into 52 pieces with a chain saw….'"

At this point DeNiro laughs uproariously, as if what Douglas has said so far is great cause for mirth.

Douglas then tells the punchline: "She says, 'So you’re single'?"

At that point DeNiro laughs some more, a little less enthusiastically, and says, "That's even funnier."

It was a subtle touch, one probably lost on most viewers, but Martin Scorcese, the director of the movie, knew what he was doing. Only a sociopath like Max Cady would have found the mere fact of a man chopping his wife up into 52 pieces funny.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear someone laugh at an accident.

25 comments:

Steven said...

I hope this doesn't include somebody slipping in the snow.

John Craig said...

Steven --
No, that's generally a pretty inconsequential fall. I take it you found that funny one time.) Sociopaths will find it funny if someone receives a big gash which requires stitches, things along those lines.

Glen Filthie said...

Hmmmm.

I am not a shrink but I see some possible problems with what you define as sociopathy John.
I think I recall seeing it on 'Spike TV' where feature length shows ran on people getting hurt - seriously - as the narrator guffawed and cracked wise. I personally couldn't watch it.
But consider spectacles like boxing. Or Ultimate Fighting...or the WWF where hurt and injury are simulated. Or the high ratings of our violent dramas and action shows. Is this sociopathy or just an element of the human condition?
The Romans used to wage small wars for sport and entertainment in their colesiums. I think there is at least a shred of this in all our monkey brains that revels in this kind of stuff.

John Craig said...

Glen --
You make a good pint -- we're all wired to be fascinated by violence and gore. But the difference -- and it is a crucial one -- is that sociopaths actually find it FUNNY. I used to be a boxing fan, and I'm still a bit of an MMA fan. And spectacular knockouts are exciting. But I never find it humorous, or worthy of laughter. I've noticed that sociopaths do.

BTW, I'm like you, don't like to watch shows about bad pool falls or the like. Gotta wonder about that narrator.

Steven said...

My dad is like that John. He doesn't want me to show him videos of people having accidents on skateboards and stuff. When he sees stuff like that, he does a facial expression like he almost feels it and finds it unpleasant to watch. This must indicate empathy. It didn't seem to bother him to hit people when he was younger though.

I don't find it funny but I've watched a few compilations like that on youtube. I wont watch the real horrible stuff with serious injuries, that's just disturbing.

John Craig said...

Steven --
As I said above, the big difference is between finding this stuff FUNNY or not. A lot of non-sociopaths find it interesting.

There's also a difference between seeing it on a compilation video and seeing it in person. I guess I should have specified that I was talking about seeing it in person.

And yes, I'd say that indicates empathy on your father's part.

Steven said...

Not all sociopaths are bullies are they? I mean to their friends.

I just saw a film called better luck tomorrow about a group of high achieving Asian- American kids who became drug dealers and eventually killed a guy.

The leader was nice to his friends and seemed generous and charming and that didn't really change but it transpired he was definitely psychopath. He killed somebody very coldly. Also, one of his friends shot himself and he walked into the room and asked 'so is he going to be retarded or something? with no emotion.

Conversely, if you have somebody who is a bully as a teenager and is basically a very abusive person, how sure can you be he is a sociopath?

John Craig said...

Steven --
What all sociopaths have in common is that they are dishonest, disloyal, impulsive, uninhibited, narcissistic, they do not feel guilt, and they are incapable of love. But they sometimes express these in different ways. if it suits their purposes, then they can refrain from being bullies. Certainly the majority of female sociopaths are not classic bullies, and don't threaten people with violence. There are certain behavior patterns that are unmistakeable, and I try to point some of them out on tho blog. But there are different styles of sociopathy, and different ways of expressing the traits I listed above. Certain sociopaths may find it advantageous to act in a seemingly compassionate, caring sort of way, even if it's all an act. So, yes, hard to tell sometimes.

Haven't heard of that movie. Is it fictional or based on fact?

With the teenage bully, I suppose it's a matter of degree. One bad behavior alone doesn't necessary spell sociopathy, but that kind of behavior is usually accompanied by a bunch of others which together do.

Steven said...


"The film was based loosely on the murder of Stuart Tay, a teenager from Orange County, California, by four Sunny Hills High School honor students on December 31, 1992."

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/better_luck_tomorrow/

Its quite good. I wouldn't rave about it.

.........................

Are sociopaths capable of liking or admiring or respecting people? Are they not just sometimes nice to their friends because they like them and they are allies, even though they don't love them?



Steven said...

Reminds me of Alpha Dog a bit but I thought AD was better though it has a lower rating on imdb. You seen that?

John Craig said...

Steven --
Thanks, sounds good.

Sociopaths don't really LIKE anyone, though they can admire or respect someone. However, in the long run, they'll almost always find a reason to dislike someone, especially if they have personal contact with him.

No, haven't seen Alpha Dog either.

Steven said...

they don't even like their friends? they're incapable of like? Seems hard to believe. They must feel very alone if that's the case, or maybe not.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I'd say no. They're not really capable of true affection. They probably know how to take it quite well, in fact so well that they actually come across more affectionate/congenial than most. They may even tell themselves they feel it. But no, they don't really feel it.

Steven said...

Get a load of this.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2621102/Why-psychopath-secret-success-New-book-SAS-hero-Andy-McNab-reveals-having-character-traits-vital-winning-lifes-battles.html


Liking somebody doesn't seem like a particularly deep emotion...its almost as much an attitude as a feeling. I thought they would be capable of that favourable feeling towards some people, even if its selfish.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, thanks, I've heard of this guy. I've long thought that a lot of our military heroes are likely sociopaths. (Who else would have the courage and cool to do what they do?)

One of the problems with discussing whether sociopaths "like" someone is that "like" means different things to different people. A sociopath's definition of "like" would be quite superficial indeed.

Steven said...

I see what you're saying now.

Steven said...

Check this out:

http://www.mmafighting.com/2014/8/8/5983831/jon-jones-daniel-cormier-have-vicious-off-air-exchange-before-espn

I wonder if the guy on the left is a sociopath.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Just watched it, interesting, but I wouldn't say he was a sociopath because of that exchange. When things get heat, all sorts of things get said.

It's going to be a great fight, though, both guys are incredible fighters, I'm almost tempted to get the PPV (which I haven't in a long time simply because I'm usually falling asleep by the time the main card comes on around midnight or so).

Steven said...

I'd like to see it too but it will be about 5am here. I stay up for Mayweather fights sometimes, usually on at about 6am. It takes about a week to fully recover. It sucks being a big time fight fan in England.



John Craig said...

Steven --
If it takes a week to recover I'd say it's not worth it. Save your money and watch it on tape delay. Not as exciting, but you still get your curiosity satisfied.

Steven said...

Oh I won't. I only do that for mayweather fights. I didn't even do it for the maidana fight because I thought it was a bad match up and a foregone conclusion. I was kind of annoyed he led khan on and didn't fight him. Khan would probably give him more trouble than people realise but maidana had nothing new to bring.

Anonymous said...

Do you reckon getting offended easily is another sociopathic trait? I get that most easily-offended people are just low on self-esteem (and tend to sulk, rather than plot revenge), but I've noticed highly narcissistic people getting upset about the tiniest, most trivial things.

A few days ago I got a Facebook friend request from a sociopath I blocked two years ago. He's since made a new account, which is how he was able to make a new request. I wasn't sure what to do (I know sociopaths don't change), but in the end I accepted out of curiosity about what he wants. I figure I can block him again if he causes trouble (I don't post personal details or pictures on FB anyway, so it's not like he can do anything with my profile). Reading through his profile has been a source of amusement. Tonight he posted this:

"Well, left my favourite restaurant because of rude staff because of my gothic appearance. Incredible. I don't think they realise it is a hate crime. I guess they will find out the hard way then."

No one has commented on or 'liked' it yet. I guess they all find it as bizarre as I do. Hate crime? Seriously?!

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
I think getting offended easily is a sign of narcissism, and as you know, all sociopaths are narcissists. (I actually think a full blown sociopath would be able to hide his hurt better than a garden variety narcissist would.)

But yes, both narcissists and sociopaths are always getting up on their high horse about some perceived slight that most of us would ignore.

Is this the same sociopath you told me about earlier, the gay guy?

Anonymous said...

No, it's a different one - a one who didn't really cause me that much harm. All he did was say some nasty things about people I knew, but since I was still bruised from the last sociopath I decided I could do without another one in my life. Strangely enough, this one is also gay and extremely effeminate. Further snooping (going through his Facebook and Tumblr, as well as googling his username) has revealed that he is working as a prostitue. Last time I heard from him, he was poor but now he has his own fast car and expensive clothes, so I suppose he must be doing well from prostitution. He abuses prescription drugs, so he couldn't keep a regular job because of that.

His posts reveal emotional immaturity in the extreme - he's almost 30, but reading through his posts would make anyone think he was 16. He uses overkill a lot - lots of kisses, "<3" and "xoxo" to people he'll probably never meet. He's also lying about being Romanian, saying that he was born with a Romanian-sounding name but changed it when he was 18. Not sure why he's doing that, as I can't see what he can gain from it. I've gone through his Facebook friends and they all seem to be new. The mutual friends we had years ago all seem to have deleted him, and his "friends" now seem to have been made online or otherwise don't seem very close to him. As you know, a classic sign of sociopathy is ease making friends but trouble with keeping them long-term.

I intend on keeping this guy as a Facebook friend for the lulz (I'll be keeping him at arm's length though). Now that I understand sociopaths, reading through his stuff is actually a lot of fun.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Wow, definitely sounds as if this one is best kept at arm's length. I guess as Facebook friends you can do that. As case studies, they're always interesting.

I'm surprised being a homosexual prostitute he can make that much money.