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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How sociopaths are dumb

Sociopaths, like the rest of us, come in a full range of IQ's. The dumber ones tend to engage in carjackings and bank robberies. The smarter ones gravitate more towards Wall Street and politics, and some do quite well for themselves.

But no matter how smart a sociopath is, he will inevitably have certain intellectual weaknesses that stem primarily from his narcissism. Sociopaths inevitably think themselves better at everything than they are, and this is often their downfall.

Sociopaths often think they're fooling people when they're not. When a normal person is onto a sociopath, and realizes he's being lied to, he may just be too polite to say so, at least at first. The sociopath will take this as proof he's getting away with whatever lie he's promoting at the moment. Or, because he's successfully fooled people in the past, he thinks he will continue to get away with it in the future -- since, after all, he's so much smarter than everyone else.

Sometimes the lie is harmless, like insisting he hasn't had any plastic surgery when he obviously has. Other times, it's more sinister.

Similarly, sociopaths expect people to believe them when they claim to be turning over a new leaf, no matter how many times they've made similarly false statements in the past. And sociopaths always seem to think that they're fooling others with their displays of false emotionality. A sociopath always thinks he is disproving Abraham Lincoln's dictum.

Sociopaths, despite being masters of manipulation, are, ironically, quite easy to manipulate themselves. Because their egos are so out of control, they tend to believe whatever compliments they get. This makes them extremely susceptible to flattery. All you need to do is couch your request in a compliment ("You're far too smart to be doing that").

A sociopath is far more likely to surrender to his impulses, and compromise his future as a result. The seven deadly sins are in fact far more deadly when it comes to a sociopath. He'll let wrath get the better of him, and pull that trigger, or set that house on fire. He'll let lust get the better of him, and rape that girl. He'll let greed overcome him, and embezzle those funds. He'll even let curiosity get the better of him, and see how fast that car will go. And he's far more likely to indulge in drugs and drink, whatever the long term consequences.

He may regret all these things later, but it matters not at the moment, because "live for today" is the sociopath's motto.

Because a sociopath thinks little of the future, he is fearless when he should be fearful. ("I'm way smarter than those dumbass detectives, they'll never catch me."/"I know how to handle heroin, I'm not going to get addicted like those other idiots."/"I'm a great driver, I won't get in an accident.")

An alternative sociopathic motto might be, "Live fast, die young, and leave a surgically enhanced corpse."

Sociopaths tend to see themselves as victims, even when they are victimizers. So they never have a clear view of any complicated situation in which they have a vested interest. In their minds, everything that goes wrong is always someone else's fault. Since wisdom can only be gained by learning from one's mistakes, if you can never admit you're wrong, you can't learn.

So, sociopaths never develop good senses of judgment.

Sociopaths don't have the kind of patience it takes to calmly mull things over, so never really figure things out on their own and make great intuitive leaps -- the essence of true creativity. This, of course, does not stop them from taking credit for others' ideas, as Steve Jobs did.

(They are good at spur of the moment improvising, coming up with glib lies, and delivering them in a way so as to seem credible; but that is a different matter.)

In any case, all these egotistical quirks effectively render every sociopath stupid, no matter his IQ.

If you're aware of this, it will help you to deal with them more effectively. It should also help you avoid being sucked into a sociopath's self-destructive vortex.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that their brains are disordered (out-of-whack), causing them to be idiots, morons, etc. They behave the way they do BECAUSE their brains are screwed up, acting according to how their programmed.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
That would be one way of looking at it. But there are plenty of them whose brains seem to work fine (Bill Clinton, Newt Gringrich, Mike Ovitz, etc) and they're able to achieve all sorts of success. To me it seems more as if their character is disordered, and their egos out of whack, and that causes them to behave the way they do. There are too many stories about kids who were abused turning out to be sociopathic to think that it's a purely organic phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

Regarding ALL sociopaths (even the famous ones), I personally don't think that their brains "work fine". If your brain is normal (and I'm referring to the actual organ itself), you behave in a normal, traditional fashion. If it's out-of-whack, not so. This is my theory (not pushing it on anyone else) about why sociopaths ultimately behave the many ways that they do.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
We certainly agree about HOW they act and how despicable they are. And I think that there are certainly some cases -- like Phineas Gage and all the others who've suffered frontal lobe damage -- whose sociopathic behavior is rooted in brain damage. But we're going to have to agree to disagree about the root cause of most cases.

Anonymous said...

I think that sociopaths can be born normal and due to the environment that they grew up in (eg., abusive home and lack of bonding), they don't develop normally (developmental psychology), their brain becoming disordered, resulting in a sociopath. I could be wrong but, that's my take on this .

John Craig said...

Anon (Birdie?) --
That could well be. I'm certainly not an expert on the neurobiology of the brain.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was my post. Just forgot to sign it. Sorry. Sociopaths have a character disturbance, zero integrity.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
No problem, and we certainly agree about the lack of integrity and character disturbance.

Bob Wallace said...

I've seen con men try the same con over and over and never understand when they get caught. They never regret doing what they did. They regret getting caught.

John Craig said...

Bob --
That's the perfect description of a sociopath. And in my experience, all con men are sociopaths.

Anonymous said...

I bet there are quite a few sociopaths in the House of Lords in London. I say that because I met a Baroness a few nights ago and, within minutes of conversation, I caught her lying without batting an eyelid. She seemed to radiate self-confidence, scoffing food and drinking wine minutes before appearing live on a TV show when the other (experienced) participants were all too nervous to eat. Imagine how many people all those Lords, Barons and Bishops will have had to callously manipulate to get to where they are. It's only when you meet them IRL do you notice their sociopathic traits.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Good to hear form you, it's been a while.

Everything you say makes sense, especially about the Bishops and so forth. (Aren't some of the members of the House of Lords hereditary members though?) Insightful observation about eating and drinking right before a television appearance. You're right, most people would be too nervous to do so.

There have been some sociopathic murderers who have been known to kill someone, then have a bite to eat with the corpse right there. I suppose that's better than eating part of the corpse, which some have been known to do, but either way, it's indicative of a frame of mind which is totally alien to the nonsociopathic.

GeneticPsycho said...

These are very good points! After figuring out their sociopathy, I find them very easy to manipulate because they assume I am always the honest one. Not with sociopaths!

John, previously you had mentioned that you noticed that their lips are thin. I started paying more attention to that since I come from a family of psychopaths with thick lips... Now, I can shed light on your observation: They have "Perma-Frown". The natural relaxed state of their mouth arches in the most unpleasant manner.

LEARN the Secret Habits of Psychopaths- https://www.facebook.com/notes/psychopathy-genetics/how-to-spot-a-pro-social-psychopath/781795738538803

-Tina

John Craig said...

GeneticPsycho/Tina --
Thank you.

Ah, now your "name" makes sense. You've written in previously, and I assumed that it referred to an interest in evolutionary psychology, but now I understand.

Permafrown, that's interesting. Hadn't thought of it that way before. Although, I have to say, the thin-lipped ones seem to just come that way.

Anonymous said...

By the way, the thin lips observation has been discussed (or noted) on other websites that I've visited in my own personal research on the subject of sociopathy (over the years). So, John, other people have also observed this characteristic as well. Interesting. You're a very observant person, more so than myself.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Thank you, that's interesting -- and somewhat reassuring. (I feel less crazy now that I know I'm not the only one's who's noticed he correlation.)

Anonymous said...

"Sociopaths tend to see themselves as victims, even when they are victimizers. So they never have a clear view of any complicated situation in which they have a vested interest. In their minds, everything that goes wrong is always someone else's fault. Since wisdom can only be gained by learning from one's mistakes, if you can never admit you're wrong, you can't learn. So, sociopaths never develop good senses of judgment."

Of course, it is possible that someone could admit that they're wrong publicly, not really believing it, in order to gain public support (and possibly sympathy/pity) all whilst maintaining that fragile ego.

Sociopaths actually scare the H_LL out of me personally. But reading about the characteristics is extraordinarily helpful, so again, thank you!!!

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank YOU.

Yes, they can issue public mea culpas without actually believing in their own guilt if they think that's in their best interests. (Though if you listen closely to the mea culpa of a sociopath, they always seem to leave themselves an out, and never seem to actually feel the guilt or shame to which they lay claim.)

You're smart to be scared by sociopaths.

MarieCurie said...

On further reflection, not sure if I agree - even though it would be nice to believe. If you agree that there is evidence that sociopathy is increasing, it means that sociopaths are successfully breeding and passing on their values/genes to their children.

But they certainly can be dumb. Case in point: http://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/31/magazine/why-i-spied-aldrich-ames.html

Sociopath - betrayed his country and saw to the deaths of brave colleagues and informants fighting the opressiveness of former Soviet Union (all for the love of tailored suits, home remodeling, and Jags).

Dumb - thought he could get away with it while working for CIA.

John Craig said...

MarieCurie --
It does seem that sociopathy may be on the increase. The cause may be the increased rootlessness of our society, with the state effectively caring for (but nor CARING FOR) children whose parents are more or less indifferent to them.

Yes, Aldrich Ames was a textbook sociopath, and a classic example of a sociopath who thought he was fooling people when he was not. By the way, I've known several sociopaths personally, a couple of them for an extended period, and all of them thought they were fooling people when they were not. I think it's quite a common sociopathic failing.

Anonymous said...

I only have one thing to say. The seven deadly sins, lust in particular. You mention that sociopaths are more susceptible to these sins, and that one would be driven to rape because of lust. Rape is never about lust. It's about power.

optimism pessimism said...

My brain is screwed up due to an accident and as a result, I've gotten TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury for those of you not wanting to look up the meaning of the word. I've always belittled myself and I still do, after I recovered from it. I still think that I'm an imbecile, but not because of my messed up brain, but because I'm human. My physician can't even spell seizure, yet I'm constantly bombarded with the fact that I must be dumb because my brain was injured. It used to hurt me a lot. Used to hurt me to the point of me wanting to kill myself, but that's never happened because I realized that I'm not dumb. Of course, I can be, every human being is guilty of being a complete idiot. I, however, choose not to live a life of stupidity, but rather of proving people wrong who discriminate against people who have had concussions and damage to the brain, and treat them inferior. It's awful. It's like treating females wrong for a while. Feminism, but for people who go through situations which they didn't choose to go through and others use derogatory terms to point out nothing about a person they don't know. They're* would be more appropriate by the way. This is coming from somebody who's brain was severely injured and it took months for me to go back to original state. It sucks, always being looked down upon for an accident that gave you a disability and gave you a damaged brain.

Oh and by the way, I'm missing my frontal lobe. That could mean I'm a sociopath, and people do say that I have no empathy, but I actually do. It's just I hide it well, unnecessarily. I don't mean to hide it, so people think I'm nuts right away.. Or a sociopath, perhaps, but who knows? I don't want to get diagnosed, because first of all, I know I'm not one, but then again, I can't rely exclusively on my self-awareness.

John Craig said...

Optimism pessimism --
Okay. Not sure what the relevance of that is to this post, but good luck with your recovery.

optimism pessimism said...

Because people think that people with their brains damaged, such as me... Severely, are prone to becoming sociopaths. And I for one, am not. That's how it's relevant. Excuse my tendency to not make sense, happens often.

Then again, I am reading a book on how our brains are programmed and some are just mentally unclear.. Everybody's brains are messed up by the way. That's just what I read, by the way, but thinking in retrospect, I have to admit that our brains are messed up. Highly. Despite never being in an accident.

anjali grover said...

The 'high' these people get by satisfying their desires (to control others) and to get what they want 'instantly' keeps them going. The every calculating, ever plotting , ever fearful mind takes full charge of their existence. They become like machines run totally on the command of their minds. Body becomes an instrument to act as the mind says. Yes, they control their bodies, people and situations around them. But they cannot control the ways of the universe. My X said to me - "I am too hard to die or be defeated." Well that is exactly how a drug addict feels under the influence of drugs. When the effect wears off he cannot face the reality. This is bound to happen. As sociopaths age, something they refuse to believe that it even exists, their powers diminish. As their power diminishes their paranoia and desperation to influence others increases. Cracks that already existed in their stories begin to widen and finally engulfs them. By the time that happens they have destroyed several lives unfortunately. I cringe when I use the word 'destroy'. Thats where my experience comes in. They can try to destroy you but it is up to whether you are destroyed or not.
So read up, do whatever helps to get right back up on your feet and take charge of your life. They can only destroy themselves!

John Craig said...

Anjali -
Yes, sociopaths are always plotting, always calculating, and always want instant gratification.

Your ex's attitude is typical; they see themselves as invulnerable. And yes, unfortunately, they do cause all sorts of damage to others.

Not sure what you mean when you say they are "machines run totally on the command of their minds," though. (Aren't all of us like that?)

In_Hiding said...

Sociopaths are definitely stupid. My sister is a sociopath. She gives me orders, expecting me to obey them. She insults my wife, my children and myself, expecting our feelings to be hurt. She doesn't realize that we know she is guilty of every accusation she throws at us. She thinks most people are amused by her online bashing of us.

My mother lives in town here. 8 years ago, I got a job in another state. I went out there a few weeks ahead of my family to set up a place for us to live. Six days later, my sister visited, staying at our mother's house. She invited my wife to dinner. When my wife arrived, she found an envelope with my name on it, and a dozen nude photos of a girl inside. My name was written in my sisters handwriting, and the photos had print dates on the back of them from two days prior, four days after I left town. My sister didn't think my wife would put that together. I kicked my sister out of my life for that little prank, and she has brutally harassed us ever since. She denies harassing us, even when caught doing it. She thinks we believe the denials. Not very sharp.

John Craig said...

In_Hiding --
Yes, they always think they're fooling people when they're not. Unfortunately, with your sister, people who don't know her well may be inclined to believe her when she talks about you. (When they get to know her better, they'll discount what she says; but in the meantime, she can do a lot of damage.)

In_Hiding said...

Hi John,

Yes, she can. Fortunately, we are back to living in different states, so at a minimum, I have that distance going for me. I alerted HR at my employer as to her behavior, just in case she decides to make a vicious phone call to them, which they understood (being in the HR field for a long time, you get that kind of experience). Besides, with me being an executive, I don't think my employer would take a prank call very seriously.

With regard to Facebook, that can be a problem. Although my wife and I have privatized our Facebook accounts, we get word from her via text message that she can see them, an even discuss some of our entries (like check-ins, statuses, photos). That means she can see our friends and reach out to them. We are to the point where we really don't care. Our friends know us, love us, and would not take a negative message seriously, which is the type of relationship you get when you treat people right.

The world is full of good people. The better a person you are, the better the people you get to be around.

Two years back, she had a job where she went to work every day, complaining about me. She used my full name and where I live. Shortly after her hire, things started happening around the office. Since they had my full name and place of residence, her co-workers reached out to me, asking if I was aware of certain behavioral traits. I told them I was not comfortable discussing her, and wished them the best. A few weeks later, I received additional correspondence stating she was terminated, and went on about the behavior that led to it.

Last week, I received a message on Facebook from a girl she used to know. Same thing; she complained about me during their relationship, the relationship went south, and the girl was slammed online.

Some time back, I checked into a hotel. I gave the manager my ID. He read my name and the city I live in, then asked if I was "Kin" to her. I said we have the same parents, but that's as far as it goes. He told me about a number of serious issues that went wrong in his life, enough to plan on leaving the state.

See a pattern here?

John Craig said...

In_Hiding --
Sounds like you have the situation pretty well scoped out and under control, for now. Yikes, it must be scary and disconcerting to have someone like that in your life. At least the other people who know her seem to have cottoned on to her fairly quickly.

Yes, I do see the pattern; with sociopaths, there's always a pattern.

guest said...

You, Sir, are so right. And I mean it.

John Craig said...

Guest --
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Going to necro this(figured 3 months falls under that). This has to be the most idiotic post I have ever read and these comments praising you and agreeing that sociopaths are not intelligent is baffling. Stupid people are everywhere, so of course there are dumb sociopaths. But a type of sociopath that you guys have not even acknowledged is the one that KNOWS hes a sociopath and uses that to further manipulate you. Being quick with a story and as you guys put it "sociopaths are always plotting, always calculating" does require intelligence. These kinds of sociopaths will not even make it known or obvious what they are. To the self aware sociopath this is a sport and they want to be the best, if that means manipulating you then you were cannon fodder for their own greater good.

John Craig said...

Anon --
You sound like a sociopath.

Carjah M said...

What terrifies me is the extent they will go to to destroy when you see them for what they are......its been 3 years of hell. If they cant control you anymore they influence how other people see you.....the lies are cruel, damaging and I have no idea how to stop him but I will no be intimidated by him, he has sent a message through social media under a false name threatning to make sure someone kills my deceased daughters siblings. She was his partner and since her death so much of the last couple of years of her life has emerged.Its heartbreaking and because I see through him NOW he is trying to destroy me. Her mother. She passed at age 23.

John Craig said...

Carjah M --
Yes, sociopaths don't hesitate to spread lies about others who are their targets. All you can do in self-defense is tell the truth.

Sorry for your loss. Did he have anything to do with her passing?