How To Live Like A Sociopath

sociopathThe Economist explains that sociopathic tendencies offer opportunity for advancement in contemporary society, and disturbingly points out that economists view sociopathy as the “correct” way to behave. Here’s the self-help guide with tips from M.E. Thomas, a law professor and sociopath:

Assess costs and benefits. Sociopaths, says Ms. Thomas, “are incredibly sensitive to incentive structures and actively consider both actual costs and opportunity costs in their decision-making” (unlike the rest of us, to the disappointment of most economists). “I have always lived in the worst neighborhoods,” Ms Thomas writes. “Rent is cheap and I figure there’s no need for me to pay a safety premium if I have health insurance.”

Disregard unspoken rules. After being hired at an elite law firm, Ms. Thomas exploited her company’s “non-existent” vacation policy by taking long weekends and lengthy vacations abroad. “People were implicitly expected not to take vacations, but I had my own lifelong policy of following only explicit rules, and then only because they’re easiest to prove against me,” she explains. How to apply to your own life: Ignore “suggested donation” pleas at museums, always help yourself to more food and drinks at dinner parties and recline your seat all the way back when flying.

Be prepared. Ms. Thomas’s opportunism applies to the social as much as the professional realm. “I have learned that it is important always to have a catalogue of at least five personal stories of varying length in order to avoid the impulse to shoehorn unrelated titbits into existing conversations,” she writes. “Social-event management feels very much like classroom or jury management to me; it’s all about allowing me to present myself to my own best advantage.”

50 Comments on "How To Live Like A Sociopath"

  1. Rus Archer | Aug 28, 2013 at 2:14 pm |

    christopher s. hyatt

  2. befunknote | Aug 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

    What a sad way to live. I’m sorry you can’t see what’s truly important in life.

    • Calypso_1 | Aug 28, 2013 at 2:31 pm |

      What do you find sad about it? What is truly important?

      • Taking advantage of others is a sad state. Rules/laws have to be made, police have to be paid because certain people do not have the voice of empathy in their heads, which tells them what they’re are doing, although advantageous to them, may have a negative affect on others. It’s called being selfish – some people get it, some don’t, and we have a name for those that don’t.

        • Calypso_1 | Aug 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

          Empathy ≠ conscience or ethics. Ultimately both conscience and ethics are related to self-interest. Psychopathy is characterized by poor planning & goal setting due to alterations in reward pathways. They receive excessive reward for short term stimulus. This results in an inability to focus on executive tasks. This process can be circumvented in time.
          The vast majority of persons who break laws & take advantage of others do not have the disorder.

          • Empathy stems from conscience – being aware of not only oneself, but others. I could never deduce the feelings of others (empathy) without being conscience of my own feelings. Self-awareness and self-interest are the same thing??? Empathy would prevent me from taking advantage of somebody else. Is that self-interest if I don’t expect anything in return in an instance where I forgo my advancement because I perceive that I wouldn’t want the same thing done by someone else, towards myself, in order that they may achieve advancement? In the sense that it makes me feel better about myself to have foregone my pleasure or advancement, it serves self interest. It just boils down to what gives a person happiness: advancement, pleasure at gain vs. feeling like you are helping other. Law does not equal morality or ethics.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

            Do a little more research into empathy. Self-awareness is an ambiguous concept. I would not suggest it is synonymous with self-interest. Empathy is a perception not the reaction to the perception. The reaction is trained.

          • even psychology can be an ambiguous concept.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm |

            psychology is not a concept.

          • a concept – an object of thought, a conceived notion. everything is a concept.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 28, 2013 at 6:58 pm |

            nothing is a concept

          • atlanticus | Aug 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm |

            Nothing *is* a concept.

          • Concept is a concept.

            Is a.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm |

            Isa is Muslim Jesus.

          • therefore, thought is nothing, and reality is nothing.

          • And you are nothing.

          • yes, that has already been established, as there is nothing. thanks for commenting on the obvious.

          • The obvious is nothing.

          • Adamas Macalz | Aug 30, 2013 at 9:33 am |

            Circular thinking?

          • infinite logic loop….of nothingness. we have created a new paradigm. congrats, Andrew.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm |


          • no-thing.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 31, 2013 at 9:29 am |


          • I disagree that empathy stems from conscience. Being aware of oneself as well as others does not necessitate that we care for the “others”, regardless of our own feelings.

            We are all conscience of our own feelings (some more than others), however not all of us are empathetic as a result. I think empathy stems from a different trait than the human characteristic of consciousness.

          • Are you sure you’re not rationalising/moralising away the self interest that often accompanies empathy to minimise harm to others since you feel it also?

          • howiebledsoe | Aug 29, 2013 at 11:50 am |

            You’re missing the basic point of the sociopath, as opposed to a dim witted criminal who lacks the planning and goes ahead with a robbery without thinking of the consequences. The sociopath is well organized, and moreover, has no empathy, no “honour among thieves” as does your average criminal.

          • emperorreagan | Aug 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

            A sociopath is well organized?

            DSM-IV lists impulsivity & failure to plan ahead as one of the features for diagnosing anti-social personality disorders.

            And the disorder can just as easily affect a dimwit or a genius. The argument that such people have high IQs hasn’t held up to empirical work.

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

            The sociopath is not typically well organized.

  3. Ted Heistman | Aug 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm |

    I think I saw this guy on free domain radio talking to whatshisname. Struck me as another one of these Fetishists. Pretending to be a Vampire.

    Edit: My bad;different fetishist.

    • Monkey See Monkey Do | Aug 29, 2013 at 2:16 am |

      That Stefan Molyneaux guy sets off my sociopath radar. But I may be being quick to label, he may just exhibit sociopathic tendencies like all anarcho-capitalists.

      • Ted Heistman | Aug 29, 2013 at 6:01 am |

        Well I think disowning your parents for spanking you is kind of weird. I mean serious abuse is one thing but he makes it sound like normal spanking.

  4. Anarchy Pony | Aug 28, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

    All hail the Randian Over Woman.

  5. emperorreagan | Aug 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm |

    Rule 1 on their list could be deleted. Rule 2 makes it redundant. If you do cost/benefit analysis generally, then you will only follow rules (either implicit or explicit) insofar as it is advantageous for you to do so.

    For instance, one might follow an implicit rule because it’s advantageous in other ways (e.g. you want to be made a partner or teach at a top tier law school). One might ignore an explicit rule where the odds of being detected or the odds of actually being sanctioned are dwarfed by the potential advantage (e.g. using an insider stock tip).

    Rule 3 is stupid. Seek competent counsel in all things.

    Rule 4 is offered in various forms by a bevy of sources.

    Rule 5 is a specific case of Rule 2 via Rule 1. She is ignoring an implied rule (business attire) because her chances of being sanctioned for doing so (being kicked out of the conference) are minuscule compared to the perceived advantage (drawing attention to herself).

    Haven’t read the book and don’t care to, but the little snippets from what she says in the book would make me think she’s a narcissist, not a sociopath.

    • saianjuma1 | Aug 28, 2013 at 5:16 pm |

      My thoughts exactly: a little narcissistic? maybe. but Sociopath? who’d she kill? Who’d she kidnap? It’s at best exploitive and pathetic to call your book that, and then not be a real one. I’ll take my sociopaths axe-wielding, thank you very much.

      • gustave courbet | Aug 29, 2013 at 12:18 am |

        There are lots of high-functioning sociopaths that don’t fit the ‘american psycho’ model. The simple definition of sociopathology is the inability to form empathetic bonds with others. Some express this disfunction by chopping up prostitutes, others by stiffing their waiter on the tip; its a behavioral gradient.

        • emperorreagan | Aug 29, 2013 at 8:57 am |

          Her diagnosis as a sociopath makes more sense when you read some of the other stuff about her – excessive boasting, risk taking, impulsivity/lack of ability to plan.

          You can read it into this article, but the explanations they offer don’t seem to have much to do with being a sociopath.

          Also makes their list stupid in addition to the redundancy of some of the rules. “Ignore unspoken rules” ignores the fact that she lost her job, for instance.

  6. Diana Davis Rumbold | Aug 28, 2013 at 5:04 pm |

    She sounds like my older brother. The only missing rule he has that she doesn’t have, if you don’t get caught, it isn’t breaking the law. Breaking the law needs someone to enforce it, and if they don’t enforce it, the law is useless. He was diagnosed as a sociopath when he was in prison for fraud and child porn.

  7. AManCalledDa-da | Aug 28, 2013 at 5:35 pm |

    Speaking of sociopaths…

    Here’s, “Endgame,” a private black-hat group that doesn’t want you to know who they are. and the link.

    See “WOPR”?

  8. These are the people that when you give them an inch they take it a mile.. Then again, just because I like living in ghettos.. or like to recline my seat to the full reclined position of hardly reclined.. doesn’t make me a sociopath..

  9. BuzzCoastin | Aug 28, 2013 at 8:46 pm |

    her behavior is a normal & predictable effect of money
    if that’s sociopathic
    then everyone using money is too

  10. InfvoCuernos | Aug 28, 2013 at 9:14 pm |

    Seems more like just being an asshole than a sociopath, but there’s probably a lot of crossover.

  11. None of those things sounds very bad, except the “how to” parts and the intro. I think the key words are at the end: “IF you find yourself at an institutional disadvantage.” How can the human spirit survive in an inescapable institution that has no moral responsibility or social conscience without taking advantage of its loopholes and deficits?

  12. Ted Heistman | Aug 29, 2013 at 6:04 am |

    OK, so one quick point. Being less prone to guilt manipulation is not sociopathy.

  13. So is the difference between a sociopath and someone who is gifted in social situations the moral standing they give other people?

    I’ve always been a fan of the saying “you can get anywhere in life saying the right things to the right people”. I enjoy going into social exchanges where I desire a certain outcome and trying to produce it through word choice. Its an exhilarating game of wits, charisma, character reading of your opposite, etc. Talking your way out of fights, talking people into your opinions, talking yourself into oppurtunities; I look at it like some sort of game and its quite a lot of fun.

  14. D.K. Wilson | Sep 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm |

    Only psychopaths would back attempts to explain to the rest of us that their sickness should be admired and mimicked – and use a woman to do so.

    Fairly recent studies suggest that women can only carry the psychopath trait and, therefore, cannot be psychopaths themselves but can, like their male counterparts, exhibit a borderline number of the traits of psychopathy. The term “sociopath” arises from those borderline cases but is most often used in popular culture as a way NOT to say “psychopath” (equated through media disinformation as a term only to be used to describe the dysfunction of mass murderers) In fact, the primary trait of psychopathy is a complete inability to empathize with others; this inability manifests itself in myriad ways not at all associated with murder – and occurs in every walk of life.

    • Could you link to one of those studies?

      • D.K. Wilson | Sep 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm |

        Here’s a great article (in truTV’s webpages, of all places!). A statement from that article: “Based on some case studies, a few clinicians proposed that female psychopathy shows more traits of hysterical personality disorder than narcissism. It may be that female psychopaths are being misidentified because the criteria slant toward male manifestations.”

        But Here’s the book/paper that explains so much: (it’s a downloadable pdf, too). Without going through the entire thing, I think – hope – this is where I first saw the mention of women not being able to be psychopaths. I actually have a Bookmark Manager sub-folder in my “Power Structure” folder for “Ponerology/Psychopathy.” There’s so much stuff there I’m having a difficult time remembering the exact reference piece… hope what I provided helps, though.

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