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Martha Stout, Psychotherapist

Author of: “The Sociopath Next Door”

If there is a singular personality type that consistently gives rise to violence, it is the sociopath--aka psychopath. Narcissists are similar, but are typically out of touch to significant degrees. Such people are not psychotic; their psyches are distorted. They are amoral, robots without feelings for others or for the consequences of their own actions. Their main goal is to win. Martha Stout shows their features in sharp relief in her book: "The Sociopath Next Door."

Hidden Behavior

Updated 09 Sept 2013

The trap: Sociopaths like to do their dirty work in the dark. This is akin to snares set by the Far-North trappers. We don't see it--too late, we feel it. Opaque governance is perhaps an ultimate manifestation. Talk about America! But we are not alone, far form it.

  • From previous page: What if, in more private environments, our hot shot:
    • irritates, scares or antagonizes others;
    • never takes responsibility;
    • is manipulative, demanding and
    • always puts his/her self-interest first with no concern whatever for others—or the consequences?
  • This composite is sociopathic.

Recognizing the Sociopath

  • Imagine meeting a hot-shot, funny and engaging with a stage presence that has no bounds—the life of the party.
  • What more could anyone ask?
  • We would likely vote for this person; who would not? S/he is most likable, and memorable. S/he even might have made us feel good about ourselves, we might even love them.

John Dean – Public Servant

Updated 09 Sept 2013

  • In his “Conservatives Without Conscience,” Dean is talking about the Neoconservatives or Neocons.
  • They are Authoritarian to the core.
  • Without conscience defines the Sociopath.

Altemeyer Continued: Global Significance

Updated 09 Sept 2013
  • Altemeyer also proved North American, European, and Russian Polities are permeated by Authoritarians. Given our common genome, the same is true of all cultures.
    • Authoritarian traits are therefore universal,
  • North-American electorates of today mirror the Europeans.
  • Many Authoritarians seek power, all seek hierarchy.

Martha Stout’s Frank Assessment
Updated 6 Sept 12; 09 Sept 2013
21 Oct 2014

"Short of a sociopathic leader who diverts the course of an entire nation, leading it into genocide or unnecessary war, the psychopathic killer is surely the most terrifying example of a psyche without a conscience..."
Updated 10 Apr 2009

Martha Stout (Martha Stout is a practicing psychologist and a clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.)

Extended Book Review With Commentary By Harry Rosenberg

Engaging, enlightening, and frightening--all at once. If there is no sociopath next door, then surely there is one on our street. Four percent of us, one in 25, according to Stout, have many or all the earmarks of a sociopath.
Extensive extracts from: An Interview with Martha Stout

For the complete original see: Book Browse

How do you spot a sociopath?

A sociopath has no conscience, no ability to feel shame, guilt or remorse. Since 1 in 25 ordinary Americans is a sociopath, you almost certainly know one or more than one already. How can you recognize him or her?

  • Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they live only to dominate others and win.
  • They often have a kind of glow or charisma that makes them more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They are more spontaneous, more intense, complex, or even sexier than everyone else.
  • They crave stimulation and excitement, often show brief intense enthusiasms that they later drop.
  • They are seductive, encourage others to take risks.
  • They will tell you that you are just like them. Don't believe it.
Create Movements

Recognize History—Avoid Repeating It.
Update: 6 Sept 12

  • Problem: Violent Sociopaths hijack and corrupt systems, businesses, organizations, nations, religions.
  • Solutions: Dialogue, the highest form of communication:
    • Explores ideas with mutual understanding [and empathy],
    • Connects with integrity as each draws the other out to find meaning,
    • Voices opinions toward finding mutually-acceptable solutions, or absolute solutions in the case science or technology,
    • Addresses conflict resolution effectively.
Updated 6 Sept 12; 09 Sept 2013

As Individuals

We Can:

  • Learn to read the Tea Leaves when politicians speak.
    • Do they do as they personally say and say as they do?
    • Do we hear logic or platitudes, however nice to hear, but without a shred of how they expect to accomplish their goal(s) in a world ever more complex and changing?
    • Do they answer direct questions or do they divert into their own agendas?
    • If they don't know the answer, do they promise to get it and do, or do they bluff or bluster?
    • Should we not believe off-hand remarks—they reveal the real, unguarded person?
  • Research the characters of politicians running for office.
  • Set examples of moderation.
  • Be life-long learners, for peace will be elusive for as long as a sociopath can rule. We must be vigilant!
Updated 21 Mar 2010

ACTION ALERTS: From 28 Aug 2008

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Stout Continued: What We Need to Know
Updated 6 Sept 12

  • Some 4% of all of us are sociopathic according to Martha Stout. Multiples more of us have hang-ups.
    • Sociopaths with connections, money, ambition, and charisma can co-opt nations as Napoleon, Hitler, and a later “unitary president” have shown.
  • Sociopaths are often charismatic, beguiling, smart, and attractive.
    • Some are molesters, rapists or serial killers. All are manipulators in going after what they want. A high fraction of our prison population is sociopathic.
    • Obedience from others feed their needs for control and winning. They can feel sorry for themselves, but empathy? None. Some even use their very sorriness to manipulate others.

“The Lucifer Effect” (Phillip Zimbardo)

Came as another national surprise. Updated 09 Sept 2013

  • North American college students in a prison experiment:
    • Were corrupted in 24 hours, feeling and playing the roles of abusive tyrant or crushed prisoner
    • The first “prisoner” broke in 36 hours.
  • This is the Lucifer Effect.
    • A product of the SYSTEM--and predictor of Abu Ghraib!
Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe.

"What Led Ordinary Men and Women to Risk Their Lives on Behalf of Others?"

Samuel Oliner & Pearl Oliner

Book Review, by Harry Rosenberg

For over half a decade, the head sociopath and his herds of obedient followers held sway so thoroughly that the good sides of human nature, parenting and altruism were seemingly smothered.

The Oliners keep their promise. Caring is what led so many to risk so much for so few (thousands). Parenting, like altruism, leads to caring for others. And that caring usually gave rise to friendships lasting a lifetime.

The awful horror of Nazi Europe is a story often told. The other side of the story, the survival of altruism has never been revealed as it is by the Oliners. What they have produced could be grist for several novels, but this book a novel isn't. Rather it covers the waterfront evil and how many people fought back all over Europe, even native Germans, by rescuing or sheltering thousands of Jews. Altruism as a national value was crushed, but not killed. That feature was barely visible as the events transpired--even to the participants.

This book is a classic, a stand-alone study of one of those awful swings of the pendulum of history. The Oliners devote 260 pages to the stories, and 161 more to appendices, methodologies with actual data, and notes.

In essence this book puts into stark relief the insanity (psychopathology) and utter madness of those who deny the Holocaust ever happened. For this reason we give this book five stars.

A favorite tactic of the Panzer Divisions of WWII, pincers that can surround and trap entire armies. Early in the war Hitler rolled over Western Europe, putting army after army in a vise. Later in the East at Stalingrad, the Soviets replied in kind. Hitler's generals saw the danger develop, but, in his egomania, Hitler ordered them to stand fast, never mind that his plans for the East had already come to naught. He hastened his own demise.

And so it is today. Only the context, players and issues differ.
Every red- or blue-blooded American should face up to our place in the world. If we don't, the march of history will soon do it for us. Not only do our national debt and congressional paralysis look bad, but our basic morality is going the way of the Romans. Read on and decide for yourself.

"As we cope with downturns in American power in the world and the American economy at home, there is much talk about reviving, renewing, rescuing, or redefining the American Dream. We would be better off facing the anguish inherent in the American Dream. Once we recognize that the dream has always been dependent on domination, we can see what fundamental changes are necessary to avoid a planetary nightmare. The American Dream - Professor Robert Jenson.

Why is there so much violence?

  • Historic events in our era attest to the fact that we know little of ourselves—as individuals or societies:
    • The Holocaust: (German citizens supported Hitler's mad eradication of Jews)
    • Genocide:
      • Rwanda (Hutu slew Tutsi; neighbor slew neighbor; children killed their parents)
      • Kosovo (Ethnic cleansing of Muslims by Catholics)
      • Darfur (Ethnic cleansing of African farmers by nomadic Muslim Arabs)
    • Abu Ghraib: (Revolting indecencies arose consistent with presidential signing statements. Other military prisons suffered as well. Ref: Major General Taguba or Phillip Zimbardo.)

"It's a very different kind of person." Mukasey said in reply to Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, who asked about water boarding. This seems at first glance to be a 'so what.' But think about it. Is this not 'BLACK AND WHITE' thinking--Authoritarian to the core? Mukasey waffled the rest of the way, never clearly stating he does or does not approve water boarding. After all, he wanted the prestigious AG job, and he got it.
Bart D. Ehrman

Extended Book Review.

The subtitle directly addresses a quandary of our age:

"Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)"

Ehrman is one of those rare people for whom the pendulum of faith has swung in both directions, but not to such extremes that he lost touch with either pole, religious or secular. Jesus, Interrupted, like his "Misquoting Jesus", contains biographical detail. Unlike the extremists on either side of the divide, Erhman is quite respectful of believer and atheist alike. Like a growing number of people, Ehrman characterizes himself as an agnostic, one who can rejoice in understanding both the worlds of faith and logic. His telling point is that the bible is the most influential book ever written, however its writing came to be in and by human hands. For that very reason it deserves deep study--the kind he has devoted his career to and reports here.

Who They Are

Authoritarians are mostly good, ordinary people. A very few are great as in the military for example. The truly great military leaders exhibit muted authoritarian traits that permit logic and cooperation, empathy. Robert E. Lee, for example, was a far greater military leader than was Napoleon.

Some Observations on Extreme Authoritarianism in Individuals

  • Authoritarian Personalities permeate all societies.
  • Fundamentalists in any endeavor are Authoritarian personalities. The most extreme are Sociopathic. Dictators--even a democratic president--can be Sociopathic, Psychopathic according to Justin Frank M.D..
The Psychopaths Among Us
Robert Hare
Extended Book Review

Marvelous rendition, very readable and accessible by any who might be interested. Hare is a world-class resource for what ails humanity. At once scientific and down to earth, he presents a readable account of a, perhaps “the”, primary danger in our times. The dangerous psychopaths are those who are socially smooth and ingratiating on the one hand, but who are devious exploiters and defilers on the other. The metaphor might well be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One never knows until s/he is stung and by then it is too late. The psychopath is in it only for him/herself. Nothing else matters. They populate all societies.
Several Individual Pages Updated 2006 Sept, 13 Dec 2012, 09 Sept 2013 and 2 Mar 2016.

MACHINE TRANSLATE: This or any other page: Download Babylon

Each page toggles to its neighbors, resources, and back here.

    Arising in antiquity, before mammals, before the atmosphere became what it is, genes were mutating in makeup and/or organization leaving their creations to survive or not as selection would have it for their particular niche. The advent of civilization and its exponential development came so fast, [in geologic time], that genes preferred for peaceful living have yet to be selected. They may never be if humanity persists along its present path. Yet there is Hope, lots of it. Nature itself provides it. And there are avenues for action, provided we can read the Tea Leaves.
Updated 04 Apr 2010

For a quick overview of our research see: Peace Via Nature's Way.

Roots of Terror Briefly and Some Avenues Now Apparent

This project illuminates some very human ills that we and our children face. From what we now know, questions posed have or can find answers. It is that simple yet that complex in implementation, for no culture on earth has the ready answers, only partial ones.
When Psychopaths go to work
Paul Babiak & Robert Hare

Extended Book Review

Being a psychopath is not illegal. But their behavior ought to be. In the fashion of a Greek tragedy, these authors dramatically weave several stories of how psychopaths destroy lives--this time the setting is the work place. Their descriptions resonate perfectly with Martha Stout's "The Sociopath Next Door."

Just what does the politics of fear have going for it? Well, for one thing, it worked well in 2002 and 2004, so it will work forever. Or so the propaganda went.

In 2006, a funny thing happened, the Republicans lost both the house and the Senate. And since then, too, Democrats have won seats to the House from red states. So much for the Neocon agenda--they overplayed their hand. America is now seeing reformation in politics.
How Extreme Authoritarian Personalities Contribute to Terrorism.

Updated 22 Jan 2009

The basic causes of violence and war seem to arise from our genes. Most species will fight other species when threatened. They also fight among themselves over territory, food supplies, mates. Humans are not different in these tendencies. Civilization arose because humans finally figured out better ways to grow and store food, how to domesticate plants and animals. The rise of civilization carried with it all the genetic armor developed in the jungles and savannas. And this gave us a problem.

Our intellectual mastery over nature, was not accompanied by an equivalent mastery over ourselves.
Updated: 01 Jan 2009

John Dean of the Nixon Administration and Watergate fame
Book Review with commentary

We quote from Publisher's Weekly

"Few critics have as effectively put the disparate pieces together, linking them to what Dean says is a broader pattern of secrecy from an administration that does its best to control the flow of information on every subject ... and uses executive privilege to circumvent congressional scrutiny."

See also: John Dean's own remarks on this.
Pseudo-Science, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

Michael Shermer

Extended Book Review

The publisher of Skeptic magazine both enlightens us with a lot of material new to us, and disturbs us with his insights to the effect that the human condition may be so rigid that peaceful living may remain a dream of idealism. In any event, his broad background in biology, psychology, and the history of science enables him to bring consilience to the core of his methods in "debunking bunk," to use his term. And that makes his position compelling to those open enough to follow his insights and take them to heart. Nevertheless, his insights also need to be looked at skeptically. You are remiss if you do not, for there is much for most of us to learn--one of them being the practice of being a skeptic.
Unique Experiments that Illuminated Our True Human Natures.
Stanley Milgram
Book Review With Commentary

Reviewed by Harry Rosenberg.

If there is a kernel to the story of violence in American culture, this book is that kernel. Milgram adds magnificently to the pioneering work of Adorno et al on the Authoritarian Personality. Milgram details his many rigorous experiments, and interprets them relentlessly.
Actions that can be taken to begin an effective campaign to reduce terror are synopsized. They amount to a societal reformation.

Updated: 11 Oct 2008.

Abuse of Power?
Enrich the already rich?
Erstwhile Dictator?
Venal Personality?
All the Above?
We have collected the signing statements published by Coherent Babble. Editorial comments following many raise serious questions.
Given human frailties, inborn or learned, science is perhaps the least generally understood of the arts and major disciplines. While societies vary markedly, many in the US society have a love-hate relationship with its scientists. Scientists are hated and feared by many who nevertheless enjoy the fruits of science--and technology, its practical expression. For example, John Miller gathered information on scientific awareness in America for the National Science Foundations. He found Americans to be:

  • Scientifically savvy and alert: 20-25%.
  • Unaware that the earth circles the sun: 20%.
  • Unaware that DNA carries hereditary information: less than one-third, <33%.
Naomi Wolf

Book Review

“Top-down edicts generate fear, but when citizens turn a blind-eye to state sanctions against others, so long as they believe themselves to be safe, a fascist reality has fertile ground in which to take root.

With these simple words written near the apex of the Bush II regime, Wolf captured a serious essence of our times. No society is safe from the autocrats, whether political, religious or plutocratic at root. And while such an event has receded some since this book was printed, it is an arresting exercise to realize the many parallels between America today and Nazi Germany and several other dictatorships are still with us. How it works is that a relatively sudden, historically speaking, event triggers a further series of events that culminate in dictatorship. The event needs only to generate fear in a populace and those in position to take power, either to promptly take over or to start the ball rolling toward autocracy. 911 provided just that opportunity in America. That event followed an historical pattern where we Americans, gladly but temporarily, gave up some of our freedoms for security. What makes 911 different, is that word temporarily. The so-called War on Terror has no end in sight--a feature the commander in chief emphasised again and again, as he continued to abridge freedom in America surreptitiously. That fear remains largely unabated. The present commander in chief has made some progress, as his predecessor had, but it now seems too little too late. Franklin Roosevelt may have been wiser than he knew when he said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Updated 3 May 2010

Our times have never been more perilous.
Updated 5 mar 2010

Since much of our information on this site came via books by many authors we thought it appropriate to list the books here by title.

1776 - David McCollough

Abraham - Bruce Feiler

A Nation of Sheep - William J Lederer
The Hedgehog and the Fox Isaiah Berlin

Extended Book Review

”The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

This metaphor for creative and conventional applies in our time, just as it did in the eras of Tolstoy and Berlin. In employing this metaphor, Berlin pays brilliant homage to Tolstoy’s greatness in this little book of just 81 pages of text. Berlin’s little book became a classic in its own time; it is a masterful presentation of Tolstoy’s views on history. Tolstoy was ahead of his times, yet we wonder what he would think today--faced with the huge advances in physics, bioscience, and psychology. What would he think of a world that is probabilistic at its core, where biochemists are on the verge of creating life from inert matter, and where the psyche has been deciphered,

The ultimate fascist is the sociopath, or the more frightening moniker—psychopath. As we have discussed elsewhere, there is no difference between these terms. Sociopaths are quite sane and in full control of their senses. What sets them apart is their lack of any conscience. The most dangerous ones are those with smarts and charisma. Hitler literally held his audiences spellbound, sometimes for an hour or more. Fortunately, true fascists have come to power only twice in spite of a dozen or more serious efforts.

The Conservative/Liberal divide seems to be an inherent feature of human nature. At least there are too many parallels to support another hypothesis. Moreover, the great divide between the right and left is mirrored within each party. Finally, we see the phenomenon within each of us as a template for the whole.
14 Sept 2007

Too often key events that affect the future of humankind go unnoticed or even forgotten. The works of Mendel, who discovered the genetic code is one example coming to mind. Charles Darwin himself was not fully appreciated in his own time in spite of a high and controversial profile. Some of his deepest insights are just now coming into general acceptance. Giants who followed him would include not only Gregor Mendel, but James Watson and Francis Crick with vital help from Rosalind Franklin. Because of them, humanity now has a much better view of itself. They enabled a new beginning on the question of nature/nurture. Neither was very clear before Darwin. Darwin, Mendel, Watson, Crick, and Franklin comprise humanity's heroes in biology, the nature side of the coin.
Research, begun on 12 Sept 2001, has been a work in progress ever since. Outlook for peace all over the world looks dim any time soon. But there is reason for hope in the longer term:

How to handle this built-in genetic conflict is the challenge of our times. Societies that accent the nurture side of of the equation while inhibiting our aggressive-animal nature become more peaceful thereby. What follows summarizes the basic violent side while outlining some avenues that appear to be useful.
Updated 10 Feb 2008; 6 April 2016
We are indebted to Erika Christakis (Yale Child Study Center) for our latest update.

Enlightenment--in a word.

With knowledge comes ability to deal with and control our environment within the limits of nature. Knowledge can free mankind from the yoke of oppression from whatever source. With knowledge comes freedom and "ultimately" safety. Effective education generates insight into how it all fits together, brings wisdom and enables progress. In the hands of dictators like Hitler and Napoleon, it brings awfulness to too many. Napoleon played a key role in removing dynastic governance from Europe, but he was still a conquering dictator at heart.
19 April 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney recently addressed the "American Israel Public Affairs Committee," also known as AIPAC. His remarks may be found on White House news release. Mr Cheney proclaimed four myths:

    "The most common myth is that Iraq has nothing to do with the global war on terror.
Updated 31 Mar 2013

Metaphors and Mirrors

Wouldn't you know, the stuff of life, the Periodic Table, reproduces itself in modern politics. In each case the extreme lefts and rights can't tolerate each other; at the same time they need each other. Sodium, missing a chip on its shoulder runs into chlorine with an extra chip on its shoulder; they react in great heat to annihilate each other as identities to become something else--the salt of the earth--you know, that bitter stuff that collects in the Dead Sea basin for lack of a better place to go. The same thing happens to the other alkalis and alkaline earths on the left when they encounter any of the halogens on the right. They all make bitter salts that go nowhere.
On 9/12, began researching the origins of terror toward facilitating dialogue among people of different cultures, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic background. It soon grew into an awesome task.
Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, and Larry Summers each made significant errors that accelerated the financial crash of 2009. But the crash would not have happened but for the architect and his masters. John Dugan was the architect; as a Treasury official in the administration of George Bush. He created a master plan in 1989 that Bill Clinton picked up and put in place under his deregulation drive.

John Dugan was appointed Comptroller of the Currency in 2005 by George W Bush. Dugan is chief regulator for the largest US banks, those now known as "Too Big To Fail." He is still on the job, working for his third master.

Obama's challenge upon taking office was to prevent a string of massive failures that could take the nation down with them. Obama avoided that disaster but the sword of Damocles still hangs heavy over our heads. If that condition is not fixed soon, another crash will surely happen again, with consequences that are as dimly lit as they are dangerous. Read on for further commentary.
07 Sept 2008

Neocon George Bush, the great divider has done it up brown. A unipolar, but relatively safe, world is disintegrating into a multipolar world that feels less safe all around. That is not all bad for sure. But once upon a time, the world knew and trusted Uncle Sam more than any other nation on earth. Those days are gone, perhaps forever. World leadership is now up for grabs. And some grab it is. Mostly that came about because of Iraq--a shameless, needless, petulant, and totally unnecessary grab for hegemony over a reluctant Middle East.
Hitler was more than just an Authoritarian Personality, AP. He was himself, a prototype of the most violent extreme, the sociopath without a conscience. Ironically, he defined the AP in his memoir, Mein Kampf, ascribing it to the Jews!
Research Through Mar 2008

Roots of Terror Briefly and Some Avenues toward Peace Now Apparent

Reading recorded history is a heavy trip. Through all of it, terrorism, wars, and genocide recur again and again. Like rows of dominoes, each event seems to trigger further events.
In this triad, confusion reigns.

How can that be?

  • Has not science given us mastery of the earth and all its denizens?
  • Has not science extended our lives by a factor of three or more?
  • Do we not hear daily about a study that claims a significant effect on our lives?
  • At the same time, too often we hear about studies that claim opposite effects?
  • And finally, why are so many scientific papers withdrawn?
  • All this has left us confused about what is what, while giving ammunition to those who would bury science if they could.