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The Techniques of a Female Sociopaths

News Books Female Sociopaths Recommended Links Toxic managers Female bullies Bullies Authoritarians
Femme fatale Superficial charm Psychological manipulation Fake Sexual Harrasment Claims Insubordination Threat Bad girl movies Histrionic personality disorder  

Female sociopath is a pretty wide and fuzzy category that includes a wide variety of behaviors but the same core set of personality traits. On one point of spectrum are Femme fatale, on the other those who wear a mask of a faceless corporate bureaucrats or right wing authoritarian functionaries without sense of humor. Some are petty vindictive micromanagers which is as far of overt display of sexual attractiveness as one can get (although that does not exclude some flirt or sex with higher ups in a new meaning of kiss up, kick down authoritarian motto ;-)

Somewhat woman that have a closely relates set of traits, but without personal fearlessness, courage and ability to handle stress typical for sociopaths is also grouped under  Histrionic personality disorder. They proposed a mnemonic that can be used to remember the characteristics of histrionic personality disorder is "PRAISE ME":

As our focus is on corporate environment, it is important to know that micromanagers are often females and that the majority of their victims are also females.  In Lovefraud Blog  post  When women are sociopaths-psychopaths the author aptly noted:

There is actually very little research data available regarding sociopathy in non-criminals and in women. The little research that has been done reveals that sociopathy in women entails two or three main features that are similar to those found in men. Namely, female sociopaths lack empathy and enjoy manipulating and exploiting others. Violent and impulsive behavior is less common in sociopathic women. This fact may make them more dangerous, as they more easily blend in with the rest of society.

The key traits of sociopathic females

A recent study of adolescent girls in detention performed by Crystal L. Schrum, M.A. and Randall T. Salekin, Ph.D. of the University of Alabama and reported in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, revealed the core qualities that best described young female sociopaths. The teens were callous and lacked empathy, had a grandiose sense of self worth and were conning and manipulative. They were also likely to engage in impersonal sexual relationships. Importantly, the researchers revealed that female sociopaths did not necessarily have “shallow emotions.” Again the lack of impulsivity and shallow emotions may make a female sociopath more difficult to spot.

... ... ...

The case of Michelle Drake also illustrates something else about female sociopaths. The courts are more likely to go easy on them. This attitude of the courts may reflect the fact that many people excuse the behavior of female sociopaths and feel sorry for them. Look at the cases of women in the news lately. We don’t know if the women involved are sociopaths, however, these cases do illustrate the double standard that exists in how we judge female as opposed to male antisocial behavior. Several women teachers have been found guilty of sexually exploiting students. They were treated very leniently for the same crimes that would have put a man in jail for many years.

Dr. Martha Stout, in her book 'The Sociopath Next Door', discusses the techniques of the sociopath - what she refers to as 'the tools of the trade'.

  1. The first technique she talks about is charm. Dr. Stout believes it is a primary characteristic of woman sociopath. The intense charm of people who have no conscience, has been observed and commented on by countless victims, and by researchers who attempt to catalog the diagnostic signs of sociopath. In corporate environment it is usually directed mostly up and represents typical "kiss up, kick down" pattern also found is male authoritarians
  2. A female sociopath lie and wear especially constructed mask (fake persona) to gain the trust of their victim.  They are usually compulsive liars, actors who all their life are wearing some kind of fake personality.  According to the book "Snakes in Suits - When sociopaths Go To Work" Dr. Robert Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak, one of the most effective skills sociopaths use to get the trust of people is their ability to charm them. Some sociopaths lay the charm on too thick, coming across as glib, superficial, and unconvincing. However, the truly talented ones have raised their ability to charm people into an art, priding themselves on their ability to present a fictional self to others that is convincing, taken at face value, and difficult to penetrate. One must always keep in mind that the charm, like manipulation, can be very subtle.
  3. Seduction is another common technique of the female sociopath. According to Dr. Stout sociopath as "people without conscience" have an uncanny sense of who will be vulnerable to a sexual overture. But seduction is not limited to sexual relationships; sociopaths can seduce others with promises of promotion, money, control and power, not only sex.
  4. The pity play is next on the list of sociopathic techniques. It's okay to pity someone who has gone through difficult times, but if you find yourself feeling sorry for someone's sad story, make sure the story is true. The pity play should be a warning sign to all of us.
  5. Projection and gaslighting are also common sociopathic techniques. Sociopaths refuse to be held accountable for their behavior and often assign their own behavior to their victims. For example, a sociopath could accuse a victim of stealing when it is the sociopath himself that steals. Gaslighting is a common practice of abusers who attempt to convince their victims they are defective for any reason such as making the victim more emotional, more needy or dependent. For example, if an abusive person says hurtful things and tries to convince you that you are mentally unstable and starts recommending that you get professional help, you might be in the presence of a gaslighter.

During the assessment phase, the sociopath is able to determine a potential victim's weak points. Once the sociopath has identified a victim, the manipulation phase begins. During the manipulation phase, a sociopath may create a persona or mask, specifically designed to 'work' for his or her target. A sociopath will lie to gain the trust of their victim. A sociopath's lack of empathy and guilt allows them to lie with ease - "they don't see the value of telling the truth unless it will help get them what they want". They are usually compulsive liars, actors who all thier life are wearing some kind of fake personality.

In Chapter 4 of the book "Snakes in Suits", Dr. Hare and Dr. Babiak noted that as interaction with you proceeds, the sociopath carefully assesses your personality, especially the traits, values, insecurities and weaknesses. Being as astute observers of human behavior, the sociopath will then subtly test the inner strengths and needs that are part of your private self in order to find a better way to exploit or intimidate you into submission.

According to the book the four messages that the sociopath often try to project on the assessment phase are

  1. I like who you are;
  2. I am just like you;
  3. Your secrets are safe with me;

Dr. Hare and Dr. Babiak sum up the differences between a real bond between two people who meet each other and have much in common and the sociopathic bond quite well.

For a sociopath the stable personality does not really exist. Everything including current personality is built on lies, carefully woven together to entrap you. It is a mask, one of many, custom-made by the sociopath to fit your particular psychological needs and expectations. It does not reflect the true personality--the sociopathic personality -- that lies beneath.

It is just a convenient fabrication created for particular purpose. For a victim the relationship is not based on informed choice. The sociopath chooses you exploits you and moves in. Outsiders, without the benefit of knowing the details, may see sometimes discrepancies between the mask and behavior, but we tend to discount these observations, and may even spend energy convincing our friends that this is accidental deviations of generally good person. Third, because everything is faked it usually dories not last long.

The sociopath, though, will never invest more than minimal energy in maintaining the relationship unless you can offer benefits. As some as benefits became marginal the relationship ends and the victim is left wondering what happened.

Also such relationship in corporate environment often involved victimization. It often goes far beyond trying to take advantage of someone by deception and includes projection and gaslighting. The victimization is predatory in nature; it often leads to severe financial, physical or emotional harm for the individual. Only recently has society begun to deal with female bullying, perhaps more insidious because it rarely involves fists. Rather pointed barbs and cruel remarks are used, frequently leaving much more lasting damage.

The abandonment phase begins when the sociopath decides that the victim is no longer useful. They abandon their victim and move on to someone else.

Some movies, especially Bad girl category of movies (Wikipedia)  provide additional insights into techniques used and ways of exploiting sexual attractiveness (which for them is just a weapon like stiletto):

"Bad girl movies" are a subcategory, mostly of films noir, labeled by latter-day movie buffs to describe the dark films of the 1940s and 1950s starring provocatively beautiful women on the wrong side of the spirit and/or the letter of the law. The movie posters to these films usually featured sexy artwork of the actress, posed seductively. Currently, these images in original posters and reproductions are as valued as are the films themselves.

Among the classic "bad girl" performances are:

Others in the "bad girl" category have included: Gloria Grahame, Angela Lansbury, Dorothy Malone, Beverly Michaels, Jane Randolph, Claire Trevor and Shelley Winters.

I would add such classics as Dangerous Liaisons  and Vanity Fair (with Becky Sharp character)  to the list. At the same time not all female psychopath use sexual attractiveness and some are even routinely attack persons who possess those traits.

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Old News ;-)

Beware the bullying female boss Independent, The (London) - Find Articles

More than half of the bullies reported to a new national helpline are women - and most of the victims are other women.

The data from the line also reveal that white-collar bullying among professional and office workers is far more common than among shopfloor workers. Nine out of 10 calls involved office-based workers. The public sector accounts for more than half the calls, with one in five complainants working in the caring agencies, the NHS or social services. "Workplace bullying among women is increasing, partly because they are occupying more senior positions," said Tim Field, an Oxford counsellor who runs anti-bullying workshops. "Women when they are bullies tend to be more manipulative and divisive, whereas men in the same situation are more overtly hostile. Women also tend to leave less evidence about their bullying activities. "In around 10 per cent of the cases dealt with by the advice line, suicide had been contemplated. Eight cases involved actual suicide." Elaine Bennett, a director of the Andrea Adams charity which was set up to tackle bullying, believes that the increase is probably in areas where women have not been in positions of power before. "Where women have been at the top for a long time, as in health and education, you do get the tyrant matrons and headmistresses." She says that in some cases women moving into management jobs are copying the male managers who held the job before them. "Women who are finding themselves in roles which hitherto have not been held by a woman - maybe they are the first one on to the board or to be a senior manager - may well take on some of the traits of male managers with much more of a macho aggressive culture," she said. National Workplace Bullying Advice Line: 01235-834548

Women vs men boss

Posted by: straightshooter
Date: 12/9/2005 8:28:24 AM

I would like to hear some comments on female vs male bossology.I personally am a female and I find male bosses to be better in many ways - they are fairer, do not cultivate "pets", do not gossip much, are more performance oriented and do not tend to micromanage unless they are control freaks (which I have not had). On the contrary, female bosses have overblown egos, are extremely sensitive to gossip and negative comments about their personae, are pathologically jealous and create an atmosphere of "girliness" - I had one colleague send our female boss Valentine cards and gifts. They are also more vindictive and even cruel (some cases relate to personal health issues and family matters).

My boss, the bitch - FeaturesGeneral -

It's a little-known fact that a woman can be as severe a bully in the workplace as a man, and according to experts, such behaviour among women is increasing.

Melbourne psychologist Evelyn Field says women bully just as much as men do, "but because more bullies are managers and more managers are male, more bullying is done by men. But you certainly get a lot of bullying from women and sometimes they behave more aggressively than males."

... ... ...

"Women will copy the patterns and behaviours of males, so that they become really quite aggressive," Field says.

Prominent British anti-bullying campaigner Tim Field said that at least half of 3000 bullying reports made to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line involved a female serial bully (who had bullied several co-workers). No such figures exist on the gender of Australian workplace bullies, but local experts estimate Australian figures would reflect Britain's.

In 2001-02, 1148 claims of workplace bullying were reported to the Victorian WorkCover Authority, compared with 1107 in the previous year.

In her recently released book, Catfight, which explores female competitiveness, US author Leora Tanenbaum found that "working women are expected to be aggressive and masculine. Worried about being perceived as a mediocre or incompetent worker, many women go out of their way to prove they are not too emotional or passive, and can be more aggressive and demanding than any man."

She points to groundbreaking research undertaken in the '70s, which she says is still relevant today. The researchers — psychologists Graham Staines, Carol Tavrid and Toby Epstein Jayaratne — coined the term "Queen Bee" to describe a token woman at a high level in a corporate environment.

Based on questionnaire responses from 20,000 women, they found that "the Queen Bee who is successful in a male-dominated field identifies with the male colleagues who are her reference group, rather than with the diffuse concept of women as a class . . . (she) thereby disassociates herself from the fundamental issues of equality for women, while reassuring her male colleagues that she is not of that militant ilk."

Tanenbaum also found that professional women were often hardest on their own sex.

"Many professional women confess they prefer male rather than female supervisors. They complain that women at work refuse to share power, or withhold information, or are too concerned about receiving credit for every little thing they accomplish, or are cold toward underlings (male and female alike). In such complaints they use the word 'bitch' a lot," she says.

Tim Field believes the stereotypical view of men as aggressive and women as nurturing often prevents the female serial bully from being seen for what she is: "A sociopath in a skirt."

... ... ..

Evelyn Field said female bullies were often more subtle in their behaviour than their male counterparts. "Women are usually less physical, they would use techniques such as excluding others, over-supervising and controlling and verbal abuse."

Ricky Nowak, a workplace communications training specialist and head of the company, Confident Communications, says women's bullying is "often quieter, behind closed doors, over the phone, via curt emails, or through giving their staff a sense of . . . (being overwhelmed), for example: asking women with families to stay behind when they don't really have to do so."

Nowak runs leadership groups for professional women and says she has had many disclosures from women admitting they had bullied their colleagues.

"It was behaviour such as intimidating others, standing over them, giving colleagues the silent treatment and so on."

Evelyn Field describes bullying as a problem for everyone. "The micro level is the individual target who can be affected emotionally, physically, socially, career-wise, financially, family-wise over a long-term basis and many of them have severe health problems," she says.

"The onlookers also get affected — 20 per cent of onlookers will leave the job, others will have sick days and suffer poor morale. And the cost to industry is enormous — bullying is everyone's problem."

Sub-Sociopaths and Sub-Psychopath Types

The Female Sociopath (Female): Using her false mask, this charming individual plays the helpless or needy, pitiful, inept or emotionally unable to cope. Even total strangers give her things she gratefully accepts. Falsely claiming to be the victim, this passive parasite lures and abuses the normal protector/provider instincts in her male target. When her mask comes off she is cunning, ruthless, predatory, and loveless.

Treatment of such case: This 'damsel in distress' will try to hook and reel you in. Take the hook out of your lip. Don't make her emotional neediness your problem. This black hole of need can never be filled. Understand the mask of helplessness is not the "real her".  If she won't give reasonable answers to reasonable questions turn and leave. Beware and remember the Female sociopath is deadlier than the male as she uses sexuality as a lure. Avoid financial or emotional involvement.

The Deceptive Sociopath (Male or Female):  They will lie for no reason. They will skilfully twist your words, evade questions, and omit important facts in their ever-changing, self-serving goals. This hypocrite claims high morals then proceeds to exploit, manipulate and abuse others. He will accuse you of being crazy and emotionally cruel.

Treatment of such case: Quietly verify what they say. Do not try to negotiate or bargain. If they have been caught out on their lies too many times, leave them.

Frictional Sociopath (Male or Female): puts people against each other. Victims may be used as their proxy interacting with others as they set victims up to take the fall while they enjoy watching the performance they orchestrates. They keep their allies and targets separate to avoid exposure. Verbally skilled at twisting people’s words, this charmer usually gets their way. Applying 'fear' selling tactics, faking expertise, this scam artist crafts situations to appear indispensable, ready to solve our problems. Money and conning others are their objective. They will agree to anything then turn around and do the opposite. They will accuse you of breaking the contract. Legal, custody agreements and normal social or personal protocol mean nothing to them. They enjoy playing the role of the victim.

Treatment of such case: Expect them to disregard the agreement. Avoid involvement. Be self-sufficient. Avoid any "Trust-Me" get-rich-quick sales pitches. Learn how swindlers and scam artists operate.

Sociopaths-psychopaths and violence

If he's not physically violent, he may be a bully. And, keep in mind that aggression is not limited to men—female sociopaths can also be violent.

Antisocial Personality, Sociopathy and Psychopathy

The main characteristic of it is a complete and utter disregard for the rights of others and the rules of society. They seldom show anxiety and don't feel guilt. Although many people would hope that there's an effective treatment, there's really no effective treatment for them other than locking them up in a secure facility with such rigid rules that they cannot talk their way out. A full list of APD traits would include:

List of Antisocial Personality Disorder Traits Sense of entitlement; Unremorseful; Apathetic to others; Unconscionable behavior; Blameful of others; Manipulative and conning; Affectively cold; Disparate understanding; Socially irresponsible; Disregardful of obligations; Nonconforming to norms; Irresponsible

whereas the DSM-IV "clinical" features of Antisocial Personality Disorder (with a person having at least three of these characteristics) are:

Clinical Symptoms for an Antisocial Personality Disorder Diagnosis

1. Failure to conform to social norms; 2. Deceitfulness, manipulativeness; 3. Impulsivity, failure to plan ahead; 4. Irritability, aggressiveness; 5. Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others; 6. Consistent irresponsibility; 7. Lack of remorse after having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another person

Sociopathy is chiefly characterized by something wrong with the person's conscience. They either don't have one, it's full of holes like Swiss cheese, or they are somehow able to completely neutralize or negate any sense of conscience or future time perspective. Sociopaths only care about fulfilling their own needs and desires - selfishness and egocentricity to the extreme. Everything and everybody else is mentally twisted around in their minds as objects to be used in fulfilling their own needs and desires. They often believe they are doing something good for society, or at least nothing that bad. The term "sociopath" is frequently used by psychologists and sociologists alike in referring to persons whose unsocialized character is due primarily to parental failures (usually fatherlessness) rather than an inherent feature of temperament.  Lykken (1995), for example, clearly distinguishes between the sociopath (who is socialized into becoming a psychopath) and a "true" psychopath (who is born that way).  However, this may only describe the "common sociopath", as there are at least four (4) different subtypes -- common, alienated, aggressive, and dyssocial. Commons are characterized mostly by their lack of conscience; the alienated by their inability to love or be loved; aggressives by a consistent sadistic streak; and dyssocials by an ability to abide by gang rules, as long as those rules are the wrong rules. As Stout (2005) indicates, it only takes three of the following to be defined as a sociopath, and some common sociopathic traits include:

List of Common Sociopathic Traits

Egocentricity; Callousness; Impulsivity; Conscience defect; Exaggerated sexuality; Excessive boasting; Risk taking; Inability to resist temptation; Antagonistic, deprecating attitude toward the opposite sex; Lack of interest in bonding with a mate

Debates98 Mealey Sociopathy Article (Quote-Comment-Ready)

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Wed May 13 1998 - 20:25:44 BST


Linda Mealey

Review of some sociobiological concepts:

(1) Today's Environment vs. the "Environment of Evolutionary
Adaptedness" (EEA) IN which, and FOR which we evolved

(2) Distal (EEA/evolutionary) causes and Proximal (current,
psychological) causes

(3) Evolutionarily Stable Strategies (ESSs) and Dynamic Equilibria:
Some genetically coded strategies are "stable," in that they cannot be
bettered by other strategies; unstable ones can be. e.g. green gene for
relatedness "Help me, I'm kin!"

most of us cannot fathom the cold, detached way sociopaths repeatedly
harm and manipulate others.

behavior genetics, child development, personality theory, learning
theory, and social psychology describe a complex interaction of genetic
and physiological risk factors with demographic and micro-environmental
variables that predispose a portion of the population to chronic
antisocial behavior.

Recent evolutionary and game theoretic models explain sociopathy as a
frequency-dependent life history strategy selected in response to
certain varying environmental circumstances.

Two developmentally different kinds of sociopathy emerge from two
different evolutionary mechanisms.

Social policies should consider the two different kinds of sociopathy
and the factors which contribute to them.

Sociopaths, 3-4% of the male population and less than 1% of the female
population and 33% - 80% of chronic criminal offenders

commit over 50% of all crimes in the U.S.

also irresponsible and unreliable behavior:


inability to form lasting personal commitments


superficial veneer of sociability and charm

lack of social emotions (love, shame, guilt, empathy, and remorse)

not intellectually handicapped: "Con-men," able to deceive and
manipulate others through elaborate scams and ruses including fraud,
bigamy, embezzlement, and other crimes which rely on the trust and

"aware of the discrepancy between his behavior and societal
expectations, but he seems to be neither guided by the possibility of
such a discrepancy, nor disturbed by its occurrence"

cold- hearted and selfish "moral insanity"

also sometimes known as psychopaths or antisocial personalities

"antisocial personality" disorder traits found in a continuous, normal
distribution in the population at large

defined by high scores on all three Eysenck Personality scales:
extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism

distinction between "simple" and "hostile" or "primary" and "secondary"
psychopaths or sociopaths

"simple" or "primary" sociopaths complete lack of the social emotions

"hostile" or "secondary" ones exhibit antisocial behavior without this
emotional deficit are

distinction is an important one because there are two different paths
to sociopathy, with different implications for prevention and

sociopaths are designed for successful social deception and are a type
that evolved biologically to practice a strategy of manipulative and
predatory social interactions.

this strategy is to be expected in the low frequencies we see It is
also expected to appear preferentially under certain social,
environmental, and developmental circumstances which I hope to


(1) ta genetic predisposition underlies sociopathy, normally
distributed in the population

(2) because of selection to fill a small niche, a small, fixed
percentage of those at the extreme of this continuum will be deemed
"morally insane" in any culture

(3) a variable percentage of individuals who are less extreme on the
continuum will sometimes, in response to environmental conditions
during their early development, pursue a life-history strategy that is
similar to that of their "morally insane"

(4) this underlying genetic continuum is evident in many of us when
immediate environmental circumstances make an antisocial strategy more
profitable than a prosocial one.

1. The Model:

1.1 The evolutionary role of emotion

almost defining characteristic of sociopaths is their apparent lack of
sincere social emotions

Plutchik (1980) posits eight "primary" emotions (such as fear, anger
and disgust) related to survival that everyone (including sociopaths)

the "secondary" or social emotions (such as shame, guilt, sympathy, and
love) depend partly on learning and socializationm and can vary across
individuals and cultures

outward expression of emotion will serve as a reliable indicator to
others as to how a person is likely to behave in the future.

Nesse: Prisoner's Dilemma: when both players cooperate, they experience
friendship, love, obligation, or pride; when both cheat or defect, they
feel rejection and hatred; when one player cooperates and the other
defects, the cooperator feels anger while the defector feels anxiety
and guilt.

if, as in the Prisoner's Dilemma, the most rational strategy is to be
selfish and defect, why should positive (reinforcing) emotions follow
mutual cooperation rather than defection? "reputation"

no rational player will play with a known defector; to avoid this
social "shunning" based on reputation players must build a reputation
for cooperation, despite the fact that cooperation is not the
"rational" choice for the short-term.

social emotions evolved as "commitment devices" (Frank) or "guarantors
of threats and promises" (Hirshleifer)causing positive or negative
feelings that act as reinforces or punishers

not economically rational for the short-term but profitable and
adaptive in situations where encounters are frequent and reputation is

Once such communicative mechanisms have evolved... become vulnerable to
deception... and can lead to a coevolutionary "arms race": finely tuned
sensitivities for deception plus equally fine-tuned abilities to hide

some sort of statistical equilibrium will be approached. Cheating
maintained as a low-level frequency-dependent strategy, in dynamic
equilibrium; modelled extensively by evolutionary biologists

1.2 Game theory and evolutionarily stable strategies

Richard Lewontin (1961) John Maynard Smith 1973

maintenance of mixed ESSs

(1) one genotype always uses the same strategy in every situation

(2) every individual uses the same statistical mix of strategies, but

(3) every individual uses every strategy, but predictably according to

(4) each individual can at birth use any strategy, but "imprints" early
on only a few

(5) different genotypes respond differently to same stimuli during

sociopaths are a type of cheater- defector in our society of
mixed-strategy interactionists.

sociopathy appears in two forms: "primary sociopath" results from
frequency-dependent genetic differences in using one (antisocial)

"secondary sociopathy" differences in developmental response to the
environment produce differences in using cooperative or deceptive
social strategies 2. The Evidence:

2.1 Behavior genetics

criminals and sociopaths, share a variety of characteristics

both criminality and sociopathy have a substantial, overlapping
heritable component

2.1.1 Studies of criminal behavior

twin and adp[tion studies suggest heritability of .60 for repeated
commission of crimes of property.

significant interactive effects: adoptive children with both a genetic
risk (criminal biological parent) and an environmental risk
(criminality, psychiatric illness, or other severe behavioral
disturbance in an adoptive parent), have a far greater risk than with
no such risk or only one risk factor, and that increased risk is more
than simply an additive effect of both risk factors.

females are more likely to transmit a genetic risk to their offspring
than are males.

2.1.2 Studies of sociopathy

substantial heritability to sociopathy; gene-environment interaction
similar to the one found for criminal behavior

male adoptees sensitive to influence of environmental risk factors than
female adoptees.

suggests a multifactorial, probably polygenic, basis for sociopathy

2.1.3 Sex differences and the "two-threshold" model

Cloninger "two threshold" polygenic model; sociopaths are on the
extreme end of a normal distribution whose genetic component is (1)
polygenic and (2) to a large degree, sex-limited.

[Sex-limited genes, not to be confused with sex-linked genes, are
triggered only within the chemical/hormonal microenvironment of one sex
or the other e.g., beard and mustache growth in men, and breast and hip
development in women.]

If many genes underlying sociopathy are triggered by testosterone, many
more men than women will pass the threshold

females who do express the trait are further out in the extreme of the
normal distribution of genotypes than most of the males who express the

greater overall risk for males as opposed to females

greater risk for the offspring (and other relatives) of female

males will express sociopathy at a lower "genetic dose" than females,
but heritability is greater for females, hence the environmental
component of the variance is greater for males

males are more susceptible to the environmental conditions of their
early years; greater variance in male reproductive capacity makes their
"choice" of life strategy more risky and so more subject to selective

males should be more sensitive to environmental cues that (1) trigger
environmental or developmental life history strategies or (2) are
stimuli for which genetic differences in response thresholds have

when would sociopathy be the best available strategy? what would be the
environmental cues which, especially for boys, would trigger its

2.2 Child psychology

2.2.1 Life history strategies

those least likely to outcompete other males in a status hierarchy, or
to find mates through female choice are most likely to adopt a cheating
strategy; competitive disadvantage could be related to age, health,
physical attractiveness, intelligence, socioeconomic status, and social

overlaps between rape, battering, and criminality in terms of life
history circumstances, genetics, and apparent inability to empathize
with victim, suggest sociopathy spectrum.

genetically influenced, developmentally- and environmentally-contingent
cheating strategies used when a male finds himself at a competitive

sexual opportunism and manipulation are key features of sociopath and
guided the evolution of sociopathy.

Briquet's Hysteria in women -- syndrome of promiscuity, fatalistic
dependency, and attention- getting-- may be female homologue of male

2.2.2 Delinquency

two subtypes of conduct disorder in children: "solitary aggressive
type" and "group type"; "versatiles" and "property offenders";
"unsocialized" and "socialized" lead to primary vs secondary sociopathy

two different evolutionary mechanisms for maintaining ESSs in a

juvenile antisocial behavior is the best predictor of adult antisocial
behavior, the earlier, the stronger

mean age at which adult sociopaths exhibited first significant symptom:
8-10; 80% by age 11; 2/3 distinuishable from other children by

several relevant environmental factors: inconsistent discipline,
punishment as opposed to rewards, disrupted family life (especially
father absence, family violence, alcoholic parent, or mentally ill
parent), and low socioeconomic status

factors more when one or the other parent is sociopathic; antisocial
behaviors can be reinforced under such living conditions.

correlates of delinquency in girls same as for boys: (1) history of
antisocial behavior throughout childhood and a tendency to seek out
delinquent peers; leads to persisten antisocial behavior in adulthood.
(2) few behavior problems in childhood but more and more antisocial
behaviors from menarche.

2.2.3 Moral development

very young children are biologically prepared to learn moral behavior,
selectively attentive to emotions, especially distress, in others;
learn to exhibit prosocial behavior long before they are able to
conceptualize its effect on others.

motivation behind early prosocial behavior is the (egocentric) need to
reduce one's own aversive feelings of arousal and distress.

high arousal levels associated with low cheating levels

the child must pass from empathic responses to sympathetic responses --
some time during the second year when beginning to develop "theory of

evolved in humans for predicting the behavior of others.

can one be successful using only the cognitive tool of a theory of
mind, without access to emotional, empathic information which,
presumably, sociopaths lack?

2.3 Personality theory

What is it that makes "high risk" environmental features particularly
salient for those who have the predisposing genotype?

2.3.1 The role of gene-environment interactions

most important environmental factors that influence personal
development are not those that are shared by siblings within a family
(such as parenting style, socioeconomic status, and schooling), but
idiosyncratic events and relationships difficult to study
systematically with traditional methods.

Despite a shared home, children will encounter different
microenvironments: relationships with parents will differ, and their
day to day experiences will not overlap significantly.

any two children will experience an (objectively) identical environment
in different ways

A primary sociopaths are unresponsive to the environmental cues of
normal socialization and moral development and seek the more deviant
and arousing stimuli within the environment.

Secondary sociopaths, not as genetically predisposed, are more
responsive to environmental cues and risk factors.

What constitutional factors place some individuals at high risk?

2.3.2 The role of temperament

substantial heritability of self-reported measures of altruism,
nurturance, aggressiveness, and empathy. Sex differences.

Aespecially for males, the inherited factors correlated with genetic
risk of delinquency are the same as those that lead to the
temperamental attributes of anger, impulsivity, and deceitfulness
("self-serving dishonesty with people with whom a person ordinarily has
affectional bonds")

two possible routes to sociopathy or criminality, one primarily
heritable and one less so that sets stage for developmentally- and
environmentally-contingent individual differences in antisocial

sociopathy and antisocial behavior correlated with high scores on all
three of the major personality dimensions of the Eysenck Personality
Questionnaire: 'extraversion' (contra introversion), 'neuroticism'
(contra emotional stability), and 'psychoticism' (contra fluid and
efficient superego functioning- not synonymous with psychotic mental
illness; this scale would be better called 'psychopathy'). All three
high heritability, psychoticism typically much higher in males

"General Arousal Theory of Criminality": inheritance of a nervous
system relatively insensitive to low levels of stimulation.
extraverted, impulsive, and sensation-seeking, because under low
stimulation they feel a suboptimal level of arousal; to increase their
arousal, many will participate in high-risk activities such as crime

criminality and sociopathy associated indicators of suboptimal arousal,
including childhood hyperactivity, recreational drug use, risk-taking,
failure to persist on tasks, and preference for wide-ranging sexual

In addition to seeking thrill and novelty, sensation-seekers describe
"hedonistic pursuit of pleasure through extraverted activities
including social drinking, parties, sex, and gambling", "aversion to
routine activities or work and to dull and boring people", and
"restlessness in an unchanging environment"

In college students, sensation-seeking is correlated with the Pd
(Psychopathic Deviate) scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory, and among prisoners it can be used to distinguish primary
psychopaths from secondary psychopaths and non-psychopathic criminals

appears early (3-4 years), high heritability, correlates negatively
with age in adults, higher in males.


Gray renamed Eysenck factors: the approach, or, behavioral activation
system, the behavioral inhibition system, and the fight/flight system;

Cloninger: "novelty-seeking", "harm- avoidance", and

2.3.3 The role of physiology

hign dopamine for behavioral activation (or novelty-seeking),

low serotonin for behavioral inhibition (or harm avoidance),

low norepinephrine for fight/flight (or reward dependence)

extraverts and sociopaths show less physiological arousal than
introverts and normals in response to threats of pain or punishment and
more tolerance of actual pain or punishment; delinquents have lower
baseline heart rate than nondelinquents.

causes, not just correlates; predict later levels of antisocial

Testosterone is likely trigger of the sex-limited activation of genes
in the two-threshold model

 steroid hormones enter the nucleus and interact with the chromosomes,
regulating gene expression. This leads to some of the individual, age,
and sex differences in temperament: psychoticism, aggression,
impulsivity, sensation-seeking, nurturance, and empathy

Variation in testosterone levels also parallels age variation in
sociopathic behavior and is correlated with such behavior in adolescent
and adult males

Testosterone is likely to play dual role in the development of
sociopathy, as it does in the development of other sex differences:
one as an organizer (affecting traits) and one as an activator
(affecting states).

boys with high T mature faster, get bigger, more likely to get in
fights: creates positive feedback loop: those who start out with high T
and sensation seeking (and low adrenaline, serotonin, and MAO) more
likely to initiate aggression and to succeed in dominance interactions,
leading to increases in T, further increases in aggressive behavior.

significant correlations between T and antisocial behavior in lower
class men only; upper class men, because of differential socialization,
avoid individual confrontations, which might raise their T (and
antisocial behavior).

fewer upper class than lower class men had high T levels; upper class
socialization may mitigate influence of T. alternative: aggressive
behavior with higher T levels leads to downward social mobility

Because upper class children have less environmental risks, their
sociopathic behavior comes from stronger genetic predisposition, hence
(1) the effect of the social environment might be larger than suggested
by adoption studies, and (2) different pathways to sociopathy, need
different strategies for prevention or remediation

2.4 Learning Theory

1. Conditioning

hypoaroused nervous system less sensitive to the emotional expression
of other individuals, and to social influences in general, also less
responsive to reinforcement and punishment, hence handicapped in
learning through autonomic conditioning

difficulty inhibiting behavior when both reward and punishment are
possible outcomes

in situations when most people would experience an approach-avoidance
conflict, sociopaths and extraverts are more likely to approach

Because of high sensation-seeking, children with a hypoaroused nervous
system more likely to get into trouble, less likely to be affected by,
and learn from, consequences of their behavior or parental punishment.

Primary sociopaths, unable to experience the social emotions, exhibit
deficits on tasks which induce anxiety in others: passive avoidance,
approach-avoidance, and tasks involving punishment; but they can learn
well under other conditions

Secondary sociopaths and extraverts, have normal anxiety and responses
to punishment, but may be especially driven by high reward conditions

Primary sociopaths, with diminished anxiety and conditioned
associations between antisocial behavior and punishment, unable to
progress through the normal stages of moral development.

Unlike most children who are biologically prepared to learn empathy,
they are contraprepared to do so, and remain egoistic- unable to
acquire the social emotions of empathy, shame, guilt, and love

present at early age with "unsocialized" conduct disorder

Secondary sociopaths, with normal emotional capacities present at later
age with "socialized" conduct disorder

What socialization processes contribute to their development?

2.4.2 Social learning

cheating strategy is predicted to develop when a male (especially) is
competitively disadvantaged, and criminal behavior (especially in

related to disadvantage in a two-stage process involving a variety of
cumulative risk factors:

first stage: disrupted family life, parental neglect, abuse,
inconsistent discipline, punishment as opposed to rewards, inconsistent
feedback, and poor models of prosocial behavior.

pattern most common in parents who are criminal, mentally disturbed,
undereducated, of low intelligence, or socioeconomically deprived
leading to a cross-generation cycle of increasing family dysfunction

second stage: children with poor social skills disadvantaged in
interactions with age-mates; rejected by popular children, consort with
one another; then antisocial then escalates .

secondary sociopathy depend more upon environmental factors than

2.5 Social Psychology

2.5.1 Machiavellianism

antisocial strategies not restricted to sociopaths.

majority of people arrested not sociopathic; many people antisocial
behavior rarely enough or inoffensively enough to preclude arrest.

Some antisocial behavior is even considered acceptable:
entrepreneuris, people who seek to control and manipulate others often
become lawyers, psychiatrists, or behavioral scientists; "subtle,
cynical selfishness with a veneer of social skills is common among

"Machiavellianism" or "Mach" scale: agreement or disagreement with
statements like "Humility not only is of no service but is actually
harmful," "Nature has so created men that they desire everything but
are unable to attain it," and "The most important thing in life is

Adults high on the Mach scale express "a relative lack of affect in
interpersonal relationships," "a lack of concern with conventional
morality," "a lack of gross psychopathology," and "low ideological
commitment"; children high on Machiavellianism have lower levels of
empathy than age-mates

High Machs have "instrumental cognitive attitude toward others",
goal-oriented as opposed to person-oriented, more successful in
face-to-face bargaining situations, "are especially able communicators,
regardless of the veracity of their message", more resistant to
confession after cheating, more plausible liars, like sociopaths, high
Machs are often referred to as "cool".


"self-initiated manipulation of others" Mach may be low-level
manifestation of sociopathy. sex difference consistent with the
two-threshold model, consistent with age variation in testosterone
levels, correlations with Eysenck's psychoticism and neuroticism scales
and with serotonin levels

high Machs "impersonal, cognitive, rational, cool" approach with
others, than low Machs "more personal, empathizing" approach); High
Machs more accurate at assessing how other "target" individuals
answered a Machiavellian attitudes questionnaire, using a statistical
strategy, assuming everyone was about average;

hypoaroused and antisocial individuals are less attentive to social and
emotional cues than others.

Low Machs "projected," successfully differentiated between high and low
Mach, underestimated the scores of both, guessing at a level reflective
of their own scores

(1) "impersonal, cognitive, rational, cool" approach to others might be
more accurate in the long run than "personal, empathizing" approach
(where cooperative long-term partnerships are not possible); and

(2) errors of empathizing approach like playing the cooperation
strategy when the cheating strategy would be more appropriate, makes
one susceptible to being exploited by others who use the impersonal
cognitive approach; high Machs outcompete low Machs in most
experimental competitive situations

assumption that empathy-based approach to predicting the behavior of
others is better than a statistical approach not necessarily correct;
may be an emotion-based cognitive bias.

but low Machs would be more successful than high Machs in selecting a
cooperator as a partner.

Machiavellianism is a trait or the underlying variation in personality
and the situational factors relevant to an individual's behavior at any
given momen.

what can social psychology tell us about the within-individual
situational factors which encourage or discourage cheating strategies?

2.5.2 The role of mood

Mood varies within individuals but less an immediate response to events
and more a generalized response to the environment

Positive mood and feelings of success enhance cooperative behavior.
part of a long-term strategy by individuals who feel they can afford to
pass up short-term gains to establish a cooperative reputation.

When sadness and feelings of failure follow losses, individuals likely
to be egoistic and selfish. In children typically found but in some
children, and more in adults, sadness and feelings of failure can
facilitate prosocial behavior. a deliberate effort to enhance one's
(diminished) reputation among others; prosocial behavior often has a
positive, gratifying effect.

If one is depressed,neither antisocial nor prosocial, but asocial.
lethargy and anhedonia of depression

aggressiveness in boys is associated with the over-attribution of
hostile intent to others. lead to increased "retaliatory" aggression,
fueling cycle.

Guilt, often follows selfish behavior, increases subsequent prosocial
behavior to reestablish reputation.

guilt, anxiety and sympathy are social emotions that primary sociopaths
rarelyexperience, so do not moderate their behavior to avoid them.
sociopaths do experience fluctuations in mood (depression, optimism, or
anger) in response to their changing evaluation of their chance of
success and failure. If we can manipulate the sociopath's mood, can
influence his behavior.

2.5.3 Cultural variables

Competition increases use of antisocial and Machiavellian strategies
and can counteract increase in prosocial behavior after success. high
competitiveness: high crime rates and Machiavellianism

High population density also associated with reduced prosocial and
increased antisocial behavior especially in males

Based on models of kin selection and inclusive fitness, individuals
should be more cooperative and less deceptive when interacting with
relatives who share their genes, or relatives who share investment in
common descendents.

identical twins cooperate more than fraternal twins in the Prisoner's

more altruistic responses on altruism questionnaire questions refer to
relatives, Machiavellian responses reduced.

people cooperate more with others who are similar to them even though
not genetically related.

3. Integration, Implications, and Conclusions:

3.1 Integration: Sociopathy as an ESS leads to two types of sociopaths

3.1.1 Primary sociopathy

genotype results in a certain inborn temperament coupled with a pattern
of autonomic hypoarousal that make child tunresponsive to cues of
normal socialization and moral development.

mechanism 1 (Section 1.2) of maintaining ESSs in the population;

frequency-dependent, genetic differences in life history strategies.

there will always be a small, cross-culturally similar, baseline
frequency of sociopaths;

will display chronic, pathologically emotionless antisocial behavior
throughout most of their lifespan and across a variety of situations;

should be equally likely to come from all kinds of socio-economic
backgrounds but because impervious to the social environment almost all
sociopaths from the upper-classes will be primary

not intellectually handicapped; will progress normally and acquire a
theory of mind, but will be formulated purely in instrumental terms,
without empathic understanding ;

may become excellent predictors of others' behavior, unhandicapped by
emotion, acting, like professional gamblers, solely on statistical data
rather than on hunches and feelings.

will use a pure cost-benefit approach based on immediate personal
outcomes, with no "accounting" for the emotional reactions of the
others with whom they are dealing. Without love to "commit" them to
cooperation, anxiety to prevent "defection", or guilt to inspire
repentance, they will remain free to continually play for the short-
term benefit in the Prisoner's Dilemma.

3.1.2 Secondary sociopathy

an additional, fluctuating proportion of sociopathy allowing more
flexibility to the general population to track the frequency-dependent
nature of the success of the cheating strategy. M

Secondary sociopaths not extreme on the genetic sociopathy spectrum
but because of exposure to environmental risk factors, frequent, but
not necessarily emotionless cheating. Unlike primary sociopaths,
secondary sociopaths will not necessarily exhibit chronic antisocial
behavior; their strategy choices will be more closely tied to age,
fluctuation in hormone levels, their competitive status within their
referent group, and changing environmental contingencies.

more closely tied to environmental factors than to genetic factors,
secondary sociopaths will almost always come from lower class
backgrounds and their numbers could vary substantially across cultures
and time, tracking environmental conditions favoring or disfavoring the
use of cheating strategies.

(!) explains why cultural differences are correlated with differences
in the overall incidence of antisocial behavior, and why the
discrepancy in the ratio of male to female sociopaths decreases as
overall incidence of sociopathy increases: since secondary sociopathy
is less heritable than primary sociopathy, the effect of sex-limited
genes less important for the development of secondary sociopathy,
resulting in less of a sex difference.

3.2 Implications of the two-pathways model

Since primary sociopaths have a deficit in the realm of emotional
motivation, presumably act primarily upon their cognitive
expectations of others; to the extent that they do act upon emotions,
it is most likely to be upon mood and the primary emotions (like anger
and fear) rather than upon the social and secondary emotions (like love
and anxiety).

extent to which a society will be able to diminish the antisocial
behavior of primary sociopaths will depend upon (1) its influence on
the sociopath's cognitive evaluation of society's own reputation as a
player in the Prisoner's Dilemma, and (2) the primary emotion- or
mood-inducing capacity of the stimuli it utilizes in establishing the
costs and benefits of prosocial versus antisocial behavior.

Manipulating these two variables will also influence the numbers of
secondary sociopaths by changing the size of the adaptive niche
associated with antisocial behavior.

since secondary sociopathy is more influenced by the social environment
and secondary sociopaths are not devoid of social emotions, changing
patterns in the nurturing and socialization of children and in the
socialization and rehabilitation of delinquents and adult criminals is
another possibility (!)

3.2.1 Minimizing the impact of primary sociopaths: society as a player
in the Prisoner's Dilemma

an entire society can be seen as a player, and its past behavior will
be used by the sociopath to predict the future behavior of that

Like an individual player, a society will have a certain probability of
detecting deception, a more-or-less accurate memory of who has cheated
in the past, and a certain proclivity to retaliate or not, based upon a
cheater's past reputation and current behavior.

sociopath uses statistical approach to assess costs and benefits of
different behaviors, so actual past behavior of the society will go
into his calculations, rather than risk assessments inflated from
exaggerated fears or anxieties that most people feel in anticipation of
being caught or punished.

(!) Thus, to reduce antisocial behavior, society must establish and
enforce a reputation for high rates of detection of deception and
identification of cheaters, and willingness to retaliate. In other
words, it must establish a successful strategy of deterrence. [!]

as group size decreases, cooperation increases, also increases with
probability of memory error or individual recognition, effect of a loss
on a cooperator, effect of a gain on a defector, frequency of
punishment against defectors, the cost of punishment

game-theoretic models provide useful strategies for prediction and
reduction of cheating and antisocial behavior

increasing probability of detection, identification, and punishment,
can reduce crime [!]

make costs of cheating salient, predictable, swift

sociopath will "compute" cost-benefit ratio of the alternatives; money
and other immediate tangible rewards more motivating than social
reinforcers or promises of future payoff; visual stimuli more salient
than auditory

alternatives to crime must be stimulating enough and rewarding enough
to engage the chronically hypoaroused sensation-seeker. more successful
if we distinguish primary from secondary sociopaths.

recidivism rates went up for psychopathsbut down for nonpsychopaths
after the same kind of "treatment".

3.2.2 Minimizing the prevalence of secondary sociopathy: society as a
socializing agent and mood setter

social changes to minimize impact and incidence of sociopathy.

parent training, modelling, induction, and behavioral modification

cause and effect relationship between parental behavior and child
behavior, two-way.

agents should be individually matched with each client/offender based
on style and personality characteristics, to prevent high Mach and
sociopathic offenders from taking advantage of low Mach employees.

As society gets larger and more competitive, individuals become more
anonymous and more Machiavellian, leading to reductions in altruism and
increases in crime. Social stratification and segregation also lead to
feelings of inferiority, pessimism, and depression among the less
privileged, which can in turn promote the use of alternative
competitive strategies, including antisocial behavior

external locus of control, learned helplessness, reduced serotonin,
increased aggression

"the vandal is a failed creative artist," a bored and frustrated
sensation-seeker who "does not have the intellectual or other skills
and capacities to amuse or occupy himself"

in addition to making the costs of antisocial behavior greater,
providing early social support for those at risk, and developing
alternative, nonexploitative, sensation-seeking ventures that can meet
the psychological needs of disadvantaged and low-skill individuals.

3.3 Conclusions

(1) "Primary sociopaths" are a certain genotype incapable of
experiencing the secondary, "social" emotions that normally contribute
to behavioral motivation and inhibition; they fill the ecological niche
for the "cheater strategy" found in low frequency in every society.

(1b) To minimize the damage caused by primary sociopaths, the criminal
justice system should reduce the benefits and increase the costs of
antisocial behavior, while creating alternatives to crime which could
satisfy the psychophysiological arousal needs of the sociopath.

(2) "Secondary sociopaths" use situation-dependent cheating strategies,
not as clearly tied to genotype, in response to disadvantages in social
competition, varying with social circumstances.

(2b) To reduce secondary sociopathy, programs are needed to reduce
social stratification, anonymity, and competition, intervene in
high-risk settings with specialized parent education and support; and
increase the availability of rewarding, prosocial opportunities for
at-risk youth.



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Last updated: February 19, 2014