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Friday, 27 January 2017

Sociopaths vs Psychopaths

Film, television and literature often exhibit stories involving people who suffer from what is described as antisocial personality disorder. People with this disorder typically display:

Manipulation or exploitation of others
Lack of remorse or empathy
Criminally deviant behaviour 
Difficulty in sustaining long term relationships 
Blaming others for problems in their lives
Inability to control their anger

Both psychopaths and sociopaths suffer from antisocial personality disorder. They key difference between the two is that psychopaths are born (hence ‘psyche’ meaning mind in Greek) and sociopaths are made (hence ‘socio’ adhering to environment); this is essentially nature vs nurture. Psychopaths have reduced connections between the pre-frontal cortex and the amygdala, which is why they don’t feel empathy or remorse. That part of the brain is responsible for human compassion and empathy. Sociopaths on the other hand become the way they are as a result of abuse or neglect in childhood, or brain damage. (Alcohol or drug abuse can also lead to sociopathic behaviour). 

A psychopath could also have had an abusive childhood but would still be a psychopath regardless.
In terms of behavioural displays, sociopaths tend to be more erratic and hot-headed whereas psychopaths are more calculating, meticulous and ‘cold.’ Psychopaths will plan out a murder for
Rhoda Penmark
weeks, months or even years, whereas sociopaths will act out erratically on their anger and will throw a violent fit within the spur of the moment. It is, however, important to note that not all psychopaths and sociopaths are necessarily murderers and criminals; their lack of remorse and empathy makes it easier for them to be this way, but can also be channelled into success. Many psychopaths hold down successful business and corporate jobs due to their ruthless cut-throat approach to dealing with people. 

Above I have pictures of Tony Soprano from The Sopranos, Norman Bates from Psycho, and Amy Dunne from Gone Girl. Tony is a sociopath, and Norman and Amy are psychopaths.
(Contains spoilers if you haven’t seen any of them).

Tony is a mobster. He kills people; he kills his nephew with his bare hands, shoots his cousin; his best friend, and many others. He cheats repeatedly on his wife, he is aggressive, he is dishonest, and has an extremely bad temper. Yet he shows continuous love and compassion for his son and daughter throughout the show. He loves his cousin and displays guilt and remorse after killing him as well as a general reluctance to kill him. He never kills anyone ‘for the sake of it.’ In the mafia world, people kill each other for business, not for the sake of killing.

Jack Torrance
Tony also shows vulnerability in his therapy sessions, and deep compassion for animals and small children which is a trait typical of sociopaths. He shows love and affection for his wife and for other women he sees on the side, as well as love for his friends. As revealed in his therapy sessions he had a very difficult childhood; his mother was cold, unloving and passive-aggressive, and his father was a gangster who physically abused his son at times. This has contributed to Tony suffering from depression and panic attacks in his adult life. Tony’s sister also displays similar behavioural tendencies to him, such as the violent temper. 

Amy Dunne, by contrast, is very different. She was raised in a house with loving parents. Yes, one could argue that they put pressure on her to be ‘Amazing Amy’, but her upbringing was definitely not abusive in the way Tony’s was. Amy is a perfectionist; she is superficially charming, uncaring of others, manipulative, deeply intelligent and psychoanalytical, and calculative and selfish in a way Tony is not. She never shows vulnerability or compassion. Her ‘love’ for Nick is based on him doing whatever she wants him to do. She tries to frame him for murder which would get him charged with the death penalty all because he cheats on her. He has an affair and she wants him dead, and she plans it very smoothly and finely down to every last detail. She manipulates the reader initially by trying to make herself come across as a warm, loving person with an allegedly horrible husband.

In this way, I believe that Amy is far scarier than Tony. Tony can be charming, but his ‘mask’ often slips. More often than not we see him for the man he truly is. Amy’s mask rarely slips. Psychopaths
The Joker
tend to speak in the same eerily calm, soft tone of voice, due to their consistent hiding of emotion. A psychopath will not reveal their true self. A psychopath will not look inside themselves and question their morality and wonder if they are a good or a bad person. Tony constantly questions himself and is able to see at times that his behaviour is not always good. I would class Amy as truly evil, or immoral, and Tony as amoral. 

Here are what I would describe as other examples of sociopaths and psychopaths.

Sociopaths: Fletcher from Whiplash, The Joker from Batman (pictured above), Begbie from Trainspotting, Derek from American History X, Jack Torrance from The Shining (pictured above), Leon from Leon, Henry Hill from Goodfellas, Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill, Walter White from Breaking Bad, Roger from American Dad, Michael Corleone from The Godfather.

Psychopaths: Norman Bates from Psycho (pictured above), Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Rhoda from The Bad Seed (pictured above), Alex from A Clockwork Orange, Peter and Paul from Funny Games, Heddie from Single White Female, Peyton from The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Hannibal Lector from The Silence of the Lambs, Mitsuko from Battle Royale (pictured below), Annie Wilkes from Misery.

Do you have any other examples? Do you like psychological thrillers or do they make you shit your pants? Lemme know below! 
Imma kill those bitches...


  1. Very Fascinating stuff. Thank you for your comments on my posts as well :)

  2. this is super interesting! You explained this all amazingly as well!


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