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The Sociopath Next Door [Hardcover]

Martha Stout
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb 2005

Who is the devil you know?

Is it your lying, cheating ex-husband?
Your sadistic high school gym teacher?
Your boss who loves to humiliate people in meetings?
The colleague who stole your idea and passed it off as her own?

In the pages of The Sociopath Next Door, you will realize that your ex was not just misunderstood. He’s a sociopath. And your boss, teacher, and colleague? They may be sociopaths too.

We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.

How do we recognize the remorseless? One of their chief characteristics is a kind of glow or charisma that makes sociopaths more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They’re more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. Fundamentally, sociopaths are different because they cannot love. Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they are indifferent to others’ suffering. They live to dominate and thrill to win.

The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know—someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for—is a sociopath. But what do we do with that knowledge? To arm us against the sociopath, Dr. Stout teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game.

It is the ruthless versus the rest of us, and The Sociopath Next Door will show you how to recognize and defeat the devil you know.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony (Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076791581X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915816
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 870,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight 21 Jan 2007
Martha Stout provides a clear explanation and description of 'the sociopath' that ranges from simple examples of the devastating impact people without conscience are able to have, to an incisive and broad ranging overview of our understanding of morality. Dealing with sociopaths is tough, not least because they are arch-manipulators who know how to shape our emotional responses unseen and un-noticed by us because we make the assumption that they are driven by the same impulses as we are. This book makes it clear that this error is the most destructive one we can make - sociopaths are not 'like us', they can not 'be reasoned with' or 'reformed'. This knowledge is invaluable for anyone whose life comes in contact with a sociopath, but also fascinating for all who seek to understand human nature and why people do what they do!
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading! 6 Sep 2006
This book should be part of the school curriculum. It is compelling reading for anyone who is interested in 'what makes people tick'. It serves as a warning to us all, and I wish I'd been able to read it years ago.

They say psychiatrist's waiting rooms are full of the victims of sociopaths. If more people read this book, they will at least be armed with the knowledge to help identify such people.

A serious subject, turned into enjoyable reading.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book! 22 Jun 2007
By Aeneas
We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals like Hannibal Lechter or Ted Bundy.

Martha Stout in this book reveals how a shocking 4 percent of the population have the same chief symptom, namely a complete lack of conscience. The difference is that the majority with this mental disposition operate within the laws and only rarely get caught.

The book is easy to read without having a psych degree and Martha Stout uses many examples to show how these people charm and deceive their way through life in total disregard for the impact on other people.

Martha Stout further teaches how to identify a sociopath and how to protect oneself from the impact of one.

I found the book clear and light and also a celebration of the 96% who do have a conscience.

The book is well worth reading along with "In sheeps clothing" by George Simon, "Political Ponerology" by Andrzej Lobaczewski, "The mask of sanity" by Hervey Checkley and "Without conscience" by Robert Hare, that all deal with different aspects of the phenomenon.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessity 23 Jun 2007
A friend recommended this book to me, and I came away with my world-view significantly altered. That very fact chilled me to the core; that I thought for so long that I was safe and could funtion effectively in the world and not be harmed. But after reading "The Sociopath Next Door" - and shattering that illusion instilled into most of us about what a psychopath is - I saw how the force of evil literally has its agents installed within the world, and how they're the chief cause of humanity's long history of perpetual suffering.

Along with this, I would recommend Robert Hare's "Without Conscience" and Andrew Lobaczewski's "Political Ponerology" to see how this shadowy ruthless hydra grows and spreads like a virus in the body.

If it goes untreated any longer, a significant majority of humanity will walk straight into the meat grinder purely from ignorance. It has happened before, and it WILL happen again. Don't bet for a minute it won't be you, or somebody you love.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exellent overview 10 July 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In 'The Sociopath Next Door', Stout concentrates on those sociopaths who are not violent but who remain hidden amongst us. She estimates that 1 in 25 of the US population are sociopaths meaning that they have no concience.It's a claim that you might easily dismiss before reading the book, but haven't you met someone who seems to undermine your efforts at work for no apparent reason, who makes you feel sorry for them so that they can manipulate you, or someone who only thinks about themselves without an aparent care for anyone else?

Stout explains quite complex theories in language that is easy to understand. She looks at historical and Freudian theories about the nature of conscience. One of the most interesting parts for me was her consideration of the impact of Millgram's Obedience experiments and what this means for the general populations' risk of being manipulated by these people.

She also includes a handy 13 point plan that will prevent you being targeted.

An excellent study which is really easy to read. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read 21 April 2014
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
For many years we've been friends with this guy whom I'll call Steve. Steve is an upstanding member of the community, has a picture-perfect All-American family, a respectable job, and a wide circle of friends. He comes across as charming and very friendly, and seems to be very eager to help and please those around him. However, after getting to know him just a little bit better all these aspects of Steve's life appear to be an act. Steve is in fact extremely competitive even over the dumbest things, scheming, and manipulative. The more I got to know him, the less I wanted to know about him. His constant scheming was eventually too much to handle, and we were forced to cut all personal ties with him.

All along I was wondering what is it that made Steve act in the way that he did. A few years ago I came across an article on Wikipedia on psychopathy, and that's when things finally started making sense. It turns out that psychopaths/sociopaths are actually very common in the society at large. Most of them are not Hannibal Lectors of Hollywood's imagination. They are not serial killers, nor are the majority of them necessarily physically violent. All of them, however, have one main thing in common: they wreak havoc on almost all lives that they touch. Most disturbingly, there are surprisingly many of them around: one to four percent in the US, depending on how rigorous your classification criteria are.

"The Sociopath Next Door" is in many ways the best book on sociopaths/psychopaths that I've read. What distinguishes it from many other similar books is its very practical and applied approach. Furthermore, Martha Stout is an excellent writer in her own right and this is an eminently readable, even literary, book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting. Makes you look at your neighbours in ...
Very interesting. Makes you look at your neighbours in a new light!
Published 17 days ago by vicky
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for surviving an encounter with a sociopath.
This is a great read for someone who is getting divorced from a husband who I believe is a sociopath. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Lady J
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sociopath next door.
A very good book on the subject of sociopaths. It also goes into the ins and outs of having a conscious and empathy.
Published 1 month ago by heather
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable but with real depth
Thoroughly readable and with substantial depth. Clarifies what a sociopath is, and also addresses the moral issues surrounding the sociopath and conscience. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ffraid
4.0 out of 5 stars A handbook for living in society
These ghastly people are around us and they are too numerous.

The book could have explored much more widely and given better examples, but as a "starter" on the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by V. MOORE
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Reference Book
This purchase was well packaged and delivery was super speedy. I needed the book to provide me with an understanding of a certain individual and it has proved useful.
Published 2 months ago by herronrath
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for everyone!
After 17 years in a relationship with a man that I now realise was a sociopath, my only regret is that I didn't read this book before I met him in 1993. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dee
5.0 out of 5 stars Has helped myself
Well, I am writing this review although only halfway through the book. As a person who was briefly targeted by a sociopath I felt I had to understand how this could have happened,... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Michael Brooks
3.0 out of 5 stars Not very inspiring....
I found this rather superficial and repetitive. To me, the style of writing was rather irritating, the book took on a magazine series quality.
Published 4 months ago by Vongolo
4.0 out of 5 stars DO U PITY THE NUTTER?
ITS very good making u realise that sociopaths dont care how much damage they do to others. They dont care who they use for their own ends no matter how much upset it causes... Read more
Published 4 months ago by bettyparry
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