April 16th, 2014

A timely quiz: are you a sociopath?

Or perhaps your friends might be?:

At heart, Hare’s test is simple: a list of 20 criteria, each given a score of 0 (if it doesn’t apply to the person), 1 (if it partially applies) or 2 (if it fully applies). The list in full is: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of behavioural control, behavioural problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behaviour. A pure, prototypical psychopath would score 40. A score of 30 or more qualifies for a diagnosis of psychopathy. Hare says: “A friend of mine, a psychiatrist, once said: ‘Bob, when I meet someone who scores 35 or 36, I know these people really are different.’ The ones we consider to be alien are the ones at the upper end.”

I took the liberty of filling it out for one Barack Obama:

glibness and superficial charm 2
grandiose sense of self-worth 2
pathological lying 2
cunning/manipulative 2
lack of remorse 2
emotional shallowness 2
callousness and lack of empathy 2
unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions 2
a tendency to boredom 2
a parasitic lifestyle 1
a lack of realistic long-term goals 0
impulsivity 0
irresponsibility 0
lack of behavioural control 0
behavioural problems in early life ?
juvenile delinquency 2
criminal versatility 0
a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole) 0
multiple marriages 0
promiscuous sexual behaviour. 0

It’s interesting that he fits the bill on all the inner, character-driven (as in “character disorder) portions, but not in most of the behavioral ones. The adult Obama (not the adolescent one) has been marked by extremely low impulsivity and high control, as I stated here.

Call him what you will—sociopath or not—but that combination of traits is a dangerous one in a different way than for the conventional criminally-oriented sociopath. Obama can harness his energies in the conventional world to the point where he’s become president, and as such can give full vent to the first group of characteristics while in a position of great power.

Of course, you might say that the same list of traits could be answered in the affirmative for a great many other politicians, and you’d be right. I’ve never seen a politician who displayed them with such purity and intensity as Obama has, however.

But let’s get off the political for a moment. Do you have people in your life who would score high on this test? If so, beware.

[NOTE: If you’re interested in a classic on the subject of sociopathy/psychopathy, read The Mask of Sanity. It’s old, but it’s very good.]

30 Responses to “A timely quiz: are you a sociopath?”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    I would rate a person based upon their acceptance of social conventions. Although social can include criminal society as well.

  2. KLSmith Says:

    I would quibble with the zero score on lack of behavioral control and irresponsibility. His angry speeches and attitude that he occasionally lets slip imply at least a sometime lack of behavioral control. And as for promiscuous sexual behavior – ask Kevin Dujan.

  3. jvermeer Says:

    Giving him as many benefits of the doubt as possible, I get 28 for the big creep (Bill Clinton),

  4. Jamie Says:

    I’ve dealt with one person who I believe would have scored at least a 30. She wasn’t criminally inclined per se, but she certainly had an… expedient view of appropriate behavior toward others.

    I’ve read statistics suggesting something like 1 in 25 people may be psychopaths, so probably I’ve known more than just this one woman…

  5. kit Says:

    Wonder if sexual promiscuity should rate a 2.
    The mother of a man named Donald Young who, if I remember correctly, was the gay choirmaster at Wright’s Trinity Church, involves Obama in her son’s death. He and three other members were murdered gangland style. Young was murdered on the eve of the Iowa caucus in 2008 when he was just about to give an interview about his relationship with Obama. A man named Larry Sinclair wrote a book years ago about his relationship with Obama, too.

    I have no facts but I read an interesting comment recently. It was that it is amazing that journalists can find out about what Romney did in junior high school yet they can find out nothing about Obama’s past.

    This was a very interesting post, Neo and your expertise makes it a very valid one.

  6. dicentra Says:

    Of course, you might say that the same list of traits could be answered in the affirmative for a great many other politicians, and you’d be right.

    With ordinary people, you assume they’re normal and look for “tells” that reveal sociopathy/narcissism.

    With politicians, you assume sociopathy/narcissism and look for something to rule it out.

    Most sociopaths aren’t violent criminals: they’re just the con artists and other types who enjoy the gamesmanship involved in taking advantage of the gullible. They also end up in higher management positions in business and commerce, where their abilities serve them rather well.

    Obama is definitely a Malignant Narcissist, but to cross into sociopathy, don’t you have to find evidence that he breaks laws with impunity?


  7. Doom Says:

    I think you are being too generous with the civil scores. I am not sure what they are doing, but they put him in a full body suit of restraints and keep him out of the light unless he has had a recent treatment. His exposure to the public is extremely limited and handled as all charades are handled. That even with the media completely in the bag for him. My guess is, you are giving him a very false score. You… still believe some of what you are fed.

    Meh. You’ll get over it. Well, maybe no… due to factors not in your control, of your choosing, or with any means of… changing.

  8. expat Says:

    An Amazon review of Mask of Sanity from Jan 8, 2008 tels how to download a PDF. The book itself is not cheap.

  9. Nick Says:

    I can’t quite get John Edwards to 30. A couple of the categories he should get bonus points, though.

  10. Ray Says:

    I can’t resist saying this. That is so racist.

  11. J.J. Says:

    I worked with one possible sociopath. I wasn’t aware of the definition at the time. I only knew he manipulated everybody for his own benefit. We were both Naval Officers (He was senior to me.) and he was always cutting corners on the regulations for his own benefit. He was not an out and out criminal, but he used Navy airplanes and personnel for his own benefit and never saw anything wrong with it. Yet, he was as charming as any one I’ve ever known. He could charm just about anyone, even me, and I really disliked the way he operated. I observed him BSing his way out of several situations where he should have been referred for disciplinary action. Have not, as far as I can recall, ever personally known another such person.

    The way Obama operates reminds me a lot of my former squadronmate.

  12. Tonawanda Says:

    OT but related:

    1) Reagan (and Eisenhower) v BO and BC: is it possible for any person of average intelligence and integrity not to see the difference?

    2) I ask this in all sincerity: how many folks do not have at least one sociopath in life? One who makes a significant difference, often profound?

    3) In the experience of those who see what this post is about, isn’t it obvious how many folks in their life do not have a clue about the sociopath(s) in their life?

    4) The sociopath is successful because even intelligent people do not get it for a variety of very human reasons.

    5) Politics is to sociopaths as boy scout troops are to pedophiles.

    6) To whatever part of the non-Left a person belongs, what they believe is a powerful inconsistency with being a sociopath, although not a categorical inconsistency.

  13. blert Says:

    Having personally witnessed his behavioral problems thirty plus years ago I’d give him 2 points — without a doubt.

    Choom, choom cheerie, indeed.

    I would contend that a gay lifestyle — obvious on its face, IMHO — rates 2 points on the promiscuity scale.

    It’s pretty obvious when such an attractive and glib operator has ZERO female ex-girl friends to come out of the bushes for the National Enquirer — and has multiple out-of-the-closet homosexuals claiming him as a playmate — the boy has played both sides of the street.

    As for Black culture and gay sex: rather like Bill Clinton*, if a Black male engages in a dominant position in gay sex then they do not describe themselves as gay.

    This is ESPECIALLY the case in America’s prisons.

    * Clinton told all and every that he wasn’t having sex with Monica — because she was fellating HIM — and he just happened to be there — passively. Give Bill 2 points.

    The Choomster also gets 2 more points for poor behavioral control. I’d bet anything he’s toking up at least once a week ever now. It’s just kept from the public eye.

    Bong hits best explain Barry’s world view — and America’s foreign policy evolutions.

    Ancient man — all cultures — used psychoactive drugs to divine the future: when to hunt, what to hunt, and what to believe and who to believe.

    For pagan Barry, what was old is new again.

    Bong hits + solipsism = Barry policy.

    Is it any wonder Barry owns the stoner crowd?

  14. momo Says:

    Unfortunately ,that is not in a form I can give to a perspective employer.

    I remember interviewing with a women (years ago), and immediately thinking there was something fundamentally wrong with her. I then had to spend most of my energy in the interview not asking “insulting questions” (e.g., “You don’t fake human emotion well do you?” “Is the reason my approval needs to be unanimous because no one else’s vote counts but yours?” “Why is someone as high up as you interviewing for a junior position, do you not trust your employees to make the right decision?”)

    I didn’t take the job.

  15. blert Says:

    As for high scorers:

    My first cousin.
    My first business partner.
    My first attorney.
    My second attorney.
    My …

    (Both attorneys were kicked out of their law partnerships…)

    And many another louse over the years. Really, too much to tote up.

    All pretty much bury the needle on the DSM IV scale, usually rating 11 to 13 on a scale of ten.

    (You have to double weight some scores — they are that epic.)


    What’s interesting, and universally true, is that absolutely no-one accepts prior warnings that they’re up against an absolute consummate liar and psychopath.

    Quite the reverse is true.

    Then, AFTER staggering self-shame, the naif stumbles around bitterly denouncing blert for having told him in advance EXACTLY, dead nuts, what the player was all about.

    There is this pervasive conceit of man that he can spot glib liars.

    By definition, a truly glib liar can NOT be spotted. The swaying is done below the level of the conscious mind.

    Something of this nature was built into the Star Trek plot “The Man Trap.”

    (This was the first episode broadcast — even though it was the seventh one filmed — the correct sequence is now hard to find on Wiki.)

    There are plenty of puns built into the tale: a shape-shifting FEMALE creature that has an unending need of salt.

    Whereas, everyone in Hollywood knows that all women have an unending thirst for SALARY… famously derived from the Roman era practice of paying wages in SALT. And, of course, all humanity can’t survive without salt, either.

    In the salt-monster (ultimate spender) every single person — saw what they wanted to see — even when jointly observing the critter.

    Such is the nature of a true psychopath. The guile is so great — the charm is so infantile — that the victim feels compelled to rise to aid the ‘helpless’ one.

    It’s a universal flaw in our cognitive wiring.

    I give you modern political art.

  16. Beverly Says:

    I live underneath a sociopath. Not a criminal, as far as I know, though she has illegally rented out her apartment to travelers, but she has NO trouble or shame about lying to my face, when she KNOWS I know she’s lying. Too many incidents to count…. Also, my neighbors have NO idea that she’s a psycho: they are totally convinced by her act (she’s also a part time actress and a more full time “nutritionist.” ) Very convincing when she’s talking to you, but the thing that amazes me is when she persists in a lie, with no qualms atall, when I challenge her on it. “Amanda, I SAW you do X.”

    Doesn’t faze her. Amazing.

  17. neo-neocon Says:


    I disagree.

    Whatever Obama’s earlier behavioral and sexual proclivities may have been, it is my strong sense that for at least a decade or more he has kept them under iron control, with the sole exception of smoking cigarettes.

    That’s the way I read him. I think that, once he became politically ambitious and saw that he really could rise very, very high if he played his cards right, he stopped whatever he was doing before in the realm of drugs, sex, or whatever it may have been that might have leaked out and damaged him, and has exerted a strong will to not be caught in a Clintonian position and jeopardize his political life.

    I couldn’t say whether he ever was gay, although I certainly read the gossip. I don’t necessarily believe it or disbelieve it. But my gut feeling is that he is a man under strict control over whatever appetites he has, except the lust for power. And even that is under a sort of control, because he certainly managed to fool a lot of people about that during his campaigns.

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    Blert, most normal humans require an extensive re-education program to be able to put up resistance blocks against conversational hypnosis, mind control, and various other mental or emotional techniques used by predators.

    There are exceptions, people who either are too stupid to be fooled, too wise to be fooled, or too crazy to be fooled.

  19. kit Says:

    Does anyone else think that in his first debate with Romney, Obama was high on something? It certainly looked so and Michelle ran on stage to usher him off and get him off camera. And why did we never find out where he was when all hell was happening in Benghazi. Something is amiss.

    He cannot control his appetite for lavish vacations and spending and golf and he does not care that we know he does not attend daily briefings.

    I am not sure how in control he is or if his handlers try to keep him in control. I agree, is lust for power, as ruler of the world, he cannot control and it shows as does my total and justifed comtempt for the man.

    Alas, my poor country.

  20. kcom Says:

    OK, so we’ve covered Obama. Now what the f is Eric Holder’s problem? Besides the stick up his butt?

  21. J.J. Says:

    Eric Holder is using race as a tactic. Many AGs have been roughed up by Congressional committees. Alberto Gonzalez and John Ashcroft come quickly to mind. Yet he claims his treatment is because of his skin color. George W. Bush was treated far worse by his political opponents and the MSM than Obama. Yet Holder claims it is racism, if anyone speaks a word of criticism of the President. I believe that both Holder and Obama know that crying racism against their opponents works. So they use it.

  22. FOAF Says:

    Here’s a post from Ace on the latest Obama manipulation of ACA figures. Has this administration *ever* told the truth, about anything?


  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    Michele told the truth.

    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    Holder is a minion of evil. He fulfills the role of Goring or Himmler for the Regime.

    Or in the case of Stalin, Beria, the NKVD.


  25. Don Carlos Says:

    As to Hare’s scoring, if one deletes the historical factors (e.g., multiple marriages, parole violations), and limits the criteria to personality features, Obama gets a high score. Perfect. Said deletion is consistent with Neo’s thesis of Obama self-control as the requisite for achievement of power.

    Holder gets a very high score as well.

    But we knew that. I guess we feel better about having a semi-quantitative scale; more scientific, doncha know.

  26. waltj Says:

    Similar to J.J., I had the misfortune to once befriend (so I thought) a type of person who I later learned could be termed an “industrial sociopath”. This means that he could function in society without having his behavior turn criminal. But he had a lot of the other characteristics: charming, manipulative, remorseless, shallow, liar, grandiose sense of self, lacking empathy, parasitic, irresponsible, and unaccountable for his actions. Maybe that’s part of the reason I detest 0bama so much–he reminds me of this a$$hole.

  27. Nick Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever been in that kind of situation. (Maybe I’m such an easy mark that I’ve never noticed it?) I’ve dealt with some people who rubbed me the wrong way, but I’ve never had ongoing dealings with anyone I think is a sociopath.

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  30. Lady Honeybee Says:

    My brother-in-law would rate about 35 on this test. My father-in-law let BIL move in after he got out of prison, to “help him get on his feet,” and we were told it would last about 3-4 weeks. (My husband and I had moved in 6 months earlier with our 2 children after my husband lost his job suddenly. I was 5 months pregnant when he lost his job, and had many complications; my husband wasn’t able to find work for months and entered graduate school in the interim.) Well, 18 *months* later, BIL was still living there, his numerous personal habits (including but not limited to substance abuse and theft) were placing my children in danger, and my FIL still refused to enforce any meaningful consequences on his son. Instead, he covered his son’s court costs, got him on his health insurance to pay for his court-ordered rehab (where BIL handily “played” the therapists and got out in 3 weeks instead of 4, and then went right back to former behaviors), and FIL even let BIL’s girlfriend move in (borderline personality, also criminal, also larcenous, also promiscuous) out of compassion.

    When I moved the children to my parents’ house in another state, to get them and myself out of this destructive situation, my in-laws were angry at ME, accused me of being unchristian and judgmental and not knowing the meaning of “family.” I was accused of making things unnecessarily difficult on my husband in requiring that we move out, when he had 1 year left of grad school and was unable to move with me to my parents’ state. (I wasn’t insisting on him moving to a new state; just that we find our own home to live in, even if we needed government assistance.) Even non-sociopathic people may enable the sociopath, because they are convinced that they are being noble and high-minded in so doing – in large part because the sociopath knows exactly how to play on other people’s value systems and which buttons to push.

    As a follow-up, I refused to move back to that living situation, and as soon as my husband had signed a lease and had a key in hand for our own rental home, I moved the kids back to live with him. And we have been living independently ever since. We still have needed financial assistance, which our church has so blessedly provided, and I have worked to help with our finances (though I have always wanted to just be a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler), and my husband just graduated from grad school and now he is looking for work. 🙂 Just be aware: recognizing a sociopath doesn’t mean his family or friends will agree with you. They might hate his behavior and grit their teeth when speaking of him, but few people are willing to act in ways to reduce the sociopath’s effect on their own lives. Because they are afraid of appearing to be not compassionate or unchristian.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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