Our understanding of sociopaths and psychopaths has been skewed and misinformed by popular culture. We hear about people who suffer from these disorders so often on crime shows and film that they’ve pervaded our collective consciousness.
Popular culture has conflated these two disorders. For instance, if you hear someone talk about the characteristics of a psychopath, it’s difficult to identify if they are talking about a sociopath or psychopath and these two disorders are different in important ways.
They both share the common feature of antisocial personality disorder, which is defined as someone who exhibits 3 of 7 symptoms or more including regularly breaking or flouting the law, constantly lying and deceiving others, and impulsivity.
There are also many differences as well. Psychology researchers generally believe that psychopaths tend to be born, so it’s likely a genetic predisposition, while sociopaths tend to be made by their environment.
This is not to say that psychopaths may not also suffer from some sort of childhood trauma. But psychopathy might be related to physiological brain differences. Research to date has indicated that psychopaths have underdeveloped components of the brain which are commonly thought to be responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control.
Sociopaths, in general, tend to be more impulsive and erratic in their behavior than their psychopath counterparts. While also having difficulties in forming attachments to others, some sociopaths may be able to form an attachment to a like-minded group or person.
Unlike psychopaths, most sociopaths don’t hold down long-term jobs or present much of a normal family life to the outside world which means they are less likely to blend in as well as psychopaths. These are just some of the differences between people who are affected by the two disorders. Watch the video below for a more thorough analysis.