• The Sociopath Next Door

  • By: Martha Stout
  • Narrated by: Shelly Frasier
  • Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (7,768 ratings)

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The Sociopath Next Door

By: Martha Stout
Narrated by: Shelly Frasier
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Publisher's Summary

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 25, 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 25 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.

©2005 Martha Stout (P)2005 Tantor Media, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Stout is a good writer and her exploration of sociopaths can be arresting." (Publishers Weekly)
"A remarkable philosophical examination of the phenomenon of sociopathy and its everyday manifestations....Stout's portraits make a striking impact and readers with unpleasant neighbors or colleagues may find themselves paying close attention to her sociopathic-behavior checklist and suggested coping strategies. Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical." (Kirkus)

Featured Article: The Best Audiobooks About Psychopaths


There's no denying the allure of psychopaths. There's something disturbing but fascinating about people so ruthless and manipulative, who lack the ability to feel guilt or remorse over their actions. Stories of psychopaths abound in just about every mystery subgenre, from action-packed thrillers to nuanced psychological character studies, and also stand out in works of psychology and neuroscience. Listen to some of the most riveting books about psychopaths.

What listeners say about The Sociopath Next Door

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Enlightening

Wow, did I love this book. It was well written and well narrated. Not really at all technical, per se, it uses real life stories to illustrate the various characteristics of sociopaths. I have read in reviews that the reviewers saw the book as self-help. I would characterize it more as self-defense. Once upon a time, I had a colleague who was a complete scoundrel and who had hurt many people. I commented to one of my closest friends that what I could not understand was that I actually liked this scoundrel. My friend commented that amoral people often have that effect on us. This book helps us to identify those people. The book often reads more like one written by a science reporter than by one written by a social scientist. I am not complaining. On the contrary, it makes the book that much more readable. I think that the book helped me to understand the seemingly unfathomable why of what bad people sometimes do. Why are people sometimes totally insensitive to the feelings and needs of others. Why would one hurt another being for no apparent reason at all... not even for their own apparent personal gain.

Highly recommended.

134 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Gripping! A fascinating/scary look at human nature

I debated on this one but gave it a shot, and I could barely break from it several hours later. This narrator does an excellent job of making this book as enticing as a suspenseful murder mystery. The material is excellent, and well arranged. The author uses sample cases to explain points and a finer understanding of details. She says 1 in 25 people are sociopaths, and then she describes them as they appear to themselves, to us, and their existence and effect on society as both the weirdo on the corner and the ruthless "successful" people in many walks of life that have left large marks on the history of humanity throughout time. Definitely worth the listen.

125 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Started strong...ended weak

This started out pretty interestingly, although I thought her definition of what "conscience" influences seemed a little expansive...and I discovered why by the last third of this. She has far too few clinical examples, and then she devolves into why a Buddhist/Hindu global consciousness is the answer to sociopathy... Wow... Not interesting at all, not scientific and not well supported.

For instance, one of her early examples was that in traditional Inuit (if I recall correctly) society, which is about as communal as you can get, they pitched people like this off a cliff - THAT was their cure and treatment for sociopaths. Yet, somehow when she discusses that in east Asia the rates of documented sociopathy are low, it is not really considered that it might be attributable to something other "they have an ingrained communal, group consciousness"...like in the Inuit society...where sociopaths seemingly occured and where their solution was to pitch them off a cliff... Might these societies in Asia, at least socially, pitch sociopaths off a cliff? Well, that would be up to another author to examine, because this author is too busy using it as an open door to go on and on about the Buddhist or Hindu worldview. I felt like this book was a bit of a bait and switch.

The author was kind of like the person you meet at a party that initially sounds pretty interesting and intelligent, until you realize they think 9/11 was planned by Israel and the CIA...or that the last four presidents have been Reptile people... What few examples of her actual clinical experience there are in this book were very interesting and thought provoking...but trust me, there were very few of them.

115 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Uh Oh...

This book may be "chilling" and "informative" to the mainstream reader, but it is neither scientific, nor objective, and should be read for its entertainment value, and not as a course study on the broad field of psychopathy/sociopathy (for which there is no consensus regarding the symptom criteria, no sanctioned diagnosis, no official diagnostic term). While entertaining in a pedestrian way, every time a book like this is published, it produces another crop of arm-chair psychologists--that may be more dangerous than the sociopath, as defined by Stout. Bottomline: It is a chilling subject; the book is informative and entertaining on a very basic level; and clinicians will most likely be unimpressed. Definitely don't bother if you are looking for a constructive way to cope with a loved one with an antisocial personality disorder (sociopath-psychopath).

105 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Who do you know?

This book is truly facinating! Well worth the money and time. Audio clarity is superb. This book gives the author's professional insight to the world of sociopaths and their lack of conscience. She does a great job of developing characters based on real patients to illustrate the various types of sociopaths. She suggests that there are more of them out there than we realize.

I found myself thinking about anyone and everyone I know, have known or work with. It's amazing what you will discover. The book makes a lot of sense with regard to why and how sociopaths operate, how to spot them, and what to do when you know you have one in your life. With 1 out of 25 people being a sociopath, you will be sure to find yourself in the company of one or more already.

PS... if you are wondering if YOU may be a sociopath, you are not. Listen to the book to find out why. Mind blowing information.

105 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

This is a very useful book

I just bought the Audible version of this book after reading the hardcover book. This book is worth reading again! If you have ever been unlucky enough to have been involved with someone (authority figure, work colleague, child, marriage partner, etc.) who is a sociopath you'll need to read this book to help you understand what is happening, has happened and why.

It is particularly chilling and terrifying to see what is happening globally right now. When you read about the way "a lovable & charming" sociopath operates and what motivates him, you can better understand why we find ourselves in such an inexplicable, polarized and hateful mess both at home and abroad.

Knowlege is power and this book can empower us all - if we read it. Another illuminating must-read book on this subject is "Without Conscience, The Psychopaths Among Us" by Hare.

84 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

What an EDUCATION!

Wish I had read this several years ago, might have saved myself and my family some pain. It explains a LOT. This, to me, is the best audio book on the subject, as the others deal almost exclusively with the criminal psychopaths. It is scary to me that our society encourages and in some cases applauds this type of behavior now, which is also addressed in Ms. Stout's book. The recent admission by Lance Armstrong that he lied over and over and felt no guilt whatsoever, about his use of performance enhancing drugs, is an example. He even sued those who accused him of it. As I watched that interview on television, the lack of remorse on his face, so evident, I was reminded again of this book. Nothing is EVER their fault. Sad. Sad.

81 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Helped me understand troublemakers in my life.

A May 15, 2009 listener review says, "her tome quickly degenerates into a not-too-subtly veiled commentary on conservatism, Bush and the War on Terror (all quite sociopathic, apparently)."
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Don't let this stop you from buying this book. I was still listening for this "not-too-subtle" commentary when the book was ending. The best guess I can come up with to explain where this slant was heard by the reviewer is the part of the book where Dr. Stout explains the usefulness of a sociopathic mind in a soldier in combat. This is true whether the battle is lead under a conservative or liberal government.
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Don't read too much into your friends, family, co-workers, or acquaintances after finishing this book. After a second time through the book, I have a better understanding of what the Doctor writes and have removed some people from my mental list of possibles, but still have a former co-worker and (sadly) and sibling who still fit the bill.

I hope I'm wrong about one.

76 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good but a bit off-topic

First, let me say there is a lot of good and interesting information in this book. I learned a lot of things about sociopathy from the author. That said, I have a few bones to pick.

The author goes off-topic. She does not just go a little off-topic, either, she starts rambling into areas that have absolutely nothing to do with her topic, much less with her thesis for the book. It almost seems as if she ran out of material and just started spening time adding filler to make the book a little bigger.

Also, it's hard to identify with any people in her stories knowing they are composite. Am I supposed to believe there were no examples of real sociopaths that would provide the examples she needs? If not, it kind of invalidates her points.

I gave the book three stars, but it easily could have been a much better book with some better editing, more succinct writing, and real examples.

I will add that Shelly Frasier did an excellent job of doing the narration, thouh.

60 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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Disappointing

This book gets off to an interesting start, but the author seems to run out of anything factual and interesting to say. The central "fact", that 4% of the US population is sociopathic, is never adequately explained or supported. Instead, we get a series of anecdotes, which are interesting in about the same way the Jerry Springer show is. (We are even told in the introduction that the stories are not literally true, but rather amalgamations of actual stories.)

Once she runs out of these dubious anecdotes, the author resorts to moralizing and sentimentality to fill up the book. The sentimentality is made all the more annoying by the tone of voice used by the narrator. In another attempt to seem deep, apparently, the author likes to drop the names of famous "moral exemplars," but apparently didn't bother to do much research on some of them (e.g., it doesn't appear that she read Hitchen's book on Mother Theresa, or that she knows any details about Gandhi's writing before he hit on nonviolence as a political strategy).

Overall, a shallow discussion that could have been condensed to about 1/3 the actual length.

59 people found this helpful