A well-written and detailed account of the worst human beings in society, Without Conscience is based on decades of case-studies and psychological research. Despite this technical and esoteric foundation, Hare has created a very listenable and engrossing tome of psychology's recent discoveries in this arena.
Alongside a gruesome and terrifying introduction (in which Hare briefly describes the most iniquitous, egregious and brutal crimes of psychopaths) is Hare's clarion call for awareness and action. Not only do they blend in among society and appear more "genuine" than human beings with a conscience, but they can manipulate even the criminal justice system into paying them exorbitant sums for revealing the bodies of their victims (this is not in any sense rare; one villainous woman who murdered her children to be with a man who did not wish to raise children attempted to paint herself as the victim). Unchecked and manipulative psychopaths tend to end up as puppet masters in their own despotism, and having a democratic government is no barrier to them, as the 20th century proved all too well.
Chapter 1 details Hare's experience with a psychopath who was, perhaps, the best liar in the world. While the pranks he played on the then-greenhorn Hare were generally inconveniencing as opposed to violent, they still revealed an inability to empathise (or even an interest in empathising) with others. Years later, when Hare met Ray while he at a university, Ray's silver tongue effortlessly glided from one lie to the next, claiming to have been Hare's assistant. Ray's versatility and lack of even a remote sense of guilt allowed him to deceive everyone he came into contact with.
Ariel and Alice feature prominently as twins with polar opposite temperaments and behaviour. While Ariel was a perfect angel by any metric, Alice was delinquent, violent, impulsive and saw her parents as nothings more than crutches to lean on and people to exploit. Cigarettes and marijuana were normal for her in high school, and she gave up on college after less than two years.
Chapter 2 defines psychopathy in objective terms, from glibness and charm to anti-social behaviour to indifference in the face of others' suffering. Being manipulative and charming to nearly supernatural (and certainly incredulous) extents enables them to indulge in another trait - social parasitism, being waited on hand and foot by individuals who believe their every word (at least for a while).
The following two chapters describe the characteristics of psychopaths in superb detail. As Hare mentioned in his introduction, everyone has dealt with these individuals, and after a thorough read, one might suspect which acquaintances and "friends" are psychopaths, although a definitive diagnosis is impossible without substantial training or access to an fMRI device.
Predictably, psychopaths often turn to crime, their manipulative and deceitful talents being excellent for manipulating others to do the deeds and enable them to keep their hands clean. Their invariable egotism and arrogance makes them almost certain to defect in prisoner dilemma scenarios, going free while hanging their temporary partners out to dry.
In addition to case studies, Hare analyses films and novels based on psychopaths, with biting insights from his work in the field. These not only provide a wealth of information into the minds of individuals and why some can become utterly enamoured with the monster within, but also into how society views these monsters, contrasted with what they actually are. There certainly is no stereotype for the face of a sociopath, and anyone from any race, culture or ideology could be one. Fortunately, they are a minuscule minority, and it is possible to detect these aberrations.
The most crucial and important tools I gleaned from this book were two very simple but effective ways. Firstly, one must be watchful for stories that seem too good to be true, or almost too conspiratorial or alluring to believe. These will almost always have an air of plausibility about them. Secondly, discard your intuitive naivete about people. Trust must always be earned, never granted as a default. Psychopaths are always all too willing and able to exploit this tendency.
As Hare describes eloquently in his final paragraphs, as the technology of society progresses to include home-made explosives and automatic weapons, identifying, isolating and treating these anomalies becomes more crucial than ever before.
After listening to "The Sociopath Next Door", which is excellent, I was pleasantly surprised. It starts with the author in his early years where psychopathy was somewhat new and gradually changes into a dissection of the disorder. While if found the stories less entertaining than the "Sociopath Next Door", the overall experience is worth it.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
While Dr. Hare is the authority on psychopaths, and I gained a full understanding of what a psychopath is from his book, I found that his research dealt much more with the criminal element. The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout was more helpful to me, as it covers more of the day to day people we are in contact with every day . . . the ones we work with and for, go to school with and unfortunately have personal relationships with. I can now spot one a mile away. Wish I knew then what I know now . . .
I absolutely can not stand the idea that people are reading this book and going away thinking that they have learned something.
The conclusions that Dr. Hare have reached are based on an extremely limited sample, using an incomplete analysis and without a contemporary understanding of neuroscience. I had to stop listening when he referred to the lateralization of brain hemispheres (right brain does this, left brain does that) as a fact, when it has been debunked as a myth since the early 90s.
I do have respect for Dr. Hare in that he was, at one point, a pioneer in the study of clinical psychopathy, in that he actually went out and tried to study people who were obviously afflicted. But his theories need to evolve with current research if he is to be taken seriously. What outside research he did call upon in the book was limited and obviously cherry-picked to support his own outdated theories. That is no behavior for a man calling himself a scientist.
When I was in the Army back in the early 90’s and deployed in the Middle East, I had a sergeant tell me that if all hell broke loose he would be the one raping and pillaging. His justification was that the people had brought it upon themselves and that in the end he had the might, and might makes right.
Luckily, I never had to find out if he was just an idiot or the clinical definition of a psychopath.
Even before this incident, I always questioned the massive amounts of cruelty in the world which led me to ask, “How could someone do that?” at least once a week, if not more.
This book is as close I’ve come to finding an answer.
This is a truly terrifying account of psychopaths and the idea that they are all around us all the time. The narrator is iffy--he mispronounces a few words--but what else is new? Audible seems to not care about those details.
You'll find yourself going through the list of people you know and comparing them to the list of symptoms in this chilling book. Fascinating.
Wolves among sheep
I don't know if there is anything to particularly like about finding out that everyone probably knows someone who has no conscience. This was very disturbing to me because within five minutes of listening to this audiobook, I realized that yes, yes I very much know someone close to me whom I love dearly that apparently by all counts, has no feelings for others and only wants what he wants.
There was no particular scene that I liked more than the others, but, I was glad to hear when the doctor did not want to jump in and label someone too quickly as when the mother called him stating that she believed her son fit the criteria and she wanted to make sure he never got out of prison.
Demons walk among us
There is a fine line we walk when dealing with these types of personalities and I am very glad to hear that this good doctor is not leaning too far to one side or the other but rather opening our eyes to see what we potentially may be dealing with so that proper steps can be taken to keep everyone safe from this.
The insight into the phychos' phyche. They are normal people, they just do not have the conscious that the rest of us do. It makes them freer and dangerous. The author points out at how not so rare such people are, and give tips on how to spot them.
I find Hare's work fascinating, and his psychopath test is an important contribution to many fields. While much of the book is interesting, it becomes obvious as the narrative goes on that 1) Hare thinks of psychopaths and being essentially a different species,which is a bit disturbing, and 2) he is not very open-minded once he has decided an individual meets the psychopathic definition- whether or not he has actually diagnosed the person. Interesting, but Hare comes across as seeing psychopaths around every corner.
The research and explanations of this little understood mental dysfunction are worth investigating. Many people are the victims of sociopaths, also called psychopaths; they are not considered insane, but often very clear thinkers having no conscience.One researcher writes, "Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they live only to dominate others and win."Another writes, "Good people are rarely suspicious: they cannot imagine others doing the things they themselves are incapable of doing."
Narrator was clear and interesting.