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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)

What members say

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  • Overall

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.

77 of 82 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Yamhill, OR, United States
  • 08-28-11


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.

73 of 78 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful read!

This book has changed my life. I am so grateful to somewhat understand what I have just experienced. I couldn't stop listening. If you have been through a relationship with a sociopath, please listen to this book. I have started to love myself again. I am happy. I am accepting myself. This book allowed me to let go and live my life.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Debbie
  • Toney, Alabama
  • 02-17-13


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.

63 of 68 people found this review helpful

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  • Rich
  • Orlando, FL, USA
  • 03-05-07

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.

80 of 87 people found this review helpful

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  • EDotGirl
  • Ellicott City, MD 21043
  • 08-26-11

Absolutely Fascinating

I bought this audio book today, finished it today, and was very, very disappointed that this was the only book out by Dr. Stout!

She has amazing insight, not only as a Doctor, but as a human being, in general. Her stories were capitvating (especially the one of "Hannah") and I felt like I was listening to a novel - not because it was unbelievable or fantastical, but because she has this objective, yet vividly descriptive way of describing this disorder, and the people who are affected by it.

If you are like 96% of the population, and not sociopathic, I recommend this book. If you have children (especially if they are about to go out into the big, "bad" world) I recommend this book. If you are just interested in learning more about your disorder, I recommend this book :)

29 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Grovetown, GA, United States
  • 11-26-09

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)."
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.

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.

55 of 62 people found this review helpful

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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.

72 of 82 people found this review helpful

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Empower yourself

I found this book empowering, if only because it made me realize that some of the cruel behaviors I occasionally observed in my workplace could be the symptoms of sociopathy. Sometimes people I deal with behave in such entirely disgusting ways that I feel baffled that a member of the human race could act as they do. But then I assume I just overacting or misunderstanding the situation. Listening to this book allowed me to accepted the possibility that THEY are the insane ones, not me.

30 of 34 people found this review helpful

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Exceptional...Must Read for Everyone!

This book is a must read for everyone. I wish I could have had this knowledge and input years ago, it would have saved me a tremendous amount of flesh. We do not realize how many people we encounter who could be true danger to our emotional well-being and leave us much less trusting. We normally associate a sociopath with violent offenders that appear on the news. In truth, very few sociopaths are violent and are our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. Everyone needs this knowledge. Everyone will encounter at least one in their lifetime and probably many more. Add this to your arsenal of defenses.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful