Psychologists tend to break down the two groups by certain factors, and they have a lot in common. Both tend to be charming, despite being unable to empathize normally with others. They offer convincing systems of fear and disgust, but tend to lack both. Here’s the crux, though: Psychopaths cross the line. Sociopaths may hole up in their houses and remove themselves from society, while a psychopath is busy in his basement rigging shackles to his furnace.
Psychopaths are dangerous. They’re violent and cruel, and oftentimes downright sinister. They show no remorse for their actions, usually because of a lesion on a part of their brain responsible for fear and judgment, known as the amygdala. Psychopaths commit crimes in cold blood. They crave control and impulsivity, possess a predatory instinct, and attack proactively rather than as a reaction to confrontation: A 2002 study found that 93.3 percent of the psychopathic homicides were instrumental in nature (meaning they were more or less planned), compared with 48.4 percent of the homicides by people who weren’t psychopaths.
Sociopaths are a different breed. They, too, may suffer from their mental illness as a result of lesioned brain regions. Upbringing may also play a larger role in a child becoming a sociopath versus those that are diagnosed as psychopaths, or the slide into dementia on the other end of the spectrum. Sociopathic behavior is manifested as conniving and deceitful, despite an outward appearance of trustworthiness or sincerity. Sociopaths are often pathological liars. They are manipulative and lack the ability to judge the morality of a situation, but not because they lack a moral compass; rather, their existing moral compass is greatly (yet not always dangerously) skewed. Pemment, for one, says this could point to both a social and neurological component.