You know them. They look just like us. They eat the same foods we eat, wear the same clothes we wear, and sleep under the same stars we sleep under—you could even be sleeping next to one of them and not even know it. You’ve seen these people in action, working their nefarious brand of charm, wit, and charisma. They operate largely unnoticed—until they don’t, at which point it’s usually too late, because they’ve already insidiously laid claim to your faith, your livelihood, or maybe even your life. No, we’re not talking about Canadians. We’re talking about sociopaths, those creatures who, through their grand schemes of contrivance, manipulation, and deceit, seek to undermine the very fabric of it all because, well, they can. Clinical psychologist and former Harvard Medical School instructor Dr. Martha Stout has spent a good portion of her working life attempting to crack the mystery of what makes someone a sociopath—she says it has something to do with having a conscience, or not having one. Stout has even authored a book on the subject,The Sociopath Next Door, and is at work on a sequel, tentatively titledConquering the Sociopath Next Door: Courageous Resistance to Lies, Scams, Mind Games, and Murder, which is expected out next year. Here, she offers a thumbnail sketch of the nature of sociopathy, and how regular folks can best prevent themselves from falling prey to the dangerous games that sociopaths play.
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