By February 29, 2008 Read More →

Why are there so many sociopaths in America?

This semester I am teaching Psychology of Women at the University of Bridgeport. This is the second time I have taught this course. It is a fun course to teach because everyone likes it. This week we took up the issue of whether overall women’s personalities are different from men’s. A significant percentage of the class believes that men and women are very different in many domains and that this difference is biologic or genetic. The author of our textbook is a feminist from New York so she tends to down play any gender differences found, and she attributes nearly all gender differences to culture.

To balance the views of the textbook, I look for other articles to share with the class. This week I found a great paper, and coincidentally some interesting statistics were also reported in the news. The paper I found is entitled Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman? Sex Differences in Big Five Personality Traits Across 55 Cultures. It was just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The results are shocking and a wake up call.

The authors found that there are significant sex differences in personality in the areas of neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and extraversion. This means that around the world, women are more anxious/fearful, more agreeable, more conscientious and possess more positive sociability traits than do men. Of course all the sexist people in my class attribute this to an inherent biological difference between the sexes. They also expect me to agree with the biological view. After all I spent five years in a lab at Yale studying the effects of sex steroids on the brain.

In spite of my background I do not accept that these gender differences in personality result from a preprogrammed unfolding of the genetic plan. I believe they are largely culturally determined. My position is supported by the study I am sharing with you. It turns out that gender differences in personality are the LARGEST in Western countries where women have the most opportunity and the greatest equality. Furthermore, gender differences in personality around the world are due to differences in men, not differences in women.

Yes, that means that America and Europe lead the world in producing men who are fearless, disagreeable, lacking in conscientiousness and positive sociality. This is very important to us because these are the very personality traits that are associated with sociopathy (See Are they just evil people?).

The study found that communal, trusting cultures produce men who are more androgynous in their personalities. The men from communal cultures are more fearful, more conscientious, and more prosocial. Fearlessness, is perhaps the most important temperamental trait leading to the development of sociopathy. Furthermore, smoking among women around the world is associated with the largest sex differences in personality. This is interesting because maternal smoking has been linked to sociopathy in offspring (see Maternal smoking linked to sociopathy in Offspring).

So how do we put this all together? I think maleness and the hormone testosterone make boys more sensitive to early environmental experiences. If boys are raised in a loving environment, where social bonds and self-sacrifice for the family are strongly encouraged, then they will grow up more loving and prosocial. If boys are raised to be independent and look out for number one, they are more likely than girls to develop antisocial attitudes. Add to that, the effect environmental toxins have on impulse control and you have an explanation for the high prevalence of sociopathy in our society.

That brings me to the news this week. According to the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project , 2,319,258 adults were held in American prisons or jails at the beginning of 2008. This means that 1 in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars. Since 80 percent of those in prison are sociopaths, nearly 3 percent of the young adult male population is a jailed sociopath. In spite of this the crime rate remains stable due to the many who are not in jail. To read more see What percentage of the total young adult male sociopaths are in prison anyway? If you guess 30 percent, that means a sizable percentage of young adult males are sociopathic. We just don’t know.

These statistics are a wake-up call for us all. The practices and beliefs of our society are leading to more sociopaths being formed than would otherwise be formed. We need to rethink our values and our child rearing practices. We need to say strongly that it is very important for boys to grow up possessing the capacity for guilt and empathy. We need to stop believing that dominance and competitiveness are the most important personal qualities to possess. We need to stop conditioning boys to be callous by bombarding them with violent entertainment.

Furthermore, we need to provide our children with a safe clean environment. That starts by eliminating smoking in women of child bearing age and telling teen aged girls they have a responsibility not to start smoking. If teen aged girls start smoking, it is unlikely they will quit in time to prevent exposure of the unborn. In some segments of our society, up to 30 per cent of pregnant women smoke.

Women can sit around complaining that there are not enough “good men” to go around. Or, they can do something about these issues so that future generations will not face these largely preventable social problems.

i meant to say antisocial disorder, not antipersonal. sorry.

i will go now.. once again… sorry.


You are guilty of that which you claim to despise, and worse, you are not only blinded to your bias and indoctrination, you are belligerent in tactics used to explain your feelings, thoughts and position.

There’s an obvious chip on your shoulder about education and degrees.

There’s a “rolling eyes” attitude towards what you see as others espousing an ideology over reasoning, and yet, respectfully, none of your posts in this thread show much reasoning.

Fascism is wrongly defined in your posts. For a very broad definition:

“Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: patriotism, nationalism, statism, militarism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, corporatism, populism, collectivism, autocracy and opposition to political and economic liberalism”

All of this elements we currently see in our political atmosphere, even the opposition to political and economic liberalism espoused by you.

The Sanger quote was a bastardization of her words, too. She did not want the blacks to believe that birth control was meant as a way to ween-out the black population and felt that religious leaders, who were trusted, could help them realize that.

She never said that this was the plan. Not in that quote, nor anywhere else. That was your extrapolation from the quote, and a major leap, if you ask me.

Be that all as it may, above all – you entered into a forum that you did not even take the time to explore, research, discover and attempt to understand – and you came in with a bias and agenda of your own. One that you took no time or thought in implementing.

And all to what end? To ridicule and judge people on issues that really hadn’t been raised, that were far afield from the original poster’s intended discussion about sociopaths and their creation, that served only to make you feel better about your own opinion?

Pots, kettles. Glass houses and stones.

Well said Orphan. I’m not going to feed the troll any more.

I am ending discussion on this topic.

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