Sociopaths And Psychopaths: Discovering The Differences


Many people use the terms “sociopaths” and “psychopaths” interchangeably.  Is there a difference between the two? Do they refer to the same thing?  

According to experts, both the sociopaths and psychopaths have the same characteristics or traits. These individuals usually encounter a problem in determining what is right or wrong. They clearly do not have the capacity to undergo discernment. At the same time, these people find trouble in understanding the emotions and feelings of the persons around them.


Notwithstanding these similarities, there are also some common differences between the two.


Dealing With Conscience

Conscience is defined as a person’s moral sense of right and wrong. In layman’s term, it refers to that “voice” that tells us whether or not we are doing the wrong thing.


A psychologist named Michael A. Tompkins claims that a psychopath does not have a conscience at all. This means that this type of person will not feel a pang of guilt whenever he would commit a wrong thing. For instance, the psychopath would steal another’s property without feeling uneasy knowing that he has done an immoral act. This idea is further strengthened by psychologist L. Michael Tompkins, EdD  with his statement that “A psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. If he lies to you so he can steal your money, he won’t feel any moral qualms, though he may pretend to. He may observe others and then act the way they do so he’s not “found out”.”


On the other hand, a sociopath is usually one with a conscience. However, the level of this moral sense is only at a minimal level. To illustrate (refer to the example above), a person may commit theft and feel bad about it. Even so, he will just ignore this guilt and continue doing what is wrong.


Acting With Violence

Most movies and film adaptations would show that psychopaths and sociopaths are violent individuals. These characters are normally the villains who cause difficulty in the lives of the people surrounding them. Be that as it may, in real life, not everyone who has an antisocial personality disorder is dangerous or violent.


To put it properly, psychopaths use a more manipulative behavior compared to sociopaths. In addition to psychopaths being manipulators, according to Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. “You’ll know if you’re in the presence of psychopathic individuals if you sense that you’re being pushed around.” Between the two, the former is more likely to show a reckless behavior than the latter one. At this point, it is important to remember that not everyone who is mean or bad has a disorder.


Ability to Act or Play

There is a difficulty in spotting psychopaths. They are the type of people who have a talent in exploiting other individuals. What makes them different from sociopaths is their ability to pretend that they are good people with noble intentions. According to experts, psychopaths are good actors, which is a big factor in manipulating others.


Sociopaths, on the other hand, do not possess the same trait. They do not have the flair in pretending that they care about others. Instead, their focus is only with respect to themselves and no one else. Sociopaths keep on acting without thinking thoroughly the consequences of their moves.



A person who is considered as a psychopath or sociopath is one with an antisocial personality disorder. One who is diagnosed with this disorder does not really mean that he is already evil, manipulative and violent. According to Julia Shaw Ph.D. “The fact that many psychopaths have traits that make them more likely to be violent does not mean that they will be violent.” Both a psychopath and sociopath share essentially the same traits. Nonetheless, there are also some characteristics that are not common to both. It is important to know the main differences in order to properly determine the proper approach for each type of disorder.