Difference Between a Psychopath and a Sociopath

Psychopathy and sociopathy come under antisocial personality disorders. The DSM-5 has no strict definitions for psychopaths and sociopaths, but they both differ from each other on various means culturally.


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People tend to use both of these terms to classify people interchangeably even though they have different psychological and behavioral tendencies.

Psychopath vs Sociopath

The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is that a psychopath has no conscience whatsoever, whereas a sociopath may show some traces of conscience and moral compass. A psychopath tends to be more aggressive than a sociopath, especially when it comes to physical violence.

Psychopath vs Sociopath

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A psychopath is a person with no conscience or negligible conscience. They know the difference between wrong and right and understand the consequences of their actions, but they don’t care about being morally appropriate.

They are very methodical and plan out their actions prior to committing any crimes, and don’t act impulsively.

On the other hand, a sociopath is a person with a limited and weak sense of conscience and is capable of feeling remorse to a certain extent.

They know that their actions are wrong or may have negative consequences, but they end up rationalizing their behavior. They can very easily act impulsively and recklessly.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonPsychopathSociopath
ConscienceThey have no conscience whatsoever.They have some semblance of conscience and a weak moral compass.
ViolenceThey have a greater tendency of showing physical violence.They may not always get physically violent.
ImpulsiveThey are not impulsive and plan out their actions.They tend to be very impulsive and show erratic behavior.
RelationsThey can maintain normal relationships as a cover, but they are usually shallow.They can’t maintain relationships.
Emotional AttachmentThey can’t form genuine emotional attachments.With difficulty, they can form emotional attachments.

What is a Psychopath?

Psychopaths have little to no conscience and don’t care about following social conventions or acting morally right. They choose to follow social conventions only when it suits their needs.

They also tend to showcase violence, both to themselves and others. Some researchers argue that they may also suffer from loneliness and emotional pain.

Psychopaths are incapable of forming genuine emotional attachments with anyone else.

To compensate for their lack of emotional attachments, they may form fake and shallow relationships which they can easily exploit or manipulate to benefit themselves.

They also have the ability to appear charming or charismatic to others. They are very capable of maintaining the appearance of a healthy and normal work life or family life.

They tend to plan out all of their actions and crimes beforehand to avoid getting caught.

They rarely ever feel about their behavior, no matter what consequences other people may suffer from. They minimize any risk of incriminating themselves due to their criminal behavior.

Psychopathy may have stemmed from genetic components, which could have possibly been caused due to the underdevelopment of the parts of the brain that are capable of regulating emotion.

A lot of studies also suggest that psychopaths usually have a history of childhood abuse, exposure to violence, unstable family, were raised in disadvantaged neighborhoods, or had parents who were substance abusers.

What is a Sociopath?

Sociopaths are people who have a sense of moral compass and a little inkling of a conscience. But this doesn’t cause them to not showcase bad behavioral tendencies. They may not always get physically violent.

They can cause harm to other people, but there is a chance that it may not always be serious. They are capable of developing a close attachment to other people, but they experience a lot of difficulties doing so.

They are incapable of maintaining anything related to normal work or family life.

Sociopaths tend to show more impulsiveness in their actions and thinking. They have erratic behavioral tendencies that make them prone to outbursts.

Due to their impulsivity and recklessness, their criminal behavior and actions usually occur in a spur-of-the-moment, unplanned way.

They are usually labeled as ‘hot-headed’ since they act without thinking about how the consequences of their actions will affect other people. They are less capable of being manipulative and cunning when compared to psychopaths.

They may find it very obvious that they are only interested in themselves. They are also prone to blaming others for their behavior and are usually always making excuses for the same to pretend that they were forced to do whatever they did.

Research suggests that nurture plays a bigger role in the making of a sociopath.

Main Differences Between a Psychopath and a Sociopath

  1. Psychopaths have no conscience, whereas sociopaths have some semblance of conscience and a weak sense of morals.
  2. Psychopaths have a greater tendency to be aggressive and showcase physical violence. On the other hand, sociopaths don’t tend to get physically violent often.
  3. Psychopaths are cold-hearted, and sociopaths are hot-headed.
  4. Psychopaths are not usually impulsive and tend to plan out their actions and crimes, whereas a sociopath is impulsive and acts recklessly with no plan and may show erratic behavior.
  5. Psychopaths are capable of maintaining shallow and fake relationships with family and friends as a cover. However, sociopaths aren’t capable of maintaining any type of relationship.
  6. A psychopath can’t form genuine emotional attachments, whereas a sociopath can form emotional attachments.
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1359178913000542
  2. https://wbphillipskhs.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/108004088/Differences%20Between%20a%20Psychopath%20vs%20Sociopath.docx
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