Cowen is fascinated by a new memoir, Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight:
The author argues that sociopaths are often very smart, have a lot of natural cognitive advantages in manipulating data, and are frequently sought out as friends for their ability to appeal to others. It is claimed that, ceteris paribus, we will stick with the sociopath buddies, as we are quite ready to use sociopaths to suit our own ends, justly or not. It is claimed that for all of their flaws, many but not all sociopaths are capable of understanding what is in essence the contractarian case for being moral — rational self-interest — and sticking with it. Citing some research in the area (pdf), the author speculates that sociopaths may have an “attention bottleneck,” so they do not receive the cognitive emotional and moral feedback which others do, unless they decide very consciously to focus on a potential emotion. For sociopaths, top down processing of emotions is not automatic.
We even learn that (supposedly) sociopaths are often infovores. It seems many but not all sociopaths are relatively conscientious, and the author of this book (supposedly) teaches Sunday school and tithes ten percent to the church. It just so happens sociopaths sometimes think about killing or destroying other people, without feeling much in the way of remorse.
(Photo: Former US President Bill Clinton speaks on June 17, 2013 at the Peres Academic Center (EAC) in Rehovot, Israel. By David Buimovitch/Getty).