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Spotlight On: Psychopathy vs. Sociopathy

Last updated: 08/05/2015 | More Spotlight On content
The debate whether psychopaths and sociopaths constitute distinct antisocial personality disorders has been ongoing for some 200 years. The common denominator that seems to be agreed upon is a propensity for deviant behavior and a lack of empathy. Opinions diverge on if and how these constructs differ or overlap. One may ask, does the debate in fact bear any relevance, or is it the mere manifestation of academic quibbling over terminology.

On the one hand, enduring diagnostic confusion, best articulated in the constant changes in the DSM's "laundry list", attests to arbitrariness. On the other, the disputes over the causes and characterization of each clinical entity have clear implications both on the clinical prognosis that is planned for, and the legal entity that is defined. The works included in the following list situate the debate in diverse frameworks – philosophy (notions of evil & responsibility); psychology (nature vs. nurture); biology (congenital vs. acquired); criminology (behavioral profiling); evolution (adaptive strategies), discourse (social constructs); law (trial proceedings); and neuroscience (cerebral mechanisms).

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