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Given the recent news, I've heard the words "psychopath" and "sociopath" thrown around with little to no differentiation between the two. With no regards to medical practice, what's the difference between "psychopathy" and "sociopathy"? What makes a "psychopath" and what makes a "sociopath"?

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closed as general reference by choster, jwpat7, Matt E. Эллен, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, tchrist Aug 3 '12 at 19:05

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

You might be interested in this question. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 3 '12 at 18:53
What do you mean "with no regards to medical practice"? Aren't these terms that derive from psychiatry/medicine? – bib Aug 3 '12 at 19:02
@bib The popular usage deviates significantly from the medical usage. I think the questioner wants to know what ordinary people mean when they say "psychopath" or "sociopath", rather than what psychiatrists mean. – Pitarou Aug 3 '12 at 19:04
I use 'sociopath' informally for people who bald-face lie or cheat or someone who does something self-interested when it is obvious it comes at the expense of others (someone who butts in line). Pretty everyday behavior that is. 'Psychopath' I use informally for someone who lashes out beyond what is called-for by the situation, say in a road-rage incident. So obviously these usages are only tenuously related to their formal meanings. – Mitch Aug 3 '12 at 19:15
up vote 4 down vote accepted

In popular usage, psycho or psychopath means one who has fits of uncontrollable violent rage, or enjoys killing, or enjoys inflicting violence and suffering. The adjective psychotic (as in psychotic rage) is also used.

A sociopath can also be brutal when occasion demands, but is more noted for being cold, manipulative, cunning and utterly devoid of human empathy. The archetypical sociopath is Hannibal Lecter in the movie Silence of the Lambs.

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ASPD and Psychopathy are not medically synonymous: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Ben Brocka Aug 3 '12 at 20:26
@BenBrocka Oh! I thought they were the same. Thanks for pointing that out. I've deleted the offending sentence. – Pitarou Aug 4 '12 at 4:41

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