Difference Between a Sociopath and a Psychopath

Do you remember when Noam Chomsky stamped Donald Trump as a “sociopath” instead of a “psychopath?” But, “sociopath” is an old term that has been replaced by the rather sophisticated term “psychopath.” Nowadays, most psychologists prefer to use the term “psychopath.” Because there’s a difference of opinion among experts, comparing sociopaths vs psychopaths becomes important. If you are also ambiguous about the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath, I have provided a detailed analysis in this article.

Both conditions have no official diagnosis. Professionals use mental health’s official handbook called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM.) Although Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) of DSM is more closely related to sociopathy than psychopathy, DSM has its limitations because it focuses on the behavioral aspects of the condition. This is also why comparing sociopaths vs psychopaths becomes important.

The main difference between a sociopath and a psychopath is that psychopaths are more capable of normalization. They appear normal while they’re not, and it becomes tough to detect them. In the case of a psychopath, what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not as easy to stamp someone as a psychopath as to call someone a sociopath. It’s because a sociopath cannot control his behavior compared to psychopaths who can exercise a tremendous degree of control over themselves.

It’s not to say that psychopaths are less violent or aggressive than sociopaths. They’re more harmful and abusive than sociopaths but other people, even the target, are often unable to arrive at a conclusion about them. They’re way more manipulative than sociopaths. The point is, psychopaths are equipped with way better tools to manipulate.

Some people believe the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath doesn’t exist. Some psychologists argue that both share a similar set of traits. They lack regard for others and the inner sense of right and wrong. They are unable to understand others’ feelings. But some differences are obvious, too.

Psychopaths vs sociopaths image


Psychopaths are doomed from birth and lack conscience, the little voice inside us that reminds us whenever we do anything wrong.

Psychopaths don’t bother about moral questions. They can carry out heinous crimes and don’t feel bad for them. If they’re wreaking havoc on someone, it hardly matters to them. But they can pretend they care because they observe others and then act the way they do so that they can get away with their crimes.

On the other hand, a sociopath has a conscience, but it’s not deep. While they can judge right from wrong, it won’t stop their behavior. A psychopath doesn’t understand whether harming others is right or wrong. He perceives no point thinking about it. As I said earlier, it scarcely matters for a psychopath.

Both lack compassion, the ability to put ourselves in others’ skin and understand another’s feelings.


In pop culture, sociopaths and psychopaths are portrayed as barbarian killers who torture people, slay them in dreadful ways, and mutilate murdered bodies. Contrary to widespread belief, most psychopaths may not be so violent. While some may be violent, most of them use manipulation and aggression to achieve what they desire. Basic spitefulness is but present in all psychopaths and sociopaths.

Sociopaths are not as calculating as psychopaths and can’t restrain themselves from violence. They’re aggressive and possess no control over their behavior, often ending up in prison. While psychopaths can also be violent, many successful psychopaths can climb their way up the corporate ladder. But it doesn’t mean that psychopaths are not aggressive.

Aggression and destructive behavior are the hallmarks of sociopaths and psychopaths alike.

Hotheaded vs coldhearted

Sociopaths are not that intelligent. They have lesser IQs and can’t play along for a long time. Aggression and abuse mark their behavior. They don’t leave any stone unturned to harm others.

On the contrary, psychopaths can plot something. They use cold planning to manipulate other people to further their interests. People generally have a good opinion of psychopaths because they work beneath the surface. People believe in them and can even rationalize their behavior because of desperate manipulation.

Brain scans

Psychopathic brains are different from ordinary people. Some brain areas involved in understanding others’ feelings are reduced in the brain of a psychopath.

Psychopaths experience different reactions when they see blood or violence. While ordinary people have goosebumps when they are exposed to violence, psychopaths get calmer. Genetic differences lead to changes in brain structure. These changes in the brain account for the behavior of psychopaths, which makes them tick.

While sociopaths may have brain differences as well, their brain scans don’t emulate those of psychopaths.

Now that we are done comparing sociopaths vs psychopaths, this debate hardly matters because both are unfeeling and are capable of causing tremendous harm. But the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath does exist, and we can use the above-mentioned pointers for demarcation.


High Ranker is a self-taught psychologist and a freelance writer. He graduated in botany and likes to describe himself as a nature lover. He spends most of his time exploring different subjects and navigating existing academic research. He has a profound interest in health sciences and issues related to scientific research. When he's not writing something, you can find him talking to random people, reading a book, or gardening at home.

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