A Sociopath Test! Really?
Given the meaning of sociopath, it would be quite helpful if there were a sociopath test. Non-sociopaths might appreciate a test that reveals the sociopaths in society. Sociopaths might be intrigued and want to test themselves to revel in their score and diagnosis. Is there actually a test that can lead to a sociopath diagnosis? (Take the online sociopath test.)
Because antisocial personality disorder, the official diagnostic term for sociopathy, is complex, so, too is the concept of testing for it. Illnesses such as depression or asthma can have concrete symptoms. Doctors look for the lack of something important or the addition of something that shouldn't be there. They can question the person about lifestyle changes. Yet conditions such as these can still be difficult to accurately test for and to diagnose.
A sociopath test isn't as definitive as a test for an illness or condition. Sociopathy is a personality disorder; as such, its symptoms and signs involve personality traits and behavior. Personality is a hard thing to accurately and reliably assess. That said, tests for sociopaths do exist, and a sociopath diagnosis is possible.
Professional Sociopath Tests
Researchers have developed and are continuing to develop tests for antisocial personality disorder. These aren't available to the general public but are administered and interpreted by a psychologist or psychiatrist in clinical settings such as hospitals, offices, and prisons. Among the most prominent:
- Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)
- Psychopathy Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R)
- NEO Personality Inventory
- Personality Assessment Inventory
These sociopath tests are self-report tests that highlight the degree to which someone displays the personality traits and behaviors associated with antisocial personality disorder. You might have noticed that two of the tests use the term psychopathy rather than sociopathy. This reflects the developers' professional preference in terminology, but regardless of the term used, the tests look for the same traits and behaviors.
Read "What Is A Sociopathic Person Like?" to help you recognize a sociopath without having to convince him or her to take a test.
Sociopath Tests of the Brain
The cluster of traits and behaviors displayed by a sociopath, the symptoms of a sociopath, happen to be associated with certain patterns of activity in the brain. Brain scans can test for sociopathy.
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans show that sociopaths don't have the same patterns in response to emotional stimuli (either verbal or visual) that non-sociopaths do (Babiak & Hare, 2006).
- Scans indicate that the brain of a sociopath shows the same response pattern for every stimulus while reaction patterns in a non-sociopath differ according to degree of emotion (Babiak & Hare, 2006).
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) waves record details about how the brain processes information, and here, too, the brain of a sociopath behaves differently (Kiehl, 2014).
Sociopath Tests for Nonprofessionals
Professional checklists and brain imaging/scanning are wonderful in helping the world understand and identify a sociopath. However, most of us don't have a filing cabinet full of inventories or a garage equipped with fMRI and EEG machines. Do those of us in this category have a way to test for a sociopath or even a dangerous narcissistic sociopath? Do "are you a sociopath" tests exist?
In our age of the Internet, it's not surprising that there are sociopath tests online. Such tests ask the user to rate the degree to which sociopath traits and characteristics apply. While these do check for sociopath traits, they aren't reliable, valid indicators of who is and is not a sociopath.
Assessments such as the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale for sociopathy are designed not to diagnose but to educate. As this is developed by respected professionals, the items give an accurate idea of what sociopathy is.
Other online sociopath tests are designed to be more for amusement than for anything useful. Tests such as "Can You Pass the Psychopath Test" are gameshow-esque versions of some of those quizzes you see on social media. What kind of animal are you? How about what kind of personality disorder are you?
While these may be entertaining and contain proper traits, they shouldn't be used for truly informative purposes.
There really are sociopath tests to help identify a sociopath. Given the complexity of this personality disorder and the tests themselves, they should be used cautiously.