Contrary to a prevailing myth, sociopaths are really no smarter than the average individual…probably dumber. Sure, a good one can dupe you, but as I’ve written elswhere, this is no great shakes, as most of us can dupe each other if that’s our goal.
That’s because we enter relationships risking trust and faith in each other, which makes the exploitation of our trust and faith really easy. It takes no genius or particularly smart, crafty person to exploit this trust and faith. It’s as easy to do as it’s wrong.
And so, most sociopaths aren’t really that clever, or ingeniously bright. Most make messes not only of others’ lives, but their own too. Many end up in jail, and those who don’t are often finding trouble in other areas, exercising poor judgement all over the map, squandering friendships, family, and all sorts of meaningful opportunities.
By most standards of a successful life, sociopaths live lives of abject failure, accomplishing little more, at the end of the day, than having produced plenty of havoc and pain. None of this indicates that, as a group, sociopaths are smart.
Sometimes the media sensationalizes the sociopath as the dark, brilliantly predatory monster, especially in classic cases of psychopaths like Ted Bundy. But Ted Bundy wasn’t so smart. In the end, he was nothing but a vicious, sadistic murderer who managed to lure young, naïve girls sufficiently into his proximity to then viciously murder them.
How much of an accomplishment was this? To be able to lure naïve girls near enough to his car to then kidnap and kill them? Otherwise, OJ Simpson style, Bundy was ambushing dormitories at night and butchering innocent, sleeping college kids. Not exactly a genius, or courageous guy, at work here. Just a perverse, murderously violent, cowardly man.
Sure, Bundy was reputedly charming and articulate (video of him bears this out). But this didn’t make him “smart.” He was, clearly, adept at “masking” himself. But again, effective maskers aren’t smart; they’re just good maskers. And nonsociopaths routinely are good maskers.
Good masking, good self-disguising is a type of social skill, and not the purview of sociopaths exclusively. Also, many sociopaths are terrible maskers, just as many nonsociopaths are.
My point is that the “mask” is not an indication of “smartness.” It’s merely the case that some sociopaths, and some nonsociopaths, can mask aspects of themselves and their agendas effectively; but bear in mind, just as many do this very poorly.
In the end, sociopaths, as a group, have a poor track record of living effective lives. Rather, they live disruptive, unsatisfying lives…fraught with pathological attitudes and empathic deficits that bring misery to others and, correspondingly, much trouble and, at best, empty satisfaction, to themselves.
Sociopaths simply are not successful people. They may (or may not) skate along under the radar for some stretch of time, but this is not a “game” that smart people play, and that smart people get off on.
Only dumb people play this game. Only really dumb people live this way. Only really really dumb people derive satisfaction, for however long they can swing it, from pulling the wool over others’ eyes.
It’s just no great shakes to do this, and it doesn’t make you smart.