Determining Empathy Levels/Sympathy vs Sociopathy


Cro-Magnon Man
Cro-Magnon Man
Oct 8, 2015
Empathy is massively misunderstood. Lots of pseudoscience and fake news and labeling out there. The sociopath's supposed ability to switch empathy on and off, or sympathetic/apathetic streaks resulting from the ups and downs of life further muddles the territory.

From what I can tell, someone who is empathic not only understands through critical thinking what another thinks and feels, but then cares. Or maybe they just care without necessarily understanding. Whereas high functioning sociopaths, while made out to be devoid of the ability to empathize, are actually excellent at doing so when it suits them. Which makes empathy in whole seem to be a horse shoe, with both sides converging. Then there's people in between, with some empathy but not a lot and less ability to turn it on or off. Super confusing. But what if empathy and sociopathy aren't two ends of the same spectrum?

I want to know how one can easily tell how much empathy he has, and whether he can change his empathy levels if he so desires, or if he is more or less stuck the way he is. I also want to understand how empathy is wielded, and how doing so reflects on one's personality.

My current theory is it is a matrix with sociopathy/self-interest vs sympathy/care for others being one axis and empathy vs apathy the other. A self-diagnosis would have me falling heavily towards the empathy side and probably closer to sociopathy than sympathy. But it would be great to be able to verify this.

What do you guys think?


Staff member
Sep 21, 2016
Love this.

Sociopaths, on the contrary, have very HIGH empathy - that's why they're so skilled at manipulating people.

What they lack is emotions associated with empathy. Hector told me once in a call that "they got it wrong. sociopath's only lack sympathy, not empathy".

I do like your matrix though, it's a much more practical measurement tool that simply labeling someone "sociopath" or "psychopath".

Honestly, it's hard for me to say where I fall. There are some days that I'm extremely self absorbed (which, usually get's me absolutely nothing if I'm out in public with that kind of energy) and other days that I've mediated on compassion and feel connected to the world (which usually, I find, get's me the exact things that the selfish part of me "wants").

With all this knowledge on social psychology there are times I question my "sociopathy". I think that everyone manipulates whether they're aware of it or not, and it ultimately comes down to whether you're using the manipulations in a way that will serve others, yourself, or the largest number of people involved that determine if you're a benevolent/malevolent individual.