The word Sociopath is often used as synonymous for Psychopath. Using the two terms in this way works okay for the most part but has considerable limitations, the greatest of which is that it obscures the fact that despite the two groups clearly have many things in common at a superficial social level, there are fundamental differences which sometimes make us as different as night and day... or, to put it more correctly: As different as are the two points in time '1 min. Before Midnight' and '1 min. After Midnight'. The two are very close, yet they're each at the opposite end of the cycle between Night and Day.
The main difference between our two minorities lies not in our behavior but in our neurological makeup. Sociopaths are not emotionally wired differently from other people in the same way that psychopaths are. Most of all, their emotional neuropsychology is not different from normal people's, and they do not have the flat affect as an build-in condition from before birth which psychopaths have. And this give individuals of the two groups a very different set of motivational factors for behaving the way we do.
A discussion has been going on for a number of years in the psychopathy research community about whether psychopaths are the way we are as a result of our upbringing or are born with a genetic structure that determines our condition. This debate is an extension of another debate called Nature versus Nurture which surrounded the nature of human intelligence, or IQ. It is all about the human condition, about how and why we come to be what we are. And the truth is, of course, that neither nature nor nurture are solely responsible for why psychopaths are psychopaths, it's a combination of both factors. And the same is the case with Sociopathy.
Yet making the distinction can be useful when we talk about these two often internally extremely different types of people which we call Psychopaths and Sociopaths. And much really does speak for it being sensible in this regard to say that sociopaths are sociopaths mainly as a result of nurture, or upbringing, and that psychopaths are psychopaths mainly as a result of nature or genetics, we are born that way. It's a synthetic distinction, of course, but it is useful even so because knowing if somebody has an inborn flat affect, or if it is an acquired condition, allows us to understand the individual better, and most important of all, it allows the individual person to understand themselves better.
As always, categorizing, grouping, and distinguishing, are tools to understanding and dealing more efficiently with the reality we live in (the limiting effects we see are side effects, they're not the purpose). And this alone is my argument for making the distinction between sociopathy and psychopathy. Apart from my personal interest in and fascination with the human psyche, I truly believe it is not only for the greater good that we understand also the differences within a minority - in this case the minority called the Antisocial - but also for the good of ourselves.
It is possible to think of my own best interest and see it in the perspective of the best interest of the majority. I'm aware that the real test would be when I had to choose between the greater good and my personal well being, but for as long as I am not faced with this choice, I really don't see any problem with me trying to further both positions. What's more, I am having a lot of fun doing it. So yes, I am a firm believer in the saying that 'Knowledge is Power', and the more people who have access to knowledge, the greater the possibility that one or two of those who use it will come up with something ingenious and great.
In an upcoming article on this subject I will give examples of some of the differences between psychopaths and sociopaths which I have observed and found to be consistent and defining.