* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.
For many people, dealing with sociopaths and psychopaths is a distant thought. In many people’s minds, it’s something that they are unlikely to come into contact with within their day-to-day lives. So what is a sociopathic stare?
It’s something that you see in drama or crime series and movies, and that’s more or less where it is likely to stay.
However, that is far from the case. For one, terms such as psychopathy and sociopathy aren’t definitive psychological terms, but informal characteristics that can describe a certain amount of the general population.
And it is a pretty sizable chunk of the population at that. Research has estimated that at least 1% of the population has traits that could classify them as psychopaths, and 4% of people have been shown to have sociopathic traits and tendencies.
This means that, if you come into contact with approximately 100 different people on a given day, at least 5 of those people could be considered sociopaths or psychopaths. That’s a surprisingly large amount of people!
To be fair, some people can go their entire lives without realizing that they have these traits.
But if you are looking to make sure that you don’t want these people coming into your life and potentially causing trouble, it is best that you at least understand the signs to look for in people before they can do that sort of damage.
This brings us to the main issue: It’s surprisingly hard to spot them at first!
Whilst there is a whole range of personality traits that can apply to sociopaths and psychopaths, these almost always take time to fully notice, after repeated contact with these people.
Which, for many of us, is a little too late if you are trying to keep them out of our lives.
Fortunately, there is at least one way to at least get a sense that there is something amiss about a person, or if they potentially have sociopathic tendencies: Their eyes, and how they stare.
In this article, we are going to cover what exactly a sociopathic stare is, how to spot it, and how they are often different from just general eye contact (or lack of it), as well as how it is different from other, similar traits that psychopaths also have.
Table of Contents
Telltale Signs Of A Sociopath Stare
Generally speaking, eye contact is an important part of unspoken language between different people. We often notice when someone is either not interacting with us through eye contact at all, or if they hold eye contact for too long.
What exactly these responses to eye contact mean can vary wildly depending on the place and context, as well as the sort of person you are having eye contact with.
The Unspoken Rules Of Eye Contact
Generally speaking, if someone is averse to giving more than a few moments of eye contact, we can infer that the person is likely to shy or lacking in confidence, or otherwise have trouble understanding and interacting with normal social cues (this can be the case for neurodivergent people, such as people with autism)
On the other side of the spectrum, a long stare that goes on for too long can be a sign of someone with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which includes a range of characteristics that often include definitions and traits that we would associate with sociopathy and psychopathy.
People with ASPD often lack any strong or clear sense of right and wrong and show very little if any remorse for their actions and how they might affect those around them.
People with ASPD also tend to have trouble understanding and empathizing with how others are feeling at a given moment, which can often lead to strange or uncomfortable social interactions.
This last point has led to many people confusing the traits that lead to how people interact through eye contact with each other, as both a lack of eye contact and too much of it does somewhat come from a similar place of not understanding how many unspoken social cues work.
However, it is important to note that these two forms of atypical behavior come from two very different places.
A lack of eye contact more often than not means that the person in question lacks the same understanding of social cues, either due to a lack of confidence, or simply struggling to pick up unspoken rules that aren’t verbalized.
Too much eye contact, if the person is ASPD, means kind of the opposite in fact, that they simply do not care for understanding social cues, as well as a lack of remorse for how these antisocial traits make those around them feel.
A Piercing Stare
This can be quite an unnerving experience if you are not prepared for it. How your eyes react, as we have already discussed, can often be a sign of any personality trait.
How your pupils dilate, how your eyes focus, and how they react to stimuli around them, can all reflect how a person is feeling.
With the stare of a sociopath or psychopath, you may find that many of the traits that make up normal eye movement aren’t there.
A sociopathic stare is unnervingly unresponsive to most of the normal reactions that you can see in normal eye contact. There is a generally flat response, their pupils rarely dilate, if ever, when reacting to what they are seeing.
And there is very rarely ever any sign of nervousness that you may find in other forms of prolonged eye contact
They’re certainly not likely to stop looking if you try to show that you are nervous. If anything, depending on the type of person they are, they may continue to stare at you blankly, with a flat expression that gives absolutely nothing away.
Whether it is simply to assert control in a social situation they do not understand, or for other reasons is almost impossible to say without knowing them better.
They say the eyes are a window into your soul. But as we’ve seen here, it is a window that carries a lot of strange rules and language with it. Rules we might not fully understand until we find someone that doesn’t play by them.
If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
- NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – 1-800-950-6264
For more information on mental health, please see:
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) SAMHSA Facebook, SAMHSA Twitter, SAMHSA LinkedIn, SAMHSA Youtube
- Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA Youtube
- WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Instagram, WebMD Pinterest
- NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Instagram, NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube
- APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIN, APA Instagram