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The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Jon Ronson

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2,2441042,857 (3.8)97
Member:jcpollari
Title:The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
Authors:Jon Ronson
Info:Riverhead Trade (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
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The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (2011)

  1. 20
    The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: This book also deals with recognizing and dealing with people who lack the ability to empathize with others and who see emotions as a weakness to be exploited. The tone is more scholarly and clinical.
  2. 10
    Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson (Sandydog1)
  3. 01
    A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father by Augusten Burroughs (WildMaggie)
    WildMaggie: The personal experience of living with one versus the science of finding one.
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» See also 97 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
The book is subtitled 'A Journey Through the Madness Industry' which is a more accurate title for the book, although psychopathy and the Hare checklist do take centre stage. Topics covered include psychopaths in big business, psychopaths in prisons, Scientologists, selection of 'mad enough' people for TV, criminal profiling, and the things that can go wrong for all of them. A fascinating topic coupled with Ronson's engaging style meant an entertaining and quick read. ( )
  Lord_Boris | Feb 21, 2017 |
Equipped with a 40 point questionnaire provided by its creator, Ronson sets out to identify psychopaths (once and for all, I now know that 'psychopath' and 'sociopath' are one and the same thing). He makes the very valid and probably all too true point that psychopaths are often to be found at the top of the echelon, as politicians and especially CEOs, since their lack of empathy and competitive urge and predatory instincts are useful traits to have in a cut-throat financial market. In the later part of the book, Ronson makes the case that psychiatry has overreached its purpose by giving diagnoses where none are necessarily needed, and he mentions both autism and bipolar disorder as two of the most commonly inappropriately and overused mental conditions ascribed to children. One specialist argues that there is no real evidence that bipolar disorder actually exists in children, as apparently the illness usually develops in late teens or young adulthood and not before. I contest this finding as I'm absolutely certain I've been 'bipolar' (or whatever new term they find for my specific condition in future) since early childhood.

One theory he proposes is that society, and specifically, all the EVILS in society, are caused by psychopaths shaping the world to suit their needs for exploitation and victimization. I believe this book has been hugely influential since it came out in 2011 and may directly or indirectly have influenced journalists and the public at large to claim that the current POTUS is unhinged and probably a psychopath... though since this term isn't used in DSM-4 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; DSM-5 was released in 2013, after the publication of this book), the closest diagnosis they can give is 'narcissistic personality disorder', which essentially amounts to the same thing.

Statistics show that 1% of the population are psychopaths and that they are much more present in our daily lives than we might realize. Most people reading on psychology and psychiatry has a natural tendency to worry that they may have whatever illness is described, so the question 'am I a psychopath?' is bound to occur to most readers, but the author claims that just the fact of worrying if you are one indicates you definitely aren't, since psychopaths aren't capable of introspection to begin with. Also, anyone with a surfeit of empathy, as Joh Ronson is (he suffers from pronounced anxiety problems) is more likely to be a victim of a predatory sociopath than to become one. The current theory is that people are born this way and are impossible to 'cure' and that trying to rehabilitate them only teaches them how to more convincingly mimic how most sane people express emotions, in effect providing a kind of 'finishing school' for psychopaths. I found those segments describing how the illness (or characters trait) is manifested and how researchers used extremely unusual methods (including LSD trials) to find a 'cure' really fascinating. Definitely recommended. ( )
1 vote Smiler69 | Feb 12, 2017 |
I love Jon Ronson because he’s witty and somewhat snarky but writes very well, and his nonfiction really pulls you in. This book was incredibly interesting, and referenced a fair amount of Them, which is the next book I will read by him (about conspiracy theories - yay!). His subject matter is always incredibly interesting. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Dec 26, 2016 |

Originally posted here

A surprisingly humorous and eye opening read, The Psychopath Test chronicles the author's journey primarily investigating psychopathy and how people are labelled with a mental disorder. I absolutely loved the journalistic writing style and I found Jon Ronson's internal monologue pretty hilarious. Funny bits aside, there were some parts of this book that absolutely frightened the life out of me. Jon Ronson's conversations with psychopaths and the people who work with them was generally quite scary to read about. Psychopathy is essentially untreatable and the incidence of it in the general population is quoted in this book as 1 in 100. That is a lot! I found myself frantically trying to think if I have ever encountered one and just not have known it. It's not something I like to think about.

I found this book riveting and I think anyone who has an interest in psychology would find it a good read. It doesn't really go into depth about exactly how to spot a psychopath definitively or anything but I enjoyed seeing the madness industry through a lay person's perspective and I think Ronson asked some very good questions. Why is it that the diagnostic and statistical manual for diagnosing mental disorders has grown from a 65 page pamphlet to a huge 800+ page tome in less than a hundred years? Is normal human behaviour increasingly being labelled as abnormal? Why is the diagnosis of childhood mental disorders growing so rapidly? What involvement do the drug companies have in this? All interesting questions to ponder.

Perhaps the most frightening question of all is how many psychopaths are in positions of power and are making decisions that directly affect society in negative way? How much harm have corporate psychopaths directly caused? Ronson himself mused whether the difference between a psychopath in a mental hospital and a psychopath who is a CEO or a politician is just a matter of financial privilege and family background. Again, all interesting things to think about.

I highly recommend this fascinating book, it offers so much to think about. ( )
  4everfanatical | Aug 26, 2016 |
A "meh" piece of armchair psychology by a writer who owns a copy of the DSM-IV and took a weekend class with a psychologist who believes you can spot a psychopath by going down a simple checklist. Author Jon Ronson goes around "diagnosing" a man in a psychiatric hospital, an ex-CEO and cadre of out-of-the-way personalities despite Ronson's tenuous grasp on clinical psychology. There's no real depth to this book and Ronson gives too much credence to Scientology's argument that psychology is a pseudoscience. The book skips over any actual science for a curious cast of characters, and Ronson has this annoying habit of referring to journalism as a means of exploiting crazy people for a story. Is the book entertaining? Kind of. Is it useful? Not really. ( )
  acgallegos91 | Jul 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
Mr. Ronson’s latest book has less ballast. Though he retains his own paranormal ability to locate and befriend wing nuts of every stripe, he has to try a little harder than usual to get “The Psychopath Test” going. Chalk up some of that forced quality to the fact that Mr. Ronson’s BBC Radio 4 program, “Jon Ronson on ...,” is considered comedy. Throw in the fact that most psychopaths aren’t really all that funny. Still, his winning style pervades most of “The Psychopath Test,” as when Mr. Ronson wonders whether he will have psychopaths for readers. According to the second characteristic on the 20-item Hare Psychopathy Checklist (from which this book takes its title), some of them will. “Grandiose sense of self-worth” is one of their notable traits. “What should my message to them be?” he asks one Harvard Medical School psychologist. “Turn yourselves in?”
 
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For Anita Bhoomkar (1996-2009),
a lover of life and all its madness
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This is a story about madness.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"In this madcap journey, a bestselling journalist investigates psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and everyone else who studies them. The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronsonhow to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath. Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, moreand more, defined by their maddest edges"-- "In this madcap journey, a bestselling journalist investigates psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and journalists who study them"--… (more)

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