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The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints,…

The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can…

by Kevin Dutton

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I'm really too exhausted to do this review justice but I want to write something down while it's still fresh. This was an interesting twist to something that most know little about (myself included) but think do. I'm glad I read Jon Ronson's The Psychopath test first. Because that was the primer I needed about psychopathy to more satisfactorily delve into Kevin Dutton's notions.

Most of the text flowed nicely and was organized well. I rather enjoyed most of the author's interactions with psychopaths; criminal and otherwise. And I was extremely interested when Dutton was able to transform into a psychopath (if only for a few minutes).

What I could have done without is the pseudo-science and seeming esteem for religiosity (particularly with Christianity and Buddhism). The author even used the term "saint" several time as the antithesis of psychopathy. But in actuality, many saints were not nice people and some could have well been psychopaths. The author even made this point by providing a general (and rather positive) synopsis of the so-called Saint Paul; claiming he was likely a highly functional psychopath. That very notion muddies the waters of his oft-used "saint vs. psychopath" dichotomy. ( )
  jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
Strange how one reading one little 220-page book about psychology and the human brain can make all the other philosophy books and great novels in my library seem redundant. This is a fantastic book, entertaining, useful, thought provoking and thought revoking. ( )
  byebyelibrary | Sep 5, 2014 |
Page turner (although I admit I listened to the audio version!) and chokeful of interesting tidbits and examples not just about the exceptionally psychopathic but about all humanity along the spectrum (and not). If you are not at all psychopathic (raises hand) then you will definitely be surprised by the processes going on in the minds of people whose very neurology, not just actions and choices, are so profoundly different and, ultimately, outside your realm of experience (Unless, like the author, you get to try out being a psychopath for an hour!).

Collected all the quotes, as usual. (http://readingz.livejournal.com/346360.html) ( )
  Evalangui | Aug 22, 2014 |
Ken Dutton’s “The Wisdom of Psychopaths” has a lot going for it, and just about as much going the other way. Touching first on the latter, be warned that anyone traumatized by a psychopath will find this book a tough read for that reason alone, as Dutton avoids as much as he can overtly (much less negatively) judging the psychopaths who populate his book. Accordingly, if you’re looking for a book defining psychopaths as only vile, this isn’t the read for you. Further, Dutton’s writing style can grate. What he and his editors seemingly consider wry or clever often clunks rather badly, particularly when he stumbles (many times) transitioning from fairly dry academic data to an attempted lighter touch in interpreting that data for his lay readers.

None of the foregoing detracts from the book’s fascinating glimpses inside the cold machine that is a psychopath’s mind. Via the afore-mentioned data analysis as well as personal interviews in a variety of places where psychopaths hide in plain sight, Dutton considers the (d)evolution of the psychopath from prehistory to present-day. The interviews are the most enlightening of the book’s features. The problem with the interviews, of course, is it’s unknowable whether the inscrutable subjects of Dutton’s scrutiny are telling truth or spinning lie; but then again that’s part of the matter’s intrigue, and the purported "wisdom" referenced in the title.

Everyone knows at least one psychopath. If you think you don’t, that’s only because the psychopath you know lurks behind an appealing façade of charm, stalking the opportune moment to reveal his true, dark colors at the time and place of his choosing. Dutton’s book provides valuable clues to watch out for should the psychopath near you start to lift his mask. After all, you cannot fight what you cannot see. ( )
  RGazala | May 21, 2014 |
I have a great interest in neuroscience, specifically the psychology of the brain and the title of this book grabbed me from the beginning. First, though, this book is not about serial killers. Yes, there are a few mentioned throughout and the book ends with a small section on them but this book is about people who are not criminals. People who possess the same qualities as psychopaths and thus, can be labelled psychopaths, but are functional within society. It then goes on to discuss how these people operate in society and the professions they succeed at. While the book does mention serial killers, and saints and spies, (as in the title) it mostly concentrates on the business, government and medical fields; talking to and taking case examples from CEOs, stock market traders, MI5 agents, lawyers and surgeons. Dutton's writing style flows nicely and the book is not difficult to read but I would not call it an easy read as it is clinical in presentation and deals with statistics and test results. It is a book for the lay person but one who knows something about the topic to begin with. I found the information very interesting and would say it has broadened my knowledge of the subject. There is some discussion of cognitive behavioural therapy that I found enlightening and answered my questions on why a couple of my therapists/psychiatrists gave up in frustration trying to use it on me. LOL I've always been able to tell they're going that route and tell them no to bother using CBT on me. Btw, I'm not psychotic in any shape or form! A good read that I'll be keeping in my collection. ( )
  ElizaJane | May 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
The Wisdom of Psychopaths is an engaging and enlightening look at both the positive and negative sides of the personality characteristics that make up the diagnosis of psychopathy. But what [Cambridge University research psychologist] Mr. Dutton really brings to the table is a self-reflective look at what it means to be fully human, with both good and evil capacities.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Michael Shermer (Nov 7, 2012)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374291357, Hardcover)

In this engrossing journey into the lives of psychopaths and their infamously crafty behaviors, the renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton reveals that there is a scale of “madness” along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.

Dutton argues that there are indeed “functional psychopaths” among us—different from their murderous counterparts—who use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society, and that shockingly, in some fields, the more “psychopathic” people are, the more likely they are to succeed. Dutton deconstructs this often misunderstood diagnosis through bold on-the-ground reporting and original scientific research as he mingles with the criminally insane in a high-security ward, shares a drink with one of the world’s most successful con artists, and undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation to discover firsthand exactly how it feels to see through the eyes of a psychopath.

As Dutton develops his theory that we all possess psychopathic tendencies, he puts forward the argument that society as a whole is more psychopathic than ever: after all, psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused—qualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century. Provocative at every turn, The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a riveting adventure that reveals that it’s our much-maligned dark side that often conceals the trump cards of success.  

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

An analysis of what can be learned from psychopaths incorporates advances in brain scanning and neuroscience to illustrate the scale of mental health that impacts everyone, the role of functional psychopathic behaviors in success, and the misunderstandings that impact treatments.… (more)

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