The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industryby Published 12 May 2011
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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 Ronson how 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, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry Reviews
I thought this would be a great tool for self-diagnosis, but actually Ronson skitters from one case to another without really making any definitive point. But maybe that’s the point. Psychopathy is probably not an absolute for most people, as there are many among us who exist in some sort of sociopathic gray area (myself included). Me, I scored a 10, so I’m a partial psychopath. (Surprise, surprise!) My downfall? Apparently, I don’t really care too much about other people.
Here, take the test!
I'm not sure how much I learned about Psychopaths but I learned I like the author a lot.
He's awkward and anxious in the most relatable way!
If you're going to read this book, do yourself a favour and get the audiobook!
he DSM-IV-TR is a 943-page textbook published by the American Psychiatric Association that sells for $99...There are currently 374 mental disorders. I bought the book...and leafed through it...I closed the manual. "I wonder if I've got any of the 374 mental disorders," I thought. I opened the manual again. And instantly diagnosed myself with twelve different ones. (c)
We journalists love writing about eccentrics. We hate writing about impenetrable, boring people. It makes us look bad: the duller the interviewee, the duller the prose. If you want to get away with wielding true, malevolent power, be boring. (c)
When I asked Robert Spitzer about the possibility that he'd inadvertently created a world in which ordinary behaviours were being labelled mental disorders, he fell silent. I waited for him to answer. But the silence lasted three minutes. Finally he said, 'I don't know. (c)
I supposed there was no reason why psychopaths shouldn't have unrelated hobbies. (c)
People who are normal (i.e., sane, sensible) don’t try to open lines of communication with total strangers by writing them a series of disjointed, weird, cryptic messages. (c) Seriously? No shit.
Practically every prime-time program is populated by people who are just the right sort of mad, and I now knew what the formula was. The right sort of mad are people who are a bit madder than we fear we're becoming, and in a recognizable way. (c)
He did another experiment, the Startle Reflex Test, in which psychopaths and non-psychopaths were invited to look at grotesque images, like crime-scene photographs of blown-apart faces, and then when they least expected it, Bob would let off an incredibly loud noise in their ear. The non-psychopaths would leap with astonishment. The psychopaths would remain comparatively serene. (c)
the American physician Samuel Cartwright identifying in 1851 a mental disorder, drapetomania, evident only in slaves. The sole symptom was “the desire to run away from slavery” and the cure was to “whip the devil out of them” (c)
... if you’re beginning to feel worried that you may be a psychopath, if you recognize some of those traits in yourself, if you’re feeling a creeping anxiety about it, that means you are not one. (c)
A breezy, entertaining journey through the public effects of madness, with particular attention to the impact of the psychopath on society.
Ronson is an excellent writer with a fine sense of humor who knows how to tell a good story in plain language. That he is able to do this while making subtle observations about our society shows what a really good writer he is.
It is self explanatory that this review will make me enemies. Fortunately, those who know me are really the only ones at risk.
Like many people, I took my first psychology class in high school and my interest was piqued. My second psychology class was during college, as was my third and fourth. I then diverged into the world of sociology which fascinated me and graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor's degree in sociology. Yay for me! Like the hundreds of psychology graduates, I was now qualified to do one of three things 1) move onto graduate school, 2) sell clothes at a department store or 3) get married and forget all about my career aspirations. Naturally, I sold clothes at JCPenney for one full year before I wanted to slit my wrists - not for suicidal ideation but simply to break up the monotony of my incredibly meaningless life. The following school year, I was admitted to a graduate program in psychology at Brigham Young University.
The following two years were full-time classes, year round then two practicums and, at last, an internship with a couple of classes in the evening. It was intense, enjoyable, and I graduated with a career plan and, frankly, a head far too big to fit through the doors. I had textbook answers and an excellent mentor who had been a pioneer in educational psychology with 30 years of private practice, running troubled youth homes, and teaching at various universities. Most people called him Dr. LaPray. I called him "Daddy." May I also mention how grateful I am to the certified borderline personalities who required long-term care. You are directly responsible for my dad being able to pay my tuition.
The best two classes I took during graduate school was how to administer and read the MMPI and the study of the diagnostic bible, the DSM III-R. I studiously purchased the very expensive book in the bookstore, took it home and read it cover to cover. By the end of the weekend, I had self-diagnosed myself with 19 serious disorders. Fortunately, class began the following Monday and the professor put the diagnoses into perspective. I have also married a social worker since then and he repeats this mantra: Many of us exhibit some of the characteristics found in the DSM. The concern is when the behavior become extreme and dictates our lives, sabotaging our ability to work or interact with others.
Unfortunately, 22 years later, I am still convinced of my own neurosis and anxiety. Ah, well. It's nice to know and embrace the real me.
So what does this have to do with Jon Ronson? Jon and I really do share a debilitating bout of anxiety. My method of understanding it was to study the crap out of it then dedicate the past 21 years to pursuing a career in helping. Also, Jon is brilliantly hilarious. Like me. If I were to be clinical, I'd guess that Mr. Ronson is overcompensating for his anxiety disorder by being brilliantly hilarious. Like me. But then maybe I am simply projecting.
Seriously, though, Mr. Ronson took a circuitous route to rooting out the therapeutic approaches in the 60's and 70's which were completely true and bizarre then went to interview a man who had created a psychopath test named Dr. Hare who empowered all who took his workshop by providing a checklist for spotting a psychopath. He met with murderers in prison wards, cold-hearted CEO's and power-controlling concierge. All psychopaths, of course. Until a friend pointed out that he was using it as a weapon rather than a diagnostic tool. This was a circular story as it led us back to a patient held at Broadmoor, a high security insane asylum for the incurable where one patient pretended to be a psychopath in order to avoid prison. Now he can't get out.
Speaking of diagnostic checklists, Mr. Ronson then explores the etiology of the DSM. My testimony of the DSM is now shaken and I'm starting to rethink my habit of taking the pocket size with me to church so I can secretly diagnose congregation members. I understood the reciprical relationship DSM has with not only insurance companies but also drug companies. Also, every revision adds more disorders that circle closer and closer to normal behavior. The explosion of autistic diagnoses has a lot more to do with including aspergers on the spectrum than the MMR vaccination and has solidified my belief the one truism -
Normal is a setting on your washing machine.
Completely fascinating read and surprisingly funny. My husband kept asking me what I was laughing about. The joke and delivery was so complicated (but easy to spot and understand), it would have been impossible to explain. I just gave him the book when I was finished. Really enjoyable read.