The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industryby Published 12 May 2011
|The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry.pdf|
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!
***Warning: this review is not for the fainthearted.***
A video recently went viral of a Texas judge savagely beating his disabled teenage daughter with a belt.
Perhaps the most heartrending moment of the video is near the beginning, when in a tiny voice the girl cries out: “Dad...” an instant before he starts to hit her.
What do you get when you hollow a human of conscience? If there were no empathy, no guilt, no shame, no anxiety, no compunction... if impulse control simply meant biding your time... if ego were all that mattered, a desire to dominate others, the shameless manipulation: quintessence of a creature with the mind of a man but the soul of an insect, no trappings of honor or personal responsibility (let alone personality). Well, you get things like human trafficking, plutocratic oligarchies, and Donald Trump.
Perhaps it occurs to you that even wife-beaters must love their wives, or why keep them around otherwise? Sociopaths don't always fake emotion or attachment. Family members are possessions, tears of loss for an important object their deepest sentiment. They do not love. They possess.
Children, for instance, are an irritation, products of the loins that may occasionally cause trouble, but which ultimately serve a purpose, useful in keeping up social appearances (if that fails, children can always be disowned). Sociopaths experience sorrow and cry for lost possessions in exactly the same way they would on finding their favorite automobile crushed by a tree in the driveway.
Without empathy, the ego becomes all-consuming. A sociopath is solipsistic to a degree that even Ayn Rand might find appalling (though she would herself score rather high on Robert Hare’s PCL-R test).
Factor 1: Personality, “Aggressive narcissism”
Glibness and superficial charm
The creepy superficiality that politicians ooze like body fluid is item one.
It’s true, we all act sometimes. At work you may not behave the way you do at home, but usually affectation takes a toll. Overdo it, and your guilt and shame could manifest into a full-blown existential crisis. That’s why so many young people are emotionally wrecked or altered by the modern workplace, where character is not only irrelevant, but actively winnowed along the corporate ladder. (There’s a preponderance of sociopaths at the top of the corporate and political food-chain.)
Grandiose sense of self-worth, narcissism, egomania
Cunning and Manipulation
Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
Lack of remorse or guilt
Callousness; lack of empathy
Many hypothesize that Rush Limbaugh eats babies, or that he's the result of a human-pig crossbreading experiment gone terribly wrong. Or maybe, he's just a garden variety sociopath, who knows?
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Behavioral patterns include bullying others at a young age, sometimes torturing animals, reacting with clinical detachment to images of depravity and gore, emotionally preying on others for entertainment, promiscuity, short-term marital relationships, criminal versatility, etc.
Anxiety and shyness are the diametric opposite of psychopathy.
As you can imagine, Judge Adams would behave splendidly in public. He's a confident man, enjoys being called "sir" and flaunting his achievements, like all materially successful creatures. The real question, of course, is how he treats those over whom he has power. The understated answer is “badly.” Not being human himself, he's never quite sure how to treat other humans, except by observing and pretending to be one of them, a tiresome mimicry.
Of her psychopathic father, Hilary said: "I told him I had the video and he didn't seem to think anything of it, basically dared me to post it. I think he just really needs help and rehabilitation.”
She actually feels sorry for him. Incidentally, Judge Adams told reporters: “In my mind I haven't done anything wrong other than discipline my child.”
You may think you are good at lying or rationalization, but you are nothing compared to a sociopath, whose favorite phrases include gems like:
“Look at what you made me do!” and the classic:
“Are you happy now?" yelled while abusing a victim,
"Is this what you wanted? Do you like disobeying me?”
"I was completely brainwashed and controlled," said the mother, "I leave the room, he’s telling me what to say, what to do."
You get the picture. Sociopaths are everywhere, between one and three % of the population, male and female, and not always violent. They are attracted to authority. It's something in their lizard brains, a vestigial will to power.
Also, psychopaths cannot tolerate disrespect. Sometime near the video's end, Judge Adams promises that so much as a questionable tone of voice from his daughter would result in even more severe beatings.
Factoid: the Texas Judge has a history of ruling child-abuse cases in favor of the abuser, saying that a child's testimony is void without video evidence, ironically.
Somewhat related empathy test developed by professor Baron-Cohen.
Dr. Nassir Ghaemi on The Colbert Report explaining why empathy, creativity, realism are so important in leaders.
Jon Ronson on the Daily Show.
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.
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)
This is what I might call "an oddly interesting book". I say that because in retrospect I'm a bit surprised that it holds the interest so well. Mr. Ronson begins with a strange little mystery concerning running down the source/writer of an (to use the same word) odd book that has been mailed to certain people. From this the book springboards into a look at Psychopathy, its diagnosis and by extension the way in which psychiatric disorders are not only diagnosed but agreed on (that is agreed to exist as disorders).
Rambling a bit and full of introspective thoughts by the author (most of which are interesting and entertaining if not always germane) we go through a series of interviews that range from "Tony" to Bob Hare who basically formulated the most used Psychopath test. Tony was a young man who has been in Broadmoor for years, sent there after a relatively minor offense. The author was brought there by representatives of the church of Scientology in an attempt to discredit psychiatry in general. Other interviews included Emmanuel Constant, a former Haitian death-squad leader. He also interviewed a corporate hatchet man type exec. who was known for blithely firing people and joyously shutting down plants.
There is a lot that's interesting here and the book will (I believe) keep you involved. After looking into how disorders get into (and are pulled out of) DSM-IV-TR, considering the implications of Hare's list (and how it effected the author as he found himself setting out to find and identify "free range psychopaths) and the attitudes around these he came to an interesting conclusion. That they may be dangerous tools leading to over diagnosis.
I suggest you take a look at this, especially if you (like me) have been "concerned" about statements like "1% to 10% of the population may be psychopaths". While this book may be a bit more disjointed than some of the author's other works...it's well done and interesting.