The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

They say one out of every hundred people is a psychopath. You probably passed on on the street today. These are people who have no empathy, are manipulative, deceitful, charming, seductive, and delusional. The Psychopath Test is the New York Times bestselling exploration of their world and the madness industry.When Jon Ronson is drawn into an elaborate hoax played on some...

Title:The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
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The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry Reviews

  • NerdGirlBlogger

    To write something like “I loved this book” or “I found it incredibly insightful, entertaining and downright frightful” wouldn’t give you the exact depth of my passion towards it. For the past 48 hours, I’ve been thinking about the precise words I need to come up with to describe my joy with the novel Ronson has written, and I can’t. I can only tell you that if someone like me–jaded with years of dealing with mentally ill family members, overloaded with information from 6 psychology classes and

    To write something like “I loved this book” or “I found it incredibly insightful, entertaining and downright frightful” wouldn’t give you the exact depth of my passion towards it. For the past 48 hours, I’ve been thinking about the precise words I need to come up with to describe my joy with the novel Ronson has written, and I can’t. I can only tell you that if someone like me–jaded with years of dealing with mentally ill family members, overloaded with information from 6 psychology classes and dozens of books, abstracts and articles, and mentally depleted over countless hours discussing my life in Crazytown with various friends in (and out of) the madness industry can still find this much pleasure and knowledge in a book about madness, I need you to know this book is a DAMN GOOD book!

  • Jason

    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,

    !

  • Lynn Weber

    If you're interested in this topic, I'd recommend starting with Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door rather than this book. The problem with this one is that it's more "Follow me as I delve into this crazy world and have surreal experiences" than it is a study of sociopathy. And that ultimately makes it less gripping. I remember clearly the first section of of Stout's book, as it took the reader on a tour of one man's mind as he faced a simple but telling moment of moral decision-making. It wa

    If you're interested in this topic, I'd recommend starting with Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door rather than this book. The problem with this one is that it's more "Follow me as I delve into this crazy world and have surreal experiences" than it is a study of sociopathy. And that ultimately makes it less gripping. I remember clearly the first section of of Stout's book, as it took the reader on a tour of one man's mind as he faced a simple but telling moment of moral decision-making. It was so suspenseful and kind of harrowing. This is much less profound.

    Nonetheless, it's a genial read and certainly a good book.

  • Stephanie

    Jon Ronson, in preparation of writing this book took a course from a top psychologist on how to spot a Psychopath. Below is a list of traits from the first factor called "Aggressive Narcissism". The

    Jon Ronson, in preparation of writing this book took a course from a top psychologist on how to spot a Psychopath. Below is a list of traits from the first factor called "Aggressive Narcissism". The statistics show that 1% of the population is psychopathic....gulp. One person out of one hundred.

    Come along with me and play 'spot the psychopath'....shall we?

    Glibness/superficial charm

    Grandiose sense of self-worth

    Pathological lying

    Cunning/manipulative

    Lack of remorse or guilt

    Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)

    Callousness; lack of empathy

    Failure to accept responsibility for his or her own actions

    Sarah Palin

    Everything she has ever said is Glib.

    Truly believed she could be vice president...NO, PRESIDENT!

    "What newspapers do you read (Sarah)?"..."Ah, you know, all of 'em." LIAR! "I can see Russia from my house"....sure.

    She got herself nominated for the vice presidency didn't she?

    Enjoys shooting wolves from a helicopter without a care in the world.

    Duh....check.

    Does not

    have empathy for the poor and the sick.

    Has not accepted the responsibility for destroying the Republican party....or maybe that falls on McCain.

    Dick Cheney

    Glibness? sure. Charm? Well you can't win them all.

    Made himself president.

    Weapons of mass destruction? Anyone?

    Again, made himself president.

    Shot his friend in the face. He not only wasn't sorry, he made the friend apologize for getting his face in the way.

    Do cyborgs have emotions?

    Does not give a fuck about anyone, for any reason.

    Started an unnecessary war that has killed thousands for personal profit and has never "I'm sorry" once.

    Alex

    . Okay a personal joke.....I kid, Alex. Sort of.

    This could go on and on, so I'll stop here.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Jon makes us look twice at the world around us and how we are all defined by our 'maddest edges'...all of our edges are a bit mad. He shows us a look at the 'madness industry' and how one Doctor took the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) from 40ish pages into the 800s. Being normal is a disorder these days.

    Here is Jon's

    If you are worried about the above traits, well....

  • Courtney Lindwall

    I read this in about a 4 hour span, from 12 am - 4 am. It freaked me out and I slept with the lights on. But on with the review.

    So I've read things about psychopaths previously. How their brains are actually wired differently and they are unable to feel empathy, etcetc. Psychopathy is incurable. Psychopathy, in its violent and sexual strands, is outright fucking terrifying.

    But Ronson's book talks more about the frequent misdiagnosis of psychopathy. And the misdiagnosis of many other "mental il

    I read this in about a 4 hour span, from 12 am - 4 am. It freaked me out and I slept with the lights on. But on with the review.

    So I've read things about psychopaths previously. How their brains are actually wired differently and they are unable to feel empathy, etcetc. Psychopathy is incurable. Psychopathy, in its violent and sexual strands, is outright fucking terrifying.

    But Ronson's book talks more about the frequent misdiagnosis of psychopathy. And the misdiagnosis of many other "mental illnesses" that may in fact just be trying to label and profit off of various human eccentricities. I thought it was interesting. Especially the inmate Tony who scammed his way into the Mental Hospital hoping for nicer amenities and found himself unable to convince the doctors of his sanity for another 20 years (13 years after his prison sentence was originally intended to be over).

    That's some real life

    stuff. When the majority decides that the only thing needed to stamp a lifelong label of "psychopath" is a score over 30 on a 20 point behavioral checklist, an incredible danger arises. Misuse and misguided priorities in diagnosis can ruin lives, create madness instead of protect against it.

    As relatively new fields, I think psychotherapy and the psychiatric world at large are bound to make huge changes in their approach as they learn more and more about the human brain and its relation to behavior. A lot of the disorders seem, to me, very subjective in their conditions. (e.g. one of the characteristics for psychopathy is an 'inflated sense of self worth'....uhm? that's pretty subjective and would probably include the vast majority of my professors) The human brain itself is just such an incredible unknown that I think there needs to be a certain level of trepidation in creating absolutes. For Tony, the "absolute" definition of psychopathic tendencies lost him the best 20 years of his life surrounded by rapists and serial killers in a maximum security Hospital.

    Of course, at the same time, there are definitely strands of human beings who objectively act differently and need to be addressed by society. They respond differently. They do not have the same emotional capacity as the other 99% of the human race. There is some definitive consistency in the way their minds work. There need to be tactics for identification, for prevention against their possible havoc.

    So basically Ronson's conclusion is that, like with every other thing in this world, there needs to be a balance in the approach. There can't be a mass frenzy to diagnose and label every little idiosyncrasy of human behavior, turning the world into a medicated homogenization scared of every feeling outside of complacent and numb. But at the same time, we can't ignore extreme human behavior, the kind that is debilitating and sometimes even dangerous.

    Oh wait, back to my review of the actual book. It was decent. Who isn't intrigued by the minds of psychopaths (and the minds of those who study the minds of psychopaths)? I thought his different chapters and stories were a little too disjointed and he trailed off topic a little toward the end. The book didn't have as great of a flow or dynamic as it could've. But overall, pretty interesting and worth a read.

  • Bill  Kerwin

    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.

  • Simeon

    A video recently went viral of a Texas judge savagely beating his disabled teenage daughter with a belt.

    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

    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”

    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.)

    (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)

    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?

    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.

    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:

    You may think you are good at lying or rationalization, but you are nothing compared to a sociopath, whose favorite phrases include gems like:

    and the classic:

    yelled while abusing a victim,

    "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.

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  • Greta

    Yesterday I saw a talk show on TV in which a Belgian politician said that the stock market is no gauge for happiness. This is so true. It reminded me of this book, in which the author, in his quest to uncover psychopaths, visits Al Dunlap. This was a man who actually enjoyed closing down plants and firing people (Scott, Sunbeam). The fact that the share price skyrocketed while he was CEO and fired huge numbers of employees, is really unsettling.

    Ronson's book is filled with stories about people

    Yesterday I saw a talk show on TV in which a Belgian politician said that the stock market is no gauge for happiness. This is so true. It reminded me of this book, in which the author, in his quest to uncover psychopaths, visits Al Dunlap. This was a man who actually enjoyed closing down plants and firing people (Scott, Sunbeam). The fact that the share price skyrocketed while he was CEO and fired huge numbers of employees, is really unsettling.

    Ronson's book is filled with stories about people he meets in the madness industry. He encounters some experts in the field, some scientologists, a criminal labeled as a psychopath, a death squad leader... These encounters were interesting enough to me to enjoy reading this book. I especially liked his encounter with Robert Spitzer, who worked for six years on the DSM III edition (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

    However, it's a lightweight read and not everything he writes in his book fits the title. The author is not an expert, and he makes himself too central to the narrative, which is really sad because I thought he was a bit lame.

    Not mind-blowing, but a worthwhile read.

    7/10

  • Maxwell

    This was a bit of a disappointment. I found the first 50% of the book to be a bit forgettable. It was hard for me to see where Ronson was going with each chapter. Though I found the examination of mental illness, especially the stigmas around it and the potential harms of labeling to be really fascinating, the book as a whole lacked direction. When I read

    , I felt like each chapter really compounded on one another to create a vivid and interesting picture of shame t

    This was a bit of a disappointment. I found the first 50% of the book to be a bit forgettable. It was hard for me to see where Ronson was going with each chapter. Though I found the examination of mental illness, especially the stigmas around it and the potential harms of labeling to be really fascinating, the book as a whole lacked direction. When I read

    , I felt like each chapter really compounded on one another to create a vivid and interesting picture of shame through the lens of an empathetic viewer. While Ronson maintained that empathy in

    , I felt a bit less invested in the stories he shared and found it harder to connect with his points. However, the last few chapters were awesome. I'm not bummed I listened to this one because Ronson is a wonderful narrator and has a unique perspective in almost everything he does, but it didn't live up to what I'd expected. If you're curious about this topic, I'd recommend listening to

    where he talks about psychopathy and even some of the subjects he handles in this book.

  • Ariel

    My first read of the year and it isn't what I was hoping for 3 I decided to jump on this because of my crazy love for Jon Ronson's newest book,

    , but I realize now that I underestimated just how much the subject matter of that book contributed to my enjoyment of it. The Psychopath Test has Ronson's humour, similar style, empathetic point of view, and personal life injected into the story, but this research felt meandering. I thought it'd be clearer, earlier in the n

    My first read of the year and it isn't what I was hoping for 3 I decided to jump on this because of my crazy love for Jon Ronson's newest book,

    , but I realize now that I underestimated just how much the subject matter of that book contributed to my enjoyment of it. The Psychopath Test has Ronson's humour, similar style, empathetic point of view, and personal life injected into the story, but this research felt meandering. I thought it'd be clearer, earlier in the novel, how dangerous it can be to misdiagnose people, and how truly nuanced, complicated, and personal each diagnosis should be, but I felt it took to long to get to that angle of this story. A lot of it also didn't feel like a story, it felt like a collection of similar case studies, but honestly a bunch of them could have been cut out and I wouldn't have noticed.

    Overall this has cemented that I like Ronson's writing and his journalistic storytelling methods, but that this topic, and the scattered structure, wasn't for me. (This is more like a 2.5 stars for me.)


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