The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry

The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry

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by Jon Ronson
     
 

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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, intoSee more details below

Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
…[Ronson] retains his own paranormal ability to locate and befriend wing nuts of every stripe…his winning style pervades most of The Psychopath Test
—The New York Times
Lloyd Rose
Though the book has its share of sensational anecdotes, these aren’t Ronson’s primary interest. His focus is on the way in which medicine and the media reduce a personality to nothing more than “its extreme, outermost aspects.”
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this engrossing exploration of psychiatry's attempts to understand and treat psychopathy, British journalist Ronson (whose The Men Who Stare at Goats was the basis for the 2009 movie starring George Clooney) reveals that psychopaths are more common than we'd like to think. Visiting Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital, where some of Britain's worst criminal offenders are sent, Ronson discovers the difficulties of diagnosing the complex disorder when he meets one inmate who says he feigned psychopathy to get a lighter sentence, and instead has spent 12 years in Broadmoor. The psychiatric community's criteria for diagnosing psychopathy (which isn't listed in its handbook, DSM-IV) is a checklist developed by the Canadian prison psychologist Robert Hare. Using Hare's rubric, which includes "glibness," "grandiose sense of self-worth," and "lack of remorse," Ronson sets off to interview possible psychopaths, many of them in positions of power, from a former Haitian militia leader to a power-hungry CEO. Raising more questions than it answers, and far from a dry medical history lesson, this book brings droll wit to buoy this fascinating journey through "the madness business." (May)
From the Publisher
"Engrossing.... This book brings droll wit to buoy this fascinating journey through 'the madness business.'" —Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews

From the author of The Men Who Stare at Goats (2005), another readable, entertaining excursion into extreme territory.

London-based journalist Ronson delves into the realm of mental illness, traveling to the notorious British facility Broadmoor to meet "Tony," who claimed to have successfully "faked" madness—he feigned a disorder to avoid jail for a violent assault, and has been held ever since despite his protests. Psychiatrists assured Ronson that Tony was not insane, but psychopathic, a distinction that led the journalist to Canadian psychologist Robert Hare, who developed a "checklist" of personality traits to reveal psychopaths (who are by definition glib and deceptive). Ronson interviewed Hare and took his seminar. Hare contends that "psychopaths are quite incurable" due to brain abnormalities, and that his research provides the best methods for rooting them out. Hare's seminar suggests that the detached sadism and lack of empathy which criminal psychopaths demonstrate can be seen in the wider world, where they cause great harm despite being only 1 percent of the population. "Serial killers ruin families," he says. "Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies." With this notion in mind, Ronson experienced chilling encounters with a Haitian death-squad leader and with Al Dunlap, a corporate raider who took great joy in firing people. Although the book's various strands don't fully coalesce, they remain engaging; Ronson is skilled at handling disturbing subject matter and difficult interview subjects with breezy insouciance. Yet the undertones are disturbing: While society seems unable to stop true psychopaths before they inflict major damage, Ronson argues that disturbed people like Tony essentially become "nothing more than a big splurge of madness in the minds of the people who benefit from it." The author's critique of these individuals within the mental-health industry will surely attract controversy.

Bizarrely captivating look at the terrifying mental disorder of psychopathy, the difficulty of its treatment and the professional infrastructure surrounding it.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101515167
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/12/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
30,931
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jon Ronson’s works include The Amazing Adventures of Phoenix Jones, and Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats—both international bestsellers. The Men Who Stare at Goats was as a major motion picture, released in 2009 and starring George Clooney. Ronson lives in London.

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