> The Things You Can Read: Review: The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry By Jon Ronson

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Friday, July 5, 2013

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

"This is a story about madness.  It begins with a curious encounter at a Costa Coffee in Bloomsbury, Central London," and from this meeting the crazy journey takes-off for Jon Ronson, and for us.  Ronson takes us with him as he tackles some serious topics with just the right mixture of seriousness and "Monty Python-like" British humor .  The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson is a real page turner, and extremely well researched.  I loved every minute of it.  I hated for the adventure to end. 

When I read nonfiction, I am always looking for the takeaway!  I ask myself, what did I learn from having spent hours reading this book?  Well, there are so many takeaways to be found within the pages of The Psychopath Test.  From Ronson's encounter with the Scientologists, where we learn their views on psychiatry, to his interviews with Tony (not his real name); an inmate classified as a psychopath at Broadmoor Wellness Centre, a prison for the criminally insane in England, to his travels abroad where the plot thickens, and more and more is revealed about the pharmaceutical industry, psychology, and of course, psychopaths.  Probably the biggest takeaway was that a psychopath's brains are actually wired differently from normal folks brains, and this scientific fact makes them unable to feel empathy. It also directly leads to the most terrifying fact which is a psychopathy is incurable. In other words, my ultimate takeaway was that psychopathy, in its violent and sexual strands, an outright alarming, awful, ghastly, hideous horrible scary, terrifying thing.
Alarmed yet, well read on...Did you know, out of every hundred people, one is a psychopath?  Did you know that there is a real psychopath test or checklist called the PCL-R Checklist?  The checklist has twenty items to tick-off, but not all necessarily have to apply for one to be a psychopath.  Interestingly enough, the checklist is employed by such agencies as the FBI.  What type of items are on this test?  Well, checkout the first eight:

Item 1: Glibness/Superficial Charm
Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth
Item 3: Ned for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Item 4: Pathological lying
Item 5: Conning/manipulative
Item 6: Lack of remorse or guilt
Item 7: Shallow affect
Item 8: Callous/Lack of empathy

Does this sound like anyone you know?  Not sure what some of these mean?  Not to worry, Ronson doesn't just present the list, he goes on to share real case studies where the checklist was applied.  These were each fascinating reads, in and of themselves, but after reading them, I began to think about the folks that have walked through my life, some of which I've known well, others who were just on the periphery, and then some others who were walk-ons, important for only a brief amount of time.   Two immediately came to mind that scored off the charts on this test.  Each individual was practically a twenty out of twenty.  Why do I share this?  Well, I guess as a warning, because after reading The Psychopath Test , you too will be unable to help going on "Psychopath Patrol".

Another one of the many fascinating chapters was entitled "Night of the Living Dead."  It was here that the reader learns the history of Sunbeam's demise and the corporate psychopath who brought this company to its knees.  Interestingly enough, psychopathic CEOs, as well as, psychopathic politicians are not uncommon.  In fact, "a disproportionate number of psychopaths can be found in high places,"  which makes them quiet common. According to Robert Hare, PhD, the creator of the PCL-R Checklist, "'Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies.'"  To take it a step further Mr. Hare suggested that, "Why is the world so unfair?  Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty?  The answer: psychopaths."  Mr. Hare is not alone in these conclusions Martha Stout, a professor at Harvard Medical School and author of The Sociopath Next Door, stated:
"They are everywhere...They are in the crowded restaurant where you have your lunch.  They are in your open-plan office.  As a group they tend to be more charming than most people...They have no warm emotions of their own but will study the rest of us.  They're the boss or the coworker who likes to make other people jump just for the pleasure of seeing them jump.  They're the spouse who marries to look socially normal but inside the marriage show no love after the initial charm wears off."
Again, I warn you, after reading The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson, you can't help, but be on the  "Psychopath Lookout".  In case you are unfamiliar with Jon Ronson, he is the author who gave us  The Men Who Stare at Goats, and I can't wait to read that one too.  Needless to say, Jon Ronson has a new fan.  

Final Thoughts for those of you out there who don't plan on reading this one:
People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get what they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.- Robert Hare, Ph.D
Rating5 of 5 stars
Summary Courtesy of GoodReads:

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.

Does this sound like a book for you?  Let us know here at The Things You Can.

Happy Reading!
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