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.
©2011 Jon Ronson (P)2011 Tantor
"Engrossing.... This book brings droll wit to buoy this fascinating journey through 'the madness business.'" (Publishers Weekly)
"The Psychopath Test" takes us on a journey through a host of interesting characters, including scientologists, psychiatrists, patients, and of course "psychopaths", giving us a variety of perspectives and insights along the way. Jon Ronson takes a postmodern approach to his subjects, an underlying skepticism which leads to interesting questions and speculations. While a moral relativism mutes some of the book's passion, this is made for by Ronson???s introspective self-doubt and honestly. Ronson brings some important social quandaries to light ??? what to do with psychopaths, the potentially psychopathic nature of our leaders, the reliability of psychiatric checklists, and the potential dangers of diagnosing and medicating children, to name just a few.
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
Jon Ronson is an extremely gifted writer and an extremely gifted speaker. He uses both these talents to their fullest on this project.
Ronson does the narration himself, and since the book is written in an auto-biographical format, it makes the book feel very personal and intimate as the author takes you through the story of how he got involved in the initial inquiry that kicked off his research for this subject, and also how closely it tied in with his own personal fears regarding his own state of mind and how he processes emotions when he is worried or concerned.
The book covers many different aspects of the mental health industry. You may end up with more questions than answers when you're done listening, but make no mistake; that's a good thing. The writer clearly didn't go into the research for this book with an agenda. He went into this project with an open, curious, smart mind, and shares all his thoughts and insights with you as he goes - not just the bits that would neatly fit together into a pretty package with a bow on top.
A great book on a fascinating subject presented by a gifted speaker. Who could ask for more?
criticism of psychological diagnosis
The meandering tale that linked stories and character traits between the various people jon ronson interviewed on his path to get a well rounded view of mental health in modern society and how it is or is not diagnosed.
Interview with Al Dunlap
no, but I loved it....I did actually laugh a couple times
This is my first Jon Ronson book and I found it to be a highly amusing and interesting exploration of the concept of "psychopath." As a psychologist, I was fascinated with his exploration into the background of the DSM and his interviews with Drs. Hare and Spitzer. In addition, I thought the accent and intonation of the narrator was quite delightful and provided an extra incredulousness to the narration.
A journalist, Jon Ronson sets out to answer the question: Why do some leaders mess with people, disrupt their lives, and still are rewarded for inhumane behavior? He does this by focusing on mental health in general and psychopathic behavior in particular. Each chapter opens the reader to aspects of the human condition. Readers are introduced to characters from many walks of life and shown how they behave in psychopathic ways. It becomes evident, that psychopathic behavior is a plus in organizational life and to the ambitions. It separates the ordinary from the highly productive in many cases. Certainly, Ronson makes it clear that individuals with abhorrent behavior are often the most likely to find organizational success and to garner the rewards associated with that success. This book will be of help to anyone interested in the nature of leadership in our modern world. Negatively, the book could have been a little more coherent in presentation. While exciting and informative, the book can leave readers without a common thread and theme at times. The author reads the book himself to advantage
When trying to find information about people that lack a conscience, I would listen to, "The Sociopath Next Door." It's an easier listen and more informative.
This story started out slow, picked up for most of the book, to the point where it was really interesting, and then, it just ended. It was like a book report from a middle school student. I listened to this because it was by Ronson who is a wacky and controversial writer. But in this book, he didn't take a stand, he didn't give his opinion, it's a cop-out. He writes about what he saw and who he talked to, but then doesn't really give his opinion on anything. Anyone could have written this book since it doesn't reveal his point-of-view. Lame.
I loved this book! The fascinating, well-written prose really came to life with the author's narration. He had me laughing out-loud with his hysterically funny self-effacing humor.
I kept waiting for this to get serious.... and then it was over.
Listening to this made me crazy.
The whinny, anxious tone was not due ONLY to the reader, it was in the writing and the reader reflected that.
I learned nothing about psychopaths that I didn't already know, and I know relatively little.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
"'Grandiose sense of self-worth?' I asked him. This would be a hard one for him to deny, standing as he was under an enormous oil painting of himself."
I quite enjoyed The Psychopath Test, which combines the self-deprecating wit of its anxiety-ridden author, accounts of his interviews with several colorful individuals, and some serious ethical questions. The book begins with the story of a man named "Tony", whom Ronson meets in a mental institution. Tony is a personable, intelligent, stable-seeming guy who doesn't seem like he should be there. He faked insanity as a teenager to avoid a jail sentence for beating someone up and now the doctors won't let him out, now matter how reasonably he behaves.
As it develops, though, Tony, while not "mad" in any sense, has been diagnosed with psychopathic tendencies. In other words, he has trouble empathizing with others, a self-aggrandizing attitude, and a charming, manipulative personality. His legal status remains in limbo not because he's thought to be dangerous, but because many dangerous people have been like him.
As Ronson's explorations into psychopathy and its consequences unfold, we encounter some extremes of opinion. On one hand, there are those who distrust the entire psychiatric profession and accuse it of sinister motives, like Scientologists. But, not entirely giving lie to their views are the actions a group of a doctors and self-appointed criminal experts, who, with the zealousness of witch hunters, wield a questionnaire designed to ferret out psychopaths. Confusing matters further are the agendas of the media and pharmaceutical companies, and a long history of very dubious mental health diagnoses and treatment methodologies. Some of the people Ronson meets seem almost too bizarre to be real, but having worked at a company founded by someone a lot like the businessman with the oil painting of himself (and with about as many legal indictments), I know that they are.
Though Ronson focuses a lot more on the strange fringes than on scientific rigor, I found the questions the book raises quite interesting. Should society allow those who lack empathy to roam the streets or rise to positions of power in the corporate world? If not, then who should have the power to make those decisions, and is it right for a diagnostic checklist be treated as predictive of someone's behavior? When does that sort of thing cross the line into a Minority Report-like realm?
Normally, I prefer it when authors don’t narrate their own audiobooks, but Ronson has an amusingly wide-eyed speaking style that I liked. I plan to check out more of his work.
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