Nathan's Reviews > The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
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's review
Sep 17, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: brain-cogsci-behavioural-economics, medicine
Read in September, 2011

I suppose it's appropriate that "A Journey Through the Madness Industry" should be maddening. This book describes the way the author's knowledge of the latest test for psychopathic behaviour has changed the way he sees people. On the one hand, this test does characterise psychopaths. However, it's also treacherously easy to find matches in people you know, successful business people, doormen, airport checkin agents, etc. Are they pyschopaths? It's this question that the book skirts around but never tackles head-on. Instead, the author visits a series of interesting and entertaining case studies in psychopathology and recognizes the growing suspicion that the test is overly general ... but then the book ends. Argh!

The book is a series of features about different psychopath, each situation interesting in a different way: novelty, physical danger, etc. Ronson is a journalist and he writes well without lapsing into the lazy fashion supplement broad brush evocations of place and time. (Compare to "The Sinners' Grand Tour", which epitomizes the lazy style to me). Do read the book: it's interesting, accessible, and full of stories and ideas that make you think. That it leaves with an unanswered question has meant has thwarted my desire to know what the author thought about the test, but it's kept my brain thinking about the subject long after I put the book down. Surely that's a win, however maddening.
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