Tim Roast's Reviews > The Psychopath Test

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
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Nov 17, 15

really liked it
Read in May, 2011

Excellent opening sentence: "This is a story about madness." It sums up the book immediately and is just six words.

I was unfamiliar with Jon Ronson before reading this and picked up the book because it looked interesting and was in the "humour" genre. I was interested to find out how someone would make psychopaths and those with psychopathic tendencies sound funny. Unfortunately the book's classification into the humour genre was misleading as this wasn't a funny book in general. It was however fascinating to read none-the-less.

The book opens with a mystery over a cryptic book, a mystery that the author solves - the solution being a little disappointing but that wasn't his fault. This sets him off on a quest to find out more about madness, the circulation of a cryptic book being an act of madness, and being a journalist he wasn't afraid to approach the right people for their takes on the story. Nor did he take sides as he sought views from both sides. This added a balance to the narrative that could have been missing if presented by another journalist (the red-tops?).

He learnt how to identify psychopaths and starts investigating to find psychopaths at the very top of the corporate/political world as there are a greater proportion of them there than in the general population, around 3% compared with 1% supposedly. However he barely started to do this before a colleague made him doubt his psychopath-spotting abilities. So he tailed off his investigations on this which was a bit of a disappointment (but it has laid the foundations for someone else to step in and take the mantel if they are brave enough and confident enough).

Summing up this is an easy-to-read journalistic story that explores madness well although some avenues could have been explored further and no firm conclusions were made, which may be a good thing of course where classifying someone mad or allocating them with a mental disorder is concerned. Or perhaps that was the conclusion, that madness is not something that is cut and dry so keep an open mind before classing that "mad" neighbour or "mad" aunt mad.
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