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

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
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U 50x66
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Mar 13, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in March, 2012

This book creeped me out. Deciding to read it late at night probably wasn't the best decision I made yesterday.

Psychopaths are people who don't feel empathy or guilt, with supposedly short memories of pain[1] (which is why the threat of incarceration is "useless" on them and why they have a high recidivism rate). The author does a good job of showing us both sides of the coin: the utterly deranged minds of psychopaths and the sad situations of people who are thought to be psychopaths because they scored high on a 20-question checklist but in fact are innocent[2].

Also considered is the thought of psychopaths at the upper echelons of our society, namely CEOs, politicians, etc. Are some of them psychopaths? Do career progressions reward psychopathy? That's for you to decide.

Another avenue explored is the concept of just the "right kind of mad" in journalism, especially RE reality TV. "Journalists" don't want to interview sane people, because their stories tend to be boring, and they don't want to interview the truly crazy people, because their stories can't be related to. What journalists and TV reality shows want is people who are mad enough to be interesting but not mad enough to be crazy, people we can look at and feel good because we might be anxious but we aren't as anxious as them.

Third, the author touches on over-diagnosing of mental illnesses that goes in the US. The psychologists' bible used to be short just a couple of decades ago and is now almost a thousand pages long. Consider bipolar disorder, which might not even be possible during childhood, but an enormous number of children are diagnosed and medicated as such, anyway. Are psychologists cataloging every part of life as an illness?

Overall, a good book. There are odds bit of (dark?) humor scattered throughout. The author does a good job of maintaining interest.

[1] Non-psychopaths and psychopath prisoners were shocked in an experiment with different anticipatory reactions from their brains
[2] People -- police officers, psychologists, the author, you, me, everybody -- see what they want to see and all that.
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