Meg's Reviews > The Psychopath Test

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
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's review
Dec 07, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in December, 2012

I started reading this book as a colleague had seen Jon Ronson on television talking about his book. My colleague thought it would be a good idea if there was a genuine way of showing if we worked with a bunch of psychos. I am not sure that this is a good thing.
The Psychopath Test referred to is the Bob Hare PCL-R checklist which has twenty items used to create a score which determines whether or not people are psychopaths. Interestingly enough, the author scored on these several times. For example the time he visited the home address of a businessman known for ruthlessly sacking the workforce of his companies and realised that it was not the best time for suggesting that the man was a psychopath –‘Item 14 Impulsivity – unlikely to spend much time considering the possible consequences of his actions’. Ronson spends his time running round the world trying to see if successful businessmen are actually psychopaths, a concept that he seems to find quite worrying. The part I actually found the most worrying was the description of how the DSM-III (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 3) came into being, making it sound nothing more than a group of Psychologists creating their very own buzz word bingo. While I have nothing against Psychologists having fun, it’s is concerning that their creation is then used as a tick list of symptoms to label people by.
This book is also a voyage of discovery with the author feeling empowered by his knowledge when he discovers the checklist and journeying towards the enlightenment that where people’s brains are concerned, nothing is quite that black or white. Also the realisation of the part played by journalists and the media in ensuring that anyone showing any behaviour which could be considered as rational or sane never gets publicity. However this does ensure that the journalists won’t get bored. I am not sure that this is a good thing either.

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