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

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
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's review
Jun 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, non-fiction
Recommended for: People who want to learn to spot Psychopaths

I read this in about a 4 hour span, from 12 am - 4 am. It freaked me out and I slept with the lights on. But on with the review.

So I've read things about psychopaths previously. How their brains are actually wired differently and they are unable to feel empathy, etcetc. Psychopathy is incurable. Psychopathy, in its violent and sexual strands, is outright fucking terrifying.

But Ronson's book talks more about the frequent misdiagnosis of psychopathy. And the misdiagnosis of many other "mental illnesses" that may in fact just be trying to label and profit off of various human eccentricities. I thought it was interesting. Especially the inmate Tony who scammed his way into the Mental Hospital hoping for nicer amenities and found himself unable to convince the doctors of his sanity for another 20 years (13 years after his prison sentence was originally intended to be over).

That's some real life One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest stuff. When the majority decides that the only thing needed to stamp a lifelong label of "psychopath" is a score over 30 on a 20 point behavioral checklist, an incredible danger arises. Misuse and misguided priorities in diagnosis can ruin lives, create madness instead of protect against it.

As relatively new fields, I think psychotherapy and the psychiatric world at large are bound to make huge changes in their approach as they learn more and more about the human brain and its relation to behavior. A lot of the disorders seem, to me, very subjective in their conditions. (e.g. one of the characteristics for psychopathy is an 'inflated sense of self worth'....uhm? that's pretty subjective and would probably include the vast majority of my professors) The human brain itself is just such an incredible unknown that I think there needs to be a certain level of trepidation in creating absolutes. For Tony, the "absolute" definition of psychopathic tendencies lost him the best 20 years of his life surrounded by rapists and serial killers in a maximum security Hospital.

Of course, at the same time, there are definitely strands of human beings who objectively act differently and need to be addressed by society. They respond differently. They do not have the same emotional capacity as the other 99% of the human race. There is some definitive consistency in the way their minds work. There need to be tactics for identification, for prevention against their possible havoc.

So basically Ronson's conclusion is that, like with every other thing in this world, there needs to be a balance in the approach. There can't be a mass frenzy to diagnose and label every little idiosyncrasy of human behavior, turning the world into a medicated homogenization scared of every feeling outside of complacent and numb. But at the same time, we can't ignore extreme human behavior, the kind that is debilitating and sometimes even dangerous.

Oh wait, back to my review of the actual book. It was decent. Who isn't intrigued by the minds of psychopaths (and the minds of those who study the minds of psychopaths)? I thought his different chapters and stories were a little too disjointed and he trailed off topic a little toward the end. The book didn't have as great of a flow or dynamic as it could've. But overall, pretty interesting and worth a read.
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Reading Progress

June 3, 2011 – Shelved
June 4, 2011 – Started Reading
June 4, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011
June 4, 2011 – Shelved as: non-fiction
June 4, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Jane Kyriacou A good summing up of the book.

Kate Wellsmore overdeveloped Amadygalia?

message 3: by Mada (new) - added it

Mada Schwarz but where i can find the book online?

EashamManzar What other books can you recommend that are really good about explaining how the minds of psychopaths work ?

message 5: by Akash (new)

Akash Madhavan Manda Schwarz .. check out

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