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

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
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's review
Jun 19, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiftyfifty-me

A few weeks ago, my sister's fiancé posted this video about Lord of the Flies, in which he discusses sociopaths/psychopaths as one of the vocabulary terms connected to Golding's novel. In this video, he recommends Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test to individuals interested in learning more. "It's a really entertaining read; it's not very long...and you should totally check it out. It's very much worth reading." I was instantly sold.

For the record, he was 100% accurate in his description of the book. So thank you very much, Tim Calvin, for both recommending and lending to me this book.

And I couldn't put it down. Ronson is a master of anecdotal humor. His chapters are informative and entertaining, providing readers with insight into society's fascination with psychiatry and mental illness.

While he addresses the varying perspectives on the field of psychiatry (including the vehemently opposing views of Scientologists, the doubts of both professionals and outsiders, and the support from within the industry), Ronson leaves the reader to make his or her own conclusions regarding the validity of mental disorder checklists and the social ramifications for over- and misdiagnosis. His research and interviews are delivered in an approachable and easily digestible format; Ronson is more of a storyteller than a journalist. Although the content may not lend itself readily to a script, I could still see this story eventually being translated to film. Get on that, Hollywood.

The tale begins with a puzzle in the form of mysterious book and propels us into Ronson's quest to understand the characteristics and diagnosis for psychopathy. He interviews Bob Hare, the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R), and learns to apply the checklist as an amateur diagnostician. His research into the treatment of psychopaths starting in the 1960s up to present day is punctuated with personal observations of mental instability within everyone he encounters (including prisoners, mental patients, corporate leaders, and literary critics).

The book touches on issues surrounding the media's exploitation of the mentally ill, society's obsession to label and self-diagnose disorders, and the credibility of the criteria used to classify mental disorders in general. There are no definitive answers, and the research merely skims the surface of a more serious problem facing today's pharmaceutical-crazed culture.

Overall, Ronson's style and enthusiasm keep the reader engaged and wanting to learn more. This book serves as a great introduction into the history of psychopathy; please do not confuse it for anything more than that.

And for the record, I was totally right about Christian Grey being a psychopath. He would have scored pretty high on Hare's Psychopathy Checklist, you know, if he were an actual person.
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