11 of 52 – The Psychopath Test

I just finished reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, a Welsh journalist.

This is a story about madness. It all starts when journalist Jon Ronson is contacted by a leading neurologist. She and several colleagues have recently received a cryptically puzzling book in the mail, and Jon is challenged to solve the mystery behind it. As he searches for the answer, Jon soon finds himself, unexpectedly, on an utterly compelling and often unbelievable adventure into the world of madness. Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he’s sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths. Jon learns from him how to ferret out these high-flying psychopaths and, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, heads into the corridors of power.

This book was really interesting! I tend to flip between thinking that psychiatry over-diagnoses and thinking that they’re horrifyingly correct. This was a cool exploration of psychopathy and how it’s possible that many people at the top are, in fact, psychopaths. This is something I might have to agree with, which is largely why I bought the book.

After research was done with a few hundred top CEO’s and politicians, Robert Hare found that they’re 4 times more likely to be psychopaths than the general public. Now, granted, just under 1% of the general public can be classified as psychopaths so that’s about 4% of top personalities, but it still seems a huge deal.

I do like that Ronson also talked about how psychiatry could be overstepping its bounds. He talked about the problems with over-labeling people, and how children are being wrongfully diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

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