Published: Jan 2012
What They Say: What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness. Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill which seemingly reveals that madness could indeed be at the heart of everything. Combining Jon’s trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is both entertaining and honest, unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.
What Elaine Says: Ronson is of course famous as the author of “The Men Who Stare at Goats”, a mind tripping, hilarious and (even more worryingly) true account of the US Governments pysch experiments during the 70s. Now Ronson has turned his eye on psychopaths, or at least that’s what the title would suggest.
Ronson actually started the book while looking into a mysterious book that was distributed to a select group of scientists in the US. Having been brought into investigate this however he stumbles upon a far more interesting topic, psychopaths. The book (as I expected) is a lot more about Ronson’s journey than an insight into what goes on in the mind of a psychopath but it’s none the less wonderful for that.
One of my favourite things about the whole book is how after learning about the Psychopath test (a scale used to measure psychopathic tendencies) Ronson starts rating everyone he encounters, including himself, with rather startling results.
All in all this was more enjoyable than informative but it does have a few interesting tidbits into the world of psychiatry both past and present. One for people interested in the mind but without wanting to actually stretch their own too much.
Elaine's Rating: 7/10
“As I glanced at the phraseology of the research report, dull and unfathomable to outsiders like me, I thought that if you have the ambition to become a villain, the first thing you should do is learn to be impenetrable. Don’t act like Blofeld—monocled and ostentatious. We journalists love writing about eccentrics. We hate writing about impenetrable, boring people. It makes us look bad: the duller the interviewee, the duller the prose. If you want to get away with wielding true, malevolent power, be boring.”