Friday, 26 August 2016

Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Title: The Psychopath Test
Author: Jon Ronson
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 304
Genres: Non-fiction

The Psychopath Test
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...
A surprisingly humorous and eye opening read, The Psychopath Test chronicles the author's journey primarily investigating psychopathy and how people are labelled with a mental disorder. I absolutely loved the journalistic writing style and I found Jon Ronson's internal monologue pretty hilarious. Funny bits aside, there were some parts of this book that absolutely frightened the life out of me. Jon Ronson's conversations with psychopaths and the people who work with them was generally quite scary to read about. Psychopathy is essentially untreatable and the incidence of it in the general population is quoted in this book as 1 in 100. That is a lot! I found myself frantically trying to think if I have ever encountered one and just not have known it. It's not something I like to think about.

I found this book riveting and I think anyone who has an interest in psychology would find it a good read. It doesn't really go into depth about exactly how to spot a psychopath definitively or anything but I enjoyed seeing the madness industry through a lay person's perspective and I think Ronson asked some very good questions. Why is it that the diagnostic and statistical manual for diagnosing mental disorders has grown from a 65 page pamphlet to a huge 800+ page tome in less than a hundred years? Is normal human behaviour increasingly being labelled as abnormal? Why is the diagnosis of childhood mental disorders growing so rapidly? What involvement do the drug companies have in this? All interesting questions to ponder.

Perhaps the most frightening question of all is how many psychopaths are in positions of power and are making decisions that directly affect society in negative way? How much harm have corporate psychopaths directly caused? Ronson himself mused whether the difference between a psychopath in a mental hospital and a psychopath who is a CEO or a politician is just a matter of financial privilege and family background. Again, all interesting things to think about.

I highly recommend this fascinating book, it offers so much to think about.

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