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The Wisdom of Psychopaths Paperback – 20 Sep 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann (20 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434020672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434020676
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr Kevin Dutton is a research fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford. He is an affiliated member of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy. He is the author of the acclaimed Flipnosis: The Art of Split-Second Persuasion and The Wisdom of Psychopaths: Lessons In Life From Saints, Spies and Serial Killers. He lives in the Cotswolds.

Product Description


"Dutton tackles an elusive, important and much neglected aspect of the mind; our personality. He presents some highly original insights and does so in a provocative and humorous style" (V. S. Ramachandran, Gifford lecturer , Reith lecturer and author of The Tell-Tale Brain)

"The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a surprising, absorbing, and perceptive book set out in briskly readable prose and with gripping anecdotes. I found it altogether fascinating." (Philip Pullman)

"Dutton has written a masterful, readable, and entertaining treatise on psychopathy and its manifestations in everyday life. Some of his ideas will generate debate and controversy, but he clearly has provided a thought-provoking book for those seeking to understand the "psychopathic" world in which they live." (Robert Hare, PhD)

"Inspiring and revelatory. Dutton’s book gave me a real insight into who I really am." (Andy McNab)

"[W]onderfully entertaining… it beautifully depicts why psychopaths are the way they are on both a neurological and psychological level. Ultimately it's about understanding them and Dutton does an amazing job illustrating their inner workings. I don't think I have ever read a book that so skilfully blends a serious topic with an adventurous streak, especially when he undergoes a "psychopath make-over". Fast-paced, fun and smart, this is for everyone who wants to know more about what makes psychopaths tick! In short: An intriguing and captivating work about the psychopath's mind!" (The Book Garden)

Book Description

A fascinating exploration into the mind of the psychopath - revealing what we can learn from it

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 April 2013
Format: Paperback
Ruthlessly cool under pressure, fearlessly risk-taking, charming, manipulative, lacking in empathy and focused - these are the characteristics of clinically insane psychopaths, but also of many CEOs, surgeons, soldiers and bomb disposal experts i.e. people who make a vital contribution to society.

Although I was keen to read more about this from a "renowned psychologist" (see back cover), I soon became frustrated with this book. It is partly the tendency to gallop off at a tangent, losing the thread in the process. The subjective nature of many observations, coming from a scientist, made me uneasy. "But there's evidence to suggest that, deep within the corridors of the brain, psychopathy and sainthood share secret neural office space."

Experiments are cited but they often seem chosen for their gimmicky appeal with confusing explanations of the research methods used. I could have done with a simple diagram of the various parts of the brain and an explanation of things like synapses and neurons in context!

I was also put off by the roller-coaster of Kevin Dutton's overblown prose style. "Streaming behind our fuel-injected, turbo-charged brains are ancient Darwinian vapour trails stretching all the way back to the brutal, blood-soaked killing fields of prehistory."

Too often, there is a breathless capital letter. At the start of every phrase. When he is getting carried away. To quote from his meeting with an American con man. "At close quarters. I distinctly remember our meeting in New Orleans. And how I felt at the time. Enthalled but creeped out ...... Despite the millionaire yachtsman vibe, I was under precious few illusions as to the kind of man I was dealing with. Here in all his glory was a psychopath. A predatory social chameleon.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Siskar on 8 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Very poor book indeed and does a great disservice to the field of psychopathy in general. In no way shape or form is there any wisdom in psychopaths or psychopathic traits nor should we somehow see psychopaths as "misunderstood" with forms of love and empathy. This is completely fallacious and the worst kind of pop psychology devoted to one of the most important subjects facing humanity. Even Jon Ronson's Psychopath Test isn't anywhere near as bad.

I suggest reading Martha Stout, Hervey Cleckley, Robert Hare and most importantly Andrew Lobaczewski and THEN go back and read Dutton. You'll see how truly shallow and misleading this book is.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Blogpiper on 4 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the first third of the book because it gave such an enlightening picture of what I used to know as "soft psychopaths": ruthless, cold-hearted, manipulative individuals who take no prisoners in getting their own way despite superficial charm. The second two-thirds are spoiled by a chummy, self-conscious style of writing which would have benefited from some ruthless copy-editing to tidy up arguments that sometimes lose their sense of direction. Overall, it was good to come across a recent and accessible book on psychopathy and personality, supported by an excellent bibliography that makes it easy to find literature beyond the text.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Peeking Man on 19 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Pop science falls into three broad camps. There are documentary, historical works written essentially by journalists or researchers who have no special interest in the subject matter, but profound research and writing skills (James Gleik, Simon Singh); those written by celebrated geniuses about their own field and verge on textbooks (Pinker, Dawkins) and those who take us on `romps' around their fields of specialization (Gladwell. Feynemann). THE WISDOM OF PSYCHOPATHS falls into the third category.

It is composed of experimental details, chats with other researchers and with psychopaths and anecdotes about various psychopaths. Dutton is definitely a member of the `science doesn't have to be boring' school and in style and structure, his work somehow reminds me of Bill Bryson, which not intended as a compliment.

In analyzing and explaining the psychopathic personality, Dutton matches every serial killer story with another about a CEO or successful entrepreneur. It's interesting stuff, but the constantly arch and witty style is a bit much. Dutton `hops on' planes, considers `conundrums', goes skydiving and makes schoolboy/Bryson jokes about farts and drinking. The problem is that the material itself is intensely interesting, and Dutton clowning around on the sidelines is a bit distracting. I read the book despite the authorial voice, purely because on the subject matter.

The what, how and why of psychopathy, non-criminal psychopaths (Alan Sugar types who really should be locked up) and `portrait of a serial killer" stuff certainly kept me turning the pages. It is perfect airport bookshop stuff.

Beyond the annoyances of Dutton's voice, there is a strong feeling of having heard a lot of it before.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lg Barron on 24 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
In terms of content and theme I'd rate The Wisdom of Psychopaths at 4, but the execution brings it down to a 3. As with many other reviews, it's the writing style which contributes to the book's major weaknesses and which gives the tome a fluctuating tone (although the concept of the psychopath seems remarkably flexible at times, too). I can see why the publishers would like this as academic books often don't jump out to general readers (as I know only too well!), but the gambit here compromises a serious and fascinating topic. Aside from the endless hyperbole (tectonic clouds?) well documented by other reviews, it is the jarring tonal shifts that bothered me the most. For instance, the chapter on Andy McNab is so matey and informal that it could easily grace the pages of FHM and comes across as name-dropping (my pal the SAS celebrity writer) and it stands as a stark juxtaposiion with the more (and much stronger) psychological research-based chapters and discussions. Indeed, the use of words such as 'barnet' and 'lairy' (and others beside) suggests that Dr. Dutton consulted 'The Guy Ritchie Book of Geezerisms' for this section. All very amusing and blokey, but ultimately unnecessary and distracting. But, the book is recommended as the thesis is fascinating and there is much interest to be had from this book once you traverse the tricky textual terminology.
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