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The Wisdom of Psychopaths Paperback – 20 Sep 2012


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The Wisdom of Psychopaths + Flipnosis: The Art of Split-Second Persuasion + The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann (20 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434020672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434020676
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,171 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.


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39 of 39 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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29 of 30 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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4 of 4 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ali247 on 14 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved reading this. Dutton writes in a really simple way - no need to be a psychologist to understand the book. For anyone who has ever worked in a corporate environment this is a must read for understanding some of those 'difficult' personalities.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kartowidjojo 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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