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228 of 251 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Serious Topic Tackled with Humanity and Humour
'People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get what they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of...
Published on 3 May 2011 by HeavyMetalMonty

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars When Psychopathy eats itself
Started as such a great idea....but ultimately Jon Ronson manages to completely miss his (presumably) own point. He wavers between presenting the concept of psychopaths as something that is clinical and measurable.....to making some great examples of how such concepts and can never be measured. For example by highlighting that the same behaviours seen in different...
Published 23 months ago by Karen Harris


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228 of 251 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Serious Topic Tackled with Humanity and Humour, 3 May 2011
By 
HeavyMetalMonty (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Psychopath Test (Paperback)
'People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get what they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.'
- Robert Hare, Ph.D

I've been hooked on Jon Ronson's writing since 'The Men Who Stare at Goats' was first published. Ronson cuts right to the heart of important topics by having the guts to ask the difficult questions. His literary style is equal parts journalistic rigour, deep compassion and incisive observational humour that often shines the light of ridicule on darker human behaviours. 'The Psychopath Test' explores psychiatry, psychopathology, medication and incarceration of 'dangerous' individuals. The book reads like a mystery novel, which - driven by Ronson's compelling prose - makes it difficult to put down.

The story begins with a meeting between Ronson and a history student who has received a cryptic book called 'Being or Nothingness' in the mail. The same book has been received by several individuals around the globe, most of whom work in the field of psychiatry. The book contains 42 pages, every second one blank. (This made me wonder...in 'The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy', the ultimate answer to life, the Universe and Everything was 42. Was this relevant? Was the mysterious author of 'Being or Nothingness' implying that his cryptic messages, if decoded, could lead to enlightenment?)

Ronson's journey leads him to 'Tony' in Broadmoor, who - when charged with GBH and facing prison 12 years earlier - had faked insanity in the hope of being sent to a comfortable psychiatric hospital. Instead, he had been sent to Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital (home to Britain's most dangerous psychotic prisoners), where he was being held indefinitely. Tony explains that he had picked characteristics of various movie lunatics then pieced them together into his 'insane' persona. Getting into Broadmoor had been easy, but getting out was proving immeasurably harder. A senior psychiatrist admits to knowing that Tony isn't insane, as a truly insane person wouldn't manufacture a new personality in the hope of avoiding prison...but a manipulative psychopath would.

Ronson meets Bob Hare, creator of the PCL-R Test, a 20-step Psychopath Checklist which gives individuals scores between zero and forty; the higher the score, the more psychopathic the person. Hare reveals that inmates at prisons and psychiatric institutions aren't the only ones who score highly on his 'psychopath test': many CEOs and directors of corporations qualify as psychopaths too. This prompts Ronson to wonder 'if sometimes the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath on Wall Street was the luck of being born into a stable, rich family.'

Al Dunlap closed Shubuta's Sunbeam factory (the economic heart of that community), showing no empathy while firing workers and effectively killing the town. While laying off employees, he even spouted jokes such as, "You may have a sports car, but I'll tell you what you don't have. A job!" Bob Hare flags Dunlap as a psychopath, so Ronson sets out to meet the man. When Ronson asks probing questions based on the PCL-R checklist, Dunlap's responses mark him as a textbook psychopath.

Hare explains the science of psychopathology: a part of the brain called the amygdala doesn't function in psychopaths as it does in other human beings. When a regular person experiences extreme violence or carnage (or even photographs of such scenes), his amygdala becomes overstimulated, provoking an extreme anxiety response in the central nervous system. When a psychopath experiences the same stimuli, his amygdala does not respond: no anxiety response occurs. This explains the psychopath's lack of empathy.

'The Psychopath Test' is a compelling read. Ronson's fluid style is the perfect balance of rigorous research, keen observation, poignancy and humour. Congratulations to Jon Ronson on another phenomenal achievement.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile but worrying, 3 Oct 2013
A book about more than the title suggests, but also delivers slightly less than l hoped. It mostly tracks the authors own journey through the subject matter-very much in his usual style. Left me sure l wasn't a psychopath but certain at least one colleague was. Great as a weekend or holiday read but not a serious look at the subject of psycopathy. Also worthy gift for an ex wife or colleague you would prefer to estrange permanently.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read but not what the title says it's about..., 16 July 2011
By 
Anna (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Psychopath Test (Hardcover)
This is a great read, witty and peppered with amusing self-deprecating excursions. I couldn't put it down - but only a small part of it concerns 'psychopaths'. It also seems that Jon Ronson hasn't quite got his head around the concept of psychopathy/sociopathy, and this is more than a shame - it's a little dangerous.

We start with a mysterious publication that leads Ronson to a neuroscientist who piques his interest in psychopathy. Then we go to someone who is classified as a psychopath but may not be; then to the Hare Psychopathy checklist and a ramble through ways of treating psychopaths in the past. Next step a shallow look at a corporate psychopath...but then it all comes a bit unstuck. We get an account of the unfeeling selection process for reality TV shows; the exceedingly strange behaviour of whistleblower David Shayler; and other stuff that doesn't really relate to the title of the book, or even the critique of psychiatry. If he'd stuck to the topic it would have been excellent. As it is, it really was a fascinating read, but the grasshopper approach to the subject matter seriously detracts from it as an informed study. 3.5 out of 5!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining survey of a serious topic, 2 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Psychopath Test (Paperback)
First thing to say is that this is very Jon Ronson - if you don't like his journalistic, quite anecdotal, interview-heavy style, you won't like it. I, however, enjoyed his attempts to get the nub of what Psychopaths are and how Society can deal with them.

He gets to inverview some really interesting as well as important figures in the field, and his various digressions are always relevant and valuable. The chatty style doesn't obscure the fact he's really done his homework. In particular, he's really good on the tale of how professional rivalries and experimental treatments by various psychologists since the early 20th Century haven't always been to the benefit of a better public understanding of the condition, or better treatment of it.

His particular focus is the now almost universally used testing criteria for Psychopaths, which turns out to be not as perfect as you might hope considering a positive result can see people incarcerated for large portions of their life. He also investigates how 'Psychopathic' traits can actually be seen in many people who are successful in various fields and have never been involved in any violent crime. There's ultimately a suggestion here that the most terrifying thing about Psychopaths is that they're really not as different from us as we'd like to think, and it is quite possible that your neighbour, boss, political representative, or local policeman (psychopaths, it turns out, love jobs which give them positions of authority) could well be one.

Despite the troubling revelations here, it isn't a sensationalist book trading off shock value. Ronsons tries to understand the condition, which includes spending lots of time and in some cases getting uncomfortably close to diagnosed Psychopaths, and he is always open to dissenting voices. This is a book for the general reader rather than anyone with a professional interest in the topic, of course, but for all that it raises some really interesting questions and gives a better understanding of a topic which effects us as individuals and a society more than we might like to think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading, 1 July 2012
By 
Gina (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Psychopath Test (Paperback)
A friend who studies psychology recommended this book to me knowing that I've long fostered an interest in psychology. For me, therefore, the book was perfect - having no academic grounding in psychology, I would probably struggle with an academic paper on psychopaths, but I found this book to be very well pitched to the masses. It was as light and accessible as a book with such a serious and delicate subject matter could be.

I have always been fascinated by psychopathy and psychological illness more generally, and it really catered to that interest, with original and intriguing material - a real page turner, which I find is rare in books with a 'heavy' subject. However, even if psychology isn't really your bag, Ronson's style and approach makes it a compelling read, and you'll find yourself freaking out your friends and family with 'so unbelievable it has to be true' type stories for ages.

My only criticism is that I suppose I would have liked him to delve a little deeper, analyse a little more - he frequently touches on the question of whether psychopathy, and other mental illnesses, are simply labels thrust by society onto individuals who don't fit the mould, but he never seems to say anything very solid on the matter. I'd also have liked to have read more case studies of less 'extreme' psychopaths - he seems to go for fairly high profile ones, but claims (I think) that 1/100 people are now considered psychopathic, and I assume (hope!) not all of these are homicidal rapists!

Despite these criticisms, I realise that the book is intended to be a 'popular' read, not an in depth analysis of psychopaths, and indeed Ronson makes it clear that he is in no position to provide such an analysis. This in mind, the book is really fantastic, and I'd recommend it to just about anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Honest Opinion, 19 April 2012
By 
Mr. M. DURRANI (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Psychopath Test (Paperback)
With the trial of right wing extremist Anders Breivik raising the issue psychiatric evaluation, I decided to pick this book up in order to satisfy my curiosity and long-time skepticism about the profession In general. My father (a doctor himself) has never held psychiatric diagnosis in high regard and on one occasion has advised me not to take any anti depressants that I was prescribed. Having looked at the pseudo-science involved in their diagnosis I can see why Scientologists are so opposed to psychoanalysis (This isn't to say that I don't think they're a bunch of nut-jobs).

Jon's writing Style is what essentially makes his books worth reading, when he approaches an issue he does his best not to do so with any preconceived notions or bias - and if he does this he makes his bias clear, following it up with pages and pages of self-reflection, questioning his own beliefs and the beliefs of those who he has encountered.

Conversely his lack of bias can work against the overall power of his writing, after finishing the book I wondered whether I had in fact gained anything at all (aside from the entertainment value of reading his anecdotes). Regardless, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anybody who's looking for a bit of light reading about the crazy world we live in!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tin..., 25 Feb 2012
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book... The author was Jon Ronson so I wasn't expecting an academic treatise but to be entertained and maybe mull over a few vaguely interesting facts. I didn't feel the need to write an essay at the end, I was hugely entertained by Ronson's meetings and found myself over identifying with his anxious moments. I felt for Tony, was scared S***less by Toto, found myself wondering how the hell the original DSM booklet went from an initial 65 pages to DSM IV being a massive 886 and I became furious at the notion of 'healthy' children being drugged up because we are a society who dearly loves a label... Oh one last thing - cant stop testing but because I am a grown up I only choose to believe the results which I fit in with my own world viewpoint.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The "antisocial personality disorder test" book..., 26 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Psychopath Test (Hardcover)
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It never really becomes more than a collection of entertaining anecdotes; but if you're familiar with Ronsons work, it carries you along with his likable charm. Ronsons enthusiasm for an adventure keeps it moving, even without a cohesive argument to pull the threads together. It's like the 'third way' between Louis Theroux and Adam Curtis. It's also a very easy read, a great page-turner for a holiday read. There's a feeling of disappointment it doesn't excel his other work or advances his style. Ronson is a remarkably intelligent and enjoyable writer and I'm still waiting for the journalistic masterpiece he could write. I would have liked a more rigorous look at the 'science' of psychiatry (or lack of 'science' that allows scientologists to undermine psychiatry). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does read like complicated astrology chart. A debunking of the charlatans and addled thinking does occur, but I wish it had been sharper. I did wince at the chart of David Shaylers madness against media interest.
Ronson falls in love with his stories and digressions, which is part of the works successes and failures. I could see it as a TV series "Ronson Investigates..." Ronson clear enthusiasm for his work makes this book worth reading. He does appear to have some empathy for the people he interviews, which shows in his fascination with individuals stories. I doubt Ronson scores highly on the psychopath test and the book isn't superficially charming either.
I should pass this on to my father, who is a textbook psychopath. It would made a good fathers day present...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You'd be crazy to miss it, 9 May 2011
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Psychopath Test (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Jon Ronson goes on a mental illness odyssey in his latest book "The Psychopath Test" taking in some extraordinary people, some extraordinary facts, and is in turns funny and serious in the alternating chapters.

I enjoyed the kooky characters like the Scandinavian translator sending out mysterious manuscripts that pertain to something only his mind knows, as well as "Tony" the Broadmoor inmate who faked mental illness because he was told he would have an easier time inside if he were in a mental hospital instead of prison except now he can't leave. The Scientologists are involved in Tony's case and are campaigning for his release and we get an insight into why Scientologists dislike psychiatrists so much. David Shayler, an ex-MI5 agent turned conspiracy theorist is also interesting who became notorious for suggesting 9/11 was faked and that missiles with holograms attached to them to make them look like planes were fired at the WTC, is also in turn a cross dresser and believes his is the messiah returned.

The main story in the book was Ronson's journey into investigating the idea that most CEOs and world leaders are in fact psychopaths, but I felt Ronson didn't investigate this enough. He does write a lot about Al Dunlap, a CEO of an American toaster company called Sunbeam, and while the case for Dunlap is sometimes convincing, I felt that this wasn't enough for his thesis and that he should have investigated further (there are no interviews with world leaders or other CEOs).

The more serious side to this book gives it a stronger purpose. Ronson investigates how a formerly reputable criminal psychologist who made a suspect fit the evidence in a rape/murder and later found out that the suspect was entirely innocent. Also profiled is a psychologist who came up with a label for every time of behaviour which contributed to numerous misdiagnoses, specifically in children with illnesses like bipolar disorder, and how the current climate of over-analysing previously acceptable behaviour as dangerous can lead to over-medicating children, in some cases fatally.

Ronson's meandering style is similar to his previous books which I didn't mind as it was eminently readable but obviously can be annoying for some looking for more structure. He can take complicated cases, such as the mistaken identity of the rape/murder or the psychopath LSD experiments of the 60s, and make them understandable to a wide audience who aren't familiar with the circumstances. There was plenty to enjoy in the book as Ronson goes from gentle but eccentric personalities to more dangerous ones to some quite scary ones and one genuinely confusing one, I was gripped every step of the way. Thoroughly enjoyable and well written, Jon Ronson has written another fantastic book showcasing some very real problems with our modern world and some very interesting people. A great read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and easy read, 22 Sep 2013
By 
After hearing a number of positive reviews from people I trust, I finally picked this up. Probably the best read this year. Dealing with what could be a very heavy and overly serious topic, Jon Ronson made interesting reading of the topic by introducing seriously engaging characters, humour in anecdotes and enough information to make us all a little dangerous in making our own psychopath assessments - I'm sure we now all know at least one or two! Some of the reviews suggested it was laugh out loud funny, which I didn't identify with, but it was entertaining and engrossing right from the get go. Highly recommended.
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The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Paperback - 5 Jan 2012)
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