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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent evidence base, but not written well
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...
Published 20 months ago by Blogpiper

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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The entertainment value of psychopaths
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...
Published 16 months ago by Antenna


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The entertainment value of psychopaths, 18 April 2013
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Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wisdom of Psychopaths (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. As the champagne flowed, and the slow southern twilight glinted off his Rolex, he would colonise your brain synapse by synapse without even breaking a sweat. And without you even knowing." (But surely you do know if you are only interviewing him because of your interest in psychopaths, plus most normally discerning people would be wary of his type anyway).

I am sure many readers will find this book entertaining, but I prefer the more systematic and objectively informative approach to the intriguing but painful and damaging topic of mental disorder, such as to be found in "Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature" by Richard Bentall.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent evidence base, but not written well, 4 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Wisdom of Psychopaths (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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Academically unsound and irresponsible, 8 May 2014
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, 14 April 2013
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This review is from: The Wisdom of Psychopaths (Paperback)
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Great material presented by a rather poor, conceited writer, 19 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Wisdom of Psychopaths (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. It's hard to imagine anyone coming to this book (maybe the psychokiller voyeurs rather than the pop-scientists?) who is not all too familiar with the ins and outs of the prisoners dilemma (repeated) and tit-for-tat. These are old hat in the post-Gladwell Pinker and Sachs world.

It's an enjoyable and informative read, but its not going to top and lists or win any prizes. It's great material presented by a rather poor, conceited writer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Selfish v Selfless, 31 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Wisdom of Psychopaths (Paperback)
Excellent read. To my mind it puts ruthless selfishness (on which the majority of the book focusses) with ruthless Selflessness. Would love to learn more about the meditative techniques which are touched on at the end of the book. The issues raised by the startling brain altering experiment would make a good follow up book. Might it become possible to industrialise that process and mass produce mind altered cohorts?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Subject Matter, Inconsistent Tone, 24 Mar 2014
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychokiller - Qu'est Que cest., 10 Nov 2013
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An interesting read which dispels the black and white views we have about psychopaths. Easy to read and always thought provoking, I'd recommend anyone interested in the subject matter to pick it up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting delve into the world of the psychopath, 8 Mar 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this and the scope covered. Particularly thought provoking, as well as practical, are the benefits of being a 'method psychopath' - which advocate a clear and concise frame of reference, and set of skills to adapt, survive and prosper in the brutality of reality that is modern life.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read The Psychopath Test Instead, 15 April 2014
The prose in this book is fragmented and full of unsuccessful attempts at wit. It perpetuates medical model and incorrect myths about psychopathy and personality disorders and is an extremely poor relation (rip-off) to The Psychopath Test. I wouldn't normally a write review but, as someone who works in the field of Mental Health I do get fed up of reading such rubbish, especially when these books seep into the consciousness of the public who then base their understanding of Mental Illness on this kind of uncritical wagon-jumping cr*p which then feeds into how they treat people who are mentally unwell.
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The Wisdom of Psychopaths
The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton (Paperback - 20 Sep 2012)
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