The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

Posted March 17, 2019 by shooting in Book Review / 21 Comments

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

Review by Lauren

source: library e-copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add to Goodreads): When Jon Ronson is drawn into an elaborate hoax played on some of the world’s top scientists, his investigation leads him, unexpectedly, to psychopaths. He meets an influential psychologist who is convinced that many important business leaders and politicians are in fact high-flying, high-functioning psychopaths, and teaches Ronson how to spot them. Armed with these new abilities, Ronson meets a patient inside an asylum for the criminally insane who insists that he’s sane, a mere run-of-the-mill troubled youth, not a psychopath– a claim that might be only manipulation, and a sign of his psychopathy. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud, and a legendary CEO who took joy in shutting down factories and firing people. He delves into the fascinating history of psychopathy diagnosis and treatments, from LSD-fueled days-long naked therapy sessions in prisons to attempts to understand serial killers.

Review: I’d read and enjoyed Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, so I was excited to finally have the chance to read The Psychopath Test. This is a nonfiction book, but I feel like it would be suitable for people who normally just read fiction. Ronson has a writing style that sucks you in and takes you on a journey. While there is some scientific information in this book, it’s mostly coming from people that Ronson has met, so it feels much more conversational and definitely not like reading a textbook.

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While it might sound crazy to you, I find the idea of a psychopath to be interesting. Not all serial killers are psychopaths, and not all psychopaths are killers. Of course, they do overlap here and there. What I found really fascinating about this book is the Hare Checklist, which was created to help identify people as a psychopath or not. There are specific traits and people are rated a number – the higher your score, the more likely you are to be a psychopath. Most people will score somewhere on the chart, but they won’t score that high.

Some of the items on the checklist are “glib and superficial charm,” “lack of remorse or guilt,” and “pathological lying.” This book also shows that a lot of psychopaths probably work in the corporate world and are high on the ladder – their lack of empathy and remorse often helps people succeed in their jobs because they genuinely don’t care about other people. This is something I’d heard before, but it was interesting to see Ronson’s experience with this particular aspect of psychopaths.

This is definitely a good read, and I’d recommend if you’re at all interested. I flew through the book!

21 responses to “The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

  1. This book sounds fascinating, Lauren. Did the author actually go in to jail and undergo naked therapy? Not that I know what that is, but it sounds terrifying. I definitely am interested in psychopaths in the human race. I recently watched the Ted Bundy Tapes on Netflix. It is excruciating to listen to his description of the murders and that may be enough to keep many from watching it. My fascination with the fact that he came across as a nice guy, really is what makes me watch. I want to make sure I or anyone I love doesn’t get duped by a psychopath.
    Thanks for this review and sharing the book. I’ll add it to my TBR!

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  2. Kim

    There really is something fascinating about psychopaths and serial killers. I have to be in the mood to go dark because once I start reading or watching, I get sucked into days of it. Great review, will save it for later!! Thanks Lauren! Have a great week!!

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  3. Wow – psychopaths on the corporate ladder. Makes sense, though. There’s a skill set that you could imagine playing out well in that setting. Excellent review as always, Lauren.

  4. I’ve learned that about 10% of humans are psychopaths, and yes, they sometimes turn up in high level and high powered positions. Sounds like an interesting and highly relevant read for this day and age.

  5. I’m normally not one to read non-fiction books, but this one really sounds interesting. I remember learning a lot about the earlier theories when I was studying psychology in college too. Thanks for putting this is on my radar!

  6. I read and really enjoyed So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed too, so I’ve been interested in reading this for a while. I’ve always thought it was interesting how people say that a lot of top business people are actually psychopaths, so I would like to know more about it!
    I’m glad you enjoyed this. Great review! 🙂

  7. This sounds like a really interesting read! I find the concept of psychopaths to be a fascinating one too, I am very intrigued by this book!

  8. What a unique story and topic… I can honestly say I’ve never given the idea of psychopaths in the business world much thought. It makes sense though when you look at the characters in Wall Street or American Psycho or The Wolf of Wall Street. All of them are wired just a little but differently. I’m glad you enjoyed this book! It doesn’t sound like something I’d read, but I bet it was definitely interesting!

  9. I am totally fascinated by this topic as well and would love to read this book. The idea of psychopaths climbing their way up the corporate ladder makes complete sense, considering their lack of empathy. Also love a book you can fly through! Thanks for sharing, Lauren!

  10. Jen

    Interesting book! There are seriously psychopaths everywhere. Not murderers, there is kind of a misunderstanding about what they are. They are very driven and can sometimes hide the lack of emotions, but once you can spot them, you spot them everywhere!

  11. This sounds like such an interesting book – adding to my TBR list now! There are so many people in the world with a total lack of empathy and I see it more and more. This sounds so fascinating.

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  12. I do like that you describe it as non-fic that reads like fiction. I’ve always enjoyed exploring personality and motive about people so I could see myself getting fascinated by this one. Thanks, Lauren!

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