A Fascinating yet Creepy Read about Psychopaths

I just had a riveting read of The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson.

Jon is an engaging author and he shares as he foolhardily jumps into the world of Psychopaths. He reports on the historic efforts to cure psychopathic criminals in prison (using LSD). and the tragic results when releasing criminals that are “cured”.

Recognizing psychopaths is not easy and the current state of the art is the Hare PCL-R checklist, twenty characteristics that the patient gets scored on. It includes qualities such as “Grandiose sense of self-worth” and “Failure to accept responsibility for own actions.”

Jon talks to prisoners and psychologists as well as a ruthless ex-CEO whom he grills to determine his psychopath test score. The results were ambiguous. He interacts with the Church of Scientology that has an ax to grind against the psychological profession.

One downside is that this book has you seeing psychopathic behavior in others. There is a belief that the highest levels of companies has a disproportionally high number of psychopaths, maybe 3%. In the general populations it is expected to find 1 in 100 and in prison amongst violent offenders the range is 40-60%. These numbers are approximate because I was using a library book and I could not highlight the interesting bits as I went. Also, there is no index.

I think that Jon could have gone deeper on this topic. We are never introduced to a top executive of government or private industry that is clearly psychopathic. He goes on to other topics of controversy and politics within the industry. It is all interesting as we learn about how disorders are added to the DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Despite the fascinating stories shared in this this book, there are important issues raised. This is includes the rising number of autism cases diagnosed, and the issue of diagnosing bipolar disorder in young children.

All in all it is worth a read.