Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Published by Riverhead Books
Released May 12, 2011
288 pages
Where I got it: Public library
Rating: 5 stars

Have you ever called somebody a psychopath? Did you only think that psychopaths are deranged murderers? Do you enjoy taking a look at the darker side of the psychiatric industry, all the while with a laugh in your heart and a smile on your face? Then Ronson’s latest zany journalistic adventure The Psychopath Test may be for you.

The title comes from something called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, a simple list that can help you determine if a person is a psychopath or not. As Ronson finds out, massive (and expensive) training sessions are given to train psychiatric professionals to use this test and to spot the psychopaths in their midst. After taking this training, Ronson starts to see psychopaths everywhere. He constantly finds himself seeing how people he meets measure up to the test, and thinking of psychopaths less as people and more as predators and monsters.

Just like in his earlier books, Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats, Ronson is able to involve himself with people on the fringes of society, and to describe the absurdities around us with both humor and cutting insight. Sure it’s hilarious that we give people these seemingly overly simple tests; that is, until they are locked up for the rest of their lives because psychopathy isn’t believed to be curable.

Along the way, Ronson interviews members of the Church of Scientology, a retired CEO who loved to fire people, an inmate of a high security psychiatric ward, and a former leader of a Haitian death squad. Ronson’s stylistic narration and internal thoughts are what makes this book utterly engrossing. I raced through it, and craved more. If any of this review piques your interest at all, go get this book.

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2 Responses to Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

  1. I’ve been meaning to read this! I studied criminology in university and remember learning Hare’s Psychopath checklist. I think it’s still highly controversial. A CEO that loves to fire people? Eek. Would hate to work HR for that company.

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