The Psychopath Test

A Journey Through the Madness Industry (2011)
The Psychopath Test : A Journey Through the Madness Industry (2011)

In The Psychopath Test, journalist and filmmaker Jon Ronson delves into the definition of insanity, eventually coming to question the methods that are currently utilized for diagnosing psychopaths –- methods which, in many cases, require nothing more than a score of 30 or more on a 20-point checklist of characteristics common to psychopaths: things like glib and superficial charm, grandiosity, manipulative behavior, and lack of remorse. When Ronson is interviewing a psychopathy researcher, as she expounds on psychopathic characteristics he asks her if there is anything she wants to be sure is shared with his readers. “Tell them,” she says, “if now you are sitting there worried that maybe you are a psychopath, that means you aren’t.” I had been worried!

Ronson’s investigative journey is fascinating. The psychopaths he encounters and the scientists bent on identifying them lead him to wonder whether there is a danger in defining people exclusively by their most extreme characteristics and whether, by ignoring the rest of the person, rampant mistaken diagnoses are occurring.

Read Jon Ronson’s interview on NPR.  Other titles by Jon Ronson are Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats.

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