Book Review: The Psychopath Test

When Jon Ronson gets his hands on a mysterious package, he sets out on a wild goose chase to figure out who sent it and to solve the riddle posed in the package itself.  Turns out it wasn’t really solveable and was more of a trick played on some of the world’s premier scientists.  Noting the power play in something like that,  one of Ronson’s colleagues said the man who sent it seemed like a psychopath.  That got Ronson thinking…what exactly determines if someone is a psychopath?

Apparently there’s an actual test.  Based on the subject’s answers to a 20-item checklist, they may be deemed a psychopath.  The checklist analyzes lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, superficial charm, grandiose sense of self worth, and other personality traits.  In the Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, Ronson learns how to read the test and identify potential psychopaths.  While the logical first stop is a prison, Ronson also meets with highly successful businessmen and learns that true psychopaths may be all around us.

This is actually a particularly interesting read right now.  A main point of the book is to show that many of the world’s most important leaders may actually be high-functioning psychopaths, just of a non-violent sort (or who have at least learned to control the violent tendencies).  For example, it is due to these psychopathic tendencies that a business man may rise to the top of the corporate ladder because his lack of empathy allows him to fire employees for the good of the company.  Or worse, this lack of empathy combined with another trait, manipulative behavior, allows him to embezzle funds.  So why is this particularly interesting now?  Many believe Donald Trump would score off the charts on this checklist.

The book gave me a new perspective on human behavior.  Though it’s based on a science, it’s very easy to digest.  If you’re looking for a nonfiction read, this is a good one to pick up.

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4 out of 5 stars.  Lost a point because it’s missing the “what next” factor.

FYI: This book meets the requirement to read “a book with a cat on the cover” for my 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge.  It may not be a typical cat, but a cheetah (I think that’s what it is?) is a jungle cat, so I think it still counts.

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