Review by Shellie for The Psychopath Test ~ by Jon Ronson (arc)
A darkly hilarious, and almost unbelievable journalistic journey into how “madness” is defined, recognized, and treated within western culture and the mental heath industry.
In attempt to the question “what is it that defines madness?” Jon Ronson spent two years undertaking some intriguing travels and interviews and then carrying out further research. As he examines himself, journalism, the entertainment industry, psychiatry, pharmaceutical companies and more, he blends it all together with a reflective and self effacing style. On his travels he meets a psychologist who has created a check list that is used to define psychopathic individuals – hence the book’s title.
So what is a psychopath? (Also termed a sociopath or someone with anti-social personality disorder). And why a test? In his research Ronson finds that these are individuals who are lacking in common empathy and a moral sensibility. In other words they have no guilt. A psychopath’s very nature is often hard to recognize since they are charming, chameleon like, and blend well within the general population. They also prey upon unsuspecting people in order to satisfy their desires and perceived needs. Is there more of an excuse to define them? Ronson reports that it is believed that psychopaths account for as many as 25% of the prison population; by comparison, within the general population it is assumed or speculated that the respective figure is just 1%. He examines where these individuals are most likely to appear within the “free pollution”, including a theory that a much higher percentage of the world’s most powerful positions (CEOs, politicians, world leaders) are held by psychopaths. Not too hard to imagine.
Most interestingly the book contains some shocking evidence on just how far we have yet to progress in understanding what mental illness is and how best to treat it’s varying manifestations. Ronson includes some amazing situations - one in particular I would have believed could only exist in fiction (and maybe in his novel-turned-movie Men Who Stare at Goats). In this instance a prison psychiatrist, in an attempt to “cure” his psychopathic patients of their lack of empathy, grouped them together, isolated the group, and administered LSD for eleven day periods. The results were darkly hilarious and not at all shocking. Ronson does not stop there.
This is highly recommended for anyone interested in the mental health or medical field, journalistic writing, and those with a twisted sense of humor – and I score on all of those counts! Be forewarned that this book is not for the “faint of heart” or those wanting conclusive endings. I give this book a 4.5 stars. I completely enjoyed this informing, intelligent, and darkly funny read.
Also a link for a free online mood monitoring service called moodscope – for those who would like to track their moods for health and understanding. Looks geeky cool!
Thanks for reading!