Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: The Psychopath Test ~ by Jon Ronson


psychopath test

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.

288 pages; Riverhead Hardcover (May 12, 2011) US|UK|Canada.

Along the same lines here is a list of 10 psychological states you’ve never heard of from io9.

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!

This book will be included in at least one challenge – Understand My Sorrow.

Thanks for reading!


Tricia said...

Hey Shellie, I saw that you signed up for a second Book Blogs account. Were you still having trouble? If you go to and send them an email, they are usually very responsive to problems.

I love your blog banner. :)

Unknown said...

Trisha -
Oh thank you - I change them all the time.

I got in yesterday - something weird is going on not sure what. But that is how I noticed it looked like I was online.

Any how I did get a password for ning too.

I will delete the other account when things are clear, and I feel safe to donate - 600 dollars wow!

Thanks for responding to my concerns!

Blodeuedd said...

I...oh perhaps not. We can't all go for the same books :)

Elizabeth said...

Love your header and blog name.


Just stopping by to have a look around.


Unknown said...

Blodeuedd -
No we can't, and thank goodness.
But just think how this book could be an interesting character study for one of your novels that you are writing or plan to write?

Welcome Elizabeth!
And Thank you *smile*
I am now off to find your blog too.

LoveOfBooks said...

This book sounds right up my ally. I have a degree in psychology that I don't use, and a twisted sense of humor I always use. lol.

Unknown said...


I hope I go your name right *smile*.

It was a great read - I laughed myself silly. John kept asking me what I was reading and I would read him little bits. He said that he has not seen me laugh so much for a book in quite some time.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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