The Psychopath Test

  • by Jon Ronson
  • Narrated by Jon Ronson
  • 7 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths, teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power.
He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath. Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.

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What the Critics Say

"Engrossing.... This book brings droll wit to buoy this fascinating journey through 'the madness business.'" (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Interesting but wandering

The book is constructed like a travelogue of a journey. The author arrives in one spot and then pursues each thing that catches his interest without any clear plan. This makes for an interesting path through the "madness industry": we meet new people, hear new things, and get quite a bit of the author's own thinking about these people and these things (perhaps too much of the author's thinking) and then the journey is over. Like travel done in this way one is left richer in stories and perspective but there has been no comprehensive survey, no particular goal has been achieved, and all one's evidence is anecdotal.

If you are looking for a critique of, state of, or even definition of "The Madness Industry" you will come away disappointed. If you are interested in one man's introduction to psychopathic behavior and his subsequent adventures with both psychopaths and those who study them it will make for an interesting read.
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- Robert L.

Laugh a lot, Learn a lot

I found this book thoroughly enjoyable. The anecdotes are funny and interesting, and you get enough of the science (arguably pseudoscience) to inform the casual reader. I think a seriously scientifically minded person would probably not enjoy this book as the author is not academically rigorous in his exploration of applying the psychopath test--he only selects a few samples and applies the test in a haphazard manner. But I think that is intentional. I think the point of the book is to explore the way that we concieve of and treat madness, using the criteria for psycopathy as a case study. The author interjects just enough of his own opinions while leaving a lot of it open for the readers to reach their own conclusions. I, for one, happen to agree with what I believe he suggests--that while there are many people who have serious mental illnesses that necessitate treatment and therapy, the criteria we have for mental disorders are malleable enough to overdiagnose many others to their detriment. The piece on childhood bipolar disorder at the end is particularly unnerving. I would also note that I listened to this book on audio from audible and it is read by the author who has a great speech pattern. Bit of a British accent makes for nice listening and he uses good emphasis and is a good storyteller. Something fun to listen for is the way he emphasizes responses to questions--"Yes" is said very definitively.
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- Alex

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-12-2011
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio