The Psychopath Test … by Jon Ronson

‘The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry’ is the second of Jon Ronson’s books I have read.  This was another recommendation from my friend and colleague, Matt Hallsworth.  The first was ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ which I absolutely loved.  I was therefore quite keen to read this book, although I wasn’t 100% sold on the title.  When the book was released, it had spent almost a whole year on the UK bestsellers list.  So it was certainly very popular!

No surprise here

The book is based on the ‘Hare Psychopathy Checklist’ which is a 20 part test.  The test is used  to detect Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder (DSPD). DPSD is a condition that will get you admitted to places like Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital.  What makes this test so interesting, is that many of the characteristics on the checklist can be found in corporate and government leaders.  I was oddly not surprised at this.

However, Ronson questions the validity of a checklist that could be interpreted so differently depending on the person involved.  How can a hugely successful businessman have all the characteristics of someone who has been imprisoned for ticking the same boxes?  Ronson interviews people in each of those situations, with remarkably similar results.  This does lead you to wonder why nobody else is questioning this method of analysis.

A few surprises here

On this basis, Ronson also questions a number of other analysis techniques used in the field of psychology.  Written in his trademark style, the book is as entertaining as it is informative.  Ronson is not afraid of asking the obvious questions.  And this has some occasionally surprising results.  As with ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ I found myself compelled to keep reading.  As I had with that book, I finished within a day of starting it.

The Psychopath Test was quite different to what I had originally expected, based on the title.  It’s a questioning, thought provoking but entertaining read.  I will definitely be reading more by this author, and would happily recommend anyone else to do the same!

Image of the Psychopath Test book
Deckchair Reads 9/10