Sunday, June 12, 2011
Start SEEING Psychopaths
Just read Jon Ronson's latest book The Psychopath Test and enjoyed it thoroughly.
The book meanders quite a bit and sometimes even loses focus, but, in essence, is about the development and employment of the clinical test for psychopathy, a test that seems to be, by all accounts, highly accurate, but that has opened a Pandora's Box for the psychiatric industry (not to mention the prison industry and the media).
The book is sort of terrifying, really, full of tense meeting with and descriptions of psychopathic personalities, but Ronson's telling is always so charmingly disaffected and so frothy and gently sardonic, that you never linger long on the nightmares he's toying with.
If I had a complaint, it would be chiefly that the book barely skirts the most interesting single premise put forward by the book is that, while perhaps 1% of society is psychopathic, the percentage of those in the top positions of power and influence, on Wall Street, say, is likely to be significantly higher. Indeed, Ronson even suggests that it seems plausible that most of the really terrible things in our society may be directly caused by the neurological deficiencies of a very few people at the top.
This is a profound sort of notion (and profoundly frightening), but for a lack of good science on the subject, presumably, it is tantalizingly dropped as a suggestion and then almost ignored for chapter after chapter of discussion about psychopathy in the (much better studied) criminal justice system.
But this what-could-have-been complaint aside, it really is a delightful book about a topic we all treat with as amateurs in casual conversation. The only downside of reading this book is that you are likely to have the same trouble Ronson did after becoming more familiar with the criteria by which pyschopathy is judged:
You start seeing psychopaths EVERYWHERE.