The Psychopath Test

Saturday May 28, 2011

The Psychopath Test
Jon Ronson (2011)

I found out about this book when I saw the author on The Daily Show. (May 16 2011 show)

The idea of psychopathology is interesting, and I have been particularly interested because it was an idea that the late great Kurt Vonnegut Jr. took pains to inform people on. He recommended his audience at UW-Madison read a book about it. I tried to read that book, but I quit reading it because it was not much fun.

This book is a lot of fun to read. Ronson weaves a personal narrative filled with interesting episodes and characters, and although they are not always absolutely necessary, it does make for a good story.

In the end I suppose the thesis is something like yes, psychopaths are a problem, a nasty nasty problem, but it isn't really a binary, psychopath-or-not-psychopath thing, but a kind of spectrum, although Ronson doesn't quite say this explicitly. Or is it really a binary thing after all, but determining who's who is hard? What if we could test people with fMRI's? Would that make a yes-no determination possible? Hmm. In the end maybe Ronson's tale is too anecdotal to make a full analysis possible.

Could probably say more about this "psychopaths are another species" angle, but it's all tied up with the spectrum/binary thing, and even then hard to get away from the people are people thing. People have a hard time getting away from the people are people thing, which is a good thing about people.

Anyway, interesting. Don't get killed by a psychopath! Or cancer!

This post was originally hosted elsewhere.