Book Club: The Psychopath Test

Whenever I have downtime, I tend to gravitate towards reading something from the fiction section - specifically, classic fiction. Every once in a while, though, a really good non-fiction book will pull me in and I'll get sucked in. Jon Ronson is one of my favorite journalists and all-time greatest storyteller. I saw his TED talk a while back about his research into the realm of psychopathy and I was really captivated me! I knew I had to get my hands on his book and delve into his findings.

---
The Psychopath Test
by Jon Ronson
There are few non-fiction books that could keep me as interested for as long as I was while reading Ronson's The Psychopath Test. Ronson tells a story of his journey into the world of the insane and while doing so, he starts to question his own sanity and as a reader, he had me questioning mine as well. 
The story begins when Ronson uncovers a "mystery" - an anonymous puzzle sent to some of the most intelligent people in the world, asked to solve it. It had all of the geniuses scratching their heads and arguing with each other what the "true" answer was, only for Ronson to discover that the mysterious puzzle sender was just a bored crazy person. Thus begins Ronson's journey into discovering the differences between the sane and the insane. He takes a course on psychopath-spotting, he talks to Scientologists (who basically do everything they can to discredit psychologists' findings on psychopaths), and various other sources in various fields to discover what it truly means to be a psychopath. 
I have a few favorite anecdotes from his book - the first is when he speaks to a producer of a Jerry Springer-type show (Charlotte), who has the unfortunate task of selecting guests to come on the show. She explains her selection process: She simply asks potential guests what medication they're taking. She would look up the drugs they were taking online and see what they were for and assess if they were "too mad" to be on the show. According to Charlotte, there was a perfect amount of madness that one had to be to make for good television. When asked what constituted the right kind of madness, she replied: "'Prozac,' said Charlotte. 'Prozac's the perfect drug. They're upset. I say, 'Why are you upset?' 'I'm upset because my husband's cheating on me, so I went to the doctor and he gave me Prozac.' Perfect! I know she's not THAT depressed, but she's depressed enough to go to a doctor and so she's probably angry and upset.'" (pg. 175) I never stopped and considered why some people were so entertaining on the reality TV shows I watched but learning what guest bookers look for made me rethink judging those people. Clearly, these are people who are not well and we raise them up to laugh at them to feel better about our lives. Is that really okay?
The other anecdote I quite enjoyed was visiting Toto Constant, the founder of a Haitian Death Squad who committed murders, rapes, and countless acts of terror. Ronson writes a fascinating interview of this potential psychopath, his motivations, and how he was able to manipulate people into thinking he was a pretty cool guy.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to everyone who is interested in the human psyche. This book will seriously having you question the sanity of everyone around you and for a while, you;ll fancy yourself a psychopath spotter like Ronson (I know I did). Like Ronson concludes, ultimately, you have to really wonder if these people are truly psychopathic or if we're assigning psychopathic traits to normal behavior?

No comments

Thank you for your comments! I read every single one :]