Jon Ronson and his book 'The Psychopath Test'

Renaissance

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Ronson's book is currently ranked #6 on Amazon's top 100 bestsellers. That's pretty amazing.

His interview w/ Stewart can be viewed here: _http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-may-16-2011/jon-ronson

I thought it went well, and I agree it was great to hear the words, "psychopaths rule our world" said in mainstream media.

However, one aspect of his message seems to skirt around identifying psychopaths. To some degree I think he's right in advocating caution in the 'spot the psychopath' program, however he seems leave it out in the wind as to what people should do with this knowledge. In the below article from just a couple of days ago he indicates that if you get too interested in the subject, then you could be a psychopath. Since he is a humorist, I think it is said tongue-in-cheek, but still, where does this leave people? :huh:


_http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-ronson/five-reasons-to-be-concer_1_b_861092.html

Five Reasons To Be Concerned Your Husband Is A Psychopath

05/12/11

It dawned on me a few years ago that our rational lives are like a still pond and madness is the jagged rock thrown into it, creating odd ripples everywhere. And the most powerful madness of all, when it comes to the way the world turns, is psychopathy.

There's a consensus amongst psychologists that psychopaths -- with all their glib charm and grandiosity and the power to effortlessly manipulate -- do brilliantly in business and politics. Theirs is the brain anomaly that rules our world. Which is why I've written a book about them: "The Psychopath Test." As part of my research, I spoke to hundreds of people--everyone from the doctors who catalogue mental illness, to those who vehemently oppose them, to a Broadmoor Hospital inmate who says he faked a mental disorder. In the process, I learned that, during the courtship phase, psychopaths come across to the women they're targeting as potentially great husbands. What I'm saying is, you may have married a psychopath. It is really very possible. He might have not yet revealed the full extent of his astonishing malevolence. You might want to pack your bags and run screaming from the marriage before he does. Let me help. What follows are five telltale signs that your husband may be a psychopath.

1. He was very gallant when you first met him, not so gallant now.

Psychopaths can be very superficially charming. It's Item 1 on the 20-point Hare PCL-R psychopathy-spotting Checklist: Glibness/Superficial Charm. I knew a woman, Mary, who met an extremely gallant man while Internet dating. He was so gallant he'd even walk on the road side of the sidewalk. (I am so ungallant I didn't even know that was a thing. I am not a psychopath.) Mary married her man and he turned out to be a pedophile and a bigamist and a fraudster -- a textbook psychopath. Okay, give your husband the benefit of the doubt if the intensity of his gallantry has diminished since the the courtship days. That's normal. We can't keep that level up. But if he's replaced the gallantry with being a remorseless, unempathetic bastard, you may have a problem.

2. He's grandiose.

That's Item 2 on the Checklist: Grandiose Sense of Self Worth. In my book "The Psychopath Test," I meet an enormously wealthy former Fortune 500-type CEO, Al Dunlap, to ask him which of the 20 Hare psychopathic traits he felt most applied to him. He instantly confessed to Grandiose Sense of Self Worth, which would have been a hard one for him to deny as he was at the time standing underneath a giant oil painting of himself. Does your husband have giant portraits of himself? Is he an overly-snappy dresser? Does he tell a lot of stories about himself in which he's always the hero? Does he bulldoze his way through conversations to talk about himself in this grandiose way?

3. He Had Early Behavioral Problems.

Recently I was chatting to a guy and I happened to ask him about his childhood. Had he been a bully or bullied?

"Oh," he said quite cheerfully. "I was a bully. I used to hide behind a tree and jump out and hit my enemies with lumps of wood." He paused and added wistfully: "I'd hurt them quite badly!"

"How did it make you feel?" I asked.

"Good!" he said. "I enjoyed that feeling of power. I still enjoy thinking about it, all these years later."

Psychopaths are very good at hiding their psychopathy beneath a veneer of normalcy. You don't have to be Hercule Poirot to spot someone bipolar, say, or in the grips of an OCD attack, but you do have to be Hercule Poirot sometimes to spot a psychopath. Which is why Early Behavioral Problems is such a handy item on the Checklist. It's harder to hide a hoodlum childhood -- there'll be your husband's school record to sneakily read. Was your husband a terrible bully as a child, pulling the wings off flies, etc? If he says yes, or if he school record confirms it, run. Don't look back. Run!

4. He Engages In Promiscuous Sexual Behavior.

As much as your husband will definitely be wanting to have an affair, he probably won't be. This is because doing so would make him feel incredibly guilty and remorseful. It's those creeping feelings of anxiety that kind of stop us from hurting other people. We want to empathize. We want to be good people. The consensus amongst neurologists is that the part of the brain that shoots the signals of remorse and fear and distress back and forward from the amygdala to the central nervous system under-performs in psychopaths, which frees them up to behave in remorseless, amoral promiscuous ways. They just don't care. So they do it.


5. He Spends too Much Time Learning How To Spot Psychopaths By Using the Hare Checklist

I'm a big fan of the Hare Checklist. I think it's scientifically correct. I think a bizarre facet of human nature is when our brains go wrong, they go wrong in uncannily similar ways. The Hare Checklist is brilliant at anatomizing the barely noticeable character traits evident in psychopaths. However, once you become a trained psychopath spotter, you kind of go drunk with power. So if you see your husband reading this and looking too interested, run. Don't look back. He's a menace.
 

findit

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I read the book and found it entertaining to read. A large chunk of the book deals with his talks with Robert Hare and the checklist. He also mentions Martha Stout, but fails to mention Political Ponerology. He also mentions in a sentence that he doesn't believe 9/11 was an inside job. He also goes into the DSM and specifically discusses Childhood Bipolar Disorder along with the increase in medication and Autism. The book was easy to read and the people he uses the psychopath checklist on are interesting and fascinating to read about. The background stories are good and his interviews with true psychopaths will leave you shaking your head. I recommend the book but am still scratching my head as to his 9/11 comment.
 

Approaching Infinity

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findit said:
I read the book and found it entertaining to read. A large chunk of the book deals with his talks with Robert Hare and the checklist. He also mentions Martha Stout, but fails to mention Political Ponerology. He also mentions in a sentence that he doesn't believe 9/11 was an inside job. He also goes into the DSM and specifically discusses Childhood Bipolar Disorder along with the increase in medication and Autism. The book was easy to read and the people he uses the psychopath checklist on are interesting and fascinating to read about. The background stories are good and his interviews with true psychopaths will leave you shaking your head. I recommend the book but am still scratching my head as to his 9/11 comment.
We should have a review up on sott soon so look out for it. I just finished it yesterday and pretty much agree with everything you say. He's really stupid when it comes to "conspiracy theories" and doesn't connect the dots with the other stuff he's writing about.
 

Voyageur

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Here today Jon Ronson is interviewed on CBC Radio in a 14 minute spot.

Psychopaths he says are < 1% general population, 25 % prisons and in the corporate hierarchy it is 4 %.

Radio Broadcast. http://www.cbc.ca/day6/blog/2011/05/20/jon-ronsons-psychopath-test/

Also:
CBC said:
We also highly recommend you check out the new season of his BBC Radio Four program, "Jon Ronson On..."
During the interview he is asked if he agrees with Robert Hare concerning the top layer of business causing the worlds ills essentially and he concurred with Bob in this regard. He ends the session with a comment on the 21st Rapture based on what his son said to him on a phone call about it.
 

go2

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The book review and more is at http://www.sott.net/articles/show/228876-Review-Jon-Ronson-s-The-Psychopath-Test-A-Journey-Through-the-Madness-Industry.
 

Devar

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There is an extract of the book on The Guardian, which can be found here: _http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/21/jon-ronson-how-to-spot-a-psychopath
 

Mark

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National Public Radio (NPR) had a fairly lengthy show this weekend covering psychopathy and it included some talk with Jon Ronson and Robert Hare. Interesting show. The MP3 is now online at the link below.

Overall, in my perspective the show seemed a bit reckless and irresponsible, and if I had to assess the general public's view on what they heard, they might now be more aware of psychopathy, however they might also be standoffish as to whether it's really a big problem, and some would probably now be entirely reluctant to even try to form a hypothesis as to whether or not someone they're dealing with might be psychopathic. The show sounded to me as if somebody somewhere was doing a large amount of damage control and vectoring.

Here's the link:

__http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/436/the-psychopath-test
 

biggreenpea

The Force is Strong With This One
i am today trying to decide whether or not to buy this book...and my doubting finally brought me to the review posted on sott...which i recommend everyone read. i am only operating on "hunch"...based on my past readings, which include hare and lobaciewski, the daily show interview, and ronson himself. my sense was that the interveiw was light and more funny than the topic merits...but that is jon stewart for you. my sense is that the mainstream will take a while to comprehend this topic. ronson himself seems to prefer maintaining a skeptical distance...one that seems based in "intellectual arrogance". again, that is a hunch. but the book is rather small and like "men who stare at goats", seems more about entertainment than education. ronson has to make a living too...and i actually enjoy his writing...i am just not sure if this is yet a book to get excited about. hopefully many more people will read it and be drawn to the deeper issues...mentioned in the review on sott (a link is a few comments above mine). my feelings are part based in my experience with facebook conversations. not only will there be many who are slow to accept this new information because of intellectual arrogance, but there are still many "new agey' types who think we can just "love" anyone into health...or flow...if you find flow you will never have to meet a psychopath. except that you may accidentally vote for one.
 

nicklebleu

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I just read the book yesterday - yes, it is an easy read and I also wolfed it down. But when I put it down, I was very much in two minds about it ...

Yes, it adresses psychopathy in the same way we have been doing that here on the forum.
Yes, it says that "psychopaths rule the world".
Yes, it gives the uninitiated reader a glimps into the world of psychopathy ...

BUT, at the same time it blunts the message totally...
There's a grey area, the semi-psychopaths, and do we not do evil by naming them psychopaths?
They are not fundamentally different, just a bit weird, maybe even dangerous, but not another species of Man.
Hare is described as a bit of an "extremist", talking about psychopaths, AS IF they were not human.
Then there is the problem with 9/11 and 7-7 adresses by others.

The feeling I had of this book - and maybe I am imagining things - is that it adresses a problem that has come into focus more and more and tries to defuse it. It takes a lot of true facts and dilutes them and puts a slant on them that leaves the reader with the feeling "Yeah, it IS a problem, but no more so than other problems". It detracts from the fact, that this is THE PROBLEM, from which a lot of different problems are derived.

To me this smells a bit of "damage control" (or Cointelpro?), having read this book, the reader can safely slip back into sleep, after all it's just another problem, like all the others ...
 

axj

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There will be a movie version of "The Psychopath Test" with Scarlett Johansson:

_http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/news/410809-scarlett-johansson-takes-the-psychopath-test
 

Possibility of Being

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For the sake of documenting it here:

My first impression after reading and watching the marketing stuff for this book is that it's schizoidal disinfo. Looks like Ronson is overgeneralizing, conflating bogus psychiatric labeling with REAL psychiatric labeling, i.e. there's only one or the other, all bogus or all real. Black and white thinking. So, calling people psychopaths is just "labeling", done by evil psychiatrists. If that's the case, it'll be interesting to see if Hare responds and how he does so. FWIW at this point.
It seems your first impression was not that far off.

Wikipedia: Robert D. Hare
Hare's views are recounted with some skepticism in the 2011 bestseller The Psychopath Test by British investigative journalist Jon Ronson, to which Hare has responded.
Indeed, he did, but actually not so much related to the supposed scepticism toward his views as to point out Ronson's trespassing of confidence and his misrepresenting of himself, Hare and the PCL-R tool:

R. Hare, April 2012, "A Commentary on Ronson's The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry" [PDF, 10 pp.]

I had hoped that Ronson’s book would serve to increase public awareness and interest in the nature of psychopathy and its devastating effects on large segments of society... I do not believe these hopes were realized.

Ronson’s intention apparently was to provide a journalistic treatment of the PCL-R and its role in the mental health and criminal justice “industries,” and its implications for the corporate world, with himself as the major player in a journey of discovery ... his depictions of the PCL-R and its use were superficial and inaccurate. ...

Having attended a PCL-R workshop (described below), Ronson “emerged” as a “trained psychopath-spotter,” with a license to use his new skills in a mission to ferret out psychopaths in high places. In fact, his workshop experiences merely provided a useful backdrop for the cavalier use of the PCL-R in a journey into the madness industry. ... many will find his accounts of the journey to be entertaining, even beguiling and credible. Those familiar with the extensive clinical and research literature psychopathy and the PCL-R, the high standards set for the instrument’s proper use, and the potentially serious consequences of its misuse, may share with me a rather more realistic view of accounts: frivolous, shallow, and professionally disconcerting.

Ronson included in his book item-titles (OK) and brief excerpts (not OK) from the Item Handout. He also watched several videotape case histories at the workshop, and had copies of their transcriptions, large portions of which found their way into the book (pp. 101-108 in the North American edition). This use of material from the Item Handout and the transcriptions occurred without permission. ...

Ronson tells his readers that he started the PCL-R workshop a sceptic but came away “a Bob Hare devotee” [armed with] “a new power, like a secret weapon, the kind of power that heroes of TV dramas about brilliant criminal profilers display–the power to identify a psychopath merely by spotting certain turns of phrase, certain sentence constructions, certain ways of being.” This new power, if real, truly would be amazing, for not even the most astute clinicians and researchers possess it. ...

There certainly is nothing wrong with mixing fact and fantasy to spin a good tale, and to play entertaining pseudo-diagnostic games along the way. The internet contains hundreds of such games and quizzes for almost every psychological condition imaginable ... Ronson’s antennae may be tuned to psychopathic signals– whatever they may be–but he should not pretend that they quiver because of his exposure to the PCL-R. His casual simulation of a PCL-R assessment is irresponsible, even in the guise of a humorous literary journey of discovery into the madness industry

I was bemused (as I’m sure were other scientists) by the lack of conceptual and factual fidelity in his caricatures of what we know about brain function and structure in psychopathy. I can assure readers that Ronson’s understanding and reporting of my views (and those of other researchers cited, including Essi Viding) are confused and simplistic. ...

Perhaps the book, with its many blind alleys, dead ends, red herrings, and quasi-investigative journalism, largely was written with tongue-in-cheek. Showbiz, that is! Still, I’m concerned that readers not familiar with the literature on psychopathy will take seriously what Ronson has written, and will draw some wrong conclusions from his book and his many media appearances.
 

anka

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The feeling I had of this book - and maybe I am imagining things - is that it adresses a problem that has come into focus more and more and tries to defuse it. It takes a lot of true facts and dilutes them and puts a slant on them that leaves the reader with the feeling "Yeah, it IS a problem, but no more so than other problems". It detracts from the fact, that this is THE PROBLEM, from which a lot of different problems are derived.

To me this smells a bit of "damage control" (or Cointelpro?), having read this book, the reader can safely slip back into sleep, after all it's just another problem, like all the others ...
I have not read the book but found this TED Talk by J.Ronson and got the same impression as what you wrote. The presentation uses sound and visuals in a very sofisticated, mildly hypnotizing manner and Ronson basically tries to play the problem down, somewhat along the lines as if "who actually knows who is a psychopath and who is not - we should not be that harsh in judging others. They might be weird and sometimes naughty but they are often not that bad and deserve our external consideration". Sneakingly manipulative show. Ronson must be paid to be doing this, imo. Natural born conman.

 
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