Psychopaths in particular fascinate him. He meets Bob Hare, the creator of the PCL, or psychopathy checklist, and learns how to apply the test. Are you superficially charming/glib? Do you lack remorse or guilt? Are you criminally versatile, callous, or impulsive? Of course, Ronson assures his more nervous readers:
If you're beginning to feel worried that you may be a psychopath, if you recognize some of those traits in yourself, if you're feeling a creeping anxiety about it, that means you are not one. Okay then. The possible psychopaths that Ronson interviews throughout the book (including a man accused of heinous war crimes and a corporate leader with a reputation for relishing cruel, public staff terminations) certainly don't seem concerned with being labeled psychopaths. One of them even turns Ronson's questions on their heads, declaring that traits on the checklist are necessary to achieve the American Dream.
The Psychopath Test does look at a few other topics besides psychopathy; for instance, an entire chapter is devoted to the history of the DSM (The
This — Bob was saying — was the straightforward solution to the greatest mystery of all: Why is the world so unfair? Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty? The answer: psychopaths. [...] They're the jagged rocks thrown in the still pond. [89-90]It's a quick, entertaining read that will give you a few nice facts to pull out at parties (though watch that you don't overly offend that undiscovered psychopath sitting next to you at dinner). Four out of five stars.
The Psychopath Test © Jon Ronson and Riverhead Books, 2011. Ebook, 196 pages.