By Brent Glass
An avid fan of Saying Something will remember an earlier post, “Sociopaths and Psychopaths, Oh My!” Well, I couldn’t stay away from one of my favorite subjects (psychology) for long. Recently, at the recommendation of counterpart Blake Baxter and the intrigue of the title, I read The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.
Not surprisingly, The Psychopath Test was a unique work, rich with mystery, suspense, and wit. Cleverly, Ronson began his novel as a mystery. Intricate books, all identically odd yet beautiful, were sent to the homes of many renowned academics. Attached was a note that read, “I shall tell you more when I return.” Under normal circumstances the note wouldn’t be cryptic; however, this was not a normal circumstance: the recipients did not know who the sender was. It was postmarked Gothenburg, Sweden.
The academics’ interests piqued, they sought a journalist with meticulous detective skills to investigate the matter further. They landed on Jon Ronson. Ronson, no stranger to the quizzical, began his investigation. His sojourn included dialogue with professor in America, studying the background of those who received the mysterious package, and a flight to Sweden. Eventually Ronson cracked the enigma; the result of which was less than the labyrinthine answer the academics expected. The crux of the book did not lie within the initial mystery, rather a question raised in the process of solving the puzzle.
Early in the elaborate-book case, Ronson crossed paths with a psychologist who primarily studied psychopaths. Upon solving the case he wanted to delve further. Ronson’s journalistic nature overtook his actions and he went to a proclaimed expert of psychopaths, Robert Hare. The Hare Test, named after the Canadian psychologist, includes twenty traits associated with psychopathy. They are listed below:
The twenty traits assessed by the PCL-R score are:
- glib and superficial charm
- grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
- need for stimulation
- pathological lying
- cunning and manipulative nature
- lack of remorse or guilt
- shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
- callousness and lack of empathy
- parasitic lifestyle
- poor behavioral controls
- sexual promiscuity
- early behavior problems
- lack of realistic long-term goals
- failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- many short-term marital relationships
- juvenile delinquency
- revocation of conditional release
- criminal versatility
Armed with an easy-to-use standard, Ronson set out to find well-known psychopaths. One happened to be an ex-CEO of Sunbeam, another was a criminal locked in a high-security asylum, and yet another a former death-squad leader from Haiti. Along the way, Ronson methodically went through the Hare Test and tried to determine which traits were present and which were not. The interviews were often unnerving, a result of the common trait of lack of remorse and failure to accept responsibility for own actions. Ronson also touched on the field of psychology in general.
He mentioned examples where many people were wrongly diagnosed. Possibly the most frightening was the tale of individuals who intentionally complained about dark dreams and twisted thoughts, though they did not actually experience them. Aside from the comments about their dreams and thoughts, the individuals, who went to different psychiatric hospitals around the country, acted like themselves. The result? They were taken into the psychiatric hospital. Once inside, the individuals tried to prove they were sane; a much harder task than one might think. On average it took the individuals 19 days to be released from the hospital.
As a book, The Pyschopath Test by Ron Jonson was definitely worth the read. It was easy and fun and offered a new perspective on life. One fact that may scare some is that it is estimated that one percent of the population is a psychopath. That may not seem like a lot until one considers it as a ratio. One out of every hundred people is a psychopath. The percentage is even higher for those in leadership positions. It is estimated that 4-5% of high powered businesspeople, politicians, and the like are psychopaths. Look back at the characteristics. It is easy to reason how someone with many of those traits would ascend the ladder of power quite successfully. These statistics brought up an interesting point in the book: Is the world at the mercy of a few diabolical psychopaths?
When the economy tanks, wars are fought, and generally avoidable incidents happen, is it the result of incompetence or, rather, complete competence of a person with no remorse? Something to consider.
Many will question whether they align with any of the twenty traits while reading the book (like I did). For some, it might not even take reading the book. It may be a natural thought or maybe this post has aroused their imagination. However, one thing I learned is that anxiety is the antithesis of psychopathy. I’m anxious pretty often. Who isn’t? Well… psychopaths. 4.5/5
Here’s the crazy dude that wrote this.
Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is working as a freelance writer for Sagamore Institute, creating a social media management business (Connect You Consulting) and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in public policy.