Before the Book: The Psychopath Test

File:The Psychopath Test (Jon Ronson book) cover.jpg

I am kind of an odd breed of people, as you may have noticed already. I am fascinated by the psychological disorders and the offness is people. In my future I recently started looking into going into the Behavior Analysis field of work, because I find the minds of people like that fascinating. So the book, The Psychopath Test, sparked my interest right away, and I am very excited to start reading it. This book is by Jon Ronson, he is a very established author who was born in Cardiff, Wales (unfortunate for him, right?) and studied at Westminster University. Although many of you may not be familiar with his name, but you may recognize the name of his most popular book, The Men Who Stare At Goats, which came out in theaters a while ago. This book is less popular, but still sounds fantastic nonetheless. It was published in 2011, so it’s not too old, just a little bit newer than The Men Who Stare At Goats. The synopsis of the book reads:

Ronson visits purported psychopaths, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists who have studied them, particularly Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare, the eponymous author of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, a 20‑part test administered to detect psychopathy. Ronson explores the idea that many corporate and governmental leaders are psychopaths whose actions to others can only be explained by taking that fact into account, and he privately uses the Hare test to determine if he can discern any truth to it.

This sounds absolutely fascinating in my opinion. The field of criminology is a really interesting subject and this is what the book loosely goes through, by taking a look at psychopathic criminals to discern if they actually are afflicted with psychopathy and their motives and just the little interesting things about them. There are many criminals that have done horrible things to many innocent people that feel no remorse or pain or wrongdoing, such as Ted Bundy, who killed, raped, and assaulted over 36 women. (It is reported that he told somebody once that he killed over 120 girls that he was never caught for and the bodies never found.) A reporter writing a story or a book on Bundy, would go to his jail cell and visit and talk with him to get first hand evidence and tales. The reporter added in to his story that after every visit, he would leave and go to his car where he would get ill every time because of the awful things that were told to him in that room, and yet to Bundy it was nothing. Fascinating and yet terrifying, right?

One of the scariest things about this, is that they may seem normal on the outside. They may look fine, attractive and appear to be charming and genuinely nice people. That makes them very hard to spot and discern and when speaking to them, you can be easily lied, tricked and made a fool of. Going back to Ted Bundy, below is a picture of him, you would never expect he would be the one to have done all of those horrible things that he did.

The definition of a psychopath is very interesting too. On Wikipedia they state the trifold of different concepts that appear in those effected.

The triarchic model, formulated by Christopher J. Patrick et al., suggests that different conceptions of psychopathy emphasize three observable characteristics to varying degrees. Analyses have been made with respect to the applicability of measurement tools such as the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL, PCL-R) andPsychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) to this model.[1][7]

  • Boldness. Low fear including stress-tolerance, toleration of unfamiliarity and danger, and high self-confidence and social assertiveness. The PCL-R measures this relatively poorly and mainly through Facet 1 of Factor 1. Similar to PPI Fearless dominance. May correspond to differences in the amygdala and other neurological systems associated with fear.[1][7]
  • Disinhibition. Poor impulse control including problems with planning and foresight, lacking affect and urge control, demand for immediate gratification, and poor behavioral restraints. Similar to PCL-R Factor 2 and PPI Impulsive antisociality. May correspond to impairments in frontal lobe systems that are involved in such control.[1][7]
  • Meanness. Lacking empathy and close attachments with others, disdain of close attachments, use of cruelty to gain empowerment, exploitative tendencies, defiance of authority, and destructive excitement seeking. The PCL-R in general is related to this but in particular some elements in Factor 1. Similar to PPI Coldheartedness but also includes elements of subscales in Impulsive antisociality. Meanness may possibly be caused by either high boldness or high disinhibition combined with an adverse environment. Thus, a child with high boldness may respond poorly to punishment but may respond better to rewards and secure attachments which may not be available under adverse conditions. A child with high disinhibition may have increased problems under adverse conditions with meanness developing in response.

There are also some personality definitions that are often apparent in these people:

Psychopathy represents a cluster of different dimensions of personality found throughout the general population to varying degrees. There are different views as to which dimensions are more central in regard to psychopathy.[12]

Besides dimensions described elsewhere in this article, some studies have linked psychopathy to alternative dimensions,[12][13][14] such as antagonism (high),conscientiousness (low) and anxiousness (low, or sometimes high).[12] Psychopathy has also been linked to high psychoticism—a theorized dimension referring to tough, aggressive or hostile tendencies.[13] Aspects of this that appear associated with psychopathy are lack of socialization and responsibility, impulsivity, sensation-seeking in some cases, and aggression.[13]

Otto Kernberg, from a particular psychoanalytic perspective, believes psychopathy should be considered as part of a spectrum of pathological narcissism, that would range from narcissistic personality on the low end, malignant narcissism in the middle, and psychopathy at the high end.[14] However, narcissism is generally seen as only one possible aspect of psychopathy as generally defined.”

Even the plain disease is interesting too, let alone the people that have it and what they end up doing. Yes, this is an awful disease and I am not trying to romanticize it or make it seem like some cool thing that one should strive for, but coming from my perspective it is a very interesting field and interest. Hopefully this book turns out to be as interesting and fun as it appears to be.


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