The Psychopath Test

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jon Ronson, journalist and author of The Men Who Stare At Goats, joins us to discuss his new book, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry.


Jon Ronson

Comments [24]

francyne from Bronx, NY

Ride public transit, walk the streets....nutters are out there by whatever name or DSM terminology.

May. 19 2011 09:06 AM
Louis from Bayside

I agree with the guest that disorders such as anxiety disorder and ADHD are labels attributed to real conditions. However I can see that there is an epidemic of misdiagnosis within the psychology profession as many of the preconditions for diagnosis can be present without it fitting the definition of the condition. For example if sexual promiscuity is an indication of psychopathy then my freshman dorm at Duke University was filled with psychopaths. Now you might argue that it is a combination of preconditions, but if you check where you draw the line is arbitrary. How many preconditions are required for a correct diagnosis? 3,4,5, 6, or all of them? At what point does a person cross the line into the definition of a psychopath. If you check psychology can't make such a hard and fast rule because it is arbitrary. The profession studiously falls back on the defense that it takes a trained professional with years of experience to make a diagnosis. With such arbitrary guidelines I find the prospect of entrusting oneself to the judgement of someone who might have the very same neurosis to be sickening. In my experience one drowning person cannot help another.

May. 17 2011 12:57 PM
J. Ryan Fuller from New York, NY 10022

Interesting interview- the CEO 4% number is fascinating. I work with a number of anger management clients, who can be invested in presenting in positive ways when the courts or an employer is involved. I look forward to perusing the book, and if the research supports that number, likely incorporate that into my thinking during ongoing assessment.

Some discussion of malingering scales on self-report instruments, implicit / subliminal tests, and psychophysiological measures may be important to cover on the issue of our understanding of diagnoses. Clinicians who work with court referred or other "coerced" clients should be fairly invested at recognizing malingering and other issues with self-report.
The forensic psychologists I know do not bring an overly trusting approach to self-report data, but rather are keen observers of all behavior, including other report, and work to analyze all of those data together to draw their conclusions.


J. Ryan Fuller, Ph.D.
Clinical Director

New York Behavioral Health
230 Park Avenue New York, NY 10169
909 Third Avenue New York, NY 10022
Tel 646.495.3078 | Fax 646.430.9417

May. 17 2011 11:11 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I've read the DSM IV and I recognize many of the traits in many of the diagnoses in many people who walk down the street on a daily basis. The Personality Disorders are particularly fascinating, but psychopaths and sociopaths are quite disturbing. You know them almost immediately because they have absolutely NO regard for anyone else in their vicinity.

Surgeons - and I am thinking of one in particular - often suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If they weren't so damned talented, you'd want to put them in their places, but only after they've sewn you back together.

May. 17 2011 11:02 AM
John A.

Two words missing from this interview: Narcissists and Narcissism - perhaps describe the condition in question more precisely than 'psychopath'.

May. 17 2011 11:02 AM
guy catelli from America

another segment touting rent-seeking voodoo practitioners as "scientists".

as Barnum put it, "there's a sucker born every minute."

May. 17 2011 11:00 AM
Ken from Soho

Self-grandiosity, enjoys firing people? So Donald Trump is a psychopath!

May. 17 2011 10:59 AM
Edward from NJ

"Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place. "

"Psychopaths, on the other hand, often have charming personalities. They are manipulative and easily gain people’s trust. They have learned to mimic emotion and so appear “normal” to other people. Psychopaths are often educated and hold steady jobs."


May. 17 2011 10:57 AM
Paul from Hoboken

How does it work for Surgeons ??

May. 17 2011 10:56 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

From the perspective of an individual is there any downside to psychos? Please, tell me there are disadvantages. David Brooks had an article today about how being nice can help and individual.

May. 17 2011 10:56 AM
Jenny from Brewster

Interesting discussion . . . To me it sounds like psychopaths have a problem with their Frontal Lobes, because the descriptions of their behavioral issues seem similar (with some differences) to a rare disease called Frontotemporal Dementia (or FTD). Lack of Empathy, inhibition, etc. Have any neurologists looked at the similarities?

May. 17 2011 10:56 AM
Edward from NJ

Ronson is using the term psychopath correctly. The difference between psychopaths and sociopaths:

May. 17 2011 10:55 AM
Yosif from Manhat

What is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath?

May. 17 2011 10:53 AM
Marcello from Brooklyn

He is talking about my prime minister: SIlvio Berlusconi!!

May. 17 2011 10:52 AM
Jean from Astoria

By the way, I thought that the term psychopath was removed from the DSM a few years ago.

May. 17 2011 10:51 AM
Katharine from New York

Your guest is incorrectly using the term "psychopath" when he means to use the term "sociopath." Psychopaths suffer from psychosis, which is characterized by delusions or hallucinations.

My claim can be verified by using any modern psychiatric publication.

May. 17 2011 10:51 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I thought being a psychopath *was* a kind of mental illness. Can Mr. Ronson define the difference?

May. 17 2011 10:51 AM
ScottyW from Secaucus

That list sounds like ALL corporate behavior. I'm surprised the number is as low as 4%.

May. 17 2011 10:50 AM
Steve from Washington Heights

Is gender at all a component in the incidence of psychopathy? That is, are men more likely to be psychopaths than women? Or the reverse? Or neither?

May. 17 2011 10:50 AM
Merrill Clark from Summit NJ

I have heard from a friend doing rotations through a pysche unit that because of the advances in mental health drugs, that more long time mental health patients are being released. The only problem is, I understand, do they take their meds? Why not have a day place that the mental health patients come to take and be witnessed taking their meds. comment

May. 17 2011 10:48 AM
Tara from NYC

Sociopaths yes! There are many of them. Psychopaths? That seems extreme and unlikely...

May. 17 2011 10:46 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

No brainer.
Saying goes" "Behind most financial success is a crime."
THAT psycho/sociopaths and other such predators fill the halls of global power is something more citizens need to grasp.

May. 17 2011 10:46 AM

I hope he defines what exactly a psychopath is and if DSK meets it.

May. 17 2011 10:46 AM
JT from LI

In what ways are psychopaths in government and the CEO seat better or worse than their "normal" counterparts? Just wondering if they can be effective or they are always destructive.

May. 17 2011 10:09 AM

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