Monday, June 27, 2011

The Psychopathic Test

Tonight I've been to a Skeptics in the Pub meeting, listening to Jon Ronson (the guy who wrote The Men who stare at Goats), talking about his latest book, The Psychopath Test.

An investigative journalist, author, and very funny speaker, he was very entertaining - and he made sitting in the Showroom bar on the hottest day of the year with about 150 other bodies bearable. He talked about how his interested in psychopathy started whilst flicking through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders whilst at a friends house, and marveling at the sheer number of them. What used to be the size of a pamphlet is now 886 pages of known mental disorders. His interest led him to talk to Scientologists who famously don't believe in mental disorders and Psychiatry, and they introduced him to "Tony, an inmate of Broadmoor.   Basically Tony had been arested for GBH, and had faked mental illness in order to avoid prison, assuming he'd be sent to some cushy hospital and soon released. Unfortunately he faked it rather too well, and was sent to Broadmoor. Obviously on arriving there he realised his mistake, and had tried to convince the authorities that he was sane - which is a lot harder than convincing people you're insane!

Jon then discovered that the authorities knew he'd faked the mental illness, but had diagnosed him as psychopathic.  His interest in psychopathy now sparked, Jon did a psychopath spotting course with the man who invented the checklist used to diagnose the condition.  Apparently 1 in a 100 of us are psychopaths, and about 4% of CEOs!

As well as reading excerpts about Tony, and telling us how to spot a Psychopath, Jon also recounted some interesting interviews with prominent psychopaths - very entertaining. I'm about to order the book, but there's an extremely good excerpt from it here, including much more of Tony's story.

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