Are you a Psychopath?


Do psychopaths enjoy reading books about psychopaths? In his engagingly irreverent new best seller, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (Riverhead, $25.95), the journalist Jon Ronson notes that only about one in 100 people are psychopaths (there is a higher proportion in prisons and corporate boardrooms), but he wonders if this population will be overrepresented among readers of his book. After all, people do enjoy learning about themselves, and psychopaths in particular have an enhanced sense of their own importance. And they might like what Ronson has to say. He approvingly quotes experts who argue that psychopaths make “the world go around.” Despite their small numbers, they cause such chaos that they remold society — though not necessarily for the better.

Illustration by Ed Nacional

If you aren’t sure whether you are a psychopath, Ronson can help. He lists all the items on the standard diagnostic checklist, developed by the psychologist Robert Hare. You can score yourself on traits like “glibness/superficial charm,” “lack of remorse or guilt,” “promiscuous sexual behavior” and 17 other traits. As one psychologist tells Ronson, if you are bothered at the thought of scoring high, then don’t worry. You’re not a psychopath.

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