Pre-thinking:

Humans tend to label each other. Science does, too. Ronson says it is too easy to label others—in this case, as psychopaths. Have you ever been incorrectly labeled by another person?

Why you should listen:

Is there a definitive line that divides crazy from sane? With a hair-raising delivery, Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test, illuminates the gray areas between the two.

Who is he:

Jon Ronson is a British-born journalist and filmmaker. In his books, films and articles, Ronson explores madness and obsession of all kinds, from the US military’s experiments in psychic warfare, to the obscene and hate-filled, yet Christian, rap of the Insane Clown Posse. He wrote a column for the Guardian and hosted an essay program on Radio 4, and contributes to This American Life.

Questions:

  1. Ronson wonders if psychology is a science that can’t be trusted. What is your reaction to that?
  1. Look up the definition of psychopath.What do you think of Ronson’s comment that “maybe the psychiatry profession has a strange desire to label what’s essentially normal human behavior as a mental disorder.” Discuss your answer to this question with someone.
  1. Ronson said that “capitalism at its most ruthless rewards psychopathic behavior”. What does that say about American business values?
  1. In our rush to label people, we “leave the normal stuff on the floor”. What are the consequences of that?
  1. What does Ronson mean when he says that we “shouldn’t define people by their maddest edges”? He also describes people as “gray areas in world that doesn’t like gray areas, but the gray areas are where you find the complexity, it’s where you find the humanity, and it’s where you find the truth”. Discuss these ideas with someone.

Strange answers to the psychopath test with Jon Ronson

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