‘Thoroughly Undecided About This’Score: 4/5
I’m honestly not sure what to make of this book.
It certainly seems as if the author has met a lot of psychopaths. And also that I have not.
I don’t think he’s seeing psychopaths where there aren’t any - many of the actions he describes seeing are indeed pretty awful. They’re just not things I’ve seen in person. Maybe I’ve led a particularly sheltered life. Maybe the author has led a particularly un-sheltered one.
(In a slightly strange twist, I met the author at a conference a couple of years ago, before his death last year. He seemed a perfectly fine, straightforward person, not someone prone to flights of fancy. No idea what he made of me.)
The basic thesis is that there are more psychopaths around than you expect, since they are generally underreported for various reasons. And that psychopathy isn’t so much a psychological disorder as it is an evolved predator/prey strategy where the psychopath wants to maximise gain and minimise effort and the non-psychopath wants to spot psychopaths early instead of becoming involved.
The relationship has evolved to the stage where spotting psychopaths is non-trivial. All the simple ‘tells’ have been eradicated, but they’ve left behind some strange behaviours. For instance, according to the author, psychopaths tend to want to get a lot of information from their victims while giving very little information in return. And so we non-psychopaths have evolved to be wary of people who act like that. The constant evolution of the behaviour of both psychopaths and non-psychopaths causes changes in the other party. It’s a constant battle. According to the author.
He admits he has no education in psychology and no qualifications to write this book. But on the other hand, no one else is writing a book from this perspective.
And I honestly don’t know what to make of it.