The Wisdom of Psychopaths : What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success
In this engrossing journey into the lives of psychopaths and their infamously crafty behaviors, the renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton reveals that there is a scale of madness along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry. Dutton argues that there are indeed functional psychopaths among usdifferent from their murderous counterpartswho use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society, and that shockingly, in some fields, the more psychopathic people are, the more likely they are to succeed. Dutton deconstructs this often misunderstood diagnosis through bold on-the-ground reporting and original scientific research as he mingles with the criminally insane in a high-security ward, shares a drink with one of the worlds most successful con artists, and undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation to discover firsthand exactly how it feels to see through the eyes of a psychopath. As Dutton develops his theory that we all possess psychopathic tendencies, he puts forward the argument that society as a whole is more psychopathic than ever: after all, psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focusedqualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century. Provocative at every turn, The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a riveting adventure that reveals that its our much-maligned dark side that often conceals the trump cards of success.
Many of us harbor an inner psychopath-and perhaps those who don't, should, says Dutton (Split-Second Persuasion), a Cambridge University research psychologist. Through a series of studies and anecdotes, he demonstrates how for every psychopathic stigma there is a comparably compelling virtue: psychopaths often have a greater capacity for focusing, creativity, and even empathy and altruism. All of this information challenges the idea that psychopaths dwell exclusively at society's outskirts; indeed, Dutton finds psychopathic tendencies in everyone from saints to Secret Service agents to the fictional hero James Bond. Dutton is admirably capable of rendering complicated research into readable and engaging prose. Yet there are times when his repeated use of studies-most conducted in a university or laboratory setting-detracts from his broader analysis of psychopaths within our society. And Dutton's definition of "psychopath" is a little too malleable, often used to refer to a collection of personality traits as opposed to a devastating disorder. We may all possess the potential for the pathology, but our psychopathic paths to success-however fascinating-are still unclear. B&W illus. (Oct.) � Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
October 16, 2012
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