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The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success Paperback – September 3, 2013
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“The Wisdom of Psychopaths is captivating. Dr. Dutton's book invigorated my consideration not just of a certain television character, but of slow-pulsed overachievers everywhere.” ―Michael C. Hall, actor, producer, Dexter
“A terrifically entertaining and chilling book.” ―William Georgiades, Slate
“The Wisdom of Psychopaths is an engaging and enlightening look at both the positive and negative sides of the personality characteristics that make up the diagnosis of psychopathy.” ―Michael Shermer, The Wall Street Journal
“[A] high-octane charge across the psychopathy continuum.” ―Kaja Perina, Psychology Today
“There's no denying it: we love our psychopaths….[and] in his entertaining new book…Dutton sheds some light on the stunning magnetism of the ethically challenged” ―The Daily Beast
“It's hard not to like Dutton's book . . . Dutton, like [Norman] Mailer, is waging war against the bien-pensant. And I'm with him. Life would be more fun if more people cultivated their inner psychopath.” ―Ann Marlowe, Tablet
“Dutton deftly navigates through some disturbing subject matter, but his message is ultimately upbeat: Scientists may be able to learn a lot from the darker side of human nature.” ―Allison Bohac, Science News
“A convincing study . . . The admirable quality of this book is Dutton's refusal to accept easy answers in one of the more sensational fields of popular psychology.” ―Tim Adams, The Observer (UK)
“Dutton spins a solid yarn, turning what could easily have been a dry survey of psych research into entertainment” ―Scott Olster, Fortune (CNN Money)
“The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a surprising, absorbing, and perceptive book. Kevin Dutton has amassed a great deal of knowledge about these charming, cold, fearless, emotionally indifferent people, who are so attractive in some ways and so appalling in others, and set it out in a briskly readable prose studded with gripping anecdotes. I found it altogether fascinating.” ―Philip Pullman, author of the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy
“Dutton tackles an elusive, important, and much neglected aspect of the mind: our personality. He presents some highly original insights and does so in a provocative and humorous style―offering practical tips along the way for both ‘normals’ and ‘sociopaths'” ―V. S. Ramachandran, Ph.D., author of the bestselling The Tell-Tale Brain
“Dutton has written a masterful, readable, and entertaining treatise on psychopathy and its manifestations in everyday life. Some of his ideas will generate debate and controversy, but he clearly has provided a thought-provoking book for those seeking to understand the ‘psychopathic' world in which they live.” ―Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us and developer of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist
“The irrepressible Kevin Dutton has done it again! This time he has produced an irreverent romp through the bright side and dark side of the mysterious psychopath, and does a great job of mixing the scientific with the personal, offering readers an insider’s glimpse into the workings of fascinating persons―and fascinating personalities. Readers will come away both enlightened and entertained.” ―Scott O. Lilienfeld, Professor of Psychology at Emory University, President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, and coauthor of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology
“If you’ve been keeping your inner psychopath locked up in the maximum-security unit of your mind, Kevin Dutton explains why giving him some fresh air from time to time may actually do you―and, more important, the rest of us―a world of good. Just give him this book to read and make sure he’s a literate, functional psychopath.” ―Jesse Bering, author of Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?
About the Author
Dr. Kevin Dutton is a research psychologist at the Calleva Research Centre for Evolution and Human Science, Magdalen College, University of Oxford. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy. Dutton is the author of Split-Second Persuasion. His writing and research have been featured in Scientific American Mind, New Scientist, The Guardian, Psychology Today, and USA Today. He lives in Oxford, England.
Top customer reviews
The book begins with a Aristotelian observation `There was never a genius without a tincture of madness.' Dutton argues that there are times when madness can be helpful and psychopathy in particular can confer significant advantages. Dutton then considers a number of successful examples where the emotional detachment of the psychopath is combined with the ability to focus totally on the present. Among these examples are the landing by Armstrong on the moon with only 10 seconds of fuel, bomb disposal experts, SAS assassins, a top surgeon making his first incision and investment banking traders. In times of stress the heart rates of most people rise, for psychopaths it drops.
In the second chapter Dutton tries to fit the psychopath into theories of the personality. starting with the Greeks and moving onto the 16 personality factors of Cattell. However when Dutton tries to map psychopaths onto the Five Factor personality model, he runs into difficulties. It is such a pity Dutton is not familiar with the seven factor Humm-Wadsworth.
Five of seven factors in the Humm match the OCEAN Five Factor model, but it is one the two remaining factors, The Hustler, that includes psychopaths in all their glory. According to the Humm, Hustlers contain some mix of five subcomponents: egocentricity, anti-social tendencies, gambling, cynicism, scheming. Besides their psychopathy, they are Machiavellian and narcissists. According to the Humm model about 15% of the population have a stronger than average Hustler component and they are often successful. Good examples are John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Indeed as Dutton points out corporate psychopaths are successful because their psychopathic traits morph in the characteristics of the influential leader and these traits are not excessive.
Is it wrong to add another component to the Five Factor Theory? As Dutton himself points out even Eysenk added Psychopathy as a third trait to his original two trait model of Extroversion and Neuroticism.
Another good section of the book is when Dutton talks about the empathy of psychopaths. Far too many people immediately conclude that empathy and psychopathy are mutually exclusive. Dutton demonstrates that while psychopaths do not have emotional empathy, they certainly have cognitive empathy. Indeed they have superior persuasion and manipulation skills because they can spot emotional weaknesses in other people and can fake emotions (crocodile tears) if they need to.
In the final chapter Dutton examines whether you can become a partial psychopath. He argues that ability to totally disregard the past and future and live only in the present can be taught. He quotes Buddhist monks after years of meditation reaching a stage of only present mindfulness and suggests that we can train people to have cooler heads. Psychopaths have an advantage in that they have a natural talent for `coolness under pressure.' I would consider this chapter the weakest.
On other hand this book does cover psychopathy in a model psychological framework and for that reason alone is worth a read.
Anyway, the one annoying side of this book is that it is written in a very pop-y, self-conscious voice. The subject matter speaks for itself, yet the author feels it necessary to interject annoyingly unnecessary metaphors and turns of phrase that seem to be there solely for the sake of making the reader see just how hip he is. That detracted from the book. If not for that, I'd give it a solid 5 stars, because it is one of the more insightful psychology books I've read in awhile.