Psychopaths can be educational, but they're also boring

· by Peter · Read in about 3 min · (599 words) ·

I’ve read The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success. It appeared as an advert on Scientific American and after reading a sample I was really excited and decided to give it a try. So I’ve bought it, read it, and am undecided. I simply can’t tell if it’s good or not.

From one side we have great writing, very interesting examples (not only from real life, but also pop culture), and the subject which is extraordinary to say the least. But from the other we’re receiving a lot of repetition. It’s typical for American scientific literature. When they’re explaining subject they tend to repeat the same points over and over again, so you’re just sick of it. The author is British, but he has the same style of presentation as his American colleagues. Maybe this method is not bad (it definitely helps you memorize things), but I was raised on Russian-style science where you’re getting straight to the point and cut all the crap in between. And you don’t need to repeat your point all the time, because reader is usually smart enough to get it the first time. That being said this subject would be perfect for long article in magazine, but as a book it’s just a little above average.

So what can you learn from psychopaths? Many things, but I would name just two most interesting. Focus and ability to control your emotions. As professor Dutton explains psychos have extremely good focus, because they’re simply not over thinking. They live in the moment. And when they’re on the task it’s the only thing that matters, the rest of the world simply doesn’t exist. As for emotions, he proves that psychopaths definitely have them. Otherwise they wouldn’t be so successful at faking them. But they can control them entirely. They’re able to make decision based on reason in most extreme circumstances. You must admit that these skills are very handy in today’s world. And author provides few examples of professions where it’s actually indispensable, like surgeon or broker. Very interesting reading.

I’ve enjoyed the most part where Mr. Dutton explains why Saint Paul was psychopath. After reading provided proofs I tend to agree with him. And as I come from Poland, the home to fanatic Catholics I know that this book would make many people mad. However it’s not defaming the saint, rather showing his extraordinary set of skills and trying to explain them as coming from psychopathic brain. While author says many times that having psychopathic features doesn’t mean that you’ll be serial killer. You can be a good psycho, like successful lawyer.

While book was very interesting I was really bored by all the repetitions. I’ve also missed something once I’ve finished it. Maybe it’s because I’ve expected not only the description of desired skills, but also some guides on how to gain them. It turns out though that either you’ll be born with them or become a Shaolin monk, there is no other way. Author mentions that they can stimulate your brain using very expensive equipment, but it lasts only for short time. And is not available to general public. Well, maybe in future.

Book is not bad, it’s really interesting and you can learn a lot. But it’s also boring at times and left me unsatisfied. However it gave me another insight on psychopaths the one I wouldn’t thought of. It turns out that they’re far more complicated than I thought. And that in some cases they could be better humans than you and me.