The Wisdom of Psychopaths Book Summary - The Wisdom of Psychopaths Book explained in key points
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The Wisdom of Psychopaths summary

Kevin Dutton

What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success

4.3 (133 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton explores the positive traits of psychopaths, including fearlessness, confidence, and ruthlessness, and how they can be applied to everyday life. The book also delves into the darker side of psychopathy, such as criminal behavior.

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    The Wisdom of Psychopaths
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    Psychopaths are often charming and intelligent – and know no fears.

    We generally associate the term “psychopath” with violent criminals whom we hope have all been arrested and locked up for good. But the fact is that one to two percent of the population could be labeled as “psychopaths,” and by no means all of them are imprisoned or would even deserve to be. So what is it, exactly, that makes someone a psychopath? 

    On the surface, psychopaths are extremely engaging most of the time: they’re often very charming, good speakers and entertaining to others – all of which distracts from what’s going on inside them and covers up their “evil” side.

    Given their manner, it’s no surprise that so many psychopaths end up occupying high positions – becoming tenured professors, executives, surgeons and mayors.

    But what does the inner life of a psychopath look like? Many of them are extremely intelligent, though they lack emotions like fear, shame and guilt. They are mentally agile and shrewd, yet deficient in emotional impulses. 

    Researchers have found that psychopaths’ brains exhibit abnormalities in the areas that determine emotions, which explains their lack of fear. In situations where “normal” people would worry – e.g., because they left the gas stove on – psychopaths stay cool and composed.

    That can turn out to be an advantage because fear, as an emotion, has lost a great deal of its former significance: when people still had to fear being eaten by saber-toothed tigers, responding to dangers with intense fear was a question of life or death. Today, in a time when saber-toothed tigers aren’t at the top of the list of threats and most of our fears are unjustified, the ability to not experience the paralyzing emotion of fear can mean success.

    Psychopaths rarely hesitate, e.g., to take a risk: if they want to do something, they simply do it without being afraid of failure. Which can ultimately lead to time in prison – or to powerful financial and political positions. 

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    What is The Wisdom of Psychopaths about?

    Not all psychopaths are locked away in maximum-security prisons and mental hospitals. Many of them live among us, in the midst of society. Indeed, a great number of highly successful political and financial leaders exhibit psychopathic traits. This book investigates why they are so successful, what makes them different from psychopathic criminals and what all of us can learn from them.


    The Wisdom of Psychopaths Review

    The Wisdom of Psychopaths (2012) sheds light on a complex subject: psychopathy. Here's why we think it's worth reading:

    • With real-life case studies and interviews with psychopaths and experts, it presents a balanced and insightful exploration of the topic.
    • The book challenges common misconceptions about psychopathy, offering a fresh and surprising perspective on the traits and behaviors associated with this personality disorder.
    • Through its exploration of the positive aspects of psychopathy, such as fearlessness and charisma, it keeps readers engaged and invites them to consider the nuances of human nature.

    Who should read The Wisdom of Psychopaths?

    • Anyone with a general interest in psychology, criminology or popular science
    • Anyone who wants to find out what we can learn from psychopaths and which of their traits could be useful in our professional lives

    About the Author

    Kevin Dutton is a researcher at the Calleva Research Centre for Evolution and Human Science in Oxford. Dutton claims that his own father was a psychopath – one of the reasons he’s so interested in this particular field. In addition to The Wisdom of Psychopaths (2012), he has also published other bestsellers and writes for well-known publications like the Guardian and Psychology Today.

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    The Wisdom of Psychopaths FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Wisdom of Psychopaths?

    The main message of The Wisdom of Psychopaths is that there are positive traits associated with psychopathy that can be beneficial when utilized in a controlled manner.

    How long does it take to read The Wisdom of Psychopaths?

    The reading time for The Wisdom of Psychopaths varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Wisdom of Psychopaths a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Wisdom of Psychopaths is worth reading as it explores the intriguing aspects of psychopathy and provides insights that challenge commonly held beliefs about this personality disorder.

    Who is the author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths?

    The author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths is Kevin Dutton.

    What to read after The Wisdom of Psychopaths?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Wisdom of Psychopaths, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Making a Psychopath by Mark Freestone
    • The Upside of Your Dark Side by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener
    • Dangerous Personalities by Joe Navarro
    • Snakes in Suits by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare
    • Flipnosis by Kevin Dutton
    • The Art of Clear Thinking by Hasard Lee
    • Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg
    • The Intelligence Trap by David Robson
    • Win Every Argument by Mehdi Hasan
    • Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy