The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain Hardcover – Oct 31 2013
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“The Psychopath Inside is a deeply compelling personal story of an eminent scientist’s discovery of his own psychopathy. Jim Fallon confesses the sins of his biology and in doing so receives the absolution of being human. I couldn’t put it down.”
—PAUL J. ZAK, PhD, author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity
“As comprehensive as it is compelling, essential reading for understanding the genetic and neuroscience underpinnings of psychopathy.”
—M. E. THOMAS, author of Confessions of a Sociopath
“Just the word ‘psychopath’ is enough to grab anyone’s attention and it has inspired numerous TV shows and films for many decades. In truth, I believe the word itself does little to wrap its arms around the infinite behavioral traits psychopaths possess, for good and bad. Fallon lets us inside his mind as he takes us on a deftly woven journey, breaking down every convention of psychopathic behavior.”
—SIMON MIRREN, former executive producer of Criminal Minds
“In a thought-provoking account of self-exploration, Fallon puts himself ‘under the microscope’ in an attempt to make sense of how his own biological and developmental history has shaped his life. His perspective on psychopathy pushes us to consider the important roles of nature and nurture, and the fine line between adaptive and maladaptive personality traits.”
—JOHN F. EDENS, PhD, professor of psychology, director of clinical training, and Cornerstone Faculty Fellow, College of Liberal Arts, Texas A&M University
"An intriguing look into the dark side of the brain. A must-read for anyone curious about why our brains think our darkest thoughts and how many of us go into states of psychosis without even realizing it. Dr. Fallon's study of my own brain helped me come to terms with my strangest ideas and why I function the way I do. Few people understand the brain as well as Dr. Fallon, and can write about it in such a fun and engaging way. A fascinating read."
—ELI ROTH, writer, director, and producer
“Absorbing, insightful and quirky”
“His surprising final diagnosis could broaden the way we see normality.”
About the Author
James Fallon is an award-winning neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, where he has taught neuroscience to medical students, graduate students, and clinicians in psychiatry and neurology for thirty-five years. His start-up company, NeuroRepair, was voted top new biotech firm of the year by a national association of its peers and has engineered major breakthroughs in stem-cell research. He has been married to his wife for forty-four years and has three children.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you truly want to know the fullest truth yet on the subject, James Fallon is it!! He's the equivalent of Sam Vaknin to Narcissism (Which he no doubt would love being recognized as such lol).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unfortunately, this hook is far too thin to sustain an entire book. So we end up with a convoluted mishmash: Lengthy expositions on brain anatomy and genetics, alternating with superficial musings on his own personal history. We learn that he is a cad: He partied too hard in college, he flirts with other women, he disappoints friends and colleagues, he puts family members in dangerous situations. Worst of all, he confesses, he just doesn't care. All this, he conveniently blames on his defective brain.
But, as every student of science knows, an "N of 1" does not a convincing case make. We don't know the base rate of this type of brain functioning among the normal population, or among academics or researchers such as Fallon. All we know is that his brain was similar to some unspecified proportion of 50 brain scans of killers. He attempts to bolster his case by dredging up the murderous proclivities of some far distant ancestors, saying they likely carried the "warrior gene" that programs for violence. But who among us, at least those of us of Anglo-Saxon heritage, couldn't find murderous ancestors if we searched hard enough? Again, we aren't privy to the base rates of violence among males in the times and places that his ancestors inhabited.
The current cultural obsession with psychopathy has allowed Fallon to make a second career out of his accidental discovery. With his superficially compelling first-person account, he has become a self-anointed expert on the psychopathic brain, appearing on TV shows including an episode of the CBS crime series Criminal Minds. His rigid genetic determinism fits well with the dark and fatalistic vision of humanity that dominates in this era of mass incarceration. By rooting criminality in biology, the iconic psychopath foregrounds intrinsic evil, thereby marginalizing social problems and excusing institutional failures at rehabilitation. (For more on the debate over the nature of psychopathy, see NPR's "Expert Panel: Weighing the Value of a Test for Psychopaths.")
Ultimately, The Psychopath Inside demonstrates Fallon's intimate familiarity with brain circuitry and functioning. But it also exposes his startling ignorance of the larger historical and cultural forces that influence human behavior.
The book raised a bunch of puzzles for me, one of which is this: How can Jim Fallon reconcile his self-professed libertarian political views with determinism (under which people's behavior is 100 percent determined by genetic and environmental forces outside of their control). Might not their political propensities also be determined? Maybe he can't help himself? Will have to raise the issue with Jim.
There are a lot of personal details that he finds interesting ("I was Catholic School Boy of the Year!") but this ends up being a grandiose and boring autobiography. He never tells us what his score on the Hare checklist really is (then the book would be too short!), but he does tell us that he did many things that endangered other people, doesn't really care about people, and "almost" cheated on his wife many times. Oddly, his wife did not blurb this book. I wonder what this guy thinks "almost" means? He tells us that many, many, people find him incredibly charming. Really?
Since he turns out not to be a psychopath, but he thought his PET scan indicated he was, you would think he would revisit the issue of just exactly what a PET scan can really tell us about psychopaths. However, since he isn't really interested in that, you never get the follow up. What IS he interested in? Getting attention, making himself looking good, and money.
Diagnosis: self-aggrandizing jerk who wrote a mediocre, over-hyped book.