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The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain Hardcover – October 31, 2013

4 out of 5 stars 150 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Is author Fallon a law-abiding research scientist and family man or a dangerous psychopath? In this memoir-meets-pop-sci examination of psychopathy, Fallon discovers, to his initial surprise, that he has brain functions similar to a cohort of hardened criminals. The book takes chapter-length looks at the neurological features, possible genetic and epigenetic causes, and developmental triggers of psychopathy, with detours through Fallon's personal and familial history. Unfortunately, Fallon's memoir of realizations is emotionally flat (which is perhaps unfair criteria to judge a psychopath by), lazily assembled, and amounts to little more than a confessional booth's enumeration of sins. He cheats with his kids at Scrabble, parties too hard, alienates his co-workers, and takes his brother to an Ebola-infested cave and considers using him as lion bait. These vices, Fallon is happy to tell you, provide him a great deal of malevolent glee, though there is little pleasure for readers to bask in—Fallon's narration is too sterile and, ironically, too self-serving to ever entice the reader. For a quick overview of current theories of brain science and mental illness, Fallon's book is useful; for insight into foreign mental and emotional territories, look elsewhere. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Nov.)

Review

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”
Kirkus

“His surprising final diagnosis could broaden the way we see normality.”
Nature journal
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Current (October 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591846005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591846000
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Psychopath Inside revolves around a single event. It began in 2004, when the author, a retired professor of anatomy and neurobiology, was asked by controversial psychiatrist Daniel Amen to analyze PET brain scans of about 50 killers. Amen had characterized some of his subjects as impulsive killers; others, as psychopaths. When Fallon did a blind analysis, he was able to distinguish between the two groups based on the psychopaths' pattern of brain activation. Primarily, they showed a diminished level of activity in the limbic cortex, which regulates emotion. (While not giving precise data on his accuracy, the never-modest author assures us that he "nailed it.") The following year, he discovered by happenstance that he himself shared that same abnormal pattern of brain activity.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Writer was so self absorbed, it was irritating. Also he could have said the same in much less time, there was too much fluff and repetition. A lot of what he uses as examples of psychopathy are normal variants of emotion and behavior. I believe he is trying to fit his actions to match his theories, why not just say his theories are not hard science?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I am a colleague and friend of Jim Fallon, which means I got a double benefit from reading The Psychopath Inside. I learned much about the brain of a psychopath, but just as important, I learned something about why Jim feels compelled to live life as fully as humanly possible. As the reviewers note, his book is different. In his attempt to reveal the mind (or is it the "brain"?) of a high functioning socio-psychopath, Jim confesses to personal behaviors and attitudes that few others would. Contrary to what other readers presumed, this book is not an attempt to undertake "science." Rather, the book is a memoir of the life of a scientist who discovered that he has the problem that he has studied for many years as a neuroscientist, which means he offers two sources of insight.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Reading this book is an extraordinary experience. As the author, a brain researcher of international stature, unpeels his own life and psyche, going deeper and deeper as the memoir proceeds, something happens to the reader. As he admits to us some of the most self incriminating thoughts and experiences ever written by a professional or family man, especially one with such impeccable credentials and credibility, I found myself examining my own life in a similar way. He subtly coaxes you into reflecting on your own own motivations. It is a revealing and for me even freeing read. His personal story is weaved with sophisticated but remarkably accessible scientific descriptions on the brain, psychiatry, genetics, and medicine as a whole. I felt like I received the wealth of a year of advanced science education in just a thoroughly enjoyable three hours it took me to read it. This guy is a fantastic teacher, and one who may challenge what you think and feel about your own life.
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Format: Hardcover
This book sounded like it might be worthwhile, but it turns out to be shallow and self-serving. Kind of like a...narcissist? This is really about how Fallon thought he might be a psychopath, but isn't. He has bi-polar disorder and is shallow and self-serving. That just isn't that interesting, although the diagnosis does seem to fit, based on this book.

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.
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