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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The double benefit of this book
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...
Published 8 months ago by Richard Mckenzie

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275 of 319 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Superficial, simplistic and self-serving
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...
Published 10 months ago by Karen Franklin


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275 of 319 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Superficial, simplistic and self-serving, October 31, 2013
This review is from: The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (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. 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.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting But....., January 4, 2014
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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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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The double benefit of this book, January 20, 2014
By 
Richard Mckenzie (Southern California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (Hardcover)
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful read, December 2, 2013
This review is from: The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising start, but doesn't deliver., December 8, 2013
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This review is from: The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (Hardcover)
Starts off well, but rambles a bit too much away from the intended points. Also gets repetitious at the end, to the point where I wondered if one chapter had been proof-read. An easy, quick read, but I would wait and get it at the local library, rather than purchase (Sorry Amazon)
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Psychopathic Author Manipulates His Audience, November 30, 2013
This review is from: The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (Hardcover)
James Fallon tries to make a case for why having no capacity for feeling guilt, empathy and real love is a good thing. He gloats over the intoxicating charm of psychopaths, "Maybe an old maid who's been good all her life wants to have that one super-wild fling so she can feel she's lived her life fully." Yeah, that's right Jim, risky behavior with a psychopath can be a real fun time. This is a most disgusting, self-serving work cloaked in the guise of scientific and self discovery.

I will write a longer review later, when I can stomach it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars awful, February 15, 2014
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It was quite evident that the author is a self centered psychopath banging his own drum. I was bored and disappointed in this book
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not worth a purchase, December 29, 2013
The book became boorish quickly. How long can one stomach the author touting his inappropriate behavior, carousing, probably being unfaithful to his wife, drinking and drug use? I am glad that I got this from the library and did not buy. Is sounded quite interesting, hearing the review, but turned out to not be even close.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Psychopath Inside, November 2, 2013
This review is from: The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (Hardcover)
I picked this book up after recognizing the author's name from a TED talk and BBC special on evil I had seen.
He seems to know exactly how far to go into detail, but without losing the essence of the science.
Fallon in a well known neurobiologist of international stature and to say that he is eclectic doesn't really
capture how far and wide he has delved into the human condition. The conclusions may rattle
the cages of some quarters, including those clinicians who have not kept up with modern genetics
and neuroscience. There are those in big pharma and the legal profession who will
feel uncomfortable about what Fallon says. But to me, he's probably right. My one query is how did
his wife let him publish this book???
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There's no there there., March 22, 2014
By 
Ruth (Lee, New Hampshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (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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The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain
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